I’m in Washington, D.C. today where I had the honor and privilege to join Chuck Colson, Professor Robby George and Bishop Harry Jackson, among scores of others, in issuing the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.
The unveiling came during a news conference at the National Press Club here in the nation’s capital, but this was a lot more than a photo op. It was a demonstration of solidarity among more than 125 Christians of all denominational stripes that we will not only continue to speak out in the public square, we will continue to stand firm for biblical principles in that public square.
I encourage you to read the entire declaration and consider adding your signature, too, because it really is a beautiful articulation of what we believe and why we believe it, but here’s the crux of the piece:
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 convictions.
We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation to speak and act in defense of these truths, the declaration continues. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence.
There are many equally powerful passages in the document and some incredible honesty and openness, too. In fact, in several places, the Manhattan Declaration is written a little like a conversation.
It acknowledges, for instance, that Christian institutions have “scandalously failed” to uphold the institution of marriage and to model for the world its true meaning; it notes that some people are disposed toward homosexuality and that we must have compassion and respect for them as having “profound, inherent and equal dignity”; it points out that sincere people disagree on whether same-sex marriage is sin; and it admits that many people, including some Christians, see opposing same-sex marriage as a denial of civil rights and then explains with great heart and conviction why we think that is an inaccurate view.
This is the kind of communication that captures the spirit of our faith. Inviting and answering questions, engaging in civil discourse, acknowledging where we’ve fallen short and investing more energy in doing the right things for others to see. It’s the language of cultural change, what the early church engaged in and that’s why I’m proud to add my name to the list of signers that includes Joni Erickson Tada, Josh McDowell, Dennis Rainey, Ravi Zacharias and, of course, Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson.
I join with them in unequivocally embracing my personal obligation and Focus on the Family’s organizational obligation to stand up for these crucial biblical principles. I also embrace my obligation, and Focus’, to champion these Christian truths in a Christian manner. Being unyielding in what we believe is critical, but it is no excuse for being unkind in how we express it.
As the Scripture says In Luke 6, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great.” The Manhattan Declaration is an excellent example of achieving that balance of Truth and Grace. It is a document that stands for something.
That’s how we should endeavor to act, and strive to be known, as followers of Christ.