First We Take Manhattan, then We Take Berlin (And Maybe Re-Take Richmond Too)

.~ read the Manhattan Declaration,

Wished .~ Didn’t, and Now,

What .~ Must Say about It

because .~ Did

by mike mcduffee, ph.d., professor of history & historical theology, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL, USA

Any political philosophy which assumes that natural impulses, that is, greed, the will-to-power and other forms of self-assertion, can never be completely controlled or sublimated by reason, is under the necessity of countenancing political policies which attempt the control of nature in human history by setting the forces of nature against the impulses of nature.  If coercion, self-assertion and conflict are regarded as permissible and necessary instruments of social redemption, how are perpetual conflict and perennial tyranny to be avoided?  What is to prevent the instruments of today’s redemption from becoming the chain of tomorrow’s enslavement?  –  Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society

Christian submission to spiritual leadership is never without its disappointments, and living one’s Christian conscience can be a lonely call.  I experienced both of these conditions while reading the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.[i] Having been burdened with its content I must now apply myself to the duty of speaking out against it.  The fact that I have studied the many subjects it covers only a little made it hard for me to get through the declaration’s few pages.  This is proof enough for me that the Scriptures are true in teaching that much study is wearisome to the flesh.  Although I recollect no call to prayer in the declaration, I nonetheless trust that those involved in the drafting of the declaration are conscientious, confessing Christians who make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all who are in high positions so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.   Beyond this I trust they speak as American citizens to their fellow countrymen for the good of our nation.  I am my Lord’s, I too act I hope in obedience, thus in all that follows, I speak in pursuit of what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 

The historically skewed preamble of the Manhattan Declaration makes it a flawed document.  Its greatest shortcoming however, is that it lacks the exhortative gift of leadership that the church needs to have exercised today more than at any other time in recent history.  In these days we need to store up strength for the days of persecution that are rapidly approaching.  We need to act honorably in all things as we prepare our young men and women to preach the gospel in public without compromise, to endure suffering for the name of Jesus without complaint, to practice kindness without prejudice and to uphold the blessed hope in times of difficulty without falling into despair or falling away from the faith.  The Manhattan Declaration speaks to galvanizing the Christian commitment to seek and defend the good for all.  It calls for Christian civil disobedience at this time, which it suggests is marked by the dawn of soft despotism as a prelude to tyranny.  It commends those whose fight against earlier tyranny helped establish the form of government we enjoy today.  Would the reader be correct to suspect that should these confessing Christians deem they are again being made subject to the yoke of tyranny that then too their conscience would compel them to again rebel for its overthrow?  I don’t know, it remains unclear to me if adherents of the Manhattan Declaration are willing to commit themselves to the coercive use of force to protect the precious things they judge at risk.  What I do know is this, with the return of religion to the public square this is a dangerous game to play, it could well lead to the church suffering persecution unnecessarily and for the wrong reasons.  This becomes doubly disconcerting for me when the declaration commends our founders for proclaiming the dignity inherent in every human without castigating them for failing to live up to this noble truth.  This inability to tell the full story about our past weakens the moral ribbing upon which the Manhattan Declaration’s efforts at persuasive reasoning depend for winning support.

The passing remark about full acknowledgment of imperfections and failings is a deficient entry in the ledger of the life of the church to the side that records the evil done to men, women, children and communities in the name of Christ through the centuries, including pogroms, torture, inquisitions, censorship, intolerance and persecutions.  We cannot claim the heritage of the good done without too forthrightly admitting the wrongs done.  The examples of the good in the history of the church encourage us as much as the evil that has been committed in the name of the Lord should humble us.  Christians combated the evil of slavery all the while Christians possessed and profited from slaves.  Christian women stood the vanguard of the suffrage movement all the while Christian clergy and legislators condemned their cause.  Christians provided compassionate care to AIDS sufferers while Christian ministers preached God inflicted the disease upon these dear victims as an instrument of His wrath. 

