This fall marks the tenth anniversary of a document that seems more prophetic with every day that goes by. “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience” brought various Christian groups and individuals together to take a stand for biblical truth in an age of increasing cultural flux.
In the face of societal pressures to conform to new and ever-shifting moral orthodoxies, as well as the well-intended but poorly considered counsel from fellow Christians to do the same, this statement declares that the eternal truths of the Bible have not changed. God’s plan in the realms of human dignity, sexuality, marriage, children, and church/state relations are a surer path to human flourishing than any of the latest alternatives championed by wider culture.
We have asked several Christian thinkers to give their opinion of this key statement, its significance at the time, and its enduring legacy. Specifically, we asked them to reply to the following prompt:
This year marks the tenth anniversary of “The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.” This prophetic document called Protestant, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians to unequivocally stand for life, marriage, and religious liberty. How is our current cultural moment different from ten years ago, and what does Christian conviction require in those areas today?
[To jump to a particular contribution, simply click on the name below.]
Ryan T. Anderson; David S. Dockery; Mary Eberstadt; Frederica Matthewes Green; Mark Galli; Robert P. George; Timothy George; Kristan Hawkins; G. Shane Morris; Jennifer Morse; Roberto Rivera; Warren Cole Smith; Joni Eareckson Tada; Mark Tooley; Andrew T. Walker; Trevin Wax;
The redefinition of marriage will lead to the further erosion of monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence. It will lead to the further denial that children deserve both a mother and a father. It will lead to the further abuse of assisted reproductive technologies, to further the trend to prioritize the desires of adults not the needs—or rights—of children. And so too will it lead to further threats to religious liberty. With marriage now redefined, we can expect to see the marginalization of those with traditional views and the erosion of religious liberty.
The law and culture will seek to eradicate such views through economic, social, and legal pressure. With marriage redefined, believing what virtually every human society once believed about marriage will increasingly be deemed a malicious prejudice to be driven to the margins of culture. The consequences for religious believers are becoming apparent.
Here is what we can expect. The administrative state may require those who contract with the government, receive governmental money, or work directly for the state to embrace and promote same-sex marriage even if doing so violates their religious beliefs. Nondiscrimination laws may make even private actors with no legal or financial ties to the government—including businesses and religious organizations—liable to civil suits for refusing to treat same-sex relationships as marriages. Finally, private actors in a culture that is now hostile to traditional views of marriage may discipline, fire, or deny professional certification to those who express support for traditional marriage.
The attack on religious liberty has in fact already begun, as I describe in more detail in Truth Overruled. Now is the time for all Americans to work to ensure that citizens who believe that we are created male and female—and that male and female are created for each other in marriage—are not penalized by the government.
Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and the author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment.
In the fall of 2009, guided by the leadership of Chuck Colson, more than 150 religious leaders from various traditions came together to address the three key key issues of the cultural moment: life, marriage, and religious liberty in a document known as The Manhattan Declaration. To be clear, The Manhattan Declaration was no attempt at a mushy ecumenism. Rather, the statement was an affirmation built around genuine shared convictions. Within months, more than 500,000 people added their own names in support of The Declaration.
Now a decade later, we find ourselves at a different cultural moment, even as we seek to maintain our commitments on these three key issues. We have opportunity, ten years later, to renew and reaffirm the basic commitments articulated so clearly in 2009 while reflecting on their significance for today. People who affirmed The Declaration are called to think afresh about what it means to carry out these commitments in a context best described as a contest of worldviews.
While the moment calls for renewed conviction and courage, it also invites us to be charitable to those with whom we differ, modeling kindness, humility, and civility, virtues much needed in our polarized and fragmented culture. A reaffirmation of these commitments encourages us to “hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21) while also recognizing the need to hold “forth the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16). Thus, the call of the hour is for convictional civility and convictional kindness.
The Declaration reminds us that even though there are important differences between and among Christian traditions, we can work together for the common good on these key areas, providing a witness to a watching world of how devoted men and women can work together on matters of central importance, taking up the call to engage the culture and the public square in a way that is faithful to the best of the great Christian tradition on the important matters of life, marriage, and religious liberty.
