What the Manhattan Declaration Does Not Tell You

And Maybe Conservative Evangelicals could learn from the Confessing Church


Ellen Haroutunian



Halden Doerge

The Manhattan Declaration was signed by Christians from Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy as a statement showing a commitment to conservative social issues. I have no problem with this, and I even agree with them on most of their positions; however, there seems to be something lacking from this document written by Christians for Christians, oh, say, the Gospel perhaps?

The authors claim to be following the tradition of movements like the Confessing Church, with its Theological Declaration of Barmen. Anyone with good sense could compare both texts and note the obvious difference.  Jesus is the reason that the Barmen Declaration was written; the Manhattan Declaration was conceived mostly out of a political agenda by persons disappointed with the Republican Party’s failure to achieve their ends.  Perhaps this particular conservative coalition can learn from the Confessing Churches, and reject any notion of dependence upon political movements in order to accomplish Christian ends.  Rather, perhaps it would be wise to place Christ at the Center and make him the LORD of every thing in our lives, and not just our small racially segregated church religious meetings.

It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.

Well said, but did you know that it was Christians who were also the greatest defenders of African enslavement, and lo and behold, they used the Bible to do it?

And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.

Christian women did stand at the vanguard of the suffrage movement, you all are correct, but guess what? It was Christian men, who interpreted Scripture oppressively, wanted to deny women the right to vote (and work–except for the good old enslaved Black women on their plantations of course).

And the Civil Right “crusades”? Well, segregation was justified by the Bible in churches and the Black Christians were accused of being rabble-rousers and communists, but let us just forget this history. Jerry Falwell was a defender of segregation, like many conservatives back then. Jedi-mind trick!

Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government.

There is discussion about abortion, euthanasia, traditional marriage, and “religious liberty” (the freedom to preach politically conservative evangelical Christianity) so obviously those are the only life issues that matter. Forget about racism (racially segregated churches not much of a problem, right?), the death penalty, poverty, sexism, hate crimes. Those issues have to deal with minority problems; clearly nothing to do with life.

There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King’s willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.

It’s pretty good to know that the persons who wrote the Manhattan Declaration are actually reading what Reverend Dr. King Jr. wrote. The sad part: They do not realize that his Letter From a Birmingham Jail was written to politically connected clergymen like themselves. King was also writing from an explicitly BLACK Christian perspective; there is a great contextual difference.  The authors are incapable of seeing the irony. Dr. King Jr. wrote from the perspective of one on the margins, working for justice in spite of powerlessness. The Manhattan Declaration was written from those who prefer only to drop the name of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when it fits their right-wing  ideological purpose, as they probably never have read nor cited any of his works in their scholarship and/or sermons.

Truth and Peace,


h00die_R (Rod)

priestly abolitionist time travelling supervillian

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5 thoughts on “What the Manhattan Declaration Does Not Tell You

  1. Great points, all.

    I didn’t spend a lot of time with the Preamble, but you’re right, there is a lot there that was sugar-coating the history of Christianity’s relationship with politics.

    For the Right to be claiming any part of a heritage with Dr. King is, at best, revisionist history. I can’t help but notice, for example, that Dr. King was a pacifist, and they passed on the opportunity to mention warfare in their section on life.

    Thanks for the link! I’m going to go edit mine to bring people back to your points …

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