A coupe of weeks ago, a document called “Manhattan Declaration” was released. That document has, at this writing, over 200,000 signatures. I considered writing a fairly extensive analysis and opinion response to the Declaration. After reading it, I realized it would be better not to (yes, this is the short version… hah!).
The 7-page document contains much truth. It also contains significant points where I disagree. While the meat of the document is probably intended to support the conclusions, ironically it doesn’t at times. I could pick on the points of disagreement, but I find myself not needing to do so. The authors could have concluded many things consistent with their earlier rhetoric which I would find objectionable, but they refrained from doing so. If the conclusion – the call to action – is the important part, then they got the important part right:
“Because we honor justice and the common good, we 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.”
These agreed-to actions (by virtue of signing the declaration) fall entirely within the paradigm of a voluntary, freedom-oriented society. Christians who sign this declaration aren’t saying they wish to force the whole world to believe or behave as they see fit. Rather, they are asserting their right to not participate in activities that are violent to their beliefs, and to speak truthfully about them.
The government does initiate aggression against Christians in the ways alluded to above. That coercion is a matter of religious liberty. It is, in my opinion, right for Christians to disobey the government when the government is the instrument of coercion against Christians. I would argue similarly for any person, Christian or not. Nowhere does this conclusion call for Christians to use the ‘law’ (man-made governmental legislation) in a way that would initiate coercion against others. In fact, this conclusion doesn’t even advocate using the law to (forcefully) protect people from non-consensual termination. If anything, this represents significant restraint.
Though the declaration is moderate in its scope, it is appropriately strong in its assertion of God’s authority over government’s. “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right…” (Rom 13:3) According to the very passage used to support government, I believe it’s safe to say that the so-called rulers (the government)today are not the same rulers Paul referred to. Today’s government terrorizes those who do right. They are simply tyrants, law-breakers, and evildoers. When they insist that we join their evildoing, it is entirely appropriate to obey God and not government.
Given that context, I do support the form of civil disobedience advocated by the authors of the Manhattan Declaration. Though some of the remainder of the document causes me to be unable to sign it, the conclusion appears sound. I would sum it up this way: Christians, stop bowing down and worshiping the government and get back to worshiping God.