There’s little question that our skies, worldwide, have been entered into by phenomena that appear to be extremely advanced craft. For an accessible and journalistically responsible review of why that conclusion is so well justified, take a look at Leslie Kean’s UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record. So, they are here. That is a fact. But what that means and what we can or should do about it are the real issues. Let’s start with the possibilities of what they might be.
First, the UFO’s might be what popular imagination suggests, namely an alien race (or races) involved with some sort of surveillance or other interference with our planet. We always assume that such involvement is with human beings, but we cannot actually know that. We might merely be obstacles to some alien race’s interest in our coal reserves or even our whales (as Star Trek IV suggested). But given the wide-ranging number of human contact reports, from pilot encounters to abduction reports to landing and crash encounters, it seems that if these are members of alien races, then they are interested in human beings for something.
We tend to get very suspicious of our governments if it turns out that we are being visited by alien races, because we assume that if this is happening, then the government knows about it and is involved in a grand conspiracy to hush it up. But we can imagine scenarios where such a “hush it up” strategy actually makes sense. Suppose the alleged aliens possess technological or physiological capabilities that exceed our current powers to resist. What are our governments supposed to do in such a case? Governments would rightly fear a mass panic if they publicly acknowledge their impotence. But what the governments may not realize is that once that mass panic subsides, a transformation in human psychology would enable people to adapt. During World War Two several countries of significant world power faced real and unstoppable assaults. France was completely overrun. It changed who the French were. We’ve nearly forgotten as a species how that felt, because that generation is now almost gone. But past human societies not only understood it, they lived with it for centuries. Think back to England of the Middle Ages, under constant threat of Viking raids that for a while at least were unstoppable. People adapted. People changed. The Anglo-Saxons of England didn’t think of themselves as the top dog predators. They became the prey, and they adopted the traits of prey. Similar alterations in the contemporary psyche would evolve if a public acknowledgement of an unstoppable alien threat were broadcast. A public discussion might even lead to an improved form of resistance. On the other hand, you’d have to think that our governments would already have tried every method of resistance they could think of, and that perhaps public acknowledgement would only unsettle human populations.
It’s also possible that rather than ignoring our governments, perhaps the alien races have already made contact with them, told them what they were going to do, and told them not to resist or publicly acknowledge what would be happening. In such a case, our governments would have excellent reason to try to suppress the whole UFO issue, because failing to do so might lead to far worse consequences. The point here is that we cannot just assume that if the UFOs are aliens, and if the government knows about it, that they are hiding it from us because they are trying to gain alien technological advantages over rival nations. It’s easy to jump to the conspiracy motive, but it’s not the sole motive to consider.
On the other hand, since a number of nation-states (France being especially noteworthy for its inclusion, and the United States for its exclusion) have publicly acknowledged UFO interference in their skies and have launched public study programs, it wouldn’t appear that alien races have contacted all governments, if any. Furthermore, the technological advantage motivation that animates much of our conspiratorial attitude about a US governmental cover-up of UFO activity makes an awful lot of sense. It’s difficult to imagine any government in the modern scientific era not wanting to seize upon paradigmatic shifting technology. And while we imagine that the motivation would be driven by the desire to overwhelm rival nations with advanced military capability, it’s worth considering other (potentially joint) objectives such as developing military defenses against a potential alien invasion or much more benign goals such as injecting our whole society with significant scientific and technological breakthroughs.
But, second, perhaps the UFO’s aren’t piloted by aliens. There are other possibilities. One possibility is that they are from another advanced race of people (whether human or otherwise) living on the earth. Maybe they are hidden deeply in the oceans. Maybe they are hidden in some other sort of dimension and they occasional “dive” into our realm in these craft the way we do in submersibles deep underneath the waters of the oceans. Maybe they are human time travelers from advanced futuristic or far ancient civilizations. Our science fiction establishments have pursued all of these angles and they aren’t any less plausible than any other explanation without a lot more data.
But again, there are still other less fantastic possibilities. Perhaps these are craft from a highly advanced non-governmental organization such as Captain Nemo of Jules Verne’s Nautilus fame. The technical achievement and the scale of the sightings does make that far less plausible. Alternatively, the sightings could be advanced testing of extremely high-performance aircraft by one or more of our governments, though the flight characteristics seem extravagant and human technological leaps have hitherto been in synchronization with other technological developments in multiple sciences and industries. This possibility therefore also seems very unlikely, but without a lot more information, it’s challenging to weigh the rival explanations against one another.
Third, perhaps the UFO’s represent neither alien beings nor earth-based civilizations, but spiritual entities. Science fiction writers obsess about extra-terrestrial alien threats, but our major world religions all agree that another far more pressing and dangerous threat lies within the extra-cosmic demonic ranks. The good angels represent truth and goodness, so there’d be no reason for them to be flying around in strange aircraft, freaking people out. But the demons are under no such limitations. While they, too, have no need for any kind of physical instrument, since—like their angelic cousins—their existence is essentially non-corporeal and purely mental, demons are extremely deceptive beings. Demons might manufacture these phenomena to terrify people as part of some longer-term strategic attack on the Church and the human race. Given the common references to telepathy in very-close encounter reports—a power natural to angels and demons—there is some reason for suspicion here. Another spiritual oddity that arises from a perusal of the people reporting very close alien contact (even assuming that we admit few of these reports as legitimate), is the religious conclusion drawn by the alleged contactees. It’s curious that aliens would provide fuel for new Age or neo-pagan religious activity, but that’s what the coalescing reports suggest. What you don’t find is evidence of alien curiosity about Judaism and Christianity, something, frankly, you’d expect from an extra-terrestrial race either curious about our world or planning on conquering it. Yet we find nothing, not a trace of interest. That is odd, and it does make one wonder about the potential demonic links to these phenomena. Again, it’s hard to say, but it is possible.
The truth is, we ordinary citizens just don’t know what these phenomena are. And unless you are a person directly impacted by them—an abductee or a pilot who had a near miss—it doesn’t really matter. Our daily lives just aren’t affected. Our lives of faith aren’t affected either. If an alien race launched an attack on us, our faith would remain the same, just as when the Japanese launched their assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The existence of aliens or their nonexistence poses no problems theologically. In fact, it’d be strange if there were no other life in the whole of the universe, given its proliferation on earth. God seems to like diversity and abundance, so a cold empty universe doesn’t quite fit.
It would also be strange to discover that God created no material/spirit hybrid creatures other than human beings. But perhaps man is a special creation uniquely made in God’s image. If so, then while our planet (and perhaps many other planets) might abound in plant and animal life, we wouldn’t expect to find other material/spirit hybrid creatures like ourselves. C. S. Lewis imagined a form of this possibility in his Space Trilogy. He imagined a universe peopled with at least three other hybrid creatures of his “talking animal” variety. But once man was created specifically in God’s image, and once the Incarnation occurred assuming fully that prepared image, from that point forward, all rational material agency was to be permanently housed within human nature. But of course, C. S. Lewis was merely offering us a science fiction-theological sketch of what might be. He didn’t—just as we don’t—know if there is any life off the Earth, personal or non-personal. It’s fascinating to speculate about these matters, to be sure. But we should not lose sleep over them. We should not obsess about them. We should not think that our faith is affected one way or the other. Whether you wake up tomorrow and head to work like normal or instead find that aliens are landing on the White House lawn, you still need to love God and love your neighbor. And yes, the aliens might just be your neighbor too!