A call to Christians issued

Published 11:59 pm Friday, November 27, 2009

A historic event occurred on Fri., Nov. 20, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. when during a noon press conference, the “Manhattan Declaration” was publicly released.

According to manhattandeclaration.org, it’s a 4,732-word statement signed by 149 Christian leaders, affirming the sanctity of human life, marriage defined as the union of one man and one woman, and religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

The Preamble begins, “Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family. We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them.”

The original signers represent, for example, leaders of various denominations (Congregational, Southern Baptist, Anglican), Christian organizations (Leith Anderson, President of the National Assn. of Evangelicals; Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family), Christian authors (Joni Eareckson Tada, Kay Arthur, Josh McDowell and Ravi Zacharias), and many other well-respected people too numerous to name. Go to the website to read a list of them.

These leaders have issued this document as a call to action. They are encouraging Christians to read the “Manhattan Declaration” for themselves and add their name online as a signature of support. As I write this column, the number of people stands at almost 40,000 and the list is still growing exponentially.

“Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them.

“We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” the Manhattan Declaration states.

The Declaration’s second paragraph, in my opinion, speaks to the reason for issuing the document. “While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest conviction.”

The last line of the “Manhattan Declaration” communicates an emphatic message, “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 (Jesus’ words in Mark 12:17).”