Given that slavery, forced or compulsory labor, servile forms of marriage and exploitation of children all continue in the world to this day, and are abuses of human dignity all of which we rightly condemn, it is crucial for upholding the integrity of our moral voice that we be completely honest about our involvement in the slave trade in years past.   Should we not openly admit that from England across Europe to the Urals “slavery remained socially significant throughout the early and later Middle Ages”?[ii] Hadn’t we best be up front about the resurgence of slavery that happened in the late middle ages, and about how great an impact that had upon our own history as a people?  Prominent scholar Orlando Patterson reminds us of the late medieval resurgence in slavery within Western Christendom:

During the latter half of the thirteenth and the first half of the fourteenth century slavery…made a major comeback in Christian Spain, penetrating to all areas of rural and urban life.  Large-scale slavery reemerged in the Mediterranean, especially the islands dominated by Venice, and in urban Portugal; indeed, the slave-based plantations of these powers formed the original prototype of the plantation systems that later emerged in the New World.[iii]

 And too, shouldn’t we make it clear that whatever papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries were issued to decry slavery followed on the heels of papal bulls in the 15th century granting perpetual slavery?  The officeholders of the papacy who worked to extricate themselves from this policy of their predecessors are to be commended; it is not commendable however, to ignore the fact that “the papacy fully participated in the expansion of the European slave trade.”[iv]

The declaration makes all confessing Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christians vulnerable to the indictment that our reading of the abolitionist movement is uneven and prejudiced.  We award Wilberforce and Wesley accolades for their abolitionist convictions yet fail to give voice to our censuring Jonathan Edwards for owning slaves or George Whitefield for his support of slavery.[v] This requires of us to explain, do we justify this owing to our ignorance, or are we indifferent about this oversight because we judge it irrelevant?  We should be thankful for the fullness of historical understanding that teaches us that the black church was the bastion of justice that preached, prayed and sang victory over slavery.  We must admit that failure to recognize black abolitionists such as firebrand Frederick Douglas, “And Ain’t I a Woman?” Sojourner Truth, novelist William Wells Brown, General “Moses” Harriet Tubman, Henry “Let Your Motto Be Resistance” Highland Garnet,[vi] and many, many others is to overlook the backbone of the abolitionist movement.    

Should we not clearly condemn the support for slavery offered by too many antebellum Southern clergymen, who justified their cause “by appealing to the sanction of Scripture and by depicting the abolitionists as anti-Christian atheists who reject the Word of God”?[vii] Would it distract or prick our conscience to publicly separate ourselves from the defense of slavery offered by the “redoubtable” Presbyterian theologian Robert L. Dabney, who said that “the teachings of Abolitionism are clearly of rationalistic origin, of infidel tendency, and only sustained by reckless and licentious perversions of the meaning of the Sacred text”?[viii]   

Again, if garnering the laurels for waging the great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s by commending Martin Luther King, Jr. for his eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience from an explicitly Christian perspective, or by praising his willingness to go to jail rather than comply with legal injustice; then too we should be the first to admonish ourselves by reminding others that his famous 1963 letter from a Birmingham jail began with the salutation, “My Dear Fellow Clergymen,” because Christian clergymen deplored the demonstrations, because Christian clergymen counseled, “Wait,” because, with some exceptions which he noted, he was disappointed with the church.  If we fail to admit these things, and fail to repent for failing to do so, how do we hope to win a hearing from people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, so they might consider carefully and critically work through the burning issues we bring before them?  This is especially the case when we also fail to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices made by those civil rights activists not listed on our ordained roll call of confessing Christians but rather came from the ranks of the labor movement, from the Jewish-American community, from a neighborhood mosque or a local temple or who personally acted from a secular humanitarian impulse to end segregation.  This oversight becomes egregiously unconscionable given the present increased collaboration “between the Christian Reconstructionist movement and the League of the South, which indicates a conflation of conservative, neo-Confederate and Christian nationalism into a potent reinterpretation of United States history, one centred upon the thesis that the Confederate states were a bastion of orthodox Christianity standing in the face of the heretical Union states.”[ix] Given the fact that we live in a moment when religion is returning to the public square, we cannot presume that our listeners are as unaware of these things as the content of the Manhattan Declaration makes us appear.  We must bring these things out into the open, where we can then publicly denounce them; so that no one need fear that we align ourselves with this distorted understanding of the gospel that troubles the church. 

