In the mid 1950’s audiences roared as Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason, jovially threatened Alice, his sitcom wife, to send her “to the moon!”
The scene was humorous for several reasons, not least of which was Gleason’s comedic genius.
The idea of going to the moon contributed to the comedy, but by the end of the 1960s it was no longer a laughing matter. The world sat spellbound in the summer of 1969 as Neil Armstrong accomplished the unthinkable and took “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong died on Saturday, August 25, 2012. History will forever remember him by his famous words spoken from outer space. While most are familiar with what he said, fewer still know of what he did moments before offering his legendary quote. He and his fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin observed communion immediately before exiting the spaceship to leave an indelible footprint on the moon. It seems their trip to space brought them closer to God in more ways than one.
In our day it is common to think that science has buried God beneath a pile of empirical data revealing his irrelevance. This is an unfortunate myth in the faith and science debate, and it is one that is particularly false when it comes to space travel. The late Chuck Colson published an informative article several years ago outlining many astronauts who have been outspoken about their Christian faith. It is well worth your time to check it out here.
Thinking of space travel and faith always reminds me of the memorable response C.S. Lewis once offered to an atheist cosmonaut from Russia. Before the U.S. landed Neil and Buzz on the moon, Russia was first successful in sending a man into space in 1961. The cosmonaut concluded that they did not find God or Heaven in outer space. Lewis responded, in typical Lewis fashion, that looking for God in outer space is like Hamlet looking for Shakespeare in the attic of his home. If we are to know God, Lewis added, he must write himself into the story.
While traveling to space has allowed many to feel closer to God — the greatest wonder of all is that God once came near his creation. It is in the incarnation we learn that God once became like us. It is in the resurrection we see that we will one day become like Him. For those in Christ it will be beyond a giant leap for mankind: it will be glory.