Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Manhattan Declaration - Preamble

The Christian community recently released the Manhattan Declaration to inspire the masses to do better, or in other words, make sure Christian principles are intertwined with the law of the land or refuse to follow them.

Let's examine the Preamble to that document.  I will comment on the remainder at a later date.


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.

A 2,000-year tradition of seeking justice?  Were the various witch trials justice?  What about the Crusades or the Inquisition?  Maybe.  Afterall, your God demonstrates a rather warped sense of justice all throughout the Bible.

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.

They wish to claim the heritage of the good Christians.  Sorry, you have to take the bad with good.  Like it or not your "hertiage" is not that of the purity that you would like to pretend.  While it's great that they acknowledge that they haven't acted perfectly, I would hardly call "imperfections and shortcomings" any substansive acknowledgement of the crimes committed in the name of God, or out of the greed of the Church, or to bring us infidels down a peg or two.
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.

I am not an expert on European history, so maybe it was Christians who combated slavery in Europe.  However, in America, the Christians were divided on the issue with plenty of clergy defending slavery based on Biblical writings.  This declaration likes to project the image that only Christians were involved or that they were at the forefront, but prominent leaders in the abolishionist and women's sufferage movements were Freethinkers.  People like Frederick Douglass, Lucy Colman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Susan B. Anthony (although Anthony's religious views were not as radical as the others, she continued to move away from religion her entire life).

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.

As noted, above, the vanguard of the women's suffrage movement were Freethinkers.

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.

Bringing compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa?  Have they heard of Pope Ratzinger?  He continues to condemn condom use to fight AIDS and even claims that they have a negative impact.  He is not alone.  There are Protestant groups that are also against contraception.

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.

They are only interested in protecting the dignity of those who believe like them.  Gays and atheists need not apply.

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