Citing our champions of democracy, yes, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings, but Christians upheld them too. Setting aside theorist Bodin’s On the Republic (1576) and practitioner of realpolitik, Cardinal Richelieu, did not King James I, the good and godly Solomon who ruled Great Britain, defend divine right of absolute monarchy,[x] and did not Bossuet give its classic defense in his work, Politics drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture (1709)?  Were they not Christians?  What Christians fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible?  Peasants of the 1525 revolt in Germany, Lillburne and the Levellers, Puritans and Lord Cromwell with pike and sword?  They were Christian enough, but it was the writings of Locke, Voltaire and Montesquieu that argued “divine right is a dogma without basis; government grew out of nature itself, from reasonable motives and for the good of the people; [and] certain fundamental rights cannot be abolished, including property and the right of revolution.”[xi]  Theirs were “the political ideas of the English Puritans aiming at equality and democracy…minus the religious component.”[xii]  Of the three Montesquieu made the greatest impact upon the American colonists, being “the author most often quoted in what they read, and when they gained their freedom they wrote his theory into their constitution.”[xiii]  But Montesquieu was far more the philosophe than a Christian.  Why not acknowledge Christian warrior Nat Turner, Methodist Denmark Vesey, or the “deeply religious, flawed, yet ultimately noble reformer,”[xiv] John Brown, since ultimately, with the defeat of the Confederacy in the War of Rebellion, they too successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers? 

These are grievances enough to conclude.  I am in full agreement with the positions presented on the three issues covered by the Manhattan Declaration.  If, however, we wish to fully convince our listeners that our cause today is just, then we must make full disclosure of the injustices we have committed in the past.  Further, we should also openly admit that our public handling of that past is too often less than praiseworthy.  It is my conviction that the Manhattan Declaration fails on both counts.   As it is written, I cannot respond to the Christian call of conscience the Manhattan Declaration demands of me without injuring my own conscience, and for this, God help me (and He does), .~ shall be judged.


[i]Available at http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/the-declaration.

[ii] Orlando Patterson, “Freedom in the Making of Western Culture,” vol. I of Freedom, (New York, NY: BasicBooks, 1991), p. 349.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] T. David Curp, “A Necessary Bondage?  When the Church Endorsed Slavery,” Crisis Magazine (February 7, 2009) at InsideCatholic.com, read from http://www.catholicity.com/commentary/curp/05378.html.  Curp mentions three papal bulls authorizing slavery: Illius Qui (1442), Dum Diversus (1452), Romanus Pontificus (1455).

[v] John Coffey, “Evangelicals, slavery & the Slave Trade: From Whitefield to Wilberforce,” Anvil  vo. 24, no. 2 (2007): 97-120.  Stephen J. Stein, “George Whitefiled on Slavery: Some New Evidence,” Church History vol. 42, no. 2 (Jun., 1973): 243-356. 

[vi] In his 1843 Address to the Slaves of the United States of America Garnet preached it was sinful not to use violence if it were necessary to end submission to slave owners.   Read his speech at http://amistad.mysticseaport.org/library/misc/bl.abolists.garnet.speech.html.   See too David Walker’s 1829 Appeal at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/walker/menu.html.

[vii] Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America, Third Edition, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1981), p. 202.

[viii]   Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), A Defence of Virginia, and through her, of the South, in recent and pending contests against the sectional party (New York: E. J. Hale & son, 1867), p. 21, read from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=moa;idno=ABT6069.  Dabney is doubly important.  First, in the 1960s his writings were used to argue “that civil rights were anti-Christian” and “that inequality is God’s intended order.”   Edward H. Sebesta and Euan Hague, “The US Civil War as a Theological War:  Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South,” Canadian Review of American Studies /Revue canadienne d’études américaines, vol.32, no. 3, (2002), p. 262.  Second, he systematically examined the important subject area of public theology.  See Sean Michael Lucas, “Old times these are not forgotten”: Robert Lewis Dabney’s public theology for a reconstructed South,” Journal of Presbyterian History 81, n. 3 (Fall 2003) 163-177 and his “Southern-fried Kuyper? Robert Lewis Dabney, Abraham Kuyper and the limitations of public theology,” Westminister Theological Journal 66, n. 1 (Spr 2004): 179-201.  See too his work, Robert Lewis Dabney: a Southern Presbyterian (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R, 2005).

