The Manhattan Declaration

Last Friday a historical document called “The Manhattan Declaration” was released. It is a joint statement by Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders addressing abortion, same-sex marriage, religious freedom and civil disobedience. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

I have not signed it, but I do like it. I think it will influence few to the Christian perspective, but it at least intelligently and clearly states our perspective so that we can be understood. I think it is most timely and important on matters of religious freedom.

I think as Christian civil disobedience becomes a more prominent tool a lot of people will point back at this declaration for inspiration and justification.

Find it here: http://manhattandeclaration.org/decdocs/ManhattanDeclaration.pdf

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63 thoughts on “The Manhattan Declaration

  1. My favorite part is the part where it passsionately defends “freedom of religion” while at the same time passionately advocating changing public policy to fall in line with the doctrines of Christianity.

    I would call it gross hypocrisy, but it really isn’t, because when people like this say “freedom of religion,” they really just mean favored status for Christianity.

    What I wish is that they would explicitly say what they really want without using a lot of hot-button smokescreen language, so that the status of dissenters and non-Christians in their ideal utopia can be made crystal f*cking clear. How free will we be after you remake American society the way you want to?

  2. I like that they lay out their position and, unlike Kullervo, don’t see it as so much of a “smoke screen.”

    I couldn’t sign it, however.

  3. I have my disagreements with parts of the statement; in particular, I’m not alarmed by some embryonic stem cell research (in fact, I support some types of embryonic research); I think parts of the section on religious liberty are overstated (although I do have concerns in that area, the idea that the government is going to start censoring sermons is a bit far-fetched); and I’m troubled by those who make the pro-life argument who say nothing about capital punishment, war or the environment. If we’re going to be pro-life, we need to be pro-life for those who have already been born as well.

    But there are parts of the statement I like. I find the paragraph that begins “We confess with sadness” on page 4 and the following paragraph especially strong. I’m not a proponent of same-sex marriage, but I think it’s far less of a threat to the institution than many of the other things going on in our society, and it looks like the document recognizes that. Marriage was in trouble long before the SSM movement came along, and Christians (evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics and others) are partly to blame. I don’t think we’ve wrestled enough with Jesus’ very hard teaching on divorce.

    I don’t know what I think about the civil-disobedience section. I approach that subject with hesitation (Romans 13 and modern revelation), although I agree it’s called for under some circumstances. It’s not something I would take as lightly as that document seems to.

  4. I think original signers of the declaration understand that this is now a Post-Christian society. The purpose of the declaration was not to say “conform to the Bible”, but rather that they will not stop conforming to the Bible despite the advance of postmodern culture.

    My favorite part is the part where it passsionately defends “freedom of religion” while at the same time passionately advocating changing public policy to fall in line with the doctrines of Christianity.

    Every faith system that values its own ideas of course thinks the world will function better if its own doctrines are lived out. You can hardly get after Christians for thinking their beliefs and values are true and advocate other people living by them. One of Christianity’s values is that people are free to choose not to live by it, so I don’t see any hypocrisy in advocating freedom of religion.

  5. Advocate is not the same as legislate. Enshrining your religious values in law forces everyone else to conform to them, or go to jail. That’s freedom to be Christian, not freedom of religion.

  6. The Manhattan Declaration says:

    We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore
    to compel prolife institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and prolife physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions.

    What do you say about radical Muslim physicians in the US who want to be allowed to not touch women, because their religion forbids it? Should they be allowed their “freedom of religion” here, and be allowed to deny medical services to women so they don’t have to touch them?

    Remember, religious discrimination in employment is illegal, which means just as a reproductive health clinic would not be able to fire a Christian doctor for refusing to prescribe contracpetives, a hospital would not be allowed to fire a Muslim doctor for refusing to treat severely injured woman when it conflicted with his religious beliefs. What about a radical Muslim paramedic, or firefighter?

    It’s not about freedom of religion. It’s about preference for Christianity.

  7. Remember, religious discrimination in employment is illegal

    Not totally true.

    In the U.S., an employer is required to make “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s religious beliefs. If that cannot be done, the employee can be fired or not hired.

    Allowing a doctor to not treat women would clearly be an unreasonable accommodation. Therefore such a doctor would not have to be hired.

    But if the accommodation required an employer, for example, to schedule a person’s breaks at a time so he/she could pray at certain times, for many types of jobs that would be a reasonable accommodation and the employer could not fire (or refuse to hire) on that basis.

  8. No I don’t think Muslim physicians should have to touch women if they feel its a violation of their faith. They aren’t denying anyone health care, the patient is still free to find another doctor.

    which means just as a reproductive health clinic would not be able to fire a Christian doctor for refusing to prescribe contracpetives

    Christian pharmacist have been fired or lost their license because they refused to carry the morning after pill. Christian doctors have been penalized for not referring a woman to an abortionist.

    If performing an abortion is part of the job requirement to work at Planned Parenthood, a Christian doctor is going to self-select out of taking that job (same applies for a Muslim firefighter). But if he sets up his own clinic or pharmacy he should not be mandated to violate his own conscience.

    What do you think, should a Christian fertility doctor in his own clinic be punished for not providing services to a lesbian couple?

  9. Enshrining your religious values in law forces everyone else to conform to them

    Every law pertaining to personal conduct is a reflection of someones values being enshrined in law. It’s inescapable.

  10. Even though I don’t agree with everything in the text, Kullervo is going way overboard.

    Even from the article you referenced:

    Dr Abdul Majid Katme, of the Islamic Medical Association, said: “To learn about alcohol, to learn about sexually transmitted disease, to learn about abortion, it gives us more evidence to campaign against it. There is a difference between learning and practising.

