A controversy within the Christian community recently sprang forth when a considerable group of men and women of faith formed, in solidarity, over the singular issue of America’s need to return to its Judeo/Christian roots as a nation, and produced the Manhattan Declaration. The controversy surrounded the question of whether or not Evangelicals should have joined the movement, by signing on to the Manhattan Declaration, due to the heretical doctrines held by a few of the 140 original signers.
After receiving a phone-call and several e-mails asking for my input on the merits of the arguments posed by both sides, I decided to take the opportunity to address what I believe to be a larger, more self-defeating tendency in some parts of the Christian community: the ill-fated habit of viewing life in America through a particular doctrinal microcosm.
With that said, I publicly offer this personal response (originally written to help a particular friend) in order to assist anyone else who might wonder about the merits of the Manhattan Declaration. Because the following was originally written to a friend, it does contain a certain level of candor not typically expressed in the public medium. I have deliberately left the remarks unchanged, for the sake of absolute transparency. All debates aside, the real merit of the Manhattan Declaration will be determined by the actions that follow those who sign it. Will Christians simply sign the internet site, and return to lives of merriment and introversion, where political activism is non-existent? Or will those who sign become directly involved with the arena of politics? The answer to that question will be the difference between success and failure. My thoughts were originally expressed as follows:
I’ve had a bit more time to absorb this, so I wanted to give a more thorough explanation. I hope you don’t mind that I will include my thoughts to a larger audience. Many folks are wondering about this issue today. One segment of the church won’t sign the Manhattan agreement because they don’t agree with another’s church doctrine. The other side says we should form solidarity on those areas where we can agree, for the sake of America. My thoughts:
When we refuse to cooperate with someone, who on the lowest level of government (civil) agrees with every important element of our biblically-based convictions, simply because, on a higher level of government (the church) “they don’t agree with my doctrine,” it is wholly unintelligent and destructive to this nation’s future.
Point of fact: this nation was NOT built or founded upon a particular denominational doctrine or any particular belief of any sect or apostate pseudo-Christian religion. It was built upon the tacit facts that:
#1) The Judeo/Christian God CREATED the universe;
#2) Since His Divine Law existed before man did, then those divine laws (principles of the 10 commandments, etc.) must be reflected in our public policies (man-created laws).
Benjamin Franklyn was a deist who lived in sin much of his life. Should the Christian founders have refused any political alliance with him during the founding era? Of course not! Though he was a deist, he was quite respectful to the Christian religion, in particular, and publicly recognized its necessity in the creation of good government. He even requested prayer before ratification! More specifically, the founders believed the role of man was to DISCOVER law, not to pretend to “MAKE” it. (And the deists agreed!)
When I find another person in this nation (even an “apostate cult member” who practices a false religion on Sunday) who agrees with those basic foundational principles, I would be ignorant, in the worst way, to refuse to align myself with him politically. It is the nature of the government we enjoy…that those with the most votes, at the end of the day, are the winners, and those with the least, are the losers. Signing a letter of agreement with an Orthodox Jew will never change my unbending conviction that without Jesus…all men will go to hell. Signing a letter of political agreement with a Mormon will not cause me to believe that the Garden of Eden was originally located in Missouri. Signing a letter of agreement with a Catholic will not suddenly cause me to decide that Mary was born of a virgin (immaculate conception) just like her Son, Jesus. Finally, as a lifelong student of eschatology…signing that document couldn’t possibly make me an enabler of the coming “Whoredome Church” as the “Whoredome Church” will be built in a unity based upon the rejection of truth, not a unity built upon the acceptance of it.
With that said, here’s something that signing the Manhattan agreement might do: It might foment a force of political unity that interrupts and corrects man-created evils (falsely labeled as “laws”) that violate the divine laws of God set in motion before we were created – and that would please the Lord.
To further expose this silly line of thinking, let me depict the pretend virtue of those who “won’t sign” by re-applying the same logic to another hypothetical scenario:
Imagine…40,000 humans will be killed through abortion in South Dakota, in 2010. The divide in their state legislature is split evenly and only one vote will mean the difference between saving 40,000 and allowing their murder. Do I refuse to “sign-on” to the plan as a denominational Christian congressman, on the grounds that most of the other congressmen are “heathen” or participators in a “false version of Christianity?” And by “standing on my high and lofty sounding principles,” by default, enable the murder of those 40,000 children? Is this an appropriate application of the verse “we are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers?” I think not!
This pseudo-logic is really revolting and embarrassing to me. I understand that the detractors reasons are heart-felt, sincere, even expressed eloquently (by some)…nevertheless, it is just eloquently expressed folly. The question is asked, “Should Evangelicals have segregated themselves from all other religions that are viewed as heretical when making this statement of agreement?” My answer: “Only if they plan to lose the battle.” You see, there aren’t enough properly thinking evangelicals left in this country to win the culture war. That is a fact, based upon how so many voted (or didn’t vote) during the last election.
So, there you have it. My most candid, curt and unabridged opinion of this ridiculous argument posed by the utterly irrelevant among us. Similarly, when there finally exists a surplus of Godly choices, in any given election, and those choices are brushed-aside by the Republican Party in the favor of those who are not as qualified (merely because they don’t want Christianity), I will believe it is a just thing to refuse to vote, as a means to punish the Republican Party for their infidelity.
Until that day comes, the blame for poor choices in presidential, and other similar elections, rests solely upon the faltering church of the United States. In my opinion, punishing the Republican Party at large, by forcing them to lose a historical presidential election, and causing a great evil to sweep upon our land (in the form of Obama) was a poor choice made by many evangelicals. When they stayed home in protest and refused to vote for McCain (as awful a choice as he was) they were punishing the WRONG entity. It is likely that the same evangelicals that refused to vote during the last election (in the name of Christian principles) continue to financially support churches that refuse to engage this culture in the political arena. That makes them rewarders of the group who caused the problem, and unjust hypocrites for punishing those who didn’t.
When Christians begin to join and financially support relevant churches that make a deliberate impact on all levels of human influence (including politics), and that action produces great choices in any given election…then it will be time to punish the Republican establishment when they misbehave. Until then, they aren’t the truly guilty among us. The local church is!
Rev. Cary Gordon