Saturday, November 28, 2009


While in Illinois, visiting during Thanksgiving, this blogger happened to notice an editorial by Bill O'Reilly in The Pantagraph... In it he approvingly cited something called the "Manhattan Declaration," saying "It took a while—we're talking decades—but finally, some American religious leaders say they are fed up. A few days ago, a faith-based group including New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan issued a scathing indictment of.... secularism."

Ah yes, that scourge of civilization, secularism, responsible for most of the ills in our society. such as climate change, the degradation of the environment, etc., etc. (held so by no less an august personality than the 'Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God' i.e. the Pope, see here and here.) Well, this blogger had to find out what excited Bill O'Reilly's approbation, so looked up "The Manhattan Doctrine: A Call of Christian Conscience" It turns out to be a document recently published by a group of Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant leaders, which reaffirms the principles of sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, and freedom of worship, all of which they feel are under attack.

This blog entry is not going to discuss these weighty issue. However, a few comments on the preamble, excerpted below, are in order:

The preamble starts, "Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering. While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord. After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines. In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class. This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in 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. Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good."

Hmm, so Christians have fought for justice and for the poor and oppressed for over 2,000 years, and are responsible (among other things) for: saving life; protecting education and knowledge during the "dark ages;" ending slavery; challenging the doctrine of the divine right of kings; woman's suffrage; the U.S. civil rights successes; and so on... Good to know. True, over those 2,000 years there were a few not so bright spots, (the inquisition, etc.) but these can be easily glossed over in just three words - "imperfections and shortcomings" - while "claiming the heritage" of all the positive actions. Yes, the church did support slavery, the divine right of kings, the second class status of women, etc. for a long time, but I guess that it would be churlish to point that out given that they eventually ended up on the right side of those issues. Finally, doubtless the worthy signatories of the declaration also believe that no atheists, agnostics, or secularists were involved in any of the advances for which they take full credit... Cherry-picking anyone?

"The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience"

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