From the Bishops The Manhattan Declaration: A Wake-up Call for Christians

In an increasingly secularized society, believers find themselves at times under attack. Not to recognize this would be grossly naïve. Under the guise of political correctness, Christian beliefs and values are ridiculed by professors, politicians, entertainers and news people. The Manhattan Declaration, released on Nov. 20, . squarely faces this reality. It reminds readers that, for 2,000 years, Christians have never shrunk from a bold witness to the truths of their faith. Christians have faced tyranny, oppression, suffering and death without giving up their principles.

The controversy over abortion rights and gay rights has effectively created a cultural division within our nation. The Manhattan Declaration addresses this division. The document transcends political ideologies and party affiliations. It affirms those values that are the building blocks of a moral and just society.

Activists brazenly promote tolerance of realities that are clearly contrary to Sacred Scripture, the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and the natural law. However, they show little tolerance for those whose views differ from theirs. As the declaration says, “It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law — such persons claiming these ‘rights’ are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

The Manhattan Declaration challenges Christians to rouse themselves from the delusion that a value-neutral society can be anything less than anti-Christian. Freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are threatened. There are efforts to eliminate or render ineffective the existing conscience protections for healthcare institutions and professionals. Anti-discrimination statutes could easily become a ready weapon to coerce religious institutions, charities and businesses to engage in activities that they judge immoral. In the end, non-compliance would force them to close.

Christian organizations are already losing tax-exempt status when they refuse to accept same-sex unions. Christian agencies which will not provide a child for adoption to gay or lesbian couples are simply going out of the adoption business. In our day, “freedom of choice” has become a one-way street.

The Manhattan Declaration warns civil authorities that faithful Christians cannot stand by as their values are destroyed. The declaration states, “We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family…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.”

This bold statement recognizes our present situation for what it is. The co-initiators of The Manhattan Declaration are not only honest in their judgment, but prophetic in their vision. Any society not built on the inherent truth and dignity of the human person will only be a transient monument to human achievement in science and technology. As a City of Man, it will rise and fall and crumble in the dust.

At the height of the reign of Queen Victoria, the English poet Kipling composed a poem entitled “Recessional” to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Proud of his country’s accomplishments, he was not blinded by his country’s grandeur. He warned the English that empires rise and fall. He said, “Lo, all our pomp of yesterday / is one with Nineveh and Tyre!”

With a sense of the goodness and courage of all Christians, the co-signers of The Manhattan Declaration have issued their statement as a wake-up call. America will be great as long as America is moral. In the words of Kipling, “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget!”

[This is the second of two columns on The Manhattan Declaration.]

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