On the first Christmas three wise men looked skyward and began following a star to Bethlehem. This year three men looked earthward and followed a man-made course around the moon.

—EDWARD B. FISKE

When reporter Fiske of the New York Times wrote the above lead for a Christmas 1968 review of religion, he meant it to depict the contrast of problems confronting Christians. The journey of the “modern magi” to the moon did not rate a listing among the top ten religious news stories of the year as seen by leading analysts. But particularly after the Apollo 8 astronauts read to their earthbound listeners the first ten verses of Genesis (see story following), the event took on considerable religious significance.

“This is an age when men are increasingly coming to view the universe not with the awe of the worshipper but with the curiosity of the scientist,” Fiske said. As it turned out, however, it was an act of worship and not a scientific discovery that was the most arresting feature of the spacemen’s communication back to earth.

The idea of reading the story of Creation was believed to have originated with Air Force Colonel Frank Borman, the Apollo 8 commander, who is an Episcopal lay reader. His wife said later, “It’s just what this small world was waiting for.” The astronauts reportedly received a number of requests before the flight proposing that they include some kind of religious expression in their radio-television transmissions to earth.* Radio preacher Carl McIntire, head of the International Council of Christian Churches, had asked that astronauts give credit to the living God and received a sympathetic acknowledgment from Air Force Major William Anders, the Roman Catholic crew member.

The reading of the passage (from the ...

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