    “It is obligatory for Muslim doctors and students to learn about everything. The prophet said, ‘Learn about witchcraft, but don’t practise it’.”

    I would expect a Christian doctor to know the medical procedures involved with abortion, yet have the right to refuse it. Same for the Muslim doctor who, once he graduates, is able to refuse to see a patient from the opposite gender because of his beliefs. I’m fine with that.

    Which interestingly enough leads to the fact that the so-called “Conscience rule” is somewhere out in the open of being revoked. Last I heard in April it was somewhere on the fence. In summary it would hurt anyone with a religious objection in his/her job. Both the Muslim doctor in your example and the Christian doctor in the other. I think the overall text is more focusing on items such as that, which are taking away your personal moral or religious views and allow you to act accordingly, and is replacing them with a governmental mandate to do what is “right for society”. Which, as Tim pointed out, is always someone’s opinion.

    should a Christian fertility doctor in his own clinic be punished for not providing services to a lesbian couple?
    Nope. There’s other clinics that will provide the same service.

    Along the same lines of questions:

    Should a Christian cleric (RC, Protestant, LDS, evangelical, ….) be able to refuse to wed people he/she doesn’t think fit for a long term relationship ? Including same sex couples if it conflicts with his/her beliefs ?

    In Him
    Mick

  11. “should a Christian fertility doctor in his own clinic be punished for not providing services to a lesbian couple?”

    Should a X be punished for not providing services to a Y:

    Possible X’s:
    fertility doctor
    paramedic
    plumber
    shop owner

    Possible Y’s:
    lesbian couple
    Hispanic man
    Jew
    working mother

    I’m not comfortable with any of those match-ups.

    (In the specific case like this that happened recently in CA, however, I think the refusal on the part of the Christian doctors was combined with directing the couples to other physicians within the same practice, etc.; i.e., reasonable accommodation. I’m more sympathetic to that approach than just outright refusal.)

  12. I had a client that wanted my design services for a pornographic calendar. I refused to work with them on religious grounds. I did not give them any references to any other designers. How is that action different than a doctor’s decision to not participate in an elective non-life threatening procedure?

  13. 1. They’re a little too vague for me on what they’re advocating here. They say they’re against embryonic stem cell research and abortion. Are they also against hormonal birth control methods and IUDs which are known to have abortifacient properties?

    The jury is somewhat out for me on embryonic stem cell research, but I’m leaning in favor of it. However, the jury is in for me on IUDs and hormonal birth control. I do not believe human ensoulment begins at conception. Life begins at blood is the most logically, theologically, biblically sound argument I have heard on the matter.

    I’m definitely in favor of protecting life in the case of what’s medically recognized as an abortion. I also believe that Christians need to be committed to treating the reasons for why women are seeking abortions and not just trying to shut them down legally.

    2. This is the most incoherent of them all for me. Marriage has not historically been about the equal partnership of one man and one woman. Until the last century it was more of a property exchange where the man assumed stewardship or authority over the woman, not to mention all of the societies (admittedly non-Western ones) which recognized and allowed for the union of one man and multiple women. The form of marriage we are practicing today has little historical precedent.

    In any case, I don’t buy the argument that gay marriage will lead to polygamy or incest. Those things can be forbidden under malum in se. Gay marriage can’t.

    I believe homosexual activity is condemned by the Bible. I believe it’s a sin. But I also believe this isn’t a theocracy. People have the right to be wrong.

    3. I’m all for protecting the religious freedom of religious professionals and adoption agencies so that they don’t have to place children with gay couples against their conscience. But I also want religious liberty extended to homosexual couples who believe marriage is required in order to live their religion without sin. Points 3 and 2 contradict. The people who wrote this document want special recognition given to Christian beliefs at the expense of other religions. They aren’t going to get it.

    So, I guess the bottom line is, I dissent.

    Sorry Tim. I think I’m becoming a moderate Republican.

    (I also find it funny that the Catholic church signed off on this. Catholics were not pro-suffrage. Officially they were neutral; unofficially, they discouraged it).

  14. Oh man. I just noticed the TEDS president and one of my history profs signed off on this document.

    Guess I’m not getting an A in history of fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

  15. Tim said:

    Every law pertaining to personal conduct is a reflection of someones values being enshrined in law. It’s inescapable.

    I’ve long said that if a law doesn’t impose morality, it’s not worth passing.

    Jack said:

    I do not believe human ensoulment begins at conception. Life begins at blood is the most logically, theologically, biblically sound argument I have heard on the matter.

    And if one were to include non-Biblical LDS scriptures in the mix, an even stronger case (but not conclusive) could be made.

    I don’t know when ensoulment (or, in LDS understanding, when the spirit joins the body) occurs. I fail to understand the Biblical argument for tying legal rights to the time of conception. It seems like eisegesis to me.

    Tim asked:

    What do you think, should a Christian fertility doctor in his own clinic be punished for not providing services to a lesbian couple?

    Do you think that a doctor should be required against his/her bigoted prejudices (no religious belief involved) to provide services to blacks?

    I’m not disagreeing with your bottom line. I’m just trying to determine if your argument here is based primarily on libertarian principles (i.e., a person should be able to run a business as he/she sees fit) or on First Amendment grounds.

  16. Just so I’m not misunderstood: I do believe that abortion is morally wrong from the time of conception under most circumstances (although IUDs don’t raise moral qualms for me). That’s different than the legal/political question, in which I have sympathies for both sides.

  17. Jack said:
    The people who wrote this document want special recognition given to Christian beliefs at the expense of other religions. They aren’t going to get it.

