Greg Bishop recently blogged about the experiences of some of acquaintances (he missed the event itself) at a recent session during the Roswell UFO Festival. You can read the full entry for yourself, as well as comments, but I’d like to say a few things about both Greg’s blog post and the broader subject, since I have known one of the presenters (Joe Jordan) of the session Greg writes about for several years.

I commend Greg for seeking to be even-handed in his thoughts about the event. I agree with him that Joe Jordan genuinely wants those of varying perspectives to participate alongside Christians involved in ufology. I know that from personal experience, having talked to Joe about this precise point on several occasions, and having participated as a speaker at conferences like “Ancient of Days” for three years, a conference once part of the Roswell UFO festivities.

I have no doubt that the events of the session were truly disturbing for some and angered others. That sort of goes hand-in-hand with religious disagreement, though, as Greg noted, people parted on good terms (at least for the most part). Part of the reason that the religious flavor of such an event would be disturbing or angering, though, needs to be pointed out with some specificity. If Joe Jordan and those dozen or so people who testified personally at the event are telling the truth (and not just espousing a theory) — that their abduction experiences stopped when they became Christians or prayed for the experience to cease, then AT LEAST IN PART, the abduction experience is a spiritual or religious EVIL (whether those perpetrating the violence are from other planets or not). This isn’t something die hard (fundamentalist?) ETHers want to hear. They want to hear about the aliens’ message of love for humanity and that sort of thing. Personally, I don’t believe Joe or these people were lying (and they are by no means unique). I have no trouble accepting the notion that some portion of the abduction “thing” is sinister and involves spiritual beings. That view isn’t isolated to Christians, either, as anyone who has read Vallee or Keel know — and they can say Vallee and Keel are taken out of context, but it’s pretty hard to take Keel out of context when he uses terms like “demonic” (exactly what other context would there be for that?). Greg, of course, knows that there is a spiritual element to all this.

That said, I’m not completely in agreement with what Joe said (at least as it was related by Greg’s friends). Frankly, I think Joe would agree with what I’m about to say (though I want to make it clear I’m not speaking for him).

First, I think Joe would agree that it is possible that the abduction phenomenon could be BOTH a spiritual malevolence AND something else (some other category besides “demon”). In other words, “one size may not fit all.” My theology wouldn’t be shaken at all if there really were aliens coming here and abusing people — but I’ll add that I see no hard evidence for that. As anyone in the field knows, all we really have are anecdotes people provide about their experiences. Yes, there is physical evidence of trauma (wounds, marks, etc.), but none of those prove an ET origin. I have said many times I’m willing to believe that it is silly to believe that the millions of people worldwide who claim to have had such experiences are ALL lying. That’s nonsense. I think they truly experiences something, but without any real evidence that can ONLY be processed as extraterrestrial, why should that be the explanation I adopt? It isn’t going to get my approval without evidence. Hence, it must be something else, and a malevolent spiritual entity is on that list. For UFO researchers to refuse this category is for them to betray their own bias.

Second, about prayer stopping “all” abductions, I am (theologically) reticent to accept that. Why? Don’t I have enough faith? No — quantity of faith isn’t the issue. God is not a vending machine from which we get what we want at our beckoning, nor who “always” shields us from what we wouldn’t want. I am quite sure I’m not going out on a limb when I say that it’s probably a good bet that MANY Christians throughout the ages have prayed earnestly that some evil befalling them would stop, or would escape them entirely, or would not be repeated. Remember Rome and the unspeakable persecution and murder of Christians? How about the Christians in the Sudan who pray for food and water and not to starve? How about the Christians in other African dictatorships who are slaughtered? How about Christians in Indonesia today who are hunted down by Muslim nut cases? Aren’t these Christians praying? Don’t they know a prayer will just stop evil in its tracks? Maybe they didn’t pray enough, as though God was watching and said, “Bummer, one more prayer would have put them over the required number and I could help.” This too is (biblically speaking) theological nonsense. While they are asking for God’s help (and no doubt many see that help in a plethora of ways), these Christians aren’t praying with the expectation that they are going to be immune from evil, because there is no guarantee it will, and God never guaranteed that there would be. The biblical picture is one of a spiritual and earthly death match being played out in symbiosis. It’s a war for hearts, minds, AND lives. Jesus himself on a number of occasions told the disciples that they would be persecuted and killed (he even said only John would die a natural death). Even the apostle Paul, when he prayed that his thorn in the flesh would leave him, got “no” for an answer. Here’s the point in a nutshell: Christians are not immune from evil in life and are given no such guarantee in the Bible. Rather, they are frequently the target and are given the promises that God will turn all such things into good (Romans 8:28-30), that if they suffer unrighteously God sees it and will reward them in the life hereafter – indeed the followers of Christ suffer because Christ suffered (1 Peter 2:18-21). Suffering is often the will of God for the Christian; it is not something from which Christians should expect to be exempted. Peter said it as plain as day: “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17). Peter was ready for it, because he knew God would use it as a tool against the forces of darkness that perpetrated it (1 Peter 4:15-19). The church today is no different than the church of centuries past in this regard.

