Alien Church (TWO)

Public opinion polling indicates that over 36% of Americans believe that extraterrestrials exist.  That’s almost as many who voted in the 2012 Presidential election!  In order to appeal to a laspockrger voting block, maybe presidential hopefuls should start making campaign promises to reveal the classified information on aliens and UFO research.  Can you imagine the TV ratings?  Live debates would be wildly anticipated, especially if Spock was behind one of the podiums!

Governments and aliens are old news.  However, “church and aliens” is making recent news these days.  You probably never thought of putting the two words together, have you?  Though atheists make up the largest group of E.T. believers (55%), people of faith are not far behind.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • 44% of Muslims
  • 37% of Jews
  • 36% of Hindus
  • 32% of Christians

Of the Christians, more than one third of the Eastern Orthodox faithful (41%), Roman Catholics (37%), Methodists (37%), and Lutherans (35%) profess belief in extraterrestrial life.  Only the Baptists (29%) fall below the one-third threshold, however, just barely.  Are you surprised by the numbers?  That’s an average of almost 36%; the same percentage of E.T. believers in the general American population!

Belief in aliens is not so “fringe” after all, is it?  And… it’s on the rise.


 Pope Francis + Billy Graham + E.T. = ???

In the summer of ’08, the Vatican issued a statement saying that belief in aliens doesn’t negate faith in God.  Father Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory was quoted as saying the vastness of the universe means it is possible that there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

“How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?”  Funes said. “Just as we consider earthly creatures as ‘a brother,’ and ‘sister,’ why should we not talk about an ‘extraterrestrial brother’?  It would still be part of creation.”

Adding to the growing controversy, Pope Francis (whom I like and respect greatly) recently said that he would welcome martians being baptized (May 2014).

“If—for example—tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here… Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them… And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?  When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let’s do it this way…’” (source)

If you think Pope Francis is off his rocker, you might just have to think the same about the famed Protestant evangelist Billy Graham:

“I firmly believe there are intelligent beings like us far away in space who worship God… we would have nothing to fear from these people.  Like us, they are God’s creation.”  (source)


Want to learn more about the debate religion is having with the possibility of aliens?  Check these articles out:
Did Jesus Save the Klingons?
How Would Christianity Deal With Extraterrestrial Life?
What Different Religions Say About Aliens

It’s a big day for E.T.!

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Alien Church (ONE)

Aliens have long been of great interest for the general public, not to mention a cash cow for the entertainment industry.  Ever siDay_the_Earth_Stood_Still_1951nce 1951 when the sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still flickered in black-n-white on the big screen, our modern pop culture hasn’t been able to get enough of humanoid alien visitors and their accompanying robots.  But is the topic of aliens only suitable for entertainment value?  Leading scientists and theologians don’t think so!

In 2009, the Vatican hosted a conference to discuss the implications on religion and human consciousness if extraterrestrial life is found.  Chief scientists, astronomers, and religious leaders enthusiastically participated.  And, at the close of their meetings they concluded that if aliens were discovered they would be part of God’s creation and therefore regarded as our “extraterrestrial brothers.”


NASA, the Library of Congress, and the Vatican discuss aliens!

Last year (2014), NASA and the Library of Congress teamed up, bringing together over 200 top scientists, theologians, philosophers and historians from around the globe, to host a two day symposium.  Their stated goal was  to discuss how to prepare the world for extraterrestrial contact, whether it be microbial organisms or intelligent beings.

“We’re looking at all scenarios about finding life. If you find microbes, that’s one thing. If you find intelligence, it’s another. And if they communicate, it’s something else, and depending on what they say, it’s something else! The idea is not to wait until we make a discovery, but to try and prepare the public for what the implications might be when such a discovery is made. I think the reason that NASA is backing this is because of all the recent activity in the discovery of exoplanets and the advances in astrobiology in general. People just consider it much more likely now that we’re going to find something — probably microbes first and maybe intelligence later. The driving force behind this is from a scientific point of view that it seems much more likely now that we are going to find life at some point in the future.” – Astronomer, symposium organizer and former chief NASA historian, Steven J. Dick. (source)

One of the theologians present was Brother Guy Consolmagno, who is the president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.  Here is what he had to say:

“I Believe [alien life exists], but I have no evidence. I would be really excited and it would make my understanding of my religion deeper and richer in ways that I can’t even predict yet, which is why it would be so exciting.” (source)

One of the leading question asked at the conference was does an intelligent alien life form have a soul?  A Jesuit astronomer present answered he believed they do and would be excited with the discovery of alien life.  And we may not have to wait long for that discovery announcement!  According to NASA scientists, finding life out there is statistically inevitable, most likely within the next two decades.


