For as long as I can remember I have been captivated by the mysterious myth of aliens from outer space. In grade school I was as excited to talk to my friends about them as I was to talk about comics, TV, music, even girls. Anytime there was a TV show or movie based on little green men my mind would not rest until I watched it for myself. Even a class visit to the school library would find me searching the catalogue cards in the “A” drawer. Thoughts and emotions raced through me as I pondered the possibility of aliens being real. And if they were real, what that meant.
All this came rushing back to me at the age of 37 when I saw District 9 for the first time. It was not only an extremely well made movie, it also made the story seem so real. Quite a feat for a story involving aliens living in tin shacks in South Africa. But it wasn’t just that it made the possibility of aliens living among us seem realistically imaginable, it also oddly familiar. I feel like this already happened… Has it?
Aliens in Scripture
Watching this film you find yourself feeling inexplicably compassionate towards hideous creatures that appear dangerous and capable of mass human genocide and world domination. You witness how the visitors are quarantined into a community and how that inevitably created a slum. Yup, this definitely feels familiar.
The King James Bible uses the word “alien” a lot, and God always seems to have a soft spot for them. They are humans, not little green men; and they are on planet earth, not extra-terrestrial. But they may as well have been from outer space. Today we have multiculturalism on every continent, but for many centuries anyone who showed up in your town who was not of the same nationality and culture as you was someone that ought not be trusted. They were different. Foreign. Unknown. Defenses went up, and like in the movie, having them all live in one confined area was often seen as the best plan.
But it never was a good plan. If you have ever visited a country outside of your own you know how intimidating it can be. God’s commission to us to care for people in these situations has never changed. District 9 can make the Christian wonder just how we, the church, are doing with that commission today. Do we reach out and love “the alien” as Christ did? In a culture where fear of people of differing ethnicities is rampant, are Christians breaking down that barrier and loving those who are at an obvious disadvantage because of their nationality/race/language/etc.
Loving the Stranger
These questions must be answered as they are not only relevant to our faith story told in the Scriptures, but also highly relevant to our own culture today. If people who are “strangers” were so important to God, they should be so important to us as well. In the eyes of God there is no such thing as a prawn.