David S. Dockery is the President of Trinity International University/Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
If the examples of history offer one kind of ground for hope, up-to-the-minute reality holds out another. The recent scandals, by their very inescapability, have made it harder to mock the arguments made on behalf of marriage and embodied in the Manhattan Declaration and elsewhere. Up until now, to question any aspect of the fallout around us has been to consign oneself to the public dunce chair—the one that sits in the religious corner, where secular people expect to see zealots wearing medieval hoods.
#MeToo just might reverse that course. After the scandals had been rolling out for weeks, in November 2017, the Washington Post published a piece that would have been unthinkable in that secular standard-bearer pre-Weinstein. “Let’s Rethink Sex,” by writer Christine Emba, criticized what she called “America’s prevailing and problematic sexual ethic—one that is in no small part responsible for getting us into this sexual misconduct mess in the first place.” This is surely only one example of other revisionism to come ,and from outside religious orbits. Put differently, the perpetrators in the #MeToo stories may yet succeed in doing what generations of clergy have not: getting a new hearing for religious traditionalism.
Whatever else it has wrought, the revolution has divided and scattered ineradicably familial beings—human beings—like no other force in our time. Twenty years after Wilson’s “two nations” speech, ten years after the Manhattan Declaration, there is more evidence than ever for the charge. There’s a reason why “loneliness studies” are now the hottest academic stock in sociology. There’s a reason why “happiness studies” document over and over what most people could have asserted without embarrassment the day before yesterday—that people who live in families and practice religion tend to be happier and more productive than those who don’t.
Occam’s razor bends toward truth. Traditionalists and other contrarians have been right to argue that the revolution would lead to rising trouble between the sexes and a decline in respect for women. Future decades will show whether the secular sex scandals of 2017 amount to a passing drama soon to be replaced by some other, or an actual turning point in secular society’s understanding of the sexual revolution. But the empirical record remains even clearer now than it was 10 or 20 years ago—and it will still be clear 10 or 20, or for that matter 200, years from now, whether a world mired in denial acknowledges as much, or not.
Mary Eberstadt currently serves as a senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute. Previously, she was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.
For better or worse, The Manhattan Declaration already feels dated. It’s not that threats to life, marriage, and religious liberty have been met handily—one could argue things are worse on all fronts. But in the ensuing decade, we’ve become aware of other severe challenges. One could now argue, for example, that if the deep wounds of racial injustice, or the deterioration of the global environment, or the sexual exploitation of women, or the international immigration crisis (among other crises of our times) are not attended to, not only society but the church’s life and witness will suffer gravely.
If the church is called to steady itself theologically at the gust of every wind of new doctrine (Eph. 4:14), it is wise to refrain making certain social causes core gospel issues. Work valiantly to bring justice and healing in all areas of social life, yes! But the only declaration worthy of Christians as Christians was nicely modeled in the early church: “We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord…” right through to “We believe in the Holy Spirit … the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
The church as church is the only institution that has been entrusted with this message. It always most prophetic and timely (and useful to society!) when it speaks to the deepest crisis of human existence.
Mark Galli is the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today
The tide of culture pushes so hard against the pro-life cause that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There are plenty of reasons not to speak out against abortion; the pro-life position is despised, and if you take a stand, you will be attacked. It looks pointless to take such a stand, when the deck is stacked so high against you. But every generation faces an issue that draws a line between those who will stand up for what is right, and those who just go along. It’s only the bravest who take a stand, and continue to bear witness even when others mock them and misrepresent them; only the bravest keep standing when, from a worldly perspective, the cause looks lost. Only the most dedicated people are willing to keep working for change, when the struggle is all uphill and they reap nothing but rejection.
That is your calling. And you are not alone. The struggle is not lost. Heroes are made in hard times, and this is one of those times, for those who oppose abortion; this is our time to standup for the truth, for the protection of both women and children. This time will pass, as the great wheel of history turns, and our whole era will be a footnote in the past. Then we will take our places among the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) who have borne witness to the truth in all generations. The challenging times we live in provide everything we need to become heroes, too.
Frederica Mathewes-Green is a leading author and speaker on topics related to Eastern Orthodox belief and practice. She holds a degree in Theological Studies from Virginia Theological Seminary
My life has been filled with blessings and honors far beyond anything I could even remotely plausibly claim to deserve. But among the greatest blessings and highest honors was the invitation from our late beloved friend Chuck Colson to work with Dr. Timothy George in drafting the Manhattan Declaration. The Declaration does not address every important issue, but it affirms the signers’ commitment–and determination—to defend three principles that are at the foundation of our civilization and our faith: the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions; the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife; and religious freedom and the rights of conscience.