    I don’t see this. Can you please point it out to me.

  18. Should a X be punished for not providing services to a Y:

    Possible X’s:
    fertility doctor
    paramedic
    plumber
    shop owner

    Possible Y’s:
    lesbian couple
    Hispanic man
    Jew
    working mother

    I’m not comfortable with any of those match-ups.

    I’m not comfortable with those match-ups either, but I’m also not comfortable telling doctors, plumbers, and shop owners (paramedics and doctors in emergent situations are another matter) running private businesses whom they have to serve.

    One of the downsides of liberty is that people get to do stuff I don’t like, hate people I don’t think they should hate, and think stuff I don’t think they should think.

    It’s a trade-off I’m willing to make, so I can have the freedom to live how I want to live without interference.

    Which is why I’m for legalizing gay marriage and polygamy, BTW.

  19. Tim ~ I don’t see this. Can you please point it out to me.

    I thought I explained it in the preceding sentences. Banning gay marriage infringes on the religious liberty of those who believe gay marriage is necessary in order for them to live moral lives. So calling for both a ban on gay marriage and protection of religious liberty is contradictory and amounts to special treatment for traditional Christian morals at the expense of homosexual morals.

    If point #2 were not present, point #3 would not be so problematic.

    Other concerns I’ve thought of since going over this document:

    (1) There are only 10 women among 153 signatories (6.5%) on a document calling for a ban of abortion. Like I said, I’m pro-life. I’d like to eventually see abortion made illegal (though I believe treating the reasons why women seek abortions is just as important for Christians). But if we are going to enforce policies which primarily effect women, women need to be at least as involved as the men are.

    (2) I am not recognizing a single name among the signatories as a voice of leadership in the egalitarian movement. (I’m still checking with my egalitarian friends to be sure.) Is that because they excluded egalitarians from participating or is it because egalitarians refused to sign the document? If the former, what kind of message does that send? Do they think egalitarianism is a greater threat to society than homosexuality or abortion?

    This is especially awkward since the document attempts to claim credit for the suffrage heritage.

    (3) 17 of the evangelical leaders who signed this document also signed off on Wayne Grudem’s smear campaign against the TNIV. I have serious problems with Christian leaders actively dividing the body of Christ like that and then expecting other Christians to get behind them on other issues.

    Anyways, I should probably just blog about this myself. I’ll probably discuss my objections with Woodbridge when our class has dinner at his house next Wednesday. I’ve actually never seen anybody who was sweeter and kinder about discussing disagreement.

  20. Eric ~ And if one were to include non-Biblical LDS scriptures in the mix, an even stronger case (but not conclusive) could be made.

    I’m curious, Eric: what LDS scriptures support this interpretation?

  21. Eric said:
    Do you think that a doctor should be required against his/her bigoted prejudices (no religious belief involved) to provide services to blacks?

    I’m not disagreeing with your bottom line. I’m just trying to determine if your argument here is based primarily on libertarian principles (i.e., a person should be able to run a business as he/she sees fit) or on First Amendment grounds.

    I’ll admit that I’m warm to the libertarian principles that people can be bigoted if they want (and I can boycott and protest their business all I want in response). But it’s really not my underlining motivation. Discriminating based on race or gender is much different that participating in actions that a person finds immoral. A doctor operating on a black man does not make the doctor black. A doctor providing an abortion makes the doctor an abortionist. A doctor referring someone on to an abortionist makes him a vital step in someone else getting an abortion.

    If for some reason Muslims think based on religious grounds that it’s immoral to touch or serve a Jew or a woman I’m willing to grant that bigotry in deference to their religion. That will not prevent me however from challenging their ideas and promoting a different worldview. Nor do I think it is unreasonable for a hospital to deny employment to a Muslim because of their inability to care for women and Jews.

  22. Banning gay marriage infringes on the religious liberty of those who believe gay marriage is necessary in order for them to live moral lives. So calling for both a ban on gay marriage and protection of religious liberty is contradictory and amounts to special treatment for traditional Christian morals at the expense of homosexual morals.

    And not just homosexual morals. It infringes on the religious liberty of churches and religious organizations which WOULD allow gay marriage. Religious liberty means religious liberty, it doesn’t mean you get the liberty to impose your religious standards on society at large.

  23. Jack said:
    The people who wrote this document want special recognition given to Christian beliefs at the expense of other religions. They aren’t going to get it.

    I read your explanation Jack and it’s still not there. The document is not saying the US government MUST conform to Christian belief. The document states that Christians feel strongly about X (for reasons A,B, and C) and should not be forced to conform to (or made complicit in) Y in opposition to X.

    Restating why you think Christians should be permissible of same-sex marriage doesn’t insert any language into the Declaration that the signers want special recognition for Christian values.

    ———————————————————————–

    Though I do not think they are the point, I do want to challenge your thoughts on same-sex marriage.

    You stated:
    Marriage has not historically been about the equal partnership of one man and one woman. Until the last century it was more of a property exchange where the man assumed stewardship or authority over the woman, not to mention all of the societies (admittedly non-Western ones) which recognized and allowed for the union of one man and multiple women. The form of marriage we are practicing today has little historical precedent.

    While the way men and women interact with one another may be different today than it was historically, that does not mean marriage is fundamentally different. One of the base reasons for marriage is for men and women to form stable relationships as they perform procreative acts, for the sake of themselves and their offspring. Because the conditions for entering into those relationships is different, does not mean the fundamental dynamic of the relationship is different. Your conflating the changing terms of the agreement with the purpose of the agreement.

    I believe homosexual activity is condemned by the Bible. I believe it’s a sin. But I also believe this isn’t a theocracy. People have the right to be wrong.