If you believe in UFOs, you may be in better company than you think!

A 2012 National Geographic poll showed that 36% of Americans, about 80 million people, believe UFOs exist, and a tenth believealien-face they have spotted one.  The study also showed that 77% of Americans believe there are signs that aliens have visited Earth, and the TV show The X-Files best represents what would happen if aliens invaded Earth.

The study, in which a random sample of 1,114 Americans 18 and over was surveyed, also asked what respondents would do if aliens visited Earth.  Nearly a quarter said they would try to befriend the extraterrestrials, 13 percent said they would lock themselves indoors, and just one in 20 said they would “try to inflict bodily harm.”

Those numbers did not surprise longtime UFO investigator David MacDonald, director of the non-profit Mutual UFO Network, who said the idea of contact with extraterrestrials has become commonplace in the last few decades.

“We have grown up with ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica,'” MacDonald said. “We’re at the point where we’d say ‘What planet are you from? Oh well, let’s have a beer.'”


ABC News report aired in 2012


If you’re curious as to what people of faith think about aliens, be watching for my upcoming post – Alien Church (TWO)!
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Angels, Mutants or Aliens?

Archangel

Archangel, one of the founding members of the X-men

The angelic figure has always been popular, from their ancient roots in religion and mythology to today’s pop culture media.  They first started out as incredible other-worldly beings, massive in size and rich in knowledge, and later became human-like beings hard to distinguish from ordinary people as the Bible’s patriarchs and apostles discovered.  As centuries passed, artist added wings and halos, along with a chubby baby likeness.

Recently, modern artists have added features to angels that have given rise to a greater curiosity into the true nature of angels and the roles they play.  The popularity of superheroes and comic culture, as well as the horror and supernatural genres have transformed angels from plump little cherubs into muscled-mutant-supernatural warriors, suiting a more violent and action-orientated audience.

What were they like before?

Apse Mosaic, San Vitale, Ravenna

Apse Mosaic, San Vitale, Ravenna

For many in the Western world, the word ‘angel’ conjures up the image of a winged humanoid, dressed in white and bestowing blessing and news to the human world.  Indeed, this is how many of us recall angels, because our first encounter with them is usually Bible stories, and particularly their role within the nativity story.  Their primary function is as the messengers of God to Man.  As H. C. Moolenburgh explains: “…we have inherited the word ‘angel’.  It comes from a Greek word (angelos) meaning a messenger.  The Hebrew word for angel (malach) means exactly the same: a messenger or an envoy.” (1996, p.56).

He goes on to discuss the way that angels are viewed in public consciousness: “Often they are described as ‘noticeably beautiful’ even though their appearance is not especially effeminate.” (1996, p.48). Indeed, the beautiful appearance of angels is among the few things that rarely do change – whether they are good, evil, or indifferent, they often possess striking features.  This is particularly interesting because in their original incarnation in the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, angels are described – if at all – according to their power and awe.  Unearthly beauty is a quality rarely mentioned; they are more often fear-inducing creatures than beautiful winged people.

Where did their wings come from?

References to angels are found within the mainstream religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Yet, angels, or divine helpers, were also found within Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian and Greek writings as well, and played a major influence upon the ideas regarding angels within the key religions themselves.  For example, it is well known that ancient Sumerian texts pre-dated the Hebrew book of Genesis, including the idea of the existence of angels.

hermes-image1

Hermes

But where did the original idea come from that angels have wings? Hermes, in the Greek pantheon of gods, served the function of messenger, and was pictured with wings on his heels.  In ancient Egypt, the goddess Nepthys was also winged; reliefs depicting her appear in hieroglyphics in tombs.  Griffins, winged animals with human heads, appear in a very ancient Etruscan tomb, and many other cultures featured winged lions and bulls with human heads; winged creatures were known to the Vikings as valkyries, to the Greeks as horae; in Persia they were fereshta, to the Hindu, apsaras.

However, in Abrahamic traditions, wings were rarely depicted on angels until the time of Emperor Constantine, and did not become popular in angel art until the Renaissance.  Historically, angels who interacted with humans, were seen in a “flesh and blood” form.