No one needs reminding that these foundational principles of justice and human rights are under severe assault today from powerful forces in our society and polity. Publicly endorsing them—and, a fortiori, publicly defending them—virtually guarantees that a person will be subjected to vilification, and perhaps even threats and discrimination. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians have attached their names to the Manhattan Declaration. I know that I speak for Timothy as well as myself—and that we speak for Chuck—in expressing gratitude to these men and women for the courageous witness they are bearing. In their selfless and even self-sacrificial dedication to fundamental moral truths, they are following in the path of the One whom they and we believe is our Lord and Savior. They have shown that they are willing to take up their crosses and follow him.
In the Gospels, our Lord says—more than once—“be not afraid.” As we stand boldly for life, marriage, and religious liberty, let us heed His admonition. It is not for us to know when or even precisely how the victories will be won. Our task and duty is simply to be faithful and obedient—to bear witness and do what is right, in season and out of season. When things look bleak, we must not give up hope, for to yield to despair is to fail to trust in Jesus. When the going is tough, we must not flag or fail. We must fight on. And let us never forget that our weapons in this struggle are, and must always be, chaste weapons of the Spirit. Our adversaries—whose hearts we must turn away from evil and towards what is good—may feel that they are justified in using untruthful or dishonest tactics. We, by contrast, must never yield to that temptation—even in the name of “fighting fire with fire.” Even the greatest ends do not justify evil means. So our weapons in the fight must always be these: truth, love, prayer, and sacrifice.
As signers of the Manhattan Declaration we vow to defend life, marriage, and religious freedom and to refuse to comply with edicts or laws that seek to compel us to violate our consciences. Hearkening to the words written by Martin Luther King from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, we recognize that there are two types of laws—just and unjust. Just laws, as Dr. King said, conform to “the natural law and the law of God”; unjust laws stand condemned under the “higher law.” Just laws ennoble the human personality and spirit; unjust laws undermine human solidarity, dignity, and flourishing. We believe in law and therefore honor all just laws. But where human laws are unjust, we will work for their reform and we will never knuckle under to their commands that we implicate ourselves or institutions under our authority in injustice. We will, as we said in the Manhattan Declaration, render fully and ungrudgingly unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but we will never render unto Caesar that which is God’s.
Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He has chaired the Unites States Commission on International Religious Freedom and served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and on the United States Commission on Civil Rights
The Manhattan Declaration did not claim the three issues highlighted in its text were the only matters of pressing moral concern in our culture today. Indeed, we clearly recognized many other issues also call for Christian engagement, and we named some of these: care of creation, racial injustice, the proliferation of violence, the blight of poverty and hunger around the world, and a myriad of other human rights causes—from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease, and gender discrimination.
But we did argue that the three issues of life, marriage, and religious freedom were basic foundational principles of justice and common good. We believed these three issues were inextricably linked and that to sacrifice any one of them would invariably lead to the weakening of the others.
Chuck Colson always hoped The Manhattan Declaration, which began as a document, would become a movement, one delivering a palpable effect on the three issues we addressed. To some extent, it did. Within a matter of months, more than 500,000 Christians—Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelicals—signed The Manhattan Declaration. In some areas since then, there has been a forward movement in a good direction. I think of the masses of younger Christians who swarm the National March for Life each year. In others, sadly, there has been a stepping back and loss of concern.
After ten years, one thing is certain: the need for the Church of Jesus Christ, and indeed for all people of faith and goodwill, to speak clearly about life, marriage, and religious freedom is greater now than ever. In today’s changing political and cultural landscape, the oft-quoted final words of The Manhattan Declaration are still operative: “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.”