    I agree we are not a theocracy. No one is advocating a theocracy. Freedom to make decisions I disagree with should exist. But that does not mean that I should be advocating that the government endorse decisions I find destructive.

    A brief analogy. I think people should have the freedom to drive their cars into lakes. I do not want to use the government to stop anyone from having the experiences and consequences of driving their cars into a lake. Because I’m willing to allow people the freedom to be lake-drivers does not mean I should advocate the government name all lakes as official highways. I think such behavior is harmful as I believe that Toyota did not make cars to drive underwater. Allowing freedom and granting government endorsement are two different things. {to carry the analogy further, I most certainly shouldn’t have to build ramps to help people drive their cars into lakes just because I’m a carpenter}

    As a Christian, you have a moral obligation to promote what you feel is the best for the social order. As a Christian you also have an obligation to allow people freedom and the right to make up their own choices. If you feel an action is sinful (and therefore destructive to social order ) you should not be condoning government endorsement of such actions, though at the same time you may allow the freedom for such actions.

  24. Jack said:
    Other concerns I’ve thought of since going over this document:

    . . . .

    (3) 17 of the evangelical leaders who signed this document also signed off on Wayne Grudem’s smear campaign against the TNIV. I have serious problems with Christian leaders actively dividing the body of Christ like that and then expecting other Christians to get behind them on other issues.

    I know very little about how the Declaration was written or how its original signers were solicited. Have you checked the open signatures for egalitarian leaders?

    I recognize you may take issue with some of the signers. I take issue with some of them as well. I’m sure if push came to shove every Catholic would have reason to take issue with the Protestants for denying Papal authority.

    The document is historical because of it’s ecumenical range. The signers recognize the great many differences that they have with one another, but despite those differences feel united in defending Christian freedoms specifically on topics like abortion and same-sex marriage.

    I don’t think a Christian even needs to agree with every jot and tittle on abortion or same-sex marriage to sign the document. They just need to agree that Christians should have the freedom to disagree with the state on those issues.

  25. BJM asked:

    [W]hat LDS scriptures support this interpretation?

    Oh, probably nothing that is more specific in the Bible. I was thinking primarily of blood being used as a symbol for mortality. The contrast is often drawn of God as a being of “flesh and bones” rather than of “flesh and blood,” meaning that he is not mortal. An example of this can be seen in Alma 7:27, which refers to the teaching that “God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth.”

    There’s also D&C 129, which talks about resurrected beings having flesh and bones; again, there’s no blood. It’s a distinction that’s made often when physical resurrection and the nature of the Godhead are taught. The blood becomes a symbol of what differentiates between us and those have gone beyond the veil.

    Obviously, none of this speaks directly as to when personhood/ensoulment begins, and the Church has never taken a position on the matter. I’ve known church members all over the map on the issue.

    I see abortion (with narrow exceptions) as wrong not not so much because it’s murderous but because it cheapens human life and treats the sacred as something much less.

  26. Tim ~ I know very little about how the Declaration was written or how its original signers were solicited. Have you checked the open signatures for egalitarian leaders?

    I can’t find a link for viewing the names of the people who signed the document, only a link for signing the document. It may be that you have to sign it before you can view who signed it—though 90,000 names and growing is kind of a lot to look through.

    I’ve e-mailed CBE to ask them if they were ever approached about being involved in signing the document, and I’ve set up an appointment with Woodbridge to discuss it (but it won’t happen till next week due to the Thanksgiving break). I’ll let you guys know what I find out.

  27. Reading the Manhattan Declaration I find it difficult to understand how this is a historical document. I am not questioning the motives of the people who wrote it or the people who have signed it but who is the intended audience of this declaration? Christians, non-Christians, Legislators? What is the purpose, to tell people what the conservative take is on a few selected social issues? Why exactly would a document that has not been endorsed by any denomination be called ecumenical? Inside my own denomination there is already debate about the appropriateness of making such a blatantly political statement in the name of the Church.

    Believing in the spirituality of the church, I wonder why so much emphasis is placed on trying to influence legislation that will bind the actions of non-believers. Why are Christians surprised or upset when people outside of the body of Christ choose not to live by the standards that we fail to uphold? If we truly want to want to solve problems with marriage, the sanctity of life, and religious freedom there is one way to do it. Make more disciples of Christ.

    Appealing to the government to enact and enforce laws that pass our litmus tests and then alluding to the possibility of civil disobedience rings hollow to me. I wonder how many of the signers are actually willing to follow Dr. King’s version of civil disobedience in these matters. “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. ” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

  28. Inside my own denomination there is already debate about the appropriateness of making such a blatantly political statement in the name of the Church.

    QFT.

    You are really growing on me, Gundek.

  29. Believing in the spirituality of the church, I wonder why so much emphasis is placed on trying to influence legislation that will bind the actions of non-believers.

    Please tell me where in the Declaration this is found. From my reading, it’s asking that the behavior of Christians not be bound by non-believers.

  30. From my reading, it’s asking that the behavior of Christians not be bound by non-believers.

    QFT

    You’re really growing on me Tim 😉

  31. “We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable among us.”

    “A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination.”

    “No one has a civil right to have a nonmarital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good.”

    “And so it is out of love (not “animus”) and prudent concern for the common good (not “prejudice”), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise?”

    Sounds like Christians trying to use the law to impose their views on these issues on the greater society to me.

    If it’s merely a call for Christians to not be bound by the actions of unbelievers, the only call to action that is necessary is the protection of religious freedom concerns expressed in point #3.

  32. Point made Jack. (though, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have our values expressed in our democratically elected government)

    What do you make of my lake-drivers analogy?