Shrouded in mystery…

AA_00590WM

Alien Angel #5

Angels truly are a mystery that summon many questions – firstly, do they even exist at all?  And if so, what exactly are they?  Some believe they are beings of light, others say they are ‘God’s messengers’ or the souls of the deceased that guide us on our life journey.  More controversially, there are those who maintain that there is nothing “godly” about angels, and that they were simply flesh and blood beings from outside earth who perhaps arrived in flying crafts, hence the depiction of wings.

Whatever one thinks, the idea of angels has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions around the world.


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The Watchers (SPECIAL EDITION)

Watchers are a specific type of angel referred to in the Bible, apocryphal literature, Christian lore, pagan mysticism, and in various ancient records.  The following article provides a look into the some of the ideas surrounding them, beginning with how they have recently been portrayed by Hollywood.  BTW – I’ve embedded lots of links.  Feel free to explore!


Noah, the epic!

Recently, interest in the Watchers was renewed with Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 biblical epic Noah.  In the movie, they are depicted as gigantic fallen angels encased in stone (picture below).  After defending Noah and his family from the violent mob led by Tubal-cain, all of the Watchers were killed.  As they died, their angelic forms were released from their stone bodies and returned to heaven, having been forgiven by the Creator.

The director definitely took creative license with the well-known Bible story; nonetheless, he received general approval from the Christian and Jewish communities.  Several organizations expressed support for the Noah film, i.e. American Bible Society, Focus on the Family, and more.  Even Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, found it “interesting and thought provoking,” while Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an orthodox Jewish rabbi leader, hailed Noah as “a valuable film, especially for our times.”

Though Noah is revered as a prophet in Islam, Muslim support was virtually non-existent.  In many Islamic juristic schools, the portrayal of prophets is forbidden.  Therefore, the film was banned in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Indonesia prior to its release.


Who were the Watchers?

Besides being mentioned briefly in the Bible, the idea of the Watchers has been found in the ancient religious records of Sumeria, Peru, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece.  Most people are familiar with the Sumerian Anunnaki due to the History Channel’s popular hit series Ancient Aliens.  These beings were believed to have come to earth from the sky, and the Sumerians revered them as four enormous gods, known as:

  • An – (“Sky”), the source of rain and most powerful of the gods
  • Enlil – (“Lord Wind”), the power in “Growing Weather”
  • Ninhursaga – (“Lady of the Stony Ground”), mother of wildlife
  • Enki – rival of Ninhursaga

The term Anunnaki literally means “of the sky.”  Many scholars believe this term is also used in the Bible as Anakim, Anak, or Nefilim (nephilum).  In Hebrew nephilim has been interpreted to mean “giants” or “those who have fallen.”  Incidentally, the first major enemies that the liberated Israelis faced were the Canaanites, sometimes referred to as children of Anak – meaning tall, strong, and long neck.  The Israelites described them as being a fierce race of giants dwelling in massive fortified cities.  Later, during the days of King David, the most famous son of Anak was killed, his name being Goliath.

The Egyptian Execration texts of the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC) mention a list of political enemies in Canaan, and among this list are a group called the ly Anaq or people of Anaq.  The three rulers of ly Anaq were Erum, Abiyamimu, and Akirum.  It was believed that these rulers were related to the Sumerian gods, namely Enki.  Robert Graves, considered the relationship between the Anakites and Philistines (Joshua 11:21, Jeremiah 47:5), identifing the Anakim with Anax, the giant ruler of the Anactorians in Greek mythology.

For the Egyptians, the children of Anak were related to the original Watchers, who they revered as Ptah, Anubis, Osiris, and Horus.  It was believed they came to Egypt from Ta-Ur, the “Far/Foreign Land.”  The Egyptian term used for the Watchers was Neteru (“guardians”).

“Wakeful Ones”

Ancient beliefs vary from one culture to another, but all seem to agree that Watchers were a specific race of heavenly beings.  In Hebrew they were referred to as nun resh ayin, or irinim – meaning “those who watch” or “Wakeful Ones.”  When translated into Greek, the same terms appear as grigori – simply meaning “watchers.”

The early books of the Bible speak of some vague heavenly beings called malochim (singular, malach).  Although malach is usually translated “angel,” its literal meaning is “messenger.”  Therefore, it was used to describe both angelic beings and human beings.  As far as the Hebrew term irinim goes, it was only used to describe a high class of angels, sometimes characterized as “archangels,” first mentioned in the book of Daniel (4:10-14).

