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Why Conservatives Shouldn’t Make Manifestos

Today saw the release of the “Manhattan Declaration,” a sort of ecumenical conservative manifesto with 148 signatories from Roman, Eastern, and Evangelical denominations. Its a consolidated statement of the usual stuff super conservative Christians care about — abortion, gay marriage, and well, I guess the freedom to not perform abortions and gay marriages, they call this religious freedom.

On the one hand there’s really nothing that needs to be said about this. After all there is nothing really said here that hasn’t been utterly clear for some time. We all know that abortion and gay marriage, framed under the language of religious freedom are pretty much all the Christian political right cares about.

Naturally in the long tirades about a holistic ethic of life there’s no substantial discussion of poverty, let alone militarism and war. Likewise in the flowing praises of marriage as the bedrock of civilization and Christianity don’t see fit to mention any of the things Jesus or Paul actually had to say about marriage. This is standard sub-biblical conservative fare.

This is also precisely why stuff like this shouldn’t be considered a manifesto  in any realistic sense of the term. The document styles itself as standing in the line of Barmen and even MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. This is bullshit. Its simply a consolidation of widely-held conservative opinion. Hell, they even claim that their views represent the majority of Americans while they style it as a bold sort of minority courage against the powers that be. That’s the best thing about popular conservative Christianity. You can be an oppressed minority while still really representing pretty much all the real people.

Its actually painfully obvious what this is all about. Its simply another instance of the conservative Christian unrest that always gets shrilly trumpeted whenever there’s a democrat in the White House. As such this is actually a perfect example of the sort of anxiety I discussed yesterday. What animates this document is nothing more — and I really mean that, quite literally nothing more – than a gnawing fear about not being in a position of cultural power.

We are offered here a vision of Christianity completely and intentionally sold over to ideology. There is no proclamation of the living God, of the crucified and risen Christ here. All we are offered by this document and the movement it represents is a life ruled by the very powers Christ has freed us from. The desperation for control, domination, and security that this movement needs to be called what it is, a falling back into the elemental spirits of the cosmos, a return to the world system that Christ’s death and resurrection has made nothing. It is nothing less than the rejection of actual faith in the coming kingdom of the living God.


  1. Hill wrote:

    Your criticisms here are pretty wildly overwrought again. Is there no positive ethical content to Christianity? Your last paragraph is completely insane. Seriously totally insane. It is a hermeneutical drive by shooting. You may have some conservative bogeyman in mind here, but it would be helpful to stop trying to find it on the internet somewhere so you can lay in to it with the same boilerplate polemics. I would wager that you would find yourself making arguments virtually identical in form were compulsory military service to be reinstated, for instance, namely, that Christianity makes certain ethical claims on us (in virtue of certain theological realities that honestly need not be trotted out in detail since most people understand the basic narrative of Christianity) and we will not bend to any law that would force us to act in a way that was at odds with those ethical claims.

    If you want to make a claim that Christianity has no ethical content (which I don’t think you do) or that you disagree with what the undersigned here deem to be the ethical content of Christianity, that’s a different story, but your rhetoric here, that ethical content = ideology, is disingenuous. Would conscientious objection or a refusal to enter military service constitute “nothing less than the rejection of actual faith in the coming kingdom of the living God?” I don’t see how they evade your critique here.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink
  2. Thomas wrote:

    Because allowing gay marriage or legitimizing abortion in the Church has nothing to do with ideology imported into the Church. It’s always the other side that has their ideology.

    You may have a point if American Christian’s pro-life tendency arose out of a commitment to political conservatism that was then super-imposed upon Christian belief. And, of course, with some — perhaps many — this is the case. Condemning abortion as a moral evil vastly predates American conservatism, and arises out of a particular conception of human being and the body that comes directly from the orthodox understanding of the incarnation. It may be ideological, but it’s native to the Church. The idea that a person is morally free to do with his or her own body as they please is manifestly not.