  33. Tim,

    From the first paragraph with the subject of abortion, “We call on all officials in our country, elected and appointed, to protect and serve every member of our society, including the most marginalized, voiceless, and vulnerable
    among us.” Is this the Churches responsibility to call on government?

    From the third paragraph with the subject of abortion, “We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion.” Is the Church called to roll back laws?

    From the fourth paragraph with the subject of abortion, “A truly prophetic Christian witness will insistently call on those who have been entrusted with temporal power to fulfill the first responsibility of government: to protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination.” Shouldn’t the Church as an institution be concerned with the spiritual power not the temporal?

    From the third paragraph on marriage “We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it
    requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.” Does the Church work in the legal domain?

    From the second to the last paragraph on marriage, “No one has a civil right to have a nonmarital relationship treated as a marriage.” Does the Church define civil rights?

    I also found the comments about the Obama administration to be counterproductive from a purely political standpoint, that implicitly hitched the wagons of the Manhattan signers to the opposition party. How has that alliance worked out so far?

    I am in agreement with much of what this document says but that does not change the fact that I do not think the Church is called as an institution to participate in politics. I believe that Christians should participate as individuals in civil matters, they can and should vote their conscience and petition government on matters of importance. The Church as an institution should preach the law and the gospel, administer the sacraments, practice charity, and make disciples.

    I do not question the integrity of people who disagree with me on this. I just do not find this to be an effective path and I think the history of the past 30 years proves this out. I completely understand that there are people who disagree with me on this, Abraham Kuyper from my own Reformed Tradition advocated a strong Christian involvement in the civil sphere in Netherlands. Of course the Netherlands may not be the best example in support of mixing Church and state.

  34. Katie,

    This is a subject that I have struggled with but I believe we damage the Church when we as a Church try to act politically. This of course does not stop the Church from taking doctrinal stands on particular issues but history has not been kind to us when we move into the civil realm. I also think the theonomist message hides the gospel behind a wall of law.

  35. I’m not comfortable signing off on it.

    It tries to make all “life” equivalent in a legal sense. It casts the debate over fetuses as: either it is a “life” or it isn’t.

    And if it is a “life,” the legal conclusion follows that terminating it is a “murder.”

    You are never, EVER going to get me to sign off on a document that obviously wants me to draw the conclusion that chopping up what is essentially a tadpole is equivalent to murder.

    And I agree, that this document tries to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to birth control.

  36. I see that R. Albert Mohler has signed this declaration. I’ve also read his excellent commentary on why he was willing to sign it on his blog. I saw at least two people who were affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America listed as having signed it, as well as an Anglican Bishop in Nigeria. (He would be one of the conservative Anglicans.) These are all men I respect.
    I read the explanation of “Life begins at the blood” and that sounds reasonable to me. However, I also believe that life begins when you believe it begins. I’ve had an early miscarriage. From the time my primary physician told me I was pregnant, until the time I went to my OB/Gyn for my initial exam where I was told I would miscarry–I had imagined a whole life with my new baby. I’m not alone, there are millions of women all over the country who have experienced the same thing. The problem I have with the stem cell research, even on blasocysts, is, you are tampering with something that-if you had left if alone, may very well have gone on to become a life.
    FWIW, I am against invitro fertilization and all sorts of artificial methods of reproduction. My husband and I both agreed before we married that if we couldn’t conceive naturally, we would accept childlessness as God’s will for us. A baby is a gift and a blessing from God, it is NOT a right. If we didn’t have IVF and ART, we wouldn’t have all these excess embryos sitting around. I personally believe these embryos are potential human beings, and deserve full protection. I believe the emergence of abortion really has cheapened society’s attitude towards human life. I also have an 88 year old father who fought and was wounded for our country during World War II, and I am very worried about the callous attitudes so often displayed towards our senior citizens. People say that the declaration is “political.” Well, if it’s “political” to want to save and preserve human life, so be it.

  37. Seth, so size is the question? The question IS over whether or not a fetus is a living human person. It is living (it grows and feeds), it is human (it’s not a pig or a horse) and it is a person (it has its own unique DNA separate from its mother).

    If size is the issue, what size is big enough? Do you have to be able to see it? How does having poor eyesight or a microscope change its essence as a living human person? Are you really saying small people don’t get the same rights as big people?

    Gundek,

    I actually agree with you for the most part on the church’s role in politics. Some of the signers of the Declaration are individuals who have I think have done great harm to the church because of their aggressive political march. They are some of the same who refused to sign the Evangelical Manifesto to their own determent I fear.

    But at the same time I don’t believe we can remove ourselves from the culture and politics without expecting some seriously negative effects. Our role in society is not a political one, but we are sent out for the reconciliation of all things

  38. Lisa said:
    Well, if it’s “political” to want to save and preserve human life, so be it.

    Some thought it too political to fight against slavery as well.

  39. You are never, EVER going to get me to sign off on a document that obviously wants me to draw the conclusion that chopping up what is essentially a tadpole is equivalent to murder.

    That’s kind of a cold way of putting it, Seth.

    Lisa & Eric ~ Well, I didn’t really want to start a birth control discussion, but here goes. My perspective.

    If you get married while you’re a student at BYU, there’s a couple of books that get highly recommended. One is by two LDS guys and it’s too mediocre for me to even mention, and the other was The Act of Marriage by Tim and Beverly LaHaye, who are of course well-known evangelicals. TAoM has a chapter on methods of birth control wherein pills are recommended by the authors as the most reliable form of birth control while still being ethical for Christians. So we went with birth control pills. I was a firm believer in “life begins at conception.”

