Where No Faith Has Gone Before
Extraterrestrial Life and Christianity
ALF says hello
In the middle of the American desert, mankind cups his ear to the cosmos: several highly powerful satellite dishes constantly scan the skies, searching for extraterrestrial radio contact attempts in the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence ) project.
We’ve certainly done our share of talking: Every signal broadcast ever is currently zipping through space, carooming off Jupiter. That is correct?every single professional wrestling match, each reality show, all evidence that Jared the Formerly Fat Subway Guy is a revered figure in this society, all blasting through the cosmos representing who and what we are.
And if someone responds, we want to be sure we’re there to answer the phone. So far, we’ve only heard static. We keep listening anyway.
But what if one day intelligent extraterrestrial life forms did pick up their Cingular wirelesses and made contact with us?
God created Toshoni and the Earth
The Bible neither confirms nor denies the existence of extraterrestrial life, but the religious ramifications of such a thing are mind-boggling. A logical extension of general Judeo-Christian teachings holds that if God created man, and it was good (Genesis 1:26-31 ), then Xoras from Toshoni 19 must also be good.
But if we had theological questions before, imagine what would crop up where aliens are concerned: Why were we placed on separate planets?
Which species is really made in God’s image? Us, them, or both? And, for Christians: What does this mean where our redemption is concerned?
Jesus Christ, planet hopper
If Jesus came to Earth to die at our hands, wouldn’t it make sense that He would also assume the form of alien lives and repeat the process? Sit down for a nice Seder of glowing blue liquid and micro-energy pellets? Or does Jesus’ death on Earth “count” for all lives, everywhere?
“Maybe the love of Christ means that Christ dies on all planets, like a circuit-riding bishop doing confirmations,” says Saint Mary’s College theology professor Joe Incandela. “That’s not a horrible theological image, but it does?probably fatally?impair the traditional notion of the uniqueness and efficacy of the sacrifice [of Jesus] on the cross.”
So as to the Catholic Church’s response to such hypotheticals?well, God sent His only Son into the world to redeem us by dying for our sins (John 3:16 ). There was none of this “Jesus died on Mars, Jesus also died on Venus” business. One Son, one shot.
Does this mean that if intelligent life is discovered from other than Earthly origin that we’ve been heading in precisely the wrong direction lo these 2000 years?
Perhaps not necessarily. Maybe we Earthlings are the only ones who screwed it up. Maybe Xoras and his buddies got it right, resisted the fruit from the tree in the middle of the zero-gravity garden.
“No creature that deserved redemption would need to be redeemed,” C.S. Lewis wrote. “There is no reason why the minute earth and the yet smaller human creatures upon it should not be the most important things in a universe that contains the spiral nebulae.”
Or are these distant civilizations a new mission field for Christianity? “There was a popular novel some years back by Maria Doria Russel called The Sparrow ,” notes BustedHalo ‘s own Father Brett Hoover, “where a group of Jesuits goes calling on the nearby source of an extraterrestrial radio signal. I guess it’s not impossible. In the book, they get there and have to learn to interact with whole new races of beings in a radically different environment, wondering how they can share their faith without forcing it on their new companions.”
Out here on our own?
But truly, we never were alone to begin with, whether we were aware of it or not. God is in us, surrounds us, was once one of us. (Obi-Wan Kenobi voice: “He binds the galaxy together!”) Man lies between the earthbound and the extraterrestrial, grasping at the eternal? and while we’re waiting, that night sky sure is pretty to contemplate.