Trajectory and the Manhattan Declaration.

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William Brafford

William Brafford grew up in North Carolina, home of the world's best barbecue, indie rock, and regional soft drinks. He just barely sustains a personal blog and "tweets" every now and then under the name @williamrandolph.

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28 Responses

  1. Avatar zic says:

    Time for a new limb in the tree, perhaps?

    Thank you for this perspective. I found it comforting, and my faith in my children’s generation bolstered.Report

  2. Avatar BCChase says:

    Speaking as someone with a lot of experience in the church, I would not be surprised if within the next half-century, nearly all the left-leaning protestant churches accepted homosexuality. There just seems to be a huge generational difference on the matter.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I tend to put such things in the same category as Kipling’s defense of the Empire.

    Kipling wouldn’t have needed to defend the empire in 1800.

    The fact that this was written at all implies that the leadership seriously thought that something like this needed to be written (indeed, imagine something like this being written in 1950).

    I imagine that this implies the same thing about the trajectory of the church as Kipling’s defense of the empire implied about the empire.Report

    • Avatar Antiquated Tory in reply to Jaybird says:

      There was no British Empire in 1800. They had just lost one empire and hadn’t acquired another yet, other than bits and bobs. The East India Company was the strongest single actor in India but it certainly did not rule the place.Report

  4. Avatar historystudent says:

    The Manhattan Declaration is certainly a call to arms. Its signers recognize a need to clearly state principles worth taking a stand over, and in part this is because, as with everything else, Christianity is suffering from a split between those who believe in preservative values and those who consider everything susceptible to human tinkering and “progress”. Young people who have grown up in a predominantly liberalized culture (music, movies, television, education, etc.) do have a greater tendency to be willing to accede to liberalizing change. The trend during the 20th century saw successive generations become more liberal than their predecessors, and that trend is continuing, at least to a degree. Conservatives would argue that this trend is in part due to a lack of proper education about the consequences of social, economic, and other experimenting.; and due to a lack of critical thinking skills. This document hopes to show young people why they should change their minds, rather than policies concerning the right to life, marriage, and religious freedom. I hope it works.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to historystudent says:

      In order for them to successfully turn the clock back they’re going to have to find a way to convince non-religious homosexuals to obligingly disappear. Since their preferred means of physical violence and social cruelty are frowned on now that’s going to be difficult. There’re just too many people refusing to play the charades that gays danced in the 50’s and 60’s for the social right to continue to go on pretending like homosexuals don’t exist. The only question in my mind is whether they’re going to come to an accommodation with the forces they’ve fulminated against for so long in the form of some kind of marriage alternative or whether they’re going to continue spouting the same old lines until they get routed entirely and find that the final terms are decided without their input. Certainly watching the trajectory and the spreading clash it is encouraging that it looks like we’ll win in the long run, but frustrating that we’re going to possibly have to wait another decade or so to do so.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to North says:

        “In order for them to successfully turn the clock back they’re going to have to find a way to convince non-religious homosexuals to obligingly disappear.”

        No, just convince them not to marry. Considering how few states have allowed homosexual marriage, and the fact that gay marriage has been voted down in all 31 states which have put the issue up for a vote, I don’t think it should be difficult, nor should it be represented as “turning back the clock”.Report

  5. The Manhattan Declaration reads more like the dying last wishes of an old man than it does a call to arms.Report

  6. Avatar Katherine says:

    Here’s my problem with the church putting “religi0us liberty” at the top of its list of politically important issues, above things such as poverty and war: we’re called on to care for the world, not to defend ourselves. To spread the gospel, feed the hungry, care for the sick, be peacemakers and advocates of justice. To say all that is secondary to looking out for Christians’ own interests is getting the whole thing backwards.

