The American government has finally admitted that UFOs (unidentified flying objects) are real. They aren’t a secret US technology, and they don’t come from foreign adversaries, either.
So what are they? What are the implications for people espousing faith in the Bible? On June 25, 2021, the United States government reversed a seventy-four-year policy of public denial about the presence of UFOs in American airspace. The report was commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been demanding answers from the Department of Defense (DOD) regarding incursions by “unidentified aerial phenomena,” i.e., objects our best military minds seem unable to explain. The DOD had no place left to hide.
Recent articles in the New York Times and a story on 60 Minutes featuring interviews with whistleblowers, former Pentagon insiders, and Navy pilots backed by gun-camera footage had already let the cat out of the bag. There was no point trying to cover it up any longer. Even former President Obama cautiously stammered, “There’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory … They did not have an easily explainable pattern.”
A Pentagon task force appointed to the job by the Senate Intelligence Committee produced two versions of the June report titled “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” The unclassified version is a mere six pages or so, but the classified version, which was delivered to the Intelligence Committee, is said to be about four hundred pages, including photos and video from military sources. Here are a few things we learned from the short, unclassified version.
- The task force looked at 144 reports collected primarily from Navy encounters reported in 2019-2020.
- Of the 144 reports, the task force could explain only one.
- UFOs have been observed visually and recorded on multiple sensor platforms, indicating they represent solid objects and not merely illusions or phantasms.
- Some UFOs may be drones or balloons, but others display characteristics that defy our understanding and the limits of science and physics.
- Some UFOs remain stationary against the wind or fly against it, maneuver abruptly, and accelerate at considerable speed without any discernable means of propulsion.
The cursory report ignores the long history of the phenomenon that goes back to 1947 when flying saucers first started gallivanting across America’s skies. In the summer of 1947, a few months before the UN voted on the partition of Palestine and just two years after the first atomic detonation, flying saucers showed up in American airspace. Newspapers from the summer of 1947 reported over eight hundred sightings of discs, saucers, and strange nocturnal lights across the country, many from highly reliable witnesses such as airline pilots, police, and military personnel. The newspapers turned to government officials for answers. Military spokesmen dismissed the phenomenon as “optical illusions” and “mass hysteria,” but behind closed doors, there was a state of panic as investigators scrambled to provide superiors with explanations.
The response from people of faith came quickly. For example, in late June 1947, just a few days after the first flying-saucer stories hit the papers, the Associated Press carried a quotation from the Reverend Lester Carlson. The reverend “declared that the shiny flying discs reported in many western states were the advance guard of the second coming of Christ. ‘The millennium,’ added the reverend, ‘will come at any minute.’” Ironically (or perhaps intentionally), the government ordered an investigation under the codename “Project Sign.”
By 1952, with UFOs repeatedly conducting flyovers of Washington DC and making the front page of every major newspaper in America, the CIA felt the need to get involved to calm the public. The CIA’s Robertson Panel issued directives to ridicule witnesses and use media and entertainment outlets to persuade the American public that UFOs do not exist. Walter Cronkite participated in the effort. The tactic worked, and the existence of UFOs was quickly relegated to Hollywood and the kooky fringe.
Contrary to CIA dogma, a previously secret Air Material Command report about flying saucers dated September 23, 1947 (long-since declassified), stated, “The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious. There are objects … the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft … [demonstrating] extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and motion which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar.” The one-time secret assessment goes on to describe intelligently controlled circular and elliptical metallic crafts, flat on the bottom with domes on top, which operate silently and without visible means of propulsion. In a no-longer extant report from Project Sign titled “Estimate of the Situation,” intelligence officials suggested that the flying discs could best be explained as spacecraft from other worlds.
All this is to say that the June 2021 UFO report didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. Anyone who has taken the time to seriously examine the evidence, read the declassified government case files and documents, and look at the history already knows that UFOs are a real manifestation of a non-human intelligence somehow interacting with us and operating within our world.
