Where We Stand
The Manhattan Declaration Draws a Line at a Front Already There
On November 20, 2009, Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical leaders released the Manhattan Declaration at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Among the 148 original signatories are fourteen Roman Catholic bishops, two Eastern Orthodox bishops, and Evangelical leaders from various ministries, churches, seminaries, and colleges, many quite well known, including J. I. Packer, Charles Colson, and James Dobson. The coalition of signatories is the strongest expression yet seen in this country of the new ecumenism of Christians dedicated to the Great Tradition.
The Declaration (www.manhattandeclaration.org) is a statement of principles upon which the signatories will not compromise, even if civil disobedience is required on their part. Signatories pledge that they will not be intimidated by the state and that they are willing to suffer loss to defend religious liberty and the sanctity of life and marriage.
Christians have opposed abortion for decades and denied the legitimacy of “gay marriage” since it became an issue. Why issue a Declaration now?
The State Squeeze
Because, by slow degrees, through legislation, regulatory policies, and court rulings, the state has been putting the squeeze on the consciences of believers and infringing on the free exercise of religion. For example, as the Declaration notes, a court in Massachusetts has mandated that all adoption agencies in that state—including Catholic Charities—must be willing to place orphans in the homes of “gay couples.” In New Jersey, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax-exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions. In many places, pharmacists and health care workers are being pressured to participate in abortions either directly or indirectly. If abortion is “health care” to which all women have a right, how dare Christian hospitals deny abortion to any woman?
People and institutions have lost their jobs, licenses, and freedom of conscience and religion over these matters. The sanctity of life issues of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, and assisted suicide, along with “gay marriage,” are the focus of the Declaration because the state has forced them upon us.
Throughout history, the state—whether through monarchs, elected bodies, totalitarian dictators, or collectivizing tyrants—has often looked rapaciously on three targets in its quest to acquire more power: the individual, the family, and the local community. The philosophical view of the state seems to be that:
1. A human being is not necessarily created in the image of God. That is merely a religious opinion.
2. The family, that is, the male-female “one-flesh union” of marriage with the children born of that union, is not a unique and irreplaceable unit of society to be protected.
3. Local communities, associations, churches, and businesses no longer have the right to maintain long-held views about man and marriage, and they may be coerced to adopt the new views of the secular state.
State-supported education, from the elementary through the college level, attacks the individual through a denial of man as more than a mere animal. A new materialism, the bastard child of true science, which was the progeny of Christian theology, reduces personal and free moral agency to chemical reactions, neurons, and brainwaves. Evolutionary forces in nature are said to explain all human behavior, thoughts, and beliefs—including our religious beliefs.
Sex education is being used to subvert sex; the very term is a camouflage for the sexualization and homosexualization of children. Sex ed is used to attack not only the individual but also the married couple, the husband and wife who together form the procreative parents of the family, which is the irreplaceable foundation of all societies. The very concept of male and female is being deconstructed into a mere “social construct.” The right understanding of marital sexual union is being subverted and replaced with a view of “sex” as any activity between any two (or more) persons that results in orgasmic sensation. The young are groomed for self-destructive promiscuity, with only subsidized condoms to defend their bodies against disease and nothing at all to safeguard their souls.
When the state denies the sanctity of individual human lives and the unique marital status of a man and woman bound together for the creation of a family, it undermines society at its roots. But the state also undermines society when it encroaches upon and subordinates the various institutions that traditionally have nurtured both the individual and the family unit: extended families, churches, schools, local communities, and the myriad voluntary associations founded for cultural, business, philanthropic, and educational purposes.
As the state increases its control over more and more aspects of everyday life, our families and institutions become strained and stressed by the ideological demands made on them. They are pressured to conform to the views of the state on matters touching even faith and family. For example, if the state believes “gay marriage” is in its interest, it requires parents to hand over their children for “gay-friendly” sex education, thus denying the right of parents to educate their own children in their most deeply held convictions. The state will also fine pastors who preach from the Bible’s texts calling homosexual acts sinful.
We have signed the Manhattan Declaration because we agree that the issues of the sanctity of life, the sacredness of the marital union of husband and wife, and the free and full practice of religious faith are fundamental to human life before God and that we cannot, must not, compromise these core beliefs—we must defend them. We invite our readers to do the same.
— James M. Kushiner, for the editors
James M. Kushiner is the Executive Editor of Touchstone.