But, you might ask, surely when it comes to spiritual evil, like demons, Christians are exempt from suffering. Believers would only suffer in that case if the demonic power was solicited . . . right? No. I quote from my review of Hugh Ross’s book, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men in this regard:

“Christians are not immune from any other type of evil whether it is “invited” or not. Christians are the victims of random violence (witness Columbine); they suffer at the hands of corrupt and evil people through no fault of their own. They are victims of uninvited fraud. When it comes to the more “directly demonic,” Ross’s position simply does not reflect the worldview of either the Old or New Testament, and in a way ties the hand of Providence from using this particular evil for His own glory . . . There were demonic strongholds in the Old Testament (like Bashan) whose threats were so real and ever-present that the “foe from the north” motif became proverbial in biblical literature. There is no hint that most or all of these threats were invited. We are told in I Peter 5:8 that Satan is OUR adversary, and so naturally he seeks to devour Christians. The text does not qualify his destructive appetite by noting “only if we invite his attacks.” Must Christians invite “the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16) for them to come? Does it make any sense to “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11ff.) so as to withstand the devil when he and his minions won’t touch us without being invited? When we wrestle against “principalities and powers” (Eph. 6:12) is it our own fault for inviting the conflict? Did Jesus have to invite his own satanic temptation? Does spiritual warfare only happen when it is invited? This view is theologically incoherent.”

Joe Jordan knows all this. I doubt he would consider prayer to be a fail-safe tool against abductions, since he well knows that Christians are the victims of evil, at times as part of God’s will. Joe knows that if Jesus didn’t escape suffering as part of God’s will, followers of Christ shouldn’t expect to either. The servant is not greater than his master, as Jesus said. It’s just that Joe has seen prayer work in many instances and thinks (rightly) that the UFO community ought to hear about it. I think what Joe was demonstrating was that, indeed, the fact that prayer does work in a large number of his cases testifies to the fact that there is a sinister spiritual element to all this. If his next abductee under his counsel prayed for abductions to stop and they didn’t, Joe wouldn’t abandon his position (and shouldn’t). Joe wants to offer victims real hope — which is far better than what David “Just Put Up with the Abduction Experience” Jacobs is offering.

Lastly, I want to touch on one of Greg’s comments. He wrote:

There are many types of fundamentalists–social, political, scientific, and religious, among others. The field of UFO studies is no stranger to closed minds, but if conferences and indeed the public debate on the subject is taken over by a religious (and specifically Christian) viewpoint, how long can we expect it to survive and hopefully evolve? I am no slippery-sloper, but anyone who says that they are unequivocally in the right tends to worry me.

The last part of his quote echoes my own qualification above. I think the rest of this is a careless exaggeration. So there was ONE session that focused on prayer stopping abductions (the “religious viewpoint”) and this felt like a “takeover” of the conference. Hello? I think Greg would have a point had the religious view been predominant, but all you need to do is check out the schedule of events for the Roswell UFO festival to know that certainly didn’t happen. And once you factor in all the other annual conferences that have or had no such element over the past few decades, I don’t think Greg or any other UFO enthusiast will need to run for any religion-free bunker at a UFO conference any time soon.