Timothy George is the Dean of Beeson Divinity School
When President Barack Obama took office 10 years ago, leading politicians and culture leaders agreed – at least publicly – on the framework of many issues related to Life (at least late in pregnancy), Marriage and Religious Liberty. But those words became deeds that took the debate in the entirely opposite direction, opening up an ever-widening rift between leading liberal activists and the majority of Americans. By the end of the Obama Administration, the force of law was turned against nuns and Christian schools and enterprises that did not want to support abortion in their healthcare. Obama also used is office to undermine traditional marriage with policy, and was well know for his hostility towards people of faith and their religious observances and holy days. Those advocating for social change were relentless in their pursuits and clever in using the new tools of social media. Faith and Life were under assault at the highest levels of government, and in that environment, a new generation of activists came of age, embracing radical policies that would have been mocked not long ago.
Who would ever have believed that today the leading politicians running to be the Democratic Party’s next presidential contender would be in agreement that infanticide is acceptable for babies born during abortions?
At this moment in time, we must use all the most innovative tools available to advocate for the timeless values of our shared culture, with the same courage that our ancestors showed in confronted the controversies of their day. Our message of respect for these human rights issues stays the same, but we must be innovative in reaching this generation raised in so radical a time and who need to hear a reason to return to the foundation of faith, family and support for all life from conception to natural death. We can’t be surprised that a generation coming of age in a time of social conflict is confused about what to believe. But we must be committed to reaching out to this generation where they live.
Kristan Hawkins is the President of Students for Life of America
Ten years ago, the Manhattan Declaration brought representatives from several Christian groups together to affirm their agreement on the sanctity of human life, the definition of marriage, and the importance of religious liberty. But it also sparked controversy, particularly among Christian leaders and pastors in my own Reformed and Presbyterian tradition. Actually, it rekindled an old controversy that began with Chuck Colson and Richard John Neuhaus’ “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” in 1994. A number of Reformed voices, zealous to guard the inheritance of the Reformation, refused to sign the Manhattan Declaration for the same reason they refused to sign and even criticized ECT. If Evangelicals and Catholics are not together on the definition and application of the Gospel, as one popular book asserted, then we cannot invoke that Gospel or even our common Christianity as grounds for working together on important social issues—even issues on which we are in harmony.
In my view, this refusal to sign the Manhattan Declaration was a mistake—though I respect and have benefited greatly from many of the leaders and pastors who withheld their pens. The drafters of both statements made it clear that they did not presume to “resolve the deep and long-standing differences between Evangelicals and Catholics,” but rather to offer a basis for common mission to the world and engagement with culture and government. Evangelicals and Catholics can and should work side-by-side toward a just and free society, not only as citizens with a common cause (as any Christian might do with a Muslim or atheist of good will), but as brothers and sisters who bear the name of Christ and are wet with the dew of His baptism (however imperfectly we recognize this). Respecting and loving one another means not short-changing or glossing over our theological differences, which ECT lists and acknowledges. But in the Manhattan Declaration, Drs. Timothy George and Robert George, as well as Chuck Colson, remind us that mutual love and respect also demand we acknowledge our common Christianity, especially its teaching that all people are made in God’s image, and that Christ further ennobled human nature by assuming it forever.
What a profound duty this places on all who claim the name “Christian,” and who confess together the God of Nicaea and the Christ of Chalcedon—more now than even at the Declaration’s signing. Yes, we disagree on much. But we agree on more. And we owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to our Lord to make that the basis of our work in this world.
Marriage has been redefined to be whatever the State says it is. Individuals are free from any moral system other than the State’s. Individuals can marry a person of the opposite sex, their own sex, more than one person, or even themselves. The State will not interfere with these lifestyle choices.
But the State most certainly will interfere with anyone who proposes a system of morality that competes with its own. One might think in a society that so values “choice,” individuals should have a choice between marrying “until death do us part,” or “for as long as love shall last.” In practice, though, a lifelong marriage agreement is not legally enforceable. Through unilateral, no-fault divorce, the State has made marriage neither permanent or sexually exclusive. The State takes sides with the person who wants the marriage the least. Marriage is arguably no longer a social institution at all, but a mere collection of individuals.
When marriage belongs exclusively to the State, it guards its privileges jealously. The State favors a form of marriage that poses no threat to its power. The deepest foundations for attachments and loyalties are those flowing from the body: the relationship between parents and children, between mothers and fathers, between brothers and sisters. Some regard these relationships as the building blocks of the social order. But one must admit: these attachments provide individuals with possible sources of support, identity, and meaning, apart from the State. Hence, the kind of unitary State envisioned by Hobbes or Rousseau may very well conclude these family bonds threaten its unique position of power.