    I do agree on the militarism charge though.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  3. Evan wrote:

    I got a kick out of the fact that Akinola signed this thing… they’re really trying to make this guy an honorary American, and he doesn’t seem to be against the idea.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Maybe my ire was up, but I don’t think anything I said could be construed as saying that there’s “no positive ethical content to Christianity.” I don’t think I even commented on the ethical positions here as such. My point was about what this declaration is supposed to be doing. What purpose is it really supposed to serve? Did it really need to be said that conservative Christians aren’t going to marry homos or perform abortions and we think that stuff is bad? Everybody already knew that.

    What I find repugnant is the sort of logic at work in the statement (and I really did read it carefully before writing, nor did I “try to find it on the internet” — it showed up in my news feeds from all over). Maybe I should have made this explicit, but what seems clear to me from the statement is the belief that Christianity is a certain sort of civilizational project, and in the current situation (ostensibly because of the liberal elites running the country), that project is threatened and so here’s how we’re going to fight back.

    That’s why I think the last paragraph makes sense (though I agree it would sound insane to those signing this declaration). If we think Christianity is a civilizational project, that it needs to be running the world, then I can see how sentiments like the one in this declaration make sense. But to those who reject the notion that Christianity is about making sure the world runs how we thing it ought to, the kind of anxiety here is seen as an idolatrous grasping, a lack of trust that God is really going to achieve his ends in history.

    So maybe the disconnect is about a more fundamental divergence in contemporary theology over the nature of Christianity itself that would need to be unpacked more for there to be better discussion — I admit this is a polemic; I do that sometimes.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    I agree there’s ideology on both sides. I certainly don’t mean to elide that issue.

    And I am pro-life. What I take issue with is the sort of political apparatus through which this document assumes we must impose a pro-life ethic and the assumption that Christianity is about running the world.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    I know. I guess they needed a little chocolate for the flood of vanilla signatories.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  7. Aric Clark wrote:

    Head of the nail – meet Halden. He is going to hit you now.

    Mind if I repost this with links?

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  8. Halden wrote:

    Go for it.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  9. Thomas wrote:

    Would I be reading you right as saying that you’re opposed to legislating morality/Christianity? Is it a wider conviction that Christianity, insofar as it is enforced, should be free of coercion?

    I would certainly not want popular Christianity in the US to be enforced wholesale, but I don’t think allowing the Christian idea of a person (or of the relation of soul to body) to impact the legal concept of the person is going too far.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  10. Halden wrote:

    I think its quite a huge question that hinges on some significant major issues in how we conceive Christianity, the gospel, and the “world” itself. So I think I need to write more on that soon.

    But, so as to not simply dodge your questions, yes I am opposed to “legislating Christianity” and I definitely think that since “force is no attribute of God” (Epistle to Diognetus) Christianity can never employ coercion as a political tool.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  11. adhunt wrote:

    I am so over the Bishop Peter Akinola. He’s become Bishop Spong’s ‘evil’ doppelganger always proclaiming shit and shoving his nose in.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  12. JohnO wrote:

    It is sad that the Catholics have to jump on this ship. Their theology of life is far, far more consistent than the evangelicals. It would be like taking those nice white vestments and jumping in the nearest mud puddle.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  13. Doug wrote:

    “allowing the Christian idea of a person…to impact the legal concept of the person”…that sounds great, we should try that sometime. Goodbye corporations, and war, and prisons, and people without health care, and accumulation of excess wealth, and homelessness, and hunger, and the military among other things…and yes, also probably abortion.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  14. Doug wrote:

    SAT time:

    Conservative Evangelicals are to a consistent ethic of life as the “People’s” Republic of China is to human rights – selective perception gallore. They could learn a great deal from Catholics on that count.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  15. Jason wrote:

    Just for kicks, I threw the declaration into a word balloon. The results are quite telling. Enjoy!

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink
  16. Hill wrote:

    I think you are reading the theological aspects in to the critique. I see no reason for interpreting this as anything but a (potentially conflict averting) declaration that these people do not intend to abide by certain laws. I don’t think you have to be in bed with the neocons or at work on a counter-modernity to think this is a good idea. When possible, I would like to inhibit the passage of laws that I would be forced to disobey. Making ones position known, in this respect, makes sense. Now… is it effective? Is it redundant? I don’t know. I don’t think the “everyone knows Xs think Y” rhetoric is good for anything but generalizations and question begging. That being said, even if it is redundant and ineffective, it’s hardly a sin, much less the abomination you’ve made it out to be.