    After we’d been married 6-8 months, I ran across the arguments of folks like Al Mohler and Randy Alcorn (author of Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?), and I was stunned. I had no idea that birth control pills can prevent implantation of a blastocyst as a last-chance mechanism of preventing pregnancy, and I was enough of a pro-lifer that the thought that I may have inadvertently been killing my own children just filled me with dread.

    But I kept on researching. Then I learned something that shocked me even more: 30%-70% of blastocysts fail to implant naturally (most studies I’ve read put the number at between 50%-60%). If human ensoulment happens prior to implantation, 30%-70% of the human race is going straight to the afterlife without ever attaching to the uterus. The idea that I may be killing my own children was nowhere near as troubling to me as the idea that maybe God was killing 30%-70% of the human race for no reason.

    There are other problems with thinking life begins at conception, but I’ll leave it at that for now. The “life begins at blood” interpretation has far more synergy with the mystery of the Christian tradition and (in my opinion) far more biblical support than any other interpretation I’ve heard. Since pregnancy can’t be detected until implantation, you can still be 100% opposed to early term abortions.

    The jury is out for me on embryonic stem cell research because I’m really not sure when the embryo acquires blood. The ReligiousTolerance article says it’s at 18-21 days, but other studies I’ve read say it’s sooner (although it is definitely after implantation). Also, I’m not sure that embryonic stem cell research holds up to the hype about its potential. There’s little evidence of that right now.

    Lisa, I do think it’s good that you place the blame on ESCR where it belongs: on IVF. Current ESCR is done mostly out of donated embryos from IVF clinics that are not viable and are never going to be people, anyways. So if people really want to stop ESCR, they need to go after IVF.

  40. Jack,
    One thing I feel I have to say after reading your post is that I disagree with you that God is somehow killing 30-70% of the human race for no reason. In my opinion, we live in a fallen world and we are all fallen human beings. Not only in the spiritual sense, but in the physical sense as well. Early pregnancy failure most likely happens because there is something wrong with the egg or the sperm or both, that make the potential embryo unviable. The body senses this, and the blasocyst fails to implant. Same thing with blighted ovums–there is something that is not right. A pregnancy can fail at any stage for physical reasons, although if you can make it through the first trimester ok, that’s usually a good sign, but sadly, not always.

    Since I married at 37, and we wanted children, birth control was a non-issue for us. There are many different kinds of birth control pills. Surely not all cause a blasocyst to fail to implant. At any rate, I’m against Mohler and Alcorn’s kind of arguments if they give people like you and your husband guilt trips. You were trying to serve God as best you could. That’s the same thinking that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have. They don’t know for sure why they lost their first pregnancy. I was really upset and felt bad after my miscarriage, and then when I was pregnant with my daughter, I told one of my best friends I was pregnant again with a new baby, and she told me, “How do you know it’s a different baby? How do you know it’s not the first one that God has sent back?” I believe that my friend definitely has a point. No matter what we do or don’t do, God is sovereign over all.

  41. The idea that I may be killing my own children was nowhere near as troubling to me as the idea that maybe God was killing 30%-70% of the human race for no reason.

    To say that God is killing 30-70% of the human race is to assume the false idea that the world is as God intended it. It’s akin to saying that God intended children to be born with Down’s Syndrome and other deformities. Though he can work powerfully through those situations and bring glory to himself through them when sin entered the world all of creation was affected. Eve’s womb was specifically mentioned in the fall.

    I do think your “through the blood” idea is intriguing but I’m not quite ready to accept it.

    Don’t get me started on IVF. I think the money and attention paid to it by some Christians is a terrible sin given the great number of children in need of adoption.

  42. Well, I consider the use of the word “murder” to be pretty cold too.

    Tim, at a certain point, a fetus is not a “person” to me. I don’t draw a clear line in the sand. But my view is that the more it looks like a person, the more it is a person. I’m not going to force a girl to go through pregnancy from a rape just to spare the life of a round clump of microscopic cells. Nor am I going to put my foot down just to preserve what frankly looks more like a tadpole than a person. If it’s got fingers and a nose, I’m going to care more.

    I know that sounds incredibly simple-minded. But I’ve read all the debates on both sides, and it resolved nothing for me. So back to gut instinct it is. The more human it looks, the more reluctant I’m going to be about killing it.

    That’s how I am on it. I think the push to get this slotted into the “murder” legal category is utterly misguided.

    The LDS doctrinal position on this says nothing about “life” and “murder” as legal categories. Rather, it focuses on the need for each of us to be accountable for our decisions. And if focuses on the inherent sanctity of the procreative process.

    I will discourage, and sometimes outright oppose abortion on those grounds. But I’m not going to sign off on anything that tries to disservice the sacred process of procreation with crude legal slogans. It’s not “murder.” It’s not a “life” in the same sense.

  43. And I’m kind of reluctant to engage further on this topic because I realize this is a highly inflammatory political issue.

    My stance on religious forums is that we have enough things to argue about and offend each other over without dragging abortion into the mix.

  44. Tim,

    I am not saying that Christians should or could separate themselves from the culture or politics. What I am saying is that the Church, as an institution of the Kingdom of God, has a command to preach the whole council of God, the law and the Gospel, administer the sacraments, to make disciples, and to administer charity. When the institutional Church tries to advance a particular social agenda, either liberal or conservative, on the general public it is overstepping its mandate and entering into the Kingdom of man. The result is Christendom and harm to the Church.

    Individual believers as citizens of both the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man must give their ultimate loyalty to Christ and His Kingdom while remaining good citizens of the Kingdom of man. We cannot compromise our Christian beliefs, but at the same time we must acknowledging that our beliefs are not commonly held by nonbelievers. As individual Christians we should feel free, especially in a democratic republic, to exercise our rights to vote and advocate for our beliefs.

