Have you heard of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program? Neither had I. But the New York Times is reporting that this little-known government agency spent $22 million of our tax dollars between 2007 and 2012 investigating unidentified flying objects.
Even though funding ended five years ago, the program has continued. However, I could find no mention in the Times article that any proof of extraterrestrial life has so far been discovered.
In related news, this headline caught my eye: “Stephen Hawking’s search for extraterrestrial life came up short.” An organization he founded has been studying ‘Oumuamua, a cigar-shaped interstellar asteroid that zipped past Earth recently. (The name means “messenger from afar arriving first” in Hawaiian.) It is the first-ever documented interstellar asteroid to fly by our planet.
The researchers hoped to detect alien spaceship transmissions or signals emanating from the asteroid. However, none were discovered.
One more story from the sky: the Geminid Meteor Shower made another appearance last week. It peaked around 2 a.m. Thursday morning. I walk in our neighborhood early each morning after publishing the Daily Article and had an excellent opportunity to see the meteor shower, but I forgot to look up.
Therein lies my point today.
The reason for democracy’s falling popularity
In his latest New York Times column, David Brooks focuses on an essential truth that is foundational to our democracy. Citing novelist Thomas Mann, Brooks defines the “one great truth” with which democracy begins: “the infinite dignity of individual men and women. Man is made in God’s image. Unlike other animals, humans are morally responsible.”
Here’s his point: democracy is “the only system built on respect for the infinite dignity of each individual man and woman, on each person’s moral striving for freedom, justice and truth.” As a result, “It would be a great error to think of and teach democracy as a procedural or political system, or as the principle of majority rule.” Rather, it is a “spiritual and moral possession.”
This point is urgent for today’s culture. Democracy is in conflict with other political systems around the globe, from the “centrally managed capitalism” of China’s one-party rule, to the Communist aggression of North Korea, to the theocratic aspirations of Islamic jihadists.
But our democracy is also in conflict with itself. In Western countries, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted in recent years. Only about 30 percent of American millennials consider democracy to be essential to our lives.
The falling popularity of democracy is unsurprising in a culture that is abandoning the biblical worldview, including its emphasis on the sanctity of every human life.
Our society now measures worth by utility–you are valuable to the degree that you contribute to society. Unborn babies and infirm elderly persons are considered less valuable than the rest of us, which is why our culture has decided they can be aborted or euthanized if other, more “valuable” people (i.e., their parents or children) so choose.
If we believe that every person is inherently as valuable as every other person, we will love our poor, homeless, mentally challenged, and other marginalized neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39; 25:40). And, as Brooks notes, we will believe in democracy’s inherent commitment to “the infinite dignity of individual men and women.”
The good news is the good news
To revive our democracy, we need to look beyond our democracy. We need to look up, not down or around. We need to look beyond the stars to the God who “determines the number of the stars” and “gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4).
If our Father can name every one of the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the known universe, he can name every one of the 7,588,661,333 people on our planet this morning. Including you and me.
What can we do to help more people know that God knows them?
One: Love others as God loves us.
A seven-year-old girl living in an impoverished home wrote to Santa Claus asking for a blanket, food, and a ball she could share with her brother. When her story was made public, donations poured in. How can you help someone who needs what you have this week?
Two: Tell people that God loves them.
An evangelical pastor recently met with Pope Francis in Rome. What was the pontiff’s advice for him? “Preach. Preach the Good News. The world needs better preaching. Preach. Don’t ever stop. Tell as many people as you can. Our world needs Good News. Our world needs Jesus. So preach.” Who will hear the good news from you this week?
Three: Believe that God loves you.
We cannot give what we do not have. When we truly believe that God loves us so much that he sent his Son at Christmas just for us, we will want to share what we have received.
Philip Yancey: “Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?”
What do you see in your mirror today?