Giovanni Schiaperelli, an Italian astronomer of the Milan
Observatory, built a telescope in 1877 that magnified Mars to the
size of a dime held at arms length. He began sketching the surface
of Mars. As he’s sketching he notices chris crossing lines on the
surface and calls them channels or canals. Because straight lines
don’t normally appear in nature, astronomers begin theorizing that
some form of intelligent life must inhabit the surface of Mars and
had built these canals.
In 1894 a wealthy Bostonian named Percival
Lowell was so intrigued by Schiaperelli’s findings, that he paid to
have a large telescope built in Flagstaff, AZ. Lowell spent the
next two decades studying Mars, convincing himself that he saw
networks of lines on the surface of Mars, which he thought were
canals running from the polar icecaps of Mars, bringing water south
to some extraterrestrial civilization. Bear in mind this is at the
same time the construction of the Panama Canal dominated the media.
Based on what earthly civilizations were doing, he assumed that the
building of canals was what all great planetary civilizations did,
so there must be intelligent life on Mars.Against this backdrop, a young actor named Orson Wells broadcasted a dramatization of H.G.Wells, “War of the Worlds”. Thousands of citizens panicked thinking
the invasion was real.
What gets me is that all of this was basedon a blurry picture of Mars seen through a primitive telescope by
an astronomer who was convinced his conclusions were correct. Mars,
the size of a dime held at arms length. Grab a dime and hold it out
at arms length. Go ahead, try it. What do you see? Can you read
anything on it?
I think we often interpret what it means to follow
Christ based on our seeing Him at a distance, or based on the
teachings of those who view Him through a telescope. The more I
read and study the words of Christ and those who knew Him
intimately, the more I see we’ve got some things so wrong. But the
only way to correct it is to draw ever closer to Him.
We have since discovered that there are no canals on Mars, that it is a dry,
inhospitable planet. How do we know this? We got closer. We sent
instruments to land on the surface and take samples and pictures of
I wonder what would happen if we threw everything out
the window, all of our assumptions, all of our tradition and sought
the heart of Christ, drew so close we could hear the very beating
of His heart. Oh, how we would see that what we think we’re doing
and what He really wants of us is so different. It was because of
this and some major mistakes in my own life that I stood in the
mirror and stared long and hard. Who Christ is and how I relate to
Him and His people, His creation has completely changed. I viewed
Him through ministry and church. That’s not God. God is a father
who wants to dwell among His people, who wants to teach His people
to live, to love, to give with no reservation.