Jesus, E.T., and a Book of Many Interpretations

I am not always the biggest fan of my mind. I try to be rationally minded, or at least I think I do. Looking back at all the wild ideas I’ve held since, I don’t know, middle school, though? It’d be really easy to come to the conclusion that my mind is a house built atop sands that are assailed every so often by a tsunami.

In eighth grade, I remember expressing the idea to my English teacher Mr. Burks that I was convinced that the world’s mythologies and religions could be traced to one original religion… From my completely, totally, no way could it possibly be biased position, that original or prototypical religion, the source of all truth, must have been Christianity. Had I spent any real time pursuing this line of reasoning, outside of making endless lists of various gods, boring my reading class to tears with mythology-themed reports, and so on, I might have realized that Christianity was young. Like, really young. Had I spent any time on it, I’d probably have pointed to Hebraism instead.

Throughout middle school and high school, I was fairly obsessed with the “paranormal.” My friends and I fancied ourselves investigators of what we determined were weird goings-on in our neighborhood, and I had a yen to join the Mutual UFO Network, a group which investigates as many “flying saucers” as possible while debunking as many as they can in the hopes of one day finding the real McCoy, a genuine spacecraft from beyond our solar system.

I had a library of books in my room which covered Stonehenge, Atlantis, gods and monsters, aliens, parapsychology, and so much more. For a year or so, and this was in the late 90s, I kept a website for my Paranormal Investigators club, and those of my friends who were members stayed busy with neighborhood sightings, shared dream phenomena, demon possessions, and an unidentified wolf-like creature that leapt among the trees near our homes. Wild imaginations? Maybe. Probably.

But it helped make me into the person I am today, despite veering off course into religious fundamentalism through much of my twenties. My open-mindedness in “understanding the space-time continuum” (a phase fellow investigator Randy dictated to me as we typed up a manifesto of sorts on my Amiga back ’round about ’96) was supplanted with a bold adherence to a document already completed, the Bible.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t retain my curiosity and ability to think outside the box; indeed, I refined my beliefs quite a bit before abandoning them in 2010. Unwilling to be tied to a particular dogmatic system, I was free to read the Bible more freely, allowing it to say what it actually said without having the need to force it into a church’s hand-me-down creed.

From dipping my toes into Christianity as an independent fundamental Baptist to slowly shedding the legalism (no music harder than a bluegrass gospel song, no movie theaters, no pants on women, etc.) of my Baptist church to eventually finding myself a member of a Presbyterian church, though that didn’t long because I refused to recant the idea that the Bible allowed men to have multiple wives, which I held purely because of the Bible and not because the idea fit my own life at all; I still mention it when I see Christians wanting to fight against “gay marriage” as their own Bible’s idea of marriage doesn’t really fit theirs at all.

Flash forward through a decade of atheism, and I still find the Bible to be a fascinating book; I do my best to not fall into the trap so many other atheists have of pretending they understand it better than believers, all the while sharing memes that reveals a pretty weak knowledge of what the Bible says. I’m not going to shout from the rooftops that the Bible is the good book for all humankind, but I do find value in it in pushing Christians to be better people… and that brings me back to why I dislike my mind sometimes.

A few years into my time as a Baptist, I was introduced to a pastor and writer named James W. Knox. I listened to numerous of his sermons made available on his website and received his canon — a collection of nearly twenty-four books — for Christmas from my mom, a collection of books which I not only read in record time based on how slowly I usually read.

I loved Pastor Knox for his willingness to boldly get out of the way of the Bible and to let it say what it was saying, no matter how ridiculous or challenging the passage may have been, and I daydreamed about possibly attending his Bible college, if only it wasn’t so far away.

Anyway, one of his sermons, indeed the one which stood out the most, was about unidentified flying objects and the Bible. This is the one time when he seemed to be really out there, but I thought it was amazing. Aliens, posited the good pastor, were not beings from outer space; they were angels!

Ancient peoples saw the angels and other spiritual beings for what they were, but contemporary people? Oh, we are too inoculated against the spiritual and instead interpret them as beings from outer space whenever we encounter them. Nowadays, we’re alien-happy, with countless works of fiction focused on them, with millions of dollars per year across the world spent in search of them, we just cannot wait for visitors from the sky to come save us. Pastor Knox even insinuated that football arenas and other such structures are built with the ulterior motive of functioning as giant satellite receivers for picking up alien transmissions. Hey, I did say that the sermon all of this was from was pretty far out!

Now we come to one of the more unconventional reasons why I like the Bible: What if instead of being a book of supernatural happenings, the book instead tells to the best of the authors’ abilities the interactions of an alien race with humanity so long ago.

Suspend all of your disbelief for a while and consider the existence of a sufficiently advanced civilization, origins unknown. Actually, I guess this is the plot to Stargate, a movie I wrote fan-fiction about back around 1995 or so during the same eighth grade English class I mentioned above. Powerful aliens… playing themselves off as gods to the ancient peoples of Earth… OK, the idea of this isn’t altogether original, but I still appreciate just how well the idea fits with some of the passages of the Bible.

What if Genesis 6 tells not of aliens procreating with women but extraterrestrials? This intermingling wrecked whatever experiment was being ran on Earth and so human life had to be reset via some cataclysmic event. This would also mean that Jesus was the product of an extraterrestrial impregnation of Mary; why in this instance was such a union deemed to be OK?

In the Revelation, John witnessed the old Earth fleeing away after having been cleaned by fire, with a chosen segment of humanity enjoying a new Earth. How wild is it that one day Earth will be consumed by fire? And if humanity by that point has escaped our galaxy, then the Milky Way and the old Earth it contains (or whatever is left of it after the sun goes nova) will be rushed away from humanity’s new home due to universal expansion.

In Ezekiel’s earliest chapters, the prophet describes a spiritual creature with wings, atop which rested a throne. The vision provides an apt description for a rocket ship, complete with cockpit at its apex.

Now, obviously, none of this can be proven. As with that other, more popular interpretation of the Bible, it’s there not to be proven but to be something to think about. Is the Bible the word of a supreme God intended to save humanity? Is the best ancient humans could put down about their interactions with an advanced race, replete with warnings gleaned from their own past? Or is it entirely fiction, a collection fables based on oral retelling after after retelling?

It’s easy to point to lessons in the Bible or how it makes you feel and conclude that a spiritual authority must’ve been involved. It’s easy to point at its many apparent contradictions or morally questionable or outright repugnant passages as evidence that the book is solely the product of a very narrow segment of humankind.

But maybe the truth is stranger than either of those options?

I want to believe.

Well, it’s fun to think about anyway. What do you think?

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