    I don’t think any of this is easy. Where exactly is the line between teaching doctrines and advocating a civil agenda? I don’t always know where the Church is to stop at its teaching role for believers inside the Church and keep from promoting a civil agenda. I certainly think that the Church is free to make doctrinal statements on current issues without advocating specific legislation. In some instances I think it would be sinfil not to take a doctrinal stand. I certainly don’t see this as black and white but I believe the Manhattan Declaration crosses the line.

  45. As individual Christians we should feel free, especially in a democratic republic, to exercise our rights to vote and advocate for our beliefs.

    The Manhattan Declaration seems to fit right into this. It’s individuals who sign it. As you pointed out there are no denomination, organizations or church councils which officially endorse it.

  46. Tim ~ To say that God is killing 30-70% of the human race is to assume the false idea that the world is as God intended it. It’s akin to saying that God intended children to be born with Down’s Syndrome and other deformities.

    I have considered this before, Tim. The high number of naturally terminating blastocysts wasn’t my only reason for abandoning the conception position. I’m reticent to go into my other reasons because I don’t want to derail this thread further.

    I have to say though, as the parent of a child with one of those “other deformities,” sometimes I really dislike the idea of pawning those problems off on the fallen nature of the world and saying God never intended for them to be born like that. Why? Who are we to say that God didn’t mean to teach us something through them? And who are we to say that God didn’t intend for 30%-70% of fertilized eggs to never make it? Maybe He did it because having children was never supposed to come easy. Maybe children are too much of a blessing to come so easily.

    Seth ~ I understand the outlandish, divisive rhetoric that often comes from extreme pro-lifers. I get to be a “murderer,” too, for being okay with hormonal birth control and IUDs. I just don’t think tit-for-tat really helps.

  47. Lisa ~ There are many different kinds of birth control pills. Surely not all cause a blasocyst to fail to implant.

    There is good evidence that Combined Oral Contraceptives (COCs) are extremely effective at preventing ovulation, if you take them regularly (at the exact same time every day) and suppress the “off” days.

    This Web site has fantastic information about which forms of birth control are likely to prevent ovulation and fertilization entirely, and it presents the information in a very non-judgmental fashion.

  48. I really dislike the idea of pawning those problems off on the fallen nature of the world and saying God never intended for them to be born like that. Why?

    Like I said, I believe God can work through all kinds of issues powerfully. I don’t deny his sovereignty over sin, but I think the overarching story of the Bible tells us that he wants us to be whole people and someday will make everyone of us whole again.

  49. Tim,

    The absence of denominational input to the MD only makes it more problematic for me. In this case individual Christians have chosen to speak “to and from our communities” their words. By assuming for themselves the mantle of credibility and authority of the institutional Church without jumping the ecclesiastical hurdles that would be required for a truly ecumenical document they have bypassed the authority structure of the Church. I believe that ecclesiology is founded and structured on a theological basis. This makes me question a document that makes legal and moral declarations for civil government while at least ignoring, if not outright circumventing, the government of the Church. In the South we politely call such actions “bold”.

    No matter your denomination or tradition there is an authority structure that despite disagreements are based on theological principals for Christians answer to. The Orthodox his bishop, the Roman Catholic the Vatican, the Presbyterian the session, presbytery and General Assembly etc. Unique to the modern era and particularly the United States is the habit of creating para-church declarations outside of the ordained government and calling them ecumenical. The signers can say all they want, “we don’t represent our denominations or traditions”. Why do they identify their congregations and traditions if the don’t intend to speak for them? Theologically I don’t see how or why this works.

    Should my pastor sign the MD? I think he should clear such a choice with his session and presbytery first or sign in such a way as to not identify himself with the denomination.

    From the LDS perspective it is like a local Stake President deciding, without contacting Salt Lake, to represent his Church at the World Council of Churches.

  50. I do agree that on certain points it’s asking law makers to agree with and push the so called “conservative right wing evangelical” agenda. And these public statements have done more harm than good.

    On the other hand I have some concerns as to what I see happening, definitely if I compare it to what happened in Europe. The potential outcome could lead to something like this: If a Christian doctor refuses abortions, he/she could be sued. Ditto for a pastor/priest/… refusing to marry a same sex couple. Etc..etc.. If does become true, we’re in for hard times. But then again, we weren’t promised easy times in this life anyway. Unless you believe Osteen and the like 😉

    Gundek
    Nicely put When the institutional Church tries to advance a particular social agenda, either liberal or conservative, on the general public it is overstepping its mandate and entering into the Kingdom of man.

    And fwiw we are pro-live in this house. And yes, we’ve had a teenage pregnancy to deal with. Who is now a fantastic 10 year old boy ! Over the years we’ve then started helping more pregnant teens and single moms. What we personally see and have experienced though is that too few people that call themselves “Pro-Life” are willing to help these pregnant teens or single moms. Hence abortion is sometimes the easy way out for them. The support network to help them is too small and too few. Perhaps food for thought as we all go into the holidays ? 😉

    In Him
    Mick

  51. Michael: Please cite to an actual case involving a pastor being sued for refusing to marry a same sex couple.

    Because last I checked, individuals can’t be forced to perform marriage ceremonies for anybody, even if they work for the government. Please see the case of the southern judge who refused to perform a ceremony for an interracial couple who already had a marriage license. The Supreme Court has spoken definitively on the general subject–that States can’t ban interracial marriage. But even now, 40 years later, individuals can still act according to their own (misguided) conscience, and the judge in this case wasn’t even claiming that it was a religious issue.