    I don’t know how this statement could be construed as advancing Christianity as a civilizational project. If anything, it is a statement to the principalities and powers that they will ultimately be met with resistance (even if completely peaceful), should they force the issue of God or country. In other words, this is a negative project: it is an assertion that certain legislation cannot be followed by a Christian in good faith. Just insert the possibility of compulsory military service, and it becomes much easier to read sympathetically. Surely resisting legislation of this sort wouldn’t be idolatrous grasping. It just seems like there is a sort of snake-handling mentality at work here.

    To summarize, I honestly think you are reading a sort of theological agenda (which looks a lot like the favorite target of internet blog theology du jour) that simply isn’t there. I’m not saying that without a certain amount of sympathy for you or this sort of thing in general. I just don’t think it’s fair or helpful in this case.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  17. Hill wrote:

    And to add, I think the Catholic/Evangelical/etc. ecumenical ethical statement thing is as dumb as anyone. However, the “you think you are doing God’s work, but you are actually doing the Devil’s!” rhetoric really ought to be abandoned. The reality of the situation is almost always far more mundane.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  18. Theophilus wrote:

    I’m inclined to go with Hill on this one. Sure, the subjects that dominate the document are currently political hot potatoes in the U.S., but then if the intended audience is policy makers for the U.S. government, that only makes sense. While matters such as war, poverty and systemic abuse of power by corporations and other entities are assuredly matters for Christian concern, there is no imminent possibility of a draft, or a ban on working to better the lives of the poor or to counter-lobbying the government against other interests. This document therefore seems to be a fair warning that the government may face lawbreaking by Christians if certain prominent political agendas are given the force of law. I’ll grant that it certainly isn’t a comprensive document of Christian concerns, but it doesn’t look like that’s the point.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink
  19. I particularly enjoyed their transparent shout-out to issues like poverty at the beginning.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  20. I am still slowly working my way through the Sopranos miniseries. I think Tony, Big Pussy, Pauli,, Hesh (the Jew) and the whole Soprano crew wouldn’t have any problem signing on to the “Manhattan Declaration”(MD); they are anti-abortion, anti-homo, pro-(theoretical)-family, anti-tax, Caesar rendering, pro-business, limited govt., God-believing, patriotic Americans. They would confess to some “imperfections” as the MD humbly acknowledges (a genocide here, an atomic bomb there, a few millennia of slavery, couple of pogroms and holocausts, but these are all evils accountable to Roe v. Wade projected backwards into history). The authors of the MD also share Tony’s profound sense of selective historicism (no mucking about with post-modern relativism here) the Md travels from rescuing Roman trash babies, to the barbaric sack of Rome, to Wilberforce in a single paragraph!! True, it may have been Christians, who turned the fire hoses and German shepherds loose on black civil rights workers in Montgomery, but it was also Christians who invented the fire dept., and Cesar Milan the dog whisperer is a practicing Catholic, so we claim that part of our heritage. Meanwhile Carmella is currently going through a crisis of conscious. She knows that her family’s wealth and lifestyle are a result of Tony’s ‘questionable’ business practices (e.g. Arson, extortion, robbery, murder, drugs, prostitution), so she invites her priest for advice and consolation. They have dinner, wine, more wine, (all on Tony’s dime) really make a ‘soul connection,’ pray, have communion, then make-out and come close to having sex, yadda yadda, the priest absolves her of her guilt, and they both agree to “keep praying for Tony to grow and change.” Oh, I didn’t notice any Jews or synagogues supporting the ‘declaration’ so maybe Hesh would give it a pass. Obliged.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  21. Halden wrote:

    That wins Comment of the Week, Daniel.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  22. Scott F wrote:

    Does a Christian need not oppose war if there is no threat of being drafted? Curious. There is no imminent possibility of forced abortions in America, either. Conservative Evangelicals consistently focus on abortion with hardly a whisper of concern over, say, the execution of the innocent. They seem at best indifferent to war, especially if it affects some of God’s other children.