    If standing up for our faith ends up bringing legal prosecution or social ostracism at some later date, well, Christians have and in much of the world still do suffer from worse to stand up for our beliefs. Our primary goal should not be the avoidance of persecution.Report

    • Avatar rob in reply to Katherine says:

      Katherine’s comment is correct.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Katherine says:

      Katherine, I’m trying to figure out the ‘religious liberty’ part of this. For example, churches right now are quite free to be racist, sexist, etc.Report

      • Avatar William Brafford in reply to Barry says:

        Barry,

        I am guessing you won’t have much sympathy with this explanation, but churches are worried that the legalization of gay marriage will open them up to lawsuits over, e.g., whether they can deny the use of their chapel to a gay couple, or hiring practices. It’s not a trivial concern, though to my way of thinking it’s a secondary or tertiary one. Religious organizations aren’t exactly “free” to be racist: remember when Bob Jones lost funding due to its stance on interracial marriage? Which isn’t to say that racism can’t be present in churches, but rather that it’s constrained by the need to hold on to tax-exempt status.

        Katherine,

        I agree almost completely with your comment, and the disagreement I have is pretty small. Most of the Christians I know who worry about religious liberty wouldn’t go so far as to call what they’re worried about “persecution,” especially in light of the real persecution that Christians face in other parts of the world. But they do see religious liberty as something valuable (a blessing) that’s been entrusted to them, and they believe that they have some responsibility to preserve it for future generations. But while I agree with these friends of mine that religious liberty is a blessing, I think of it in the way that you do.Report

        • Avatar Katherine in reply to William Brafford says:

          I don’t think the church as things stand is persecuted (one US right-winger did write a book on this topic called “Persecution”, though, so I don’t think the word strays far from the views of the religious right). I do think there will be issues with religious liberty in future, as people become increasing hostile to the Christian church and support attacks on it because of its position on homosexuality and abortion. (This stands even the the church stayed apolitical on those issues: even believing that homosexuality and abortion are morally wrong are intolerable positions to many people.) Loss of churches’ tax-exempt status, loss of government funding for Christian charities and schools, refusal to recognize degrees from even academically strong Christian universities – all that seems relatively likely over the next few decades for organizations that hold their positions on homosexuality and abortion. I think this will be bad for everyone, not just the church, given that there are many effective Christian charities, schools and universities. Worse, when this does happen with charities, the general attitude is anger towards the church for holding to their principles, as if they wanted to be defunded. Many people, though, would say this counts more as the removal of long-standing privileges rather than the denial of rights.

          (In an interesting and unusual contrast: KAIROS, a major multi-denominational Christian charitable group, has lost its funding from the Canadian Conservative government for overseas work because of its support for a strong stance on climate change in Copenhagen and for looking into the atrocious human rights records of Canadian mining companies worldwide.)

          I do believe religious liberty is a blessing. But when Christians are saying advocating for a continued good situation for themselves is more important that advocating on behalf of the poor and oppressed, they’ve taken a pretty serious wrong turn somewhere.Report

          • Avatar historystudent in reply to Katherine says:

            There are numerous, current worldwide examples of Christian persecution and lesser injurious treatment. This website rounds up some of these: http://www.persecution.org/suffering/.

            Again, I note too that the church as a body does not put “a good situation for themselves” over helping the the poor, the sick, and the least of these.Report

            • Avatar Katherine in reply to historystudent says:

              Whoops! When I said “not persecuted” I was referring to the North American church.

              My last paragraph was in reference to the Manhattan Declaration’s top 3 priorities.Report

              • Avatar historystudent in reply to Katherine says:

                Just because the Manhattan Declaration delineates only three issues does mean these are more important that others not delineated. But these three issues are among the most obvious on which Christians themselves tend to have differences of opinion and so they get attention in this document. Both the liberal and conservative branches agree more easily about obligations to serve the poor, etc.Report

              • Avatar William Brafford in reply to historystudent says:

                “Just because the Manhattan Declaration delineates only three issues does mean these are more important that others not delineated.”

