Much ado has been made about the Mars "discovery" of liquid water. Of course, it can't be confirmed yet because of our fear of contaminating any sources of water with life from Earth. Knowing that any observed life is actually native to Mars is very important because, well... It'd be a major discovery--life on other planets!
It sounds like something humans would and should be excited about. Even if the life is microscopic, knowing that earthlings are not alone would be an amazing feeling. Or would it? I often wonder about this obsession with finding life on other worlds. To me, humanity's curiosity is especially puzzling with regards to intelligent life. Knowing we have "company" may appear to be a great thing, but we can't even get along with our fellow tellurians. As I look at the ways in which we relate to one another--the mistreatment of Syrian refugees, the despising of immigrants to America, racism, xenophobia, the conflicts over borders and land, etc--I wonder why we would even bother trying to get to know extraterrestrials. Do we honestly believe that we would get along with them better than we get along with each other? Would we expect relationships to be peaceful when we can't even have peace among our own species?
Of course, the questions posed above are not the same for the Christian. We aren't wondering if we are solo travelers in the universe: we already believe that "we are not alone". But interestingly, the same philosophical considerations were posed to followers of Christ long ago. In I John 4, we are told, "If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." Much like those searching the galactic heavens to know other life forms, we turn to the God of Heaven longing to know our Creator. But both pursuits seem futile when we can't relate well to those around us.
We forget that we are all one people. We have the same desires for love and security and wellbeing of our families. And while we may not go around kicking children or tripping fathers, we in our own ways dehumanize others and downplay the similarities with those we consider "not like us". Even within our own denomination, we magnify the variations in our faith. We polarize ourselves into "camps" and tear each other down. Are we suddenly enemies because we aren't both vegan? Does our ability to have a meaningful relationship really hinge on having the same interpretation of Revelation 13? Despite the multitude of points on which we agree, we act as if our differences are impassable gulfs between us.
Expending energy looking beyond ourselves is not a bad thing. However, let's devote some of that pursuit into looking at neighbors on the Blue Marble and reaching out to them as our brothers and sisters. "Jesus replied: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'"
Courtney Ray is an ordained pastor in the Southern California Conference. She is also member of the Society for Neuroscience and does behavioral neuroscience research. She admires the fact that mathematicians insist on referring to popular ideas as theorems until a proof is established even if said idea has been commonly accepted for millennia.
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