[ix]  Edward H. Sebesta and Euan Hague, “The US Civil War as a Theological War:  Confederate Christian Nationalism and the League of the South,” Canadian Review of American Studies /Revue canadienne d’études américaines, vol.32, no. 3, (2002), p. 267, read from http://gis.depaul.edu/ehague/Articles/PUBLISHED%20CRAS%20ARTICLE.pdf.  Without membership I couldn’t gain access to the other articles archived by the Chalcedon Foundation magazine, but the one open was enough for me.  Ben House in his article, “The Great Siege Then and Now,” wrote, “I wish for Scottish Covenanters, for English Puritan Roundheads, for Washington’s Continental Army, or for Robert L. Dabney, but that is too much.”  See “The Great Siege Then and Now,” The Chalcedon Foundation (9/29/05) http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/article.php?ArticleID=175.   Eerily at the very time of my reviewing and revising these remarks (April 7-8, 2010) the Governor of Virginia was forced to apologize for the mistake he made by proclaiming April “Confederate History Month” without including any reference to slavery, conceding this was a “major omission.”   According to The Washington Post, Governor McDonnel explained “he left out any reference to slavery in the original seven-paragraph proclamation because he wanted to include issues he thought were most ‘significant’ to Virginia.”  The unsaid variable to the other side of the equation reads, “Slavery is insignificant to Virginia.”  The value of this variable is reckoned on the basis of the table of conversion included in the Proclamation that declares “it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history.”    We may rightly conclude this “all” disenfranchises the black citizens and residents of Virginia insofar as regarding the Commonwealth’s “shared history.”   The Proclamation’s social “all” makes clear not all God’s children count.  Only after “a barrage of nationwide criticism” were the following sixty-two words added:  “it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history.”   The addition is easily accounted for, who doesn’t run for cover when exposed in the light, or sue for quick amends when caught in a shameful act?  But what caused the original omission?   What agendas were at work, what passions put hearts astir to draft a proclamation that failed to mention slavery?  To what degree did the perverted historiography that postulates “the Confederate states were a bastion of orthodox Christianity standing in the face of the heretical Union states” enter into the original content of the proclamation; and,  how deeply are confessing orthodox, catholic and evangelical Christians willing to imbibe this distorted interpretation of America’s past in order to advance their own social agenda? To read the original proclamation see, “Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s original Confederate History Month Proclamation,” The Washington Post, 4/7/10.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/07/AR2010040704411_pf.html.  For the revised version see http://www.governor.virginia.gov/OurCommonwealth/Proclamations/2010/ConfederateHistoryMonth.cfm.   To read about the controversy and the governor’s apology see “Virginia governor amends Confederate history proclamation to include slavery,” The Washington Post, 4/8/10, read at http://www.washingtonpost.com/we-dyn/content/articles/2010/04/07/AR2010040705100_pf.html.  Take care dear evangelical Saints; we are the wishbone, quite literally the merrythought in American politics.  Both the Left and the Right alluringly woo us to make us their constituency.  Guard yourselves against idols.  Guard what has been entrusted to you.  Avoid worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.  Grace be with you.  We are the followers of Jesus, not Marx, and not Hitler.  Remember, the temptation of the Left is to have us bow down for the sucking the tit of the central secular-state; while the temptation of the Right is get us entangled in the strangling vines of a nation’s cultural hate.   The League of the South website is located here:  http://dixienet.org/New%20Site/serfdom.shtml

[x] The True Law of Free Monarchies (1598) and Basilikeon Doron (1599). 

[xi]  Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, (New York, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000), pp. 364-365.

[xii]  Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, p. 365.

[xiii]  Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, p. 364.

[xiv] David S. Reynolds, author of John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, winner of the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award.  Quoted by John H. Richardson, Esquire Magazine (6/16/09), read from http://www.esquire.com/the-side/richardson-report/future-job-market-061609.

Posted, December 7, 2009 at https://mcduffee.wordpress.com/.