Jennifer Roback Morse (PhD, University of Rochester) is the founder of the Ruth Institute, a global non-profit organization that defends the family at home and in the public square and equips others to do the same.
As someone who was, to borrow a phrase from the late Dean Acheson, “present at the creation,” or at least in the same building, of the Manhattan Declaration, I have always wondered who the Declaration’s audience was supposed to be.
The timing, a few months after the inauguration of Barack Obama, suggested that it was directed at the new President and his supporters who were not expected – rightly, it turned out – to be as sympathetic to the drafters’ and signatories’ concerns as the outgoing Bush administration.
If this was the case, the obvious references and analogies to 1930s Germany didn’t help. After all, if 2009 New York was the equivalent of 1934 Barmen, Germany, it was reasonable to infer that Barack Obama was 2009’s Adolf Hitler. Obviously, none of the drafters believed this, but it was a reasonable inference that the Declaration’s critics were quick to seize upon.
Not that it mattered very much. The cultural-political trajectory in the three areas of concern in the Declaration – the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom – would not have changed no matter how circumspect the drafters were.
Where the Declaration made a difference was in intramural Christian discourse. By styling itself after the Barmen Declaration, the statement implied that American Christians were in danger of becoming the 21st century equivalent of “German Christians” who distorted Christianity to bring it in line with Nazi ideology.
Again, it’s reasonable to wonder how much comparing your critics and/or opponents to Nazi sympathizers helps. This is especially the case when, as is increasingly the case, the definition of “opposition” has expanded to include those who would add – not replace, add — social justice issues and the environment to the list of concerns.
The past ten years have vindicated the drafters’ concerns. Same-sex marriage is the law of the land and with it an increasingly restrictive view of what the First Amendment’s “Free Exercise” clause requires. Even on the issue of abortion, recent gains may turn out to be more apparent than real, as recent events in Kansas suggest.
Thus, something like the Manhattan Declaration was necessary, perhaps even inevitable. But its invocation of 1930s Germany is a paradigmatic example of Godwin’s Law in action – “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” It’s not that the people making the comparison have lost the argument, it’s that there is no longer any discussion.
That’s where we are ten years later.
Roberto Rivera is a senior fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
The Manhattan Declaration today is more relevant and helpful than ever, though perhaps not for the reasons its original drafters might have imagined.
First, we must admit that it hard to see how life, marriage, and religious liberty – the primary concerns of the Manhattan Declaration — are in better shape today than a decade ago. So was the effort a failure? Hardly. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, confined to a Nazi prison in 1944, might have wondered if his efforts to produce the 1934 Barman Declaration, a clear statement opposing Nazism, were a failure. Today, though, we regard Bonhoeffer and his colleagues as heroes who have inspired millions of people to resist tyranny.
In short, the success or failure of such a project can’t be measured in months or years, but in decades.
Secondly, we must acknowledge that the issues of the Manhattan Declaration – life, marriage, and religious liberty – seem dated, even quaint, to even many Christians today. They would elevate climate change or immigration or some other issue to the level of the Manhattan Declaration’s “Big Three.”
However, the great gift of the Manhattan Declaration is to remind us that these three issues inform all others. It helps us distinguish between cause and effect. It helps us understand that some causes are fruits, not roots. The assertion that a concern for life, marriage, and religious liberty is dated is itself the best argument for the importance of the Manhattan Declaration today.
So did the Manhattan Declaration save life, marriage, and religious liberty for ourselves and future generations? Some would say the Manhattan Declaration was a failure because the answer to that question is “no.” My response is that the truth always sets us free, and that means the answer to that question is not “no,” but “not yet.”
Warren Cole Smith is the Vice President-Mission Advancement of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.
Since its inauguration, the Manhattan Declaration has charged Christians to “speak up for…the rights of all who are destitute” (Proverbs 31:8). Although pro-life initiatives over the last decade have championed pre-born children with disabilities, the medically fragile and the elderly, these special populations are at even greater risk today. The current tendency is to form exclusive political alliances while moving away from traditional values, resulting in identity politics which creates overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination.