    As to poverty, you are correct; there are few laws inhibiting aid to the poor. What’s missing is the heeding of Jesus commandment to care for the poor and dispossessed by those who claim to champion God’s wishes the most loudly. So when in 2002, the Christian Coalition of Alabama splits with the national organization and throws its weight into the anti-tax fray – a thoroughly non-biblical issue, one gets a glimpse of the truth that they are motivated far more by the conservative and not so much by the evangelical. The bational group supported it? Yes, but where is their continued efforts to remove unfair tax burdens from the poor? To champion school equity in addition to school prayer?

    So, if Evangelical Conservatives are interested in turning that name back around, they are going to have to make some extraordinary moves to prove that they are pursuing God’s program as taught them by Jesus rather than the same old conservative line.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  23. thanks Halden, is there a link to an archive of past “comments of the week?” be great to see who else has been honored! Obliged.

    Friday, November 20, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  24. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    I have no idea why you’re getting worked up over this, Hill.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink
  25. Theophilus wrote:

    The urgency of the abortion issue was the federal funding/subsidy of abortion that looked like it would be part of Obamacare before the Stupak amendment was passed. I’d guess work on this document began before that development.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink
  26. John P. wrote:

    “That’s the best thing about popular conservative Christianity. You can be an oppressed minority while still really representing pretty much all the real people.”

    And let us say, Amen.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  27. D C Cramer wrote:

    I can just see poor Ron Sider sitting off in the corner, “Hey, I’m with you on marriage and abortion, but can we say something about poverty and war too?”

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  28. Hill wrote:

    Because Halden is smarter and a more careful reader and generally more hermeneutically charitable than this post suggests. The theology that motivated the post is also more interesting than the post would suggest. The chorus of cheers and uncritical appropriation of the post confirms that this is basically “radical” Christian intellectual masturbation.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink
  29. Hill wrote:

    And to be honest, the “why are you so worked up about this” line is a bit unfair, since it is actually Halden who is worked up here, and I’m wondering why in my comments. I’m channelling my inner Kotsko as I write this.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  30. Evan wrote:

    For what it’s worth, I’m pretty much in agreement with Hill here. I’d change a bit about the statement, surely, but I don’t see why it warranted such a response.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  31. Evan wrote:

    Those damn ecumenical conservatives and their atomic bombs.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink
  32. Hill wrote:

    I think you are the author of most, if not all, of them.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  33. I’m sure that Kotsko would agree with Halden on this one actually. The fact is that we have, once again, witnessed the political impotence of institutional Christianity.

    Hill, I am afraid you work with a very unThomistic outlook on things as you always assert the primacy of the possible! I.e. when you state “Just insert the possibility of compulsory military service, and it becomes much easier to read sympathetically” you’re missing the point that… they didn’t include that! You’re ignoring what is actually in the document.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  34. Mike wrote:

    The point here is that Christians shouldn’t write manifestos, not just conservative Christians. We have the creeds, as my teacher Geoffrey Wainwright would say.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink
  35. I read the ‘Declaration’again, there is nothing in it concerning the practice of masturbation (radical, intellectual, faith-based, or manual, maybe those amendments were removed to get Mark Driscoll on board?) And considering how self-righteous and self-serving the document is, that seems like quite an oversight. But even with all the declarations pathological emphasis on screwing, what really gets fu%#ed is history, reason, faith and the Gospels. If anything Halden has been too measured and generous. Obliged.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  36. Halden wrote:

    As of right now he is the author of 50% of them. I can’t remember right now who wrote the other one.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  37. Jeremy wrote:

    I’m surprise they didn’t mention the moral imperative for all Christians to kiss dating goodbye. Was I the only person who noticed Josh McDowell was one of those illustrious members who supported the Declaration?