In his 1975 book Angels: God’s Secret Agents, the famous evangelist Billy Graham suggested that the UFOs might be angelic messengers. Like others before him, he pointed to the example of Ezekiel’s strange flying chariot wheels. The Vatican has repeatedly stated that the existence of alien lifeforms should not be theologically excluded. However, most conservative Christians have dismissed the whole array of phenomena as demonic deception.
Why did the Department of Defense and our government choose to deny, ignore, and even deliberately cover up what is arguably the biggest secular revelation in human history? Conspiracy theorists surmise that the UFOs are extraterrestrial aliens and that the government is hiding the truth to avoid a panic. Some suspect the government wants to protect religious dogmas. This “ET Hypothesis” inspired plotlines for episodes of the X-Files, but in reality, the truth may be much stranger than a government coverup of aliens from other planets. It seems more likely that the government is baffled and out of its league, unable to explain what’s going on.
From the time they first appeared in the skies, the UFO presence has inspired numerous cults of worshipers and would-be contactees attempting to channel aliens telepathically. The UFO cultists and summoners belie our society’s allegedly secular and materialist worldview. Many thoughtful people of faith point to the Torah’s cryptic words, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days” (Genesis 6:4). Meanwhile, victims of so-called abductions report a disturbingly consistent narrative of nighttime visitations by metaphysical beings—what at one time would have been considered demonic activity but now passes as business as usual for “aliens.”
Serious credentialed scientists such as theoretical mathematician Jacques Vallee, astronomer J. Allen Hyneck, and Harvard psychologist John Mack—all early pioneers in UFO research—quickly abandoned the extraterrestrial hypothesis. They pointed out that the phenomenon comes with paranormal and occult-like manifestations and incidents of “high strangeness” more consistent with religious experiences and spiritual episodes than some type of nuts-and-bolts advanced technology. Today’s researchers speak of inter-dimensional beings that seem to interact with human consciousness. For most people considering the problem, that puts the whole subject back in the “crazy bin” where the CIA wanted to leave it in 1952.
For people of faith, however, it should raise larger questions.
Since when do demons ride around in flying saucers? Who gave them permission to do that? Has something in the fabric of reality recently altered? Are “the prince of the power of the air” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 2:2, 6:12) now allowed to run amok harassing our commercial airliners, military pilots, and Navy fleets? Why are demons snooping around our nuclear weapon storage facilities? The idea that “it must be demons” sounds just a little too simple.
We might be asking the wrong questions. The traditional Christian worldview allows for only two flavors of spiritual beings: demons or angels. Thus, any paranormal activity must be assigned to either one or the other. Judaism, on the other hand, has a much more variegated ontology. The rabbis teach that our universe is not the only one; it is merely the lowest of several higher planes of existence that strange and unfathomable beings may populate.
It’s commonly assumed that the biblical worldview is incompatible with the existence of intelligent alien life (should the latter ever be proven). On the contrary, the biblical worldview depicts a God who created not only this world upon which we live but also the whole universe—a universe filled with worlds—and whatever other universes may also exist. The Jewish worldview has plenty of room for the unknown, the unexpected, and the previously unimagined. It’s not biblical faith that UFOs challenge; it’s the narrow, materialist, reductionist view of Western rationalism that will be up for review.
Those of us who believe in the traditional Jewish cosmology inspired by the Bible already know that we live in what is called “the world of concealment,” and we can scarcely guess how much we don’t know down here. From those upper realms and higher heavens might descend emanations of pure thought, conceptions of consciousness and emotion, formations of non-corporeal beings such as souls and angels, both friendly and frightening, and who knows what else. Even within this universe, the world of concealment, there may be other lifeforms and creatures not yet revealed or visible that transcend our understanding. They might not fit into the “either/ or” box of angels or demons, either. In this regard, Judaism is better equipped to deal with the revelation that we are not alone. According to Jewish spirituality, we never have been.
It’s fair to acknowledge that something strange is in the air. Something has changed, and it seems our world is about to change dramatically again. The appearance of the phenomena may indicate that an abrupt intrusion from higher worlds is about to happen. Though he tarries, we await his coming every day.