Revised, April 8, 2010

_____________________________________________________

 An Addendum to the Miraculous Manhattan Revelation

Confirmed in Testimonial Form,

Issued as a Statement

by First Things’ Editor Joseph Bottum,

Posted (12/10/09) in Partial Fulfillment

of Duties His as the Devil’s Advocate: 

Prominent Calvinist theologian R.C. Sproul refused to sign the Manhattan Declaration on the grounds, he now explains, that it assumes that the Catholic Church preaches the gospel.  Indeed, he explains, it was born of the same impulse that produced the various statements of Evangelicals and Catholics Together. The first point that needs to be made is that the Manhattan Declaration had nothing to do with Evangelicals and Catholics Together: If nothing else, the declaration was produced and guided to completion entirely outside First Things‘ offices, while such projects as Evangelicals and Catholics Together remain at the center of the work the magazine exists to do. And the second point that needs to be made is that R.C. Sproul’s kind of refusal of any interaction with Catholics—his pharisaical keeping of his skirts oh-so clean—is proof of why Evangelicals and Catholics Together exists: Even when we disagree, it’s vital to make clear to one another why we disagree. But that is something R.C. Sproul, in his lonely purity, will never bother to find out.[1]

Setting aside the mean spirit inciting this suspension a divinis –

the penalty imposed by a competent ecclesiastical authorty, requiring suspension from exercising  the powers of orders – 

(pharisaical keeping of his skirts oh-so clean),

my, my,

how much we disclose concealing the obvious! 

The declaration was produced and guided to completion

entirely, non ex officio, unofficially,

outside First Things’ office,

non obstante – notwithstanding,

it was written by George and George,

members of the editorial and advisory board for First Things,[2]

(published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life,

founded by Father Richard John Neuhaus, co-founder of ECT)

with Chuck Colson (the other co-founder of ECT).

They must have eaten out to meet with Chuck for its drafting. 

“Why were Chuck Colson,

Robert George and Timothy George

chosen

[but not in FTs’ office]

to draft

[but not in FTs’ office]

the statement?” 

Asks Number 17 of FAQs[3]

[but not in FTs’ office]

provided by the Manhattan Declaration organization. 

Answer?

“Chuck Colson, Robert George and Timothy George agreed

[but not in FTs’ office]

in the earliest days of discussion (inter nos) – among us –

[but not in FTs’ office]

to draft a document,

[but not in FTs’ office]

which they did

[but not in FTs’ office].

It was considered

[but not in FTs’ office] 

at the meeting in Manhattan in late September (inter alios

– among other persons – 

[but not in FTs’ office].

After that,

[but not in FTs’ office]

input was requested

[but not in FTs’ office]

and received

[but not in FTs’ office]

from a great many participants (intra nos) – among us.

The Manhattan Declaration is truly the work of many hands

[but none of them met in the FTs’ office].” 

With no one chosen

because no one did

any choosing,

out came

this therefore (hanc igitur, chimes, genuflect)

spontaneously struck agreement

that

(having nothing to do with ECT or First Things),

generated discussion

that

conjured convening a meeting in Manhattan. 

There transuded,

the epiphenomenal epiphany

manifested

requested input. 

Remaining anonymous (extra nos) – outside of ourselves,

the demiurgic effluvium 

(sacramentum?   Sacrament?

res et sacramentum?  A sacred thing symbolized?

res sacramenti?  A sacred thing symbolized by a sacred symbol?

sacramentum tantum?   A sacred symbol only?

res tantum?  Only the sacred thing symbolized?)

received as much from its many admirers. 

And this editor dares speak despairingly of another’s lonely purity? 

Who hears the sound of singing

another refrain of misplaced confidence,

flypaper[4] as power to catch and hold the truth;

shaped, colored and scented with the oratory trickery of men?

What waste of cunning craftiness for the deceitful plotting of a willful end.

So writes a felon on the lam,

a raven in flight to and fro,

a dove with no place left to go,

who arms his mind in lonely hope

to do time for the will of God,

to partake of Christ’s sufferings,

and to confess all the more and nevertheless,

“An individual receives the benefit of Christ’s substitutionary death by faith as the result of responding to the message of the gospel.  Salvation is the free gift of God’s grace through faith alone, therefore not dependent upon church membership, intermediaries, sacraments, or works of righteousness to attain or sustain it.”[5] 

Agreed with, personally ascibed to and supported by an indispensable part, a whitlow redeemed, weakling of no repute, who seeks to see the full, visible unity of the Body of Christ, the Bride to whom it was given to dress herself with fine linen, bright and pure, who looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, awesome as an army with banners.  O Lord open my eyes that .~ may see with intentional inclusiveness, accuracy, vigilance, empathy, courage and humility the entire church, the glory and the honor of the nations through whom your manifold wisdom is now being made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places; no matter how pale her image whatever parochial party wishes to paint with egg colors and real sheets of gold by however many hands, who together accent certain contours of her countenance while keeping invisible other of her beautiful facial lines, so as to cast best in the light of  the torches they’ve kindled their preferred Hellenized form.

