Gathered in New York last month, the ideologues of conservative Christianity - "Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians" - launched something called the Manhattan Declaration (definitely not to be confused with the 2008 Manhattan Declaration on Climate Change.) It's a call to action that begins with a slop-bucket-full of historical misrepresentation.
After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.
In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.
This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes—from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.
This account is of course riddled with what used to be called "sins of omission." But having massaged history into something acceptable, the clarion call goes out. What great concerns must now be addressed in our times?
Abortion and homosexuality.
These people really do have one-track minds. Moral living is all about what happens below the waist. From Barmen to barmy.
And who signed this Barmen ripoff?
Archbishop Akinola, Anglican "primate" of Nigeria
Leith Anderson, president of the NAE (inheritor of Ted Haggard's position)
A Charlotte, NC. talk show host
Mark Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary
Dr. James Dobson
Jerry's little boy, Jonathan Falwell
A couple of Cardinals
And a whole lot more.
It's a pretty ugly mob. Little wonder that you can find the Manhattan Declaration proudly on display at the First Things website.