Friday, November 20, 2009, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., a seminal statement signed by over 145 Evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic leaders was released. Known as the Manhattan Declaration, this document addresses the necessity of defending and advancing the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.
This is an important moment of commitment to unchanging truths, solidarity in the broader Body of Christ, and drawing a line in the sand that points the direction of renewal.
Please study the Manhattan Declaration and join me in becoming one of its signers. RB
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are ever more threatened.
The institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at risk of being redefined and thus subverted. Marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. Where marriage erodes, social pathologies rise. The impulse to redefine marriage is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil law as well as our religious traditions. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. Marriage is not a “social construction,” but is rather an objective reality”the covenantal union of husband and wife”that it is the duty of the law to recognize, honor, and protect.
Freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized. The threat to these fundamental principles of justice is evident in efforts to weaken or eliminate conscience protections for healthcare institutions and professionals, and in anti-discrimination statutes that are used as weapons to force religious institutions, charities, businesses, and service providers either to accept (and even facilitate) activities and relationships they judge to be immoral, or go out of business. Attacks on religious liberty are dire threats not only to individuals, but also to the institutions of civil society including families, charities, and religious communities. The health and well-being of such institutions provide an indispensable buffer against the overweening power of government and is essential to the flourishing of every other institution”including government itself”on which society depends.
As Christians, we believe in law and we respect the authority of earthly rulers. We count it as a special privilege to live in a democratic society where the moral claims of the law on us are even stronger in virtue of the rights of all citizens to participate in the political process. Yet even in a democratic regime, laws can be unjust. And from the beginning, our faith has taught that civil disobedience is required in the face of gravely unjust laws or laws that purport to require us to do what is unjust or otherwise immoral. Such laws lack the power to bind in conscience because they can claim no authority beyond that of sheer human will.
Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.
Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality, marriage, and the family.
Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.
We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
Jim Daly, President and CEO of Focus on the Family adds this encouragement:
While public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Although the protection of the weak and vulnerable is the first obligation of government, the power of government is today often enlisted in the cause of promoting what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.” We pledge to work unceasingly for the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in conscience, take the same stand.
It is important, first off, to note that the Manhattan Declaration is not a partisan or political statement–I shared the podium last Friday at the National Press Club with Republicans and Democrats alike. Instead, it addresses and elevates four specific areas of universal consensus. Some have referred to these as “threshold issues,” meaning they represent the foundation of our faith and the pivot point from which everything else flows. This is the bedrock. If we can’t agree on these areas of doctrine, everything else will be of reduced value. These four areas are:
1.The sanctity of human life.
2.The sanctity of marriage.
3.The protection of religious liberty.
4.The rejection of unjust laws.
Our conviction on these matters runs deep; motivating our movement has always been the heartfelt belief that these principles are not ours, but the Lord’s, and that they promise to help and heal a broken world.
The document is a fresh and lively presentation, a renewed rallying cry to those who have been engaged in this historic effort of spiritual and cultural conversion. This is not a manifesto for culture war; it is a prescription for cultural change. It is also a thoughtful invitation to those who might be sitting on the periphery, perhaps hesitant to join this effort, maybe because they’ve never been fully aware of the consequences of inaction.
As a unified body, we are acknowledging that our faith is strong and redemptive, but it’s not necessarily a comfortable and easy pursuit. Standing up for our beliefs can often come at great cost. But as Dr. George highlighted at last week’s news conference, even the secularist philosopher Socrates once posed a relevant question Christians should easily answer today. “Is it better to suffer an injustice,” he once asked, “than to commit it?” By affixing our signatures to the Manhattan Declaration, we are answering an unequivocal “yes.”
Although many American Christians understandably feel under assault, the degree of faith-based domestic persecution cannot compare with the ghastly violence perpetuated against believers in other parts of the world. In the Sudan, for instance, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been slaughtered not because of what they’re doing, but because of the One in whom they believe. It is a wise people who act to protect the freedoms they enjoy.
And so I ask you to join me and my friends and colleagues in embracing and standing up for these crucial biblical principles. How? You can start by reading the document, in its entirety, by clicking here. What I think you’ll notice is that, in addressing the issues noted above, The Manhattan Declaration is an excellent example of achieving the balance of Truth and Grace required of us as followers of Jesus. This is a document that exhorts us to champion Christian truths in a Christian manner. It stands for something.
Then, after you’ve read the declaration, consider adding your name to the list of signers–and urge your friends and family to do the same. We are all imperfect. But if we honor God by promoting biblical principles, resisting our sometimes insatiable and admittedly prideful motivations, He will honor us.