Early Christian Views of Flying Saucers: 1947

One of the earliest reports of Christian interpretation of the flying saucer phenomenon came from Kenneth Arnold himself. On June 27, 1947, newspapers across the US ran a story in which Arnold “said that a preacher called him from Texas and informed him that the strange objects Arnold claims to have seen batting through the ozone actually were harbingers of doomsday.

“Arnold said he didn’t get the preacher’s name during their phone conversation, but the minister said he was getting his flock ‘ready for the end of this workd.'”

On the same day, Rev. Lester Carlson of the Gospel Tabernacle of La Grande, ORegon, made headlines for the claim that these flying saucers were “signs of the coming of Christ” and that “the millennium would come at any moment.”

The January 11, 1947 issue of the La Grande Evening Observer noted the Gospel Tabernacle Rev. Carlson pastored was the church with the “Jesus Saves” sign and has him scheduled to preach on “The Signs of the Times” the following day. The January 21, 1947 edition of the same newspaper notes that he and another minister were attending an Assemblies of God convention in Salem, OR. Which is all to say that Rev. Carlson was clearly into Dispensationalist theology.

In a newspaper article on June 28, 1947, the very day after he made his bold pronouncement about the saucers, Carlson stated that he was not so sure that so-called were harbingers of the millennium. He did note that flying saucers could be compatible with End Times prophecy:

“Earthquakes, floods, wars and astronomical displays all tell of the coming millennium.” 

He also noted that a colleague of his said that the book of Joel predicted that “there shall be signs in the heavens above.” Barring saucers as doomsday heralds, he opined that they might rather be Russian guided missiles. 

Newspapers that picked up the June 28, 1947 story unaccountable left off the part where he was no longer sure that saucers were harbingers of doomsday.

Not all Christians thought the flying saucers were harbingers. The July 1, 1947 edition if the Oregon Journal (Portland, OR) reported that a fellow Assemblies of God minister disagreed with Carlson’s initial assessment and was quick to note that that the La Grande pastor did not speak for the entire denomination.

In any case, the idea that flying saucers were holy harbingers were further proliferated in song by a Buchanan Brothers song called “(When You See) Those Flying Saucers,” recorded on July 15, 1947. 

An RCA Victor Records advertisement in the August 23, 1947 issue of Billboard magazine announced:

“The Buchanan Brothers clear up the big mystery with their spiritual expmsnatuon. It’s as timely as their ‘Atomic Power,’ and certain to be as popular.”

The lyrics of the song definitely give the impression that flying saucers are warning signs from God:

You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers
It may be the coming of the Judgment Day
It’s a sign there’s no doubt of the trouble that’s about
So I say my friends you’d better start to pray

They’re a terrifying sight as they fly on day and night
It’s a warning that we’d better mend our ways
You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers
It may be the coming of the Judgment Day

Many people think the saucers might be someone’s foolish dream
Or maybe they were sent down here from Mars
If you’ll just stop and think you’d realize just what it means
They’re more than atom bombs or falling stars

And though the war may be through there’s unrest and trouble brewin’
And those flying saucers may be just a sign
That if peace doesn’t come it will be the end of some
So repent today, you’re running out of time

When you see a saucer fly like a comet through the sky
You should realize the price you’ll have to pay
You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers
It may be the coming of the Judgment Day

It’s fair to note that this view of UFOs survived the decades, being adopted by the likes of Fundamentalist Dr. Carl McIntyre and Evangelical Jimmy Swaggart.
Still, it makes one wonder when Christians began seeing UFOs as lying signs and wonders from Satan instead of wonders in heaven from God sent as harbingers of the End Times?

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