We see this played out in our society which campaigns for human dignity while actively working to eliminate those with significant disabilities, young and old. Relativism is on the rise, and moral decision making as it regards vulnerable populations has become radically contextual and more dependent on sets of circumstances – we see this played out in federal and state legislatures, university administrations, the courts, and even in community family services.
The new and current relativism is influencing today’s trends to legalize euthanasia on state levels, shift healthcare regulations against the elderly and significantly disabled, and eradicate pre-born children with even mild physical defects. These people, more than ever before, need the strong voice of advocacy shaped by moral absolutes, and Christians must move from rhetoric to community action if we are to safeguard our society’s weakest and most vulnerable. James 1:27 asserts that our religion is useless unless followers of Christ personally involve themselves in the wellbeing of those who are defenseless and exposed.
Can current ideological trends be reversed? Yes! When the Gospel of Christ is not only declared, but demonstrated in practical ways which influence peoples’ hearts, there is hope for the helpless in our society!
Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder/CEO of Joni and Friends
The ecumenical support for the Manhattan Declaration ten years ago continues as nearly all major streams of Christianity in America and globally affirm the imperative of protecting innocent life, affirming marriage, and prioritizing religious liberty for all people.
Since Manhattan’s release, the Supreme Court imposed same sex unions, making the church’s witness all the more necessary. The church in Western society has become almost the only major defender of natural marriage.
Arguably there have been gains for pro-life advocacy and religious liberty over the last decade amid the rise of even greater challenges. Autonomous individualism, with special focus on gender and sexual preferences, is becoming the reigning established religion of secular Western culture. Purportedly this gnostic claim to complete self-actualization overrides all other rights and social goods, including religious liberty. So now the church must argue for religious liberty no longer from cultural preference but from first principles, starting with the premise that each person is an image bearer of God.
The global war on Christianity, especially by Islamists and totalitarian regimes, plus even democracies like India, makes our advocacy for religious freedom and solidarity with the persecuted church even more necessary.
Amid some gains in defending the unborn are increased initiatives for euthanasia. Artificial Intelligence likely will pose new challenges to human life’s uniqueness. Maybe there needs to be Manhattan Declaration II!
Mark Tooley is the President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy
Ten years after the Manhattan Declaration’s introduction, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Christians find themselves moving more toward Babylon than Mayberry. Hard left turns on abortion and sexuality, coupled with the decline of religious liberty as a public good, mean Christianity is moving to the margins. Moreover, true liberalism—the kind open to exchange and debate—is calcifying and in its place is an arrogant secularism. All of this means that the veneer of respectability that Christianity once generated alongside membership in the local Rotary Club, is now a liability in many parts of the country.
This may be for our good, because it will teach us that a church in exile is not a church in retreat. Shorn of cultural power, the church will have to have to bank on cruciform power. We’ve never had to do that in America. We’ve never known a landscape where Christianity can cost you reputation and friendships. In America, we’ve not had to do the calculus that Jesus promised would come: Have we counted the cost of what it means to follow Him? Do we understand how heavy that cross can be?
Andrew T. Walker is the Senior Fellow in Christian Ethics at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
[T]oo often we imagine Christians merely as individual agents doing their best to “stand for life” in the public square. We think of individual lights in a world of darkness. And while it is true Christians—as individuals—must promote the sanctity of human life in all our spheres of influence, we must not neglect the particular and powerful witness of the Church as the Church in defending life at all stages. We will not make significant progress in pushing back the darkness of the culture of death until our churches put on display what we mean by “the culture of life.” The Church is not merely called to send out Christians to engage culture, but to embody a different culture all its own. The Manhattan Declaration offers wisdom and guidance in how we might strengthen churches in their defense of life.
Issuing statements and making declarations—no matter how true—do not constitute the totality of Christian faithfulness in our time. The authors and signers of the Manhattan Declaration recognize statements and slogans are not enough. The great need in every generation is for the Church to be the Church for the glory of God and for the good of the world. The Church in every era must answer the call to defend innocent life wherever it is assaulted—whether through the scourge of slavery in our day manifested in human trafficking, or through political movements dispensing with the elderly in the name of “dignity,” or through societal blindness to the humanity of the unborn.
Trevin Wax, Bible and Reference Publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources, author of This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel and Eschatological Discipleship: Leading Christians to Understand Their Historical and Cultural Context