Preacher’s Kid: Honest Faith, Real World

SETI: Is anybody out there?

Thanks an infusion of $200,000 in donations, the SETI Project – the non-profit organization founded in 1985 to seek out extraterrestrial intelligence – is back on track. So, 42 radio telescopes near California’s Mount Shasta are active, trying to pick up any E.T. chatter out there amid the stars.

I hope they get an answer. No, I pray they get an answer that we are not alone in this Universe. That would give us a perspective that could brush aside our petty divisions over politics, religions, ethnicities and restore a sense of awe about our place (our tiny place) in the cosmos.

Of course, some of the folks I remember from my childhood, as the son of a preacher in a fundamentalist Pentecostal denomination, would think that idea is darned near heresy. Indeed, more than a few still do today. (Obviously, not Star Trek fans).

You see, those of my co-religionists who slap on the blinders to anything but a literal view of the Bible, and in my opinion err even within the strictures of that mindset, insists that human beings are the only creatures to be made in God’s image. Meanwhile, skeptics latch on to such dogmatic rigidity to surmise that if E.T. is found, it’s all over for Christianity.

Well, they’re both wrong, and both ignorant. As for the former — my brothers and sisters with imagination deficits who dare to lock their idea of God in a tiny little box — I offer the same advice I do to the latter, the agnostics and atheist who delight in pointing out the inconsistency of such limited faith: Read and open your minds.

Peruse C.S. Lewis’ sci-fi trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), wherein the Christian apologist wrote of a cosmos filled with life – all of them creations of the Most High — and yet this was a Universe consistent with faith; other favorites of mine are two short stories from Ray Bradbury’sThe Illustrated Man: In “The Man,” space explorers from Earth land on a planet with intelligent life, only to find that Christ had arrived one day prior, and then the mind-blowing short story “The Fire Balloons,” which has missionary priests encountering life forms that consist only of energy . . . and are without sin.

Say a little prayer for me, human.

Oh, and the Bible. Read that, too, with an open mind. Perhaps you may come to suspect, as I do, that if and when we find E.T. – or E.T. finds us – the event will not unravel faith, but affirm and expand it to realms of wonder. Consider:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.  Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4. New International Version)

And this from Mark 13:27, “And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Oh, and back to the “image of God” thing. No, it doesn’t mean God has two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears or even a physical body, for that matter. (Taking poetic biblical descriptions of the Creator literally would also mean God has wings, breathes smoke and fire, or is a lion or a dove, etc.) No, to me, the image thing refers to potential and character: creativity, intelligence, appreciation of beauty, a sense of morality and the desire for relationships to give and receive love.

So, let’s get a little wild here, my fellow carbon-based life forms. If we someday meet intelligent beings from, say, Alpha Centauri . . . creatures who prefer to build rather than destroy, to create art, to live by an ethical code and have the curiosity to have reached out to us . . . who’s to say they, too, aren’t in the “image of God” ?

Yes, and even if they look more like spacefaring jellyfish than humanoids.

Can’t stretch your mind that far? Well, then, maybe your God is far, far too small.

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