July 22, 2019
If you were a tourist expecting to see the Washington Monument at night, you probably did a double take. For most nights leading up to Saturday's 50th anniversary of the moon walk, what people saw wasn't the familiar pyramid-topped column but a Saturn V rocket -- as real as the day it took off. It was NASA's way of reliving one of mankind's greatest stories -- one that left a footprint even bigger than Buzz Aldrin's iconic print.
But there's more to July 20, 1969 than most people know. Turns out, before Americans took their first walk on the moon, they took a more important walk -- with God. Several years ago, Buzz Aldrin told Guidepost magazine one detail that most documentaries ignore. Some 250,000 miles from home, he explains, he quieted his radio, read a verse from the Gospel of John, and took communion. "I intended to read the passage back to earth, but [NASA] asked me not to. I agreed reluctantly. I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the... spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility... It's interesting to think," Aldrin said, "that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon, and who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the 'Love that moves the Sun and stars.'"
It was a moment Aldrin had hoped to share with the world -- but seven months earlier, NASA had been sued by a militant atheist, who took exception to Apollo 8's reading of the Bible's Genesis 1. Although the case was ultimately dismissed, the administration didn't want to take any chances. Still, even the space agency couldn't stop Buzz from saying, as they headed back to earth, "This has been far more than three men on a mission to the moon. Personally, and reflecting on the events of the past several days, a verse from Psalms comes to mind: 'When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers and the moon and stars which Thou hast ordained, what is man that Thou art mindful of him?"
Later, after 12 men had walked on the moon, one of them -- Charles Duke -- said he used to think going to the moon would be his greatest achievement. But his walk with Jesus is even more memorable, because it's an everyday event. Other astronauts felt the same. Flying through the heavens, closer to God than they'd ever been, heroes like Jim Lovell couldn't help but think and talk about creation. When his Genesis reading became the source of so much controversy, he shrugged his shoulders and said he couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. "It's the foundation of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam," Lovell replied. "It's the foundation of most of the world's religions. ... They all had that basis of the Old Testament."
It was a message he felt like America needed -- and still needs, today. As Vice President Mike Pence said, "Unity is the true legacy of Apollo 11," and we should try to capture that same unity every day, one nation under the heavens' God.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.