Might we imitate Phillis Wheatley’s sweet generosity —

“He pray’d that grace in every heart might dwell:

He long’d to see America excel;

He charg’d its youth to let the grace divine

Arise, and in their future actions shine;”[6]

let us admit ’tis not ours to sit with haters and hypocrites,

for godly power ours can forsake what the Spirit will not create.

The names Cugoano and Equiano need not remain strange.

Why do Evangelicals strain so to make the same mistake again?

To what caress of our respect do we acquiesce

for our declining a listening to lend to historians

who labor the past to mend, who at least begin

“to do justice to the contribution of abolitionists

who were not educated, white, middle-class men”?[7]

Black believers gave cry to freedom’s call, and Moravians,

Quakers, women and dissenters could not let with their tears its echo fall.

O signers and whiners see victory for this sphere but transitory truce,

use wisely the popular political movement the abolitionists set loose,

as they did once so too let us do,

let us build broad coalitions to win

allies against evil’s relentless seditions.

As servants of the truth

let us build broad coalitions for the sake of our youth,

to protect innocent life against sinister death,

to sanctify the sacred union God has joined as one,

and to exercise freedom in Christ to our last mortal breath

as our brothers and sisters before us had done,

who now as witnesses watch us the blessed race run. 

_______________________________________

[1]  http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2009/12/10/why-r-c-sproul-refused/.   Both First Things speaker Bottum and the anonymous writer at the Manhattan Declaration organization site Officespeak fluently.  “The Passive Voice is the bread and butter of press releases and official statements.  A sentence in the passive voice does not have an active verb.  Thus, no one can take the blame for ‘doing’ something, since nothing, grammatically speaking, has been done by anybody.   The passive voice can be your best friend.  Use it to get out of jams, deflect blame, and thwart responsibility.”  For purposes of clarity accuracy sacrificed by dispensing with elllipsis points indicating intentional omissions.  To examine the passage in full see D. W. Martin, Officespeak (New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005), pp. 12-13.   As a lapsed Catholic .~ playfully took the liberty to lift the Latin terms from Consecrated Phrases, A Latin Theological Dictionary, 2nd ed., by James T. Bretzke (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2003). 

[2] Editorial & Advisory Board: …  | Robert P. George | Timothy George |, About Us at First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/masthead.  

[3] Posted at http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/faqs.

[4]  Robert Musel writes a lovely short description of the death of a  House Fly, Musca domestica, upon its alighting to touch a piece of flypaper.  He follows the slow, metaphorically noble death, every moment filled with the sequence of actions instinct dictates the insect must undertake in its futile effort to escape.  See Robert Musil, “Flypaper,” trans. by Peter Wortsman  in Posthumous Papers of a Living Author (London, England: Penguin Books, 1993), pp.  5-7.  Gone Baby Gone (2007) explores the  medium of determined human choices through telling the story of the disappearance of a little girl from her home in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  Worth a reflective watching.

[5]  “Note #3, Elaborating the 1928 Moody Bible Institute Doctrinal Statement, read from http://www.moodyministries.net/crp_MainPage.aspx?id=334

[6]  Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), An Elegiac Poem, On the Death of that Celebrated Divine, and Eminent Servant of Jesus Christ, the Late Reverend, and Pious George Whitefield (Boston: Russel and Boyles, 1770), read from http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/wheatley/whitefield/whitefield.html.

