If you have not read the MANHATTAN DECLARATION, I strongly urge you to do so. It is posted on the internet and easy to find.
Whether you are a person of deep faith, a nominal Christian, or a non-believer who has strong concerns for the wellbeing of society, you will find this document relevant. It pinpoints the three key areas where cultural battles are now mounting whose outcomes will profoundly affect all of North America.
As background, the MANHATTAN DECLARATION is a moving document released to the world on November 20, 2009. It was drafted by the late Charles Colson along with a professor from Princeton and another from the Beeson Divinity School in California. It is written with goodwill toward all, and reflects strong civic concern and moral earnestness.
More than 100 Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox leaders — persons of stature in each of those spheres of influence — first signed it. To date it has also been signed by 529,000 individuals throughout the United States and beyond.
The primary value of this Declaration is that it pinpoints the three fundamental issues over which western society – the culture we all live and breathe in – is locked in combat. They are:
(1) The sanctity of human life; (2) The dignity of marriage; and (3) Religious liberty.
In (1) the issue is more widespread and complex than the destruction of pre-born infants. For example, the declaration states, “… in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled and the elderly are severely threatened.”
As well, the life issue includes eugenics, cloning, the abortion-causing drug, RU-486, partial birth abortion, embryonic stem-cell experimentation, semantic gymnastics (the torturing of language so as to make wrong appear to be right) and so-called death panels that decide what medical treatments may, and may not, be allowed for human diseases of the elderly.
In case (2) the declaration speaks cogently in defense of marriage. It asserts, “Vast human experience confirms that marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education and welfare of all persons in society.”
Yet for sixty years or so this institution, fundamental to society’s health, has been under attack. Consider the increase in divorce statistics since World War II, laws providing for no-fault divorce, the drift toward living-together-unmarried, the rising call to legalize same-sex marriage, and the growing numbers of children who grow up without one parent or the other – all these contributing to the denigration and perilous crumbling of traditional marriage.
Here is the question often asked by those who crusade for same sex marriage: How can our gay marriage do damage to those of you in traditional marriages? The Declaration answers: it hurts by breaking down marriage boundaries – boundaries that make marriage unique. The first step will lead logically to opening of doors to other anomalies, such as polygamy, incestuous unions, pedophilic marriages, etc.
“No one,” the Declaration contends, “has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage (defined as one man and one woman).”
Case (3) is the attack on religious liberty. As I write, the TV channels continue to revisit the Chick-fil-A eruption of this past two weeks: a founder of a successful business that has 1600 outlets in 37 states and does more than four billion dollars of business each year states his opposition on principle to gay marriage. He cites the Bible. His statement is personal, and the outlets are operated on the highest principles of civility and law. Yet mayors of three major cities, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, publicly stated upon hearing this that their cities would not welcome the man’s business outlets. The comments of one even sounded threatening.
So, in what ways could the careful reading of the MANHATTAN DECLARATION be helpful to you, whether in Canada or the United States? For one thing, it could help pin down clearly the issues at the center of the cultural wars now coming into the open.
For another, it could help you understand and master the reasoning behind the issues so you could speak clearly when discussions develop. For yet another, by pondering the Declaration you would become more motivated to participate in the debate as it repeatedly surfaces.
Perhaps most importantly it would make you feel a part of the more than one-half million signers rather than merely a lone person whose participation in this colossal struggle would count for nothing.