Christian Right: New declaration, same old agenda

Before reading the latest moral declaration from the Christian Right about their troubled souls and moral priorities, I e-mailed early … Continued

Before reading the latest moral declaration from the Christian Right about their troubled souls and moral priorities, I e-mailed early Friday morning a national religion reporter about the statement. I wrote that if these leaders’ “hierarchy of issues” were abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom, then they “are neither reading from the Bible, nor listening to Jesus.”

I suggested, “These issues are secondary to what Jesus said in his Nazareth Manifesto in Luke 4, the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, and the Great Judgment passage in Matthew 25. And let’s not forget the 10 Commandments and the prophets.”

When the “Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience” was released on the Web site, after an event at the National Press Club, I found nothing really new. The document centered on abortion, gay marriage and anxiety about Christians being persecuted, having their consciences coerced. “[W]e note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government,” read the document.

With chest-thumping boldness and abundant fear-mongering, the document concluded: “[W]e will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.”

Yet again, the Christian Right bypassed the Nazareth Manifesto, Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commandment and the Great Judgment passage. While they did cite Jesus from John 10:10 and Matthew 22:21, they made Jesus a secondary moral guide to their political agenda of criticizing President Obama and shrinking the Bible’s moral vision.

That, of course, is no surprise. These are the tired Christian Right leaders, who no longer have buddies in the White House and are now watching younger conservative evangelicals recover the Bible’s broad moral agenda. They seem to be desperate to remain culturally relevant, to be honored as players in their own communities. So, they make another declaration.

Some 18 of the 149 listed signatories are members of the fundamentalist-controlled Southern Baptist Convention. Two of the drafters are Southern Baptists, including Chuck Colson, the perennial right-wing spokesman. Other signatories are James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins. Among the mostly white, elderly evangelical males are a few Catholics–William Donohue and a couple of archbishops, as well as conservative Presbyterians and Anglicans.

The document, albeit predictable, does offer a surprising note, one of utter theological and historical misdirection. The signatories seem to align themselves with the Christians who opposed slavery, supported women’s rights, led the civil rights movement and spoke up for those with AIDS.

Talk about mendacity. Many of these signatories are the spiritual heirs of the Christian slaveholders. They are the ones who opposed the civil rights movement, abandoned public schools for private Christian schools, demonized government funding for the poor and disadvantaged. They are the ones who said AIDS was a gay disease and refused to address the issue for 20 years. As for the rights and equality of women, for heaven’s sake, the Southern Baptist signatories believe women should be homemakers, helpmates to their husbands who are the breadwinners. Southern Baptist fundamentalists believe women are unworthy of ordination.

Such signatories can hardly reinvent themselves as drum majors for justice if they ignore climate change, wars in two nations, health care reform, deepening unemployment at home and spreading hunger around the world.

Robert Parham
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  • JPDG

    After reading through TMD, I’m starting to question whether Parham even read it. This blog seems fantastically skewed to many of the ideas clearly expressed in the document.

  • kert1

    Please read the Manhattan Declaration and ignore most of what Mr Parham says. He doesn’t understand the context nor the point of the document. I will point out the obvious.1. This is not a comprehensive Christian document. It does suppercede the Bible or the Apostles creed. These are specific political issues that are addressed because of their pertinence today, not necessarily of their overall importance. Cleary the author is trying to distort the document and pretend it is something more than it is. It is clearly a political document and needs to be seen as such. The point was to get concensus across many different faith and I assure you this was accomplished. You should read it at specifically addresses very prominent issues and nothing more and you will understand the documents clearly.2. Of course there is nothing new in the document. No good teaching is ever new. They didn’t invent this doctrine they simply are trying to get consensus and show the nation what we believe. It should clarify to people what we stand for and where we’ve been.3. The leaders are respectible whether you like it or not. Being old, male, and white isn’t a crime. There is a diverse population of orginal signers and there are close to 40,000 that have signed it since. I don’t know all the people, but this was meant to be inclusive and I believe it generally was. It shows that many Christians believe the same thing.4. The way he distorts history is a little baffling. Anyone who knows history knows that Christians were heavily involved in all major reformations. This is a fact. We will continue this legacy and that is the point.5. I’m not sure how he knows the ancestry of those who signed the document, nor do I understand the real relavence. We all have people in our ancestry that did wrong and right. So does this disqualify us from promoting our beliefs now or correcting mistakes. I doubt the accuracy of his statements and I don’t understand what it even has to do with the declaration.Again, read and understand the document if you want to know the truth.

  • Jumpy66

    Mr. Parham writes an excellent column. The signers of the declaration, to use their own words against them, “cheapen life in all its stages.” More importantly, they clearly don’t follow the guidance and Jesus, and so are flim-flam Christians.