Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Somehow that phrase makes me think of grown pale-faced men in mohawks doing a war-dance on the island of Manhattan. Sadly, that's not quite what the Manhattan Declaration is all about, though a war-dance it well might be. It's the latest statement by various conservative Christians about what they are all about: No abortion, no same-sex marriage and lots of rights for religious people to determine how the society is organized:

The Manhattan Declaration is billed as "A Call of Christian Conscience," drafted and signed by Catholics, evangelicals, and Orthodox Christians, an "ecumenism" celebrated by its promoters as evidence of its far-reaching appeal. The document targets reproductive freedom (enemy of the "sanctity of life") and LGBTQ equality (enemy of the "dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife") as foes of Christians' religious freedom. It's a new document but an old canard. And it's proof that the culture wars are not only not over; there hasn't even been a truce.

The Declaration's drafters and signatories view it as an act of "conscience" and religious devotion, not politics, yet they threaten unspecified civil disobedience if the law fails to yield to their theocratic fantasies. But if the document is so disassociated from current political events, why did it need to hit the streets with a splash at the National Press Club? The festivities took place just steps away from where the D.C. City Council was considering gay marriage legislation subject to threats from the Archdiocese of Washington, and where the Senate was poised to break a threatened filibuster of floor debate on its health care bill, which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called "the worst bill we've seen so far on the life issues."

The list of signatories include all sorts of high-and-mighties (mostly guys, natch, including Dinesh d'Sousa):

Religious leaders signed a pledge Friday announcing that they won't abide by laws that support gay marriage or abortion. Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and Focus on the Family's Founder James Dobson and President Jim Daly joined 125 other conservative religious leaders from Colorado in signing the so-called Manhattan Declaration. The declaration comes amid the contentious national health care debate that has featured Catholic Bishops prominently and in the wake of hate crimes legislation passed earlier this fall that drew staunch opposition from evangelical leaders, who argued it might prevent them from preaching against gays. The signatories of the Declaration (pdf) vow to ignore any laws that contradict their worldview.

The list of Colorado signatories also included Fr. Joseph D Fessio, founder and editor of Ignatius Press; Rev. Michael J Sheridan, Bishop of the Archdiocese of Colorado Springs; and John Stonestreet, executive director of Summit Ministries at Manitou Springs.

The Manhattan Declaration is well worth reading carefully. It has three parts. The first condemns the "culture of death" which has to do with the desire to ban abortions and euthanasia but remains silent about the desire to kill people in wars or through economic and political measures, the second condemns all other types of marriage but that between one man and one woman, with hints about how the woman was made out of the rib of the man and how he deserves honoring by her, and the third is all about the rights of religious people to refuse any laws which don't respect god's laws.

These are then linked to biblical texts, selectively picked, given that the Bible doesn't actually condemn those polygynous Old Testament patriarchs or say anything about abortion.
Today's Fresh Air interviews Jeff Sharlet on the Stupak amendment.