  52. “To say that God is killing 30-70% of the human race is to assume the false idea that the world is as God intended it. It’s akin to saying that God intended children to be born with Down’s Syndrome and other deformities. Though he can work powerfully through those situations and bring glory to himself through them when sin entered the world all of creation was affected. Eve’s womb was specifically mentioned in the fall.”

    Come now, the world is as God intended, its His isn’t it?

    It seems that Christians and especially Mormon Christians should be primarily focused on their own houses before trying to impose their values on society in general. It also seems strange that the majority attempts to clothe itself in the language of the victim.

    Christian claiming people have a extremely strong voice in society, but their effective voice is only as strong as their Christianity, i.e. their love.

  53. Whitney

    Don’t put words in my mouth. I said if I compare it to what happened in Europe. The potential outcome could lead to …

    Since I grew up in Europe and since you asked, here goes:

    For background: Most European countries have a clear distinction between the “legal” marriage and the “church” wedding. For instance in Belgium you would “marry” in city hall in front of the mayor or a civil servant. Then you go to the church of your choosing to “wed” in front of God. This is something not too many people here realize. So when people say that European countries have gay marriage, it refers to the “legal” piece. Not the Church part.

    However, here’s some of the anecdotal information that is changing some of that landscape:
    1) In 2003 an Orthodox priest in Russia was removed because he married a gay couple
    2) In early 2003 and continued in 2005 paragraphs were adding to the constitution of the European Union (yes, that thing exists) to specifically protect “sexual orientation”. Article II-9 and III-1 specifically mention the right to marry and the protection of sexual orientation.
    3) Aricle 1:68 of the “Civil Lawbook” in the Netherlands discusses the rights of marriage. It explicitly mentions same-sex marriage and fine for those that violate the article. Theoretically holders of a religious office can be fined if they don’t adhere to this article. There’s been some attempts, although unsuccessful to this day (as far as I know).
    4) As a result in 2007, several governments, including the Netherlands and Belgium, added verbiage to the same sex marriage law to protect civil servants who, for religious reasons, were requesting to be replaced for gay marriages. This was spurred by several complaints and lawsuits using these paragraphs from the European Consitution. In Belgium these were filed by the local ACLU (Gelijke Kansen Beleid http://www.steunpuntgelijkekansen.be/ and http://www.gelijkekansen.be/) I can’t find an English link on them, but I’d be happy to help translate if you send me a personal note or e-mail via my site.

    On other items:
    1) In November 2008 the NVVE (Netherlands Society for Voluntary Euthanasia) filed a motion to “judicially enforce medical professionals to participate in voluntary euthanasia”. It basically means that if a doctor refuses to assist with euthanasia, he/she could be sued. Discussion were still going on, although it hasn’t made it into law (yet ?).
    2) Both in Belgium and the Netherlands, the legislation on abortus is not so much a “right to abortion” as a “decriminilazation of abortion practices”. In the legislation a doctor is protected and allowed to refuse, yet does have to cooperate on a referral. This protection has been somewhat challenged since 2003, yet without much success since there are sufficient doctors to provide the care.
    3) Earlier in November the European Court ruled that all crucifixes / crosses need to be removed from schools. It’s been a big stink in Italy and some other European countries. Some of them have filed an appeal. Note that there’s a huge difference in the European scholastic system and the notion of “public” vs “private” schools. I’d be more than happy to explain off-line since it would take too long.

    Shall I go on ? I think this provides some background as to why I said that if I compare it to what happened in Europe. The potential outcome could lead to …

    The risk is there. Now I’m not freaking out, I’m not saying we have to “take up arms and protest”. But there is the risk that are a certain point you end up with legislation that will force Christians to perform actions that go against their belief system. I hope that from the anecdotal evidence above you can see that Europe is starting to head that way slowly.

    I am encouraged by the Presidents statements in July indicating he still supports the so-called Conscience clause for US healthcare. Question is how long it will stand considering earlier proposals and statements in March ?

    All this being said, and I do apologize for the lengthy post, we should speak up and react when there is legislation moving in the direction forcing Christians to act against their moral beliefs. Not that I think this declaration does a good at that. I think it goes beyond that by promoting legislation with Christian bias. On the other hand, as I said before, nowhere are we promised that this life would be easy. And we still have it a lot better than our brothers in a lot of other countries like Eritrea.

    Hope this helps clarify what I was saying earlier
    Have a happy thanksgiving !

    In Him
    Mick

  54. PS: I should have re-read this before hitting post.

    The item #1 on the Orthodox priest should have read

    1) In 2003 an Orthodox priest in Russia was removed because he married a gay couple. This created quite some opposition and enormous criticism, esepecially in Western Europe, on the bishop Alexander of the Russian Orthodox church that supported the decision.

    Sorry about that.

  55. Jared said:
    Come now, the world is as God intended, its His isn’t it?

    No, not in the slightest. This is a strongly held Christian belief that when sin entered the world it ruined everything. All of creation still groans for redemption. It is his, but he let us test drive it and he’s still waiting to set everything right.

    I know that this stands in contrast with the Mormon belief that the Fall was planned and was a good thing (for lack of a better word).

  56. Tim~ Have you done a post here on the differing views of the Fall? I know from having the discussion with various Evangelicals and Protestant friends in the past that they are quite diverse…

    I think it goes beyond that by promoting legislation with Christian bias.

    I believe this has already been touched upon, but what bias in legislation is an acceptable bias? All laws are moral codes, and, as far as I know, all religions have moral codes, so it seems that all laws can be labeled as having some sort of religious bias.

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