[7]  John Coffey, “Evangelicals, Slavery & the Slave Trade: From Whitefield to Wilberforce,” Anvil vol.34, no. 2 (2007), pp. 109-110.  Quobna Ottobah Cugoano published his work Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery in 1787.  Olauda Equiano published his autobiography titled, The Interesting Narrative, in 1789.  Although Equiano’s work was the “most famous” abolitionist text written before 1807, Coffey points out, “his contribution to the cause was often not acknowledged by white abolitionists,” adding that in Thomas Clarkson’s History of the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1808), “Equiano was conspicuous by his absence (p. 109).”  To read Clarks0n’s text see http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1295&Itemid=299.   To learn more about abolition as an unprecedented popular movement in European history, and what ideas abolitionists utilized see John Coffey, “The abolition of the slave trade: Christian conscience and political action,” The Jubilee Centre Cambridge Papers vol. 15, no. 2 (June 2006), read at http://www.jubilee-centre.org/document.php?id=51.   If evangelical Christians care to retain their dual tradition as a church renewal and social reform movement, then we must learn to receive admonishment and better administer self-rebuke.  This is especially the case in this age of weak belief, when we at best culturally can only say, “We believe that we believe.”  Epistemology is breaking down all around us into two camps, one ornamental, the other tribal.  We don’t need to join either gang to preach the Gospel in public without compromise.  We are edge walkers with the power to pass through barriers.  Wherever our brothers and sisters assemble themselves behind shut doors for fear of others, we come to stand in their midst and remind them, “He has said to us, ‘Peace be with you’.”  Live before God confessionally saints, live creatively to connect with others, and then with identity and the arena of relations so mapped, only thirdly, critically to nourish and cherish the truth over which love rejoices: that God alone is reliable, His word and deed are one, and His holiness dressed in humility establishes that fullness of harmony which alone indwells, holds together and consummates all of reality.   If this fails as truth to edify me then .~ know it as something less than truth.   Most carefree is the man who neither needs be courageous nor concern himself with justice, but is he still a man? 

—————————————————-

On a personal note sounded while drowning,

swept up in the turning tide,

grounded in Christ with nowhere to hide,

trusting in Christ for in Christ to abide:

— 436,173 signatures in support…and growing —

(Parenthetically, about the six models

at the top of the manhattandeclaration.org website

posing for me to be by me found homogenously appealing,

imposing the command .~’m supposed to conceal myself to be who you’re seeing;

which the banner advertisement on a rotational basis is incessantly revealing,

was it political stratagem that decided or some kind of misguided,

sincerely Christ-like missional oversight

that assumed for the sake of Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty

all of them, but especially the blue-eyed mother and child, should be white?)

[25,162 signatures later, on the 23rd of July 2010,  i returned to the manhattan site to discover the cabala in charge had commanded a revision in its rotational photographic advertising, replacing the picture of white hands holding a white baby with a pair of black hands holding a beautiful black baby.  See footnote #ix to primary text above.   Regardless of motive or method, might the sharing of the faith of those involved in the corrective action become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.  I trust they did what is required for love’s sake, and not by compulsion but of their own free will.]

But ain’t .~ a third millennium Christian?

ain’t .~ a partisan with one mind and a single mission?

And so, journeying on joyful yet ever sorrowful a follower of Jesus,  

.~ will not sign.”

Revised April 7, 2010

Postscript:   A post dated 2/11/10 by K. M. Camper titled, “Historical Revisionism in the Manhattan Declaration,” made available at a site named “Religious Rhetorics,” does both a concise and admirable job in bringing to light how the “selection of the historical data furthers the argumentative goals of the authors.”  The post may be read http://religiousrhetorics.com/2010/02/11/manhattan-declaration/.    The compass of my conscience smoothly aligns my political passions along another historical azimath measured by The Mt. Vernon Statement, which surveys the American political landscape from the vantage point of constitutional conservatism.  It reads in part, “A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.”  This strikes me to be a more sound and effective statement for guiding confessing Christians and others in their participation in American politics.  To date The Mt. Vernon Statement has received less than a tenth of the signatures garnered by the Manhattan Declaration.  To read and sign see:   http://www.themountvernonstatement.com/

Questions for discussion:

Our Lord said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much (Luke16:10).”  

Why should those who fail to conform to a fair handling of the past be worthy of our confidence?   People of goodwill, believers and unbelievers alike, might want to ask, “Why should we believe that they would be faithful and just in designing a flourishing worldview for us all to follow?”  Evangelical Christians might further ponder, “If they handle the past in a way that ought not be, then why should we have confidence in how they handle Biblical truth for the purpose of teaching us the Gospel “of costly grace…of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness,” which we should make known throughout the world to everyone?

Published in: on April 7, 2010 at 3:54 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. You provide a thorough rebuttal to the Manhattan Declaration. I appreciate the learned nature of your post–the historical depth, literary passages, as well as other forms of research. Thanks for the shout-out!


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