Monday, November 23, 2009

Timothy Kincaid Reviews the "Manhattan Declaration"

Over at the always informative and insightful Box Turtle Bulletin, Timothy Kincaid (right) shares his thoughts on the “Manhattan Declaration” – a manifesto issued by a broad coalition of Christian social conservative activists, including Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Following are highlights from Kincaid’s review.


A group of conservative Christians released today their manifesto of their agreement across lines of faith and tradition. Entitled Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience, this document lays out areas in which the signatories declare commonality of purpose.

First, let us say what this document is not. It is not, as the NY Times described it, a situation in which “Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues”. Indeed, this is but a segment of Christian thought, claiming the mantle of Christian history and tradition but excluding broad segments of the faith.

One need only glance at the signatories to know the nature of the alliance. Present are some who are well known names in the political culture wars who have long striven to impose their religious views by force of law on the unbelievers: Dr. James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Gary Bauer, and Tony Perkins. Some are religious leaders who have been recently shifting their realm of influence away from faith towards secular domination: Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Albert Mohler, and Jonathan Falwell.

But this is not just broadly social conservatives. There is, instead, a concentration of those who focus on “opposing the homosexual agenda”. There are a few religious activists who seem dedicated and committed (obsessed, one might think) to fighting equality for gay people: Ken Hutcherson, Bishop Harry Jackson, and Jim Garlow. And then, inexplicably, some who are not religious leaders at all but social activists whose primary occupation is in seeking the political institutionalizing of inequality to gay people: Maggie Gallagher, Frank Schubert, and William Donohue.

. . . While this alliance is one that does not reflect the face of Christianity, it also is not a declaration of a new-found position of agreement based on shared Christian teaching and ideology. There is no mention of shared faith in creeds or teachings, no virgin birth, no resurrection, no divine redemption.

Rather, this is a statement of political purpose by an alliance of socially conservative activist who oppose abortion and marriage equality. Indeed, although the document speaks in lofty terms of Christian tradition and religious freedom, the only commitments it makes are to oppose legal abortion (some day down the road) and the immediate attack on the ability of gay people to avail themselves of civil equality.

This is, in short a political alliance. It is a pact and a threat.

While on the face of it, this manifesto purports to be a rededication to fight two specific political issues, I think that this is but surface dressing for a deeper meaning.

This is not a war over civil marriage definition – nor, indeed, has that ever been the real motivation behind anti-gay marriage drives. Rather, this is a war over religious domination, a fight over who is “really a Christian” and an effort on the part of a long-suffering religious subset to spite those who have long had what they coveted.

Political power in the United States had long been in the hands of what is now called Mainline Christianity. Our presidents have included over a dozen Episcopalians (as is the National Cathedral), about ten Presbyterians, with most of the rest being Methodists, Unitarians, Disciples of Christ, and Quakers.

There has been exactly one Catholic. There have been four Baptists, of whom the two Southern Baptists were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. There have been no Pentecostals and no members of mega-Churches. In fact, though some Republican presidents have been religious and conservative, there has never been a President of the United States that was both denominationally and ideologically within the fold represented by the signatories of this Manhattan Declaration.

And now they want theirs. And, not content at the rise of their own political power, they will not be happy unless they can diminish those denominations whom they seek to replace.

. . . The Manhattan document does not in any place refer to same-sex relationships without simultaneously mentioning multiple-party relationships. This will no doubt translate to a new commitment on the part of the signatories to try and tie the two together in their political campaigns.

Frankly, I wish them godspeed in that decision. Americans have, I believe, moved beyond the point in which gay couples are viewed as identical to polygamists.

. . . There are, as we all know, no requirements for any churches or ministers to act contrary to their faith. We have long since debunked their claims of oppression and shown them to be nothing more than a retraction of special privilege when the religious groups in question wanted to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate against gay taxpayers. There are no instances in their recitation in which religious groups were forced to compromise in any areas of faith in the administration of their own funds or time.

That is of no consequence. Liars lie. We expect the morally bankrupt to behave without integrity.

But what I think we can anticipate, based on their conclusion, is a concerted effort at political stuntery. A dedication to dishonesty. And an ongoing campaign of lies.

As a Christian, it distresses me to see the name of my faith and the mantle of its history usurped by those who have no respect for its greater principles but instead gleefully glom onto its darker bloody history. Rather than exalt in the liberties that have evolved from Christian thought, they seek to equate the faith with its most prejudicial, superstitious, exclusionary and dictatorial moments.

But perhaps something good may come of this.

It is possible that out of this declaration of war, the moderate and liberal branches of the faith may find common cause, if nothing else in defense of their own good name. Perhaps they will decide that they have a purpose and meaning in modern America and will let go of residual guilt and angst and take up the mantle of protector of the oppressed and champion of justice and mercy.

To read Timothy Kincaid’s “A Review of the Manhattan Declaration” in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
First They Take Manhattan
D.C. Council Calls Archdiocese’s Bluff

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Manhattan Declaration – Full text and commentary at
The D.C. Catholic Church’s Red Herring - Nancy Polikoff (The Bilerico Project, November 15, 2009).
The New GLBT Pope Problem - Wayne Besen (, November 23, 2009).
Manhattan Declaration of Religious Traditionalism – Andrew Gern (Episcopal Café, November 20, 2009).
Statement of Conscience: Just Give Us the Money - Bruce Garrett (, November 20, 2009).
Can a Culture War Manifesto Reach a New Generation of Evangelicals and Catholics? - Dan Gilgoff (U.S. News and World Report, November 20, 2009).
A “Hierarchy of Issues”? - Thom Curnutte (Ad Dominum, November 20, 2009).
Two Catholic Bishops, Conscience, and the Common Good - Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, June 14, 2009).


TheraP said...

I count at most 7 women signatories. Yes, it's a MANifesto!

For other reading, see here:

Gives you a perspective on the presence of one foreigner, Akinola, from Africa. And the evil nexus this MANifesto is part of.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks for the link, TheraP.



Mareczku said...

"The Manhattan document does not in any place refer to same sex relationships with simultaneously mentioning multi-party relationships." What that all about?