.- Advocates of life, marriage and religious liberty united in New York on Wednesday to pray together and reaffirm their dedication to advancing foundational Christian principles of justice and the common good.
The Christian position on marriage, life and religious freedom is “as it must be, a truly consistent ethic of love for all humans,” said Eric Teetsel, director of the Manhattan Declaration, a movement of Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians working for life, marriage, and religious liberty.
He emphasized that supporters and signers of the Manhattan Declaration document “are part of a movement that has drawn a line in the sand,” joining an “exemplary and inspiring” tradition of human rights advocates.
The Manhattan Declaration is a “statement of Christian conscience” that offers a Christ-centered response to what it calls “the most pressing questions of our time” on the topics of abortion, embryo-destructive research, same-sex marriage, and freedom of religion.
The document was authored by a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians in 2009, and according to the speakers, some 540,000 Americans – including prominent theologians, pastors, intellectuals and more than 50 cardinals and bishops – have signed it.
“Because we honor justice and the common good, we will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” the declaration promises. “But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” the document continues, pledging to uphold the traditional Christian positions on “the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of religion,” foundational elements of justice and the common good.
On Sept. 25 – three days before the fourth anniversary of the declaration’s creation – Columbia University hosted “The Manhattan Declaration Returns Home,” an event based on prayer and education about the threats to life, marriage and religious freedom faced by U.S. Christians today.
Speaking at the event were pastors and religious leaders including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, members of pro-life organizations, defenders of marriage, and representatives of religious freedom groups.
Marjorie Dannenfeltzer, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, stressed the need for courage with respect to pro-life issues, affirming that “every human being is loved, willed and necessary - not just a commodity.”
Scholars Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis – co-authors of the book “What is Marriage” – explained the Christian understanding of marriage and the effects of redefining that vision.
Girgis questioned the redefinition of marriage as merely a “deep emotional bond,” saying that this revisionist position is not linked to the spouses’ reproductive nature and fails to explain other key truths about marriage, such its exclusivity, its permanence and its monogamy.
Anderson further explained that “men and women bring different gifts to the parenting enterprise” and emphasized that “children are raised best when raised by a mother and a father.”
This fact has direct policy implications, Anderson added. He explained that marriage is the “least restrictive way we can come up with to ensure that totally needy, totally dependent children grow up to be law-abiding, productive members of society,” and working to ensure that fathers are involved in the raising of children.
Redefining marriage makes the institution more about adult desires than children’s needs, he warned, because it establishes either a father or mother as optional.
Alan Sears, president of Alliance Defending Freedom, cautioned that recent attempts to redefine marriage and include abortion-inducing and contraceptive drugs in healthcare demonstrate that religious freedom is being attacked in way that are unprecedented and “chilling.”
Many companies face a figurative “death penalty” as they find themselves “forced to choose between their conscience” and the government's demands, he said.
However, there is “a lot of good news, thanks to those who have already said ‘no,’” Sears continue, pointing to “many inspiring act of courage” against the federal contraception mandate and other edicts that force Christians to violate their conscience.
The event also featured an opportunity for prayer in order to seek God's support for the freedom as Christians work for the freedom to live out their beliefs.
Cardinal Dolan maintained that even when the circumstances seem grim, Christians can be both hopeful and “very realistic.”
“(T)he voices against us are powerful,” he acknowledged, “but God is more so.”