July 20, 2009
Youve doubtless read that the atheizers are in a snit again. They are kicking up dust and dashing into court. They dont want In God We Trust to be engraved over the entrance to the new Capitol Visitor Center. These grinches are always trying to steal Christmas. Maybe the atheizers need to pay more attention to what happened on the Moon.
Forty years ago, Americans and most of the rest of the world were transfixed by the sight of men landing on the Moon. U.S. astronauts had bravely gone where no men had gone before. It took bravery, too. At the last minute, the supremely skilled Neil Armstrong had to adjust the landing site. He put the lunar lander down with just seconds of fuel to spare. As he descended the ladder and became the first man to set foot on an alien world, he memorably said: Thats a small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.
How grateful we can all be that political correctness had not yet risen up to demand that
he say a small step for a person, a giant leap for personkind. Or homo sapiens. Then, Armstrong and Aldrin planted an American flag and a plaque on the lunar surface. They are there still. The plaque reads:
Here Men from the Planet Earth
first set foot upon the Moon
July 1969 A.D.
We came in Peace for all Mankind.
Notice the date. Anno Domini. In the year of Our Lord. Buzz Aldrin was the Lunar Module pilot on that world-historic Apollo XI flight. Aldrin wanted to do something special to commemorate mans first descent onto the Moon.
NASAs nervous nellies were still smarting from atheist complaints of the previous December. Then, when Apollo 8 circled the Moon but did not land on it, the three astronautsFrank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders-- read from the Book of Genesis. On Christmas Eve, their strong and reassuring voices came across the hundreds of thousands of miles of inky void.
Now in the Lunar Module, Aldrin would have to be creative. Creative he was. With the NASA suits banning any overt religious displays, Aldrin consulted his own heart. He took from his personal pouch a small flask of wine, a chalice, and some wafers. He read from a printed card Jesuswords from the Gospel of John:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Forty years have passed since that moment. What have we accomplished in space since?
The Moon might have been explored and colonized. We might have found there the resources we needed to meet the much vaunted energy crisis. But we turned our backs on all of that.
The photos from Apollo 8 struck different people differently. For the intrepid astronautswhose wives had been told they had only a 50-50 chance of survivalawe and wonder, faith and courage were the response.
To many others, however, the sight of this pale blue marble must have been a shock.
Without a sturdy faith to sustain them, they began to speak of a fragile earth. Seeing those amazing photos must have chilled them, making them cling to this lifeboat Earth all the more desperately.
They say to themselves: He does not have the whole world in His hands; weve got it in ours, and were shaking so violently we may drop it. That at least is the subtext for much of the chicken littling we read in the media. Global cooling (1970s)? No. Global warming (1990s). No. Climate change (2000s) is the existential threat. Nuclear winter? No. Its rising oceans that threaten our very survival.
There are real consequences in this world to atheism. First comes loss of faith. Next, loss of courage. And finally loss of will. Our leaders seem to have lost the will to do what those brave Americans did before us. They have lost that amazing insouciance of young Jack. Kennedy. On the day before he died, J.F.K. blithely said: This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it.
The night we landed on the Moon, someone put a bouquet on John F. Kennedys grave at Arlington. His great task was accomplished: Mr. President, said the unsigned note, the Eagle has landed.