Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

A friend of mine, let's call her Friend No. 1, maintains that when all is said and done, the major divisions in our modern day society eventually boil down to abortion. Which side are you on. On the other hand, another friend, let's call her Friend No. 2, dismisses as folly the notion that anyone cares about abortion, and she scoffs at the suggestion that presidential elections would ever be won or lost over the rights of the pre-born.

I think Friend No. 1 is daily being proven true. If there is to be a showdown, it's not the war in Afghanistan, the economy or Climategate that may ultimately cause a rift between friends and family. Rather, what divides our society are the culture wars as defined by the three issues identified in the Manhattan Declaration: the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as between one man and one woman and the matter of conscience rights and religious liberty. In fact, I'd go yet a step further than Friend No. 1 and say that, ultimately, everything boils down to whether or not you are a relativist. Do you believe in objective truth, God's Truth, as opposed to the shifting flights of fancy that masquerade as truth in our post-modern American culture.

The Manhattan Declaration comes out boldly and identifies Truth as " Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life." It is, needless to say, a Christian document, its full title being the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience. It is a manifesto of sorts, a position paper by Christians and for Christians, regardless of denomination, to "proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good." It is a "call to discipleship" and action if necessary. Its drafters are Professor Robert George of Princeton University, Professor Timothy George of Samford University and Chuck Colson, former Nixon administration Special Counsel who now heads the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. To date the declaration has 275,792 signers, and among the list of religious and public leaders who have signed on is our own Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

The Manhattan Declaration is a kind of mission statement and, if a mission statement defines who you are and who you aren't, it also separates you from others and sets your boundaries as well as your reach. The Manhattan Declaration could be said to draw a line in the sand between them and us, between a culture of death and a culture of life or between a culture of secularism and a culture of faith, or, a culture of materialism and a culture that upholds Man as created by God in God's image. The declaration clearly lays out and supports (with meaty analysis) a position about the unborn, marriage and religious liberty, making it easy, if not necessary, to read the document and be either wholly for or wholly against. No politically correct nuance or tolerant agree-to-disagree discussion. No PC hiding behind cheap slogans and throw-away jargon about meeting half-way and finding common ground when there really is none. While this may seem unnecessarily bold and harsh, it is actually to society's benefit to clarify what separates us even if it isn't immediately possible to bridge the rift.

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