Thursday, July 19, 2007

Faith Works 7-21-07
Jeff Gill

Sixty Years of . . . Faith, and Speculation

Not to get into my own odd schedule and habits too much, but when circumstances have me up after midnight, I will always tune into the Art Bell “Coast-to-Coast AM” radio show.

For those of you who actually sleep after midnight, a course of action I heartily recommend, a little explanation is called for. Art is a long time radio host who started out in the mold of Larry King, and steadily increased his percentage of guests who were focused on the paranormal and extraterrestrial affairs until that pretty much became the show.

He got spooked enough by some of his guests that he retired a ways back, then returned, sharing hosting duties with his replacement, George Noory.

George is now the regular weeknight host, and with the birth of a new child Art is only an occasional fill-in on weekends, but he’s been back for a very important anniversary in the “Coast-to-Coast AM” world.

60 years ago this month, outside of Roswell, New Mexico, something happened. The Air Force says Project Mogul lost some balloons, and UFO adherents say we had visitors from outer space.

“Independence Day” was a straight-faced take on what many believe, which is that our government had tucked away in storage alien spacecraft, or at least parts, and possibly even some alien corpses which we’ve autopsied.

Yes, the infamous “Alien Autopsy” videos have been revealed as a hoax, but some in the UFO community argue that the hoax was helped along by the government to cover up and discredit information that there was an alien autopsy, just not the one we’ve seen.

Apparently, just in time for the July 7, 1947 anniversary, one of the last witnesses to whatever was originally seen passed away, and left a posthumous confession that supported the alien accident theorists.

What I heard on the radio was kind of touching, and kind of sad. It was a long series of older adults, insisting that their parents who were young adults 60 years ago, were good people and honest, who never would have changed their stories for personal gain.

I believe them. Well, I believe their assertions that personal gain and advancement never motivated their “greatest generation” parents, I really do. But there is a 60 year series of articles and newsletters and books and websites that shows most of them did tell different stories at different times under different circumstances, which is why this story won’t go away.

They did change their accounts, in major details and small, and the fact that one of them chose to make a final set of claims after death (themselves not in line with earlier statements for and against the UFO theory) doesn’t mean I’m required to accept that last document as fact, or “disgrace one of the finest Americans who ever lived.”

He was no doubt a wonderful man, but what did he see in the New Mexico desert in 1947, and what was he told to do by authorities? People of good will can disagree, but my money is on the weather balloons. Sorry.

So why do I still listen? Largely, because so many of my fellow citizens firmly believe that the government is covering up a crashed flying saucer in their keeping (and most say it ended up in Ohio, at Wright-Patterson AFB!). Partly, because the nature of the conversation drinks so deeply at the wells of faith. They believe, or in the words of Fox Mulder, “I want to believe,” and their greetings and conversations with George and Art and across the transcontinental phone lines sound like the back of a church after a wedding or funeral: “Hey, Bob, haven’t talked to you for a while,” “Nah, I’ve been busy, taking care of my mother after her surgery; have you been doing your lectures much?” “Sure, mostly in California, but I get over to Nevada from time to time.”

The Roswell enthusiasts are a community, and they know each other by name, know their families, and they’ve even had two major schisms, making them just like most mainline denominations in American life (there’s the Socorro school and the anti-Socorrans, and I forget the other).

Some of what they claim makes me chuckle; then I remember that some of what I believe (healing, resurrection, eternity) makes the clever kids chuckle at me. How do I make my truth claims in ways that are the same as the Roswellians, and how can I do better?

Which is why the next time I have to make a drive after midnight, the radio will drift over to Art or George or whoever is hosting, and I’ll listen intently. They want to believe, but in what?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; convince him of your close encounter of the third (or second, or first even) kind at

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