When it comes to the History family of networks, there seems to be a clear divide now between History and H2 in terms of the crazy fringe ideas they want to promote. On H2 we have Ancient Aliens, where God is an extraterrestrial and New Age spirituality reigns, as well as America Unearthed, where Jesus was just a man and New Age spirituality explains the exalted status of his royal bloodline. Over on History, we have more traditional views of Biblical literalism. They had their scripted miniseries version of The Bible, as well as last year’s series Bible Secrets Revealed, albeit with ancient astronaut theorist and self-proclaimed descendant of Mary Magdalene Kathleen McGowan in a prominent role. The latest entry in that august pantheon is Search for Lost Giants, debuting next month, which is quite clearly meant to appeal to creationists, Biblical literalists, and Christian fundamentalists who take Genesis 6:4 literally.
As a service to viewers, this merely doubles the amount of anti-scientific programming on the History networks, but as a marketing strategy it’s a great example of market segmentation. A+E Networks shunts viewers with New Age sentiments to the smaller channel and those with fundamentalist views to the larger, and can use both to appeal to the general interest conspiracy theory viewer.
What I find interesting, though, is the way that creationists and ancient astronaut theorists play out this same division. You’d think that the ancient astronaut theorists would be sniping at the creationists, who are more numerous (42% of all Americans, according to Gallup) and better funded, but this isn’t the case. Instead, the creationists, who operate under an ideology of oppression and believe themselves under siege from secularists, materialists, and the 19% of Americans who believe in evolution without divine guidance, have waged a low level war against Ancient Aliens in particular, and the ancient astronaut theory in general.
We’ve seen it with the rise of Christian UFO “experts” like Bob and Suzanne Hemrick who declare aliens to be demons, and we’ve seen it with the publication of Exo-Vaticana, whose authors, Cris Putnam and Thomas Horn, claim that while Protestants recognize aliens as demonic illusions, Catholics are wholly deceived by the idea of ancient astronauts and flying saucers. But we’ve also seen it in evangelical Christian Chris White’s Ancient Aliens Debunked, which turns from a scientific debunking of Ancient Aliens to a Christian discussion of the Nephilim. More specifically, we’ve even seen it with Nephilim researcher L. A. Marzulli, who in 2010 raged against how Ancient Aliens had manipulated his words and research in order
…to lead people away from the God of the Bible, and in particular, the presence of the Nephilim who were on the earth. They don’t go there, and they can’t because it would actually present another alternative view than the one they are espousing! How do you spell propaganda?
Marzulli’s experience is what led him to start his line of Nephilim/Watchers DVDs. Now that History has a Nephilim-themed series, Marzulli is still mad, but now it’s because he’s not on it.
So I read with interest today a posting by Dante Fortson, a sci-fi writer, business blogger, self-described nondenominational minister, and self-described expert on the Christian supernatural. He published a book on human hybrids in the Bible and is very concerned about “transhumanism” as a sign of the apocalypse—another weird claim that Daniel Ott asked me about on the Edge radio show a few weeks ago, the first time I’d heard of the utopian philosophy in relation to the Nephilim. Anyway, Fortson published “8 Ways Ancient Aliens Causes Confusion” for Christians, a follow up to a 2012 YouTube video on “Giorgio Tsoukalos: Master of Deception.”
The exact nature of Fortson’s apologetics isn’t really relevant—he, for example, chooses to read the Bible as encoding evidence of fourth-dimensional angelic and divine constructions—but it’s interesting to see the way Fortson works hard to take the same evidence used for the ancient astronaut theory and re-imbue it with the supernatural that the ancient astronaut theory pointedly emerged to strip from the source texts. Here is Fortson on, of course, the Nephilim, who are the central focus for modern efforts to restore belief in the Christian supernatural:
The giants were hybrids that were part angel and part human. Stories of these hybrids appear all over the world, and are known as demigods in other cultures. Contrary to what Ancient Aliens would like us to believe, these are not alien beings. They were fallen supernatural beings, as recorded by almost every culture on earth. It is our modern society that wants to strip every supernatural element from the story and replace them with natural explanations that simply don’t fit when we look at the details.
Needless to say, Fortson rejects what he calls “the Sethite theory,” the ancient interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 that holds that the “Sons of God” were not fallen angels but the descendants of the righteous son of Adam, Seth.
Fortson’s bottom line is that Ancient Aliens represents a threat to Christian spirituality, namely the particular type of fundamentalist and literalist Bible belief favored among evangelicals:
We as Christians need to have a solid Biblical foundation before we start entertaining shows like Ancient Aliens. They are known twisters of scripture and will do so every chance they get, in order to push their Ancient Astronaut Theory on the world. For those that don’t actually know the truth, the points they make sound intelligent, but when we take a deeper look at those points, they start to sound ridiculous and uninformed.
Unlike the belief that a hybrid race of angel-human-animal people are threatening your soul.
One commenter on Fortson’s blog even likened Ancient Aliens to the Serpent in the Garden, tying ancient astronaut theorists’ promise that we are of the same substance of as aliens and can join them in their heavenly home as akin to the Serpent’s promise that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge would make humans “as gods.”
But now, thanks to the marketing geniuses at History, you can choose your own flavor of fringe: Tune in to the main History Channel for evangelical Biblical literalism and H2 for New Age heresy!
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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