From the Bishops The Manhattan Declaration: Christians Confront Caesar

The history of the world is the tale of cities that rise and fall. Nineveh,Tyre, Babylon, Jerusalem and Ancient Rome all crumbled and fell. When the Germanic Odoacer deposed the last Roman emperor in 476 A.D., Rome fell not simply because of the invading vandals, it fell because it was corrupt from within. Decadence, economic downturn, government incompetence and military troubles helped bring Rome down.

Writing at the time of the fall of Rome, St. Augustine offered one of the most lasting interpretations of human history seen with the eye of faith and reason as well. In his monumental work, "The City of God," the great theologian-bishop of Hippo offered a Christian vision of history and its meaning. He spoke of two cities, the City of God and the City of Man. The earthly city builds its foundation on wealth, power and pleasure. The City of God, however, is totally devoted to the glory of God. The two cities demand allegiance.

However, it is impossible to be a citizen of the one and still pledge allegiance to the other.

By birth, we are citizens of this world. By our rebirth of water and the Spirit, we belong to the City of God. Constantly we must choose between the City of Man and the City of God. Many today find it increasingly more difficult to hold on in public to their Christian identity and be seen as citizens of the City of God. Some even make the schizophrenic choice of professing privately one truth with their faith and then living publicly in a way that denies what they say they believe.

Sadly at times, those who make our laws blatantly disregard the values of the vast majority of citizens. Today public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction. A recent Gallup Poll found 51 percent of Americans pro-life and only 42 percent pro-abortion. This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking the question.

Even so, the pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government.

Our leaders and legislators all too readily capitulate to a social agenda that is anti-life and anti-Christian. They make choices that undermine the very Christian principles upon which has been founded not only America, but all of Western civilization. Lawmakers swayed by the secularism of our age enact public policies that force Christians to live in conflict with their consciences. As these lawmakers appropriate tax payers’ money to fund public polices for abortion-on-demand, same-sex unions, and embryonic stem cell research, they draw the line in the sand between allegiance to the City of God and allegiance to the City of Man.

Recently Christian leaders from many different Churches — Southern Baptists, Anglicans, Orthodox, Catholic, Presbyterians, Methodists and Pentecostals — rose above the walls of separation that divide us. Together they made an historic statement. On November 20, 2009, at the National Press Club in New York, they issued a 4,700-plus word document entitled The Manhattan Declaration. More than 125 leaders signed the document. They reaffirmed the unanimous Christian tradition that stands firmly for the sanctity of life, the reality of marriage as a union of one man and one woman and religious liberty. These courageous leaders of all faiths have thrown down the gauntlet, saying “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.”

To be continued…

Reprinted with permission of The Beacon, newspaper of the Paterson Diocese.

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