                I think you’re right that the declaration itself doesn’t say that these issues are the most important, and some of the signers (e.g., Ron Sider) want to take that position. But check the Colson quote again: “We’re hoping to educate [young evangelicals] that these are the three most important issues.” Colson isn’t quite so explicit on his own website, though.

                It’s my reading (see the last paragraph of the Declaration) that these three issues are picked out because traditional Christians are most likely to lose jobs (e.g. Catholic doctors who won’t perform abortions) or tax-exempt status for disagreeing with the gov’t on them, not just because they’re especially contentious.Report

              • Avatar Barry in reply to William Brafford says:

                “… (e.g. Catholic doctors who won’t perform abortions)…”

                This has happened?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry says:

                There are Catholic doctors who won’t perform tubal ligations while performing emergency Caesarians.Report

          • Avatar Cascadian in reply to Katherine says:

            Canada is much closer to getting to the place you fear. I still try to be ambivalent about Christians and like to read E.D. and Douglas Todd to remind myself that there are actually good Christians out there. But, it gets harder.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to Katherine says:

            Katherine: ” become increasing hostile to the Christian church and support attacks on it because of its position on homosexuality and abortion. ”

            Correction: “as people look at certain sects, lose respect for them due to odious beliefs and practices, and stop figuring that these guys have a connection to God”.

            Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig difference.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to William Brafford says:

          “Religious organizations aren’t exactly “free” to be racist: remember when Bob Jones lost funding due to its stance on interracial marriage? Which isn’t to say that racism can’t be present in churches, but rather that it’s constrained by the need to hold on to tax-exempt status.”

          You’re right – I have no pity with such people.
          Religious organizations are actually free to be more racist than others, since they have religion-based loopholes which they can *sometimes* use. As for Bob Jones, they lost their *federal funding* for things which would have cost any organization federal funding. Tough.Report

  7. Avatar historystudent says:

    I’m not Catholic, but I think this archbishop puts it well: ” When it comes to serving the poor and supporting traditional marriage, Archbishop Carlson added that “it’s not an either/or choice when it comes to Christ’s teachings. As Catholics, we are called to live and teach them all.” (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=17873) He doesn’t mention the religious liberty issue, but I’m sure if he were asked he would include that as well.

    It isn’t about defending per se. The church has always been persecuted somewhere or somehow and that isn’t likely to change. But this country has a constitution which is supposed to provide for religious liberty, and we cannot see that go by the wayside for this reason: to ensure that the church can go about its business — its entire business, which includes helping the poor and defending those with no voice — without interference or improper restriction.Report

  8. Avatar Lee says:

    William, thanks for this post–I think seeing the MD as an attempt to call wayward evangelical sheep back to the flock is illuminating. What I continue to find baffling, though, is Chuck Colson’s claim that “these are the three most important issues.” Abortion I can sort of understand since, if you believe that it’s the equivalent of cold-blooded murder, that’s a pretty big deal. But why is opposing gay marriage more important than curtailing global warming or fighting poverty?Report

    • Avatar William Brafford in reply to Lee says:

      “But why is opposing gay marriage more important than curtailing global warming or fighting poverty?”

      I am with you 100% on this. Colson really confused me here.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to William Brafford says:

        That’s obvious – helping the global poor, and fighting global warming, might lead to substantial conflicts with the moneyed elites. Hating gays leads to fewer and much smaller conflicts, while whipping up hate.

        The right-wing evangelical movement seems to be defined by hate, power and money, rather than love.Report

  9. Hard-line Evangelicalism is neither going away nor becoming any stronger. It appeals to a very small sliver of the population, but they sell-out completely to the mindset. That makes them stronger, in a political sense, to those of us who believe differently but do not devote our entire lives to making our beliefs a reality. They are very vocal about their beliefs, which includes a healthy dose of jerramiadism, because their beliefs tell them that they must be vocal about it or they do not truly believe what they say.

    It’s sort of difficult to understand if you haven’t been a part of it. If you have, it makes perfect sense.Report

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