In apocryphal literature…

Watchers are the fallen angels who took mortal women as wives (1 Enoch 6, 19, 64, 69; Jubilees 4, 7).  Their union produced a ravenous race of hybrid offspring (nephilum/giants) who devoured copious amounts of flesh and drank “rivers of blood.”  And to make matters even worse, it is written that they corrupted humans with the forbidden arts of weaponry, herb craft, astrology, divination, and sorcery.

In the books of Enoch, God sends the archangel Uriel to warn Noah of a coming deluge… the archangel Raphael captures the rebel leader of the Watchers and thrusts him into eternal darkness… the archangel Gabriel deals with the bloodthirsty hybrids… and the archangel Michael deals with the remaining Watchers and their surviving offspring prior to Noah’s Great Deluge.  For all of this, there appears to be only one New Testament reference found in Jude 1:6.

There are many other references to Watchers found in the Jewish/Christian non-canonical writings identifying their numbers to be 200, and residing in the sixth heaven where they perform celestial music (Gedulat Moshe).  Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, they are central figures in the mythic-gnostic theology of the Qumran priests.  Within the modern Wiccan tradition, some of these gnostic views are combined with Jewish mysticism and British mythology, assigning the four leading archangels to the four directions of the heavens, and marking them with the Winter/Summer Solstices, and Spring/Autumn Equinoxes.

Any survivors?

So, there you have it in a nutshell.  Darren Aronofsky’s movie portrayal of the Watchers as “rock-monster/Transformer-types” seems a bit tame in comparison, doesn’t it?  Definitely, more could be said on the subject.  Though our understanding of the Watchers may still remain partial, it’s not for a lack of descriptive material!

I guess one thing is for certain:  to learn who or what the Watchers were or are, really depends on who you ask.  Could they have once been a large group of archangels that split and fought with one another?  Is it possible that only four survived – Uriel, Raphael, Gabriel & Michael?  Or, maybe only two survived – Gabriel & Michael?  Or, have all the leading civilizations, from antiquity to modern days, conspired to keep the truth hidden in ecclesiastical musings, imaginative writings, and Hollywood special effects?  What do you think?


Noah 2014 (1)

Watchers in the movie Noah (2014)

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God’s Name Is Charlie?

As I wrote in my previous post, when I mention “Hollywood Angels” you most likely think of Charlie’s Angels immediately. The original series debuted on ABC, September 22nd, 1976, and ran for five years producing 110 episodes.  Despite receiving mixed reviews in the beginning, the public loved the show!  And in 2000 and 2003, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, and Drew Barrymore lit up the big screen as Charlie’s spirited angels… for a new generation of angel watchers!

CHARLIE'S ANGELS 2


The original Charlie’s Angels series put on display the common cultural views concerning God and angels.  How so?  Well, first of all, the angels were attractive females.  There’s no religious or historical proof that definitively identifies angels as being feminine.  Actually, the Bible always portrays angels as male.  However, centuries of classic art have often depicted angels as womanly, leading to the popular viewpoint that angels are very feminine and attractive.  Some scholars argue that angels are viewed as feminine because they are often portrayed in nurturing, caregiver roles, commonly associated with women.  However, others take offense at this, claiming it’s a sexist viewpoint.

charlies angels -jaclyn, farah, and kate


Secondly, the three young women worked for a mysterious man named Charlie, who was rarely seen, but always heard.  He contacted them via a fancy speaker phone, providing detective and rescue assignments.  Although the women were human, they functioned as guardian angels, aiding, watching over, and protecting people in need.  Their boss, Charlie, seemed like God because he had special knowledge for his angels, he only did what was best for everyone involved, and though invisible, he was always vocally engaged.

CharliesAnglsThrottl_061Pyxurz


And lastly, to emphasize the “angel” connection, the women were frequently posed in a praying position with hands clasped together.  At other times, this pose was modified, with clasped hands forming the shape of guns to symbolize “angelic” power to fight evil with good.  Though subtle, the imagery was effective, and became an iconic pose in pop culture.  All in all, Charlie’s Angels successfully profited by combining religion with pop culture and sex appeal.

charlies-angles-tv-thumb-1


What do you think?  Would you prefer a muscular male guardian angel with a sword and shield in hand?  Or, a beautiful female angel who knows karate and carries a 45?  America has voted… Charlie’s Angels wins a top spot!


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