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  38. Jeremy wrote:

    Correction, I’m a dumbass. Apparently that was Joshua Harris who kissed dating goodbye. Anywho, Dobson also signed. So that was encouraging.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Permalink
  39. Lee wrote:

    It’s pretty ironic that a document which claims to uphold “respect” and “compassion” for gay people would have Peter Akinola as one of its signers. It’s also amazing how it only took one election for conservative Christians to go from a triumphant majority to a beleaguered minority. Reminds of the the “end of democracy” hysteria First Things peddled during the Clinton administration.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm | Permalink
  40. Brad A. wrote:

    There’s really nothing new here, especially coming from First Things or most of those signatories. The writers refrained from much direct reference to America, which is probably how they got as many signatories as they did, but it’s still clear that the thrust of this is American Democracy as the church, i.e., the bearer of the message of human fulfillment and salvation to the world.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 6:41 am | Permalink
  41. Hill wrote:

    A few things, I’m not really disputing the charge that the document is problematic. The point I’m making is that Halden’s criticism of it is disingenuous, or at a least wildly overwrought. Halden asserts in several places that “This document is X” or “This is nothing more than” when these claims are either manifestly false, or insane and impossible to verify. I’m all for a critique of the potential hypocrisy present in this group, but there is a basic failure of reading comprehension here (motivated, of course, by Halden’s admirable passion).

    As for channeling my inner Kotsko, that was in reference to being the victim of the “why are you so worked up about this” police (similar to the niceness) policy, which I think is a clear example of a meta- cheapshot. (No offense to Ry, here. I’ve done the same thing plenty of times. It’s just a frustrating conversation stopper.) I’m sure Adam thinks the Manhattan Declaration is dumb, but that’s not really the point of anything I’ve said.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  42. Hill wrote:

    I’m genuinely curious what you mean by the political impotence of institutional Christianity here, though. (Really, I mean genuine in the first order, non-snarky, sense of the word).

    Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  43. Marvin wrote:

    I don’t know if this is about massive religious right insecurity in the face of Democratic ascendancy, or if it’s just another bit of lowest common denominator ecumenism. Do prominent Roman Catholics sign agreements like this on the death penalty and poverty with mainline Protestant leaders? I’m thinking there’s nothing stopping them from doing so.

    I think the Manifesto does deserve a more serious critique, especially the section on sexuality. They write, “[Same sex marriage] would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents’ marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.”

    This is wrong. If it were about eros and only eros, then, as the old saw goes, gays wouldn’t want to get married because marriage would kill their sex lives. Same-sex marriage is about legal rights and protections, but yoking yourself to someone legally makes no sense apart from a prior emotional bond that is deeper than sexual gratification. Eros serves agape, which is good even when the conception of children is not a possibility (as is the case for heterosexual couples in which one partner is infertile or post-menopausal).

    Then they really come out strong against allowing cousins to marry. Sigh. Thank goodness for the Manhattan Manifesto: it’s all that stands between us and the West Virginification of America!

    Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  44. “West Virginification” deserves the ‘neologism’ of the week award. (i hope Halden is filing these). obliged

    Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  45. Mike wrote:

    Ah, I was wondering how long it would take to imply that conservative Christians must come from poor, under-resourced communities. A mob of elites never fails to find a way to denigrate rural people sooner or later. Well done.

    This kind of slur undercuts the credibility of all of us, and its no better than the kind of stuff we rightly object to in this manifesto.

    I also think those of us who regularly enjoy Catholic Anarchy would take strong issue with this turn of phrase, since that blog’s author is from West Virginia.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  46. Geoff wrote:

    Agreed. But, can someone help me explain to the average “Evangelical” layperson why they are better off NOT trying to use Christianity as a tool of political persuasion? It seems completely obvious to me, but it’s so foreign to so many, that sometimes I wonder if I haven’t just gone insane.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink
  47. Marvin wrote:

    I wasn’t implying that conservative Christians come from poor, under-resourced communities. I was implying that West Virginians are all the products of incestuous unions, which, according to the Manhattan Manifesto (HINT, HINT, READ THE MANIFESTO) is what gay marriage will lead to for all of us.


    I myself was wondering how long it would take for this comment thread to be taken over by humorlessness.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 5:18 am | Permalink
  48. Nathan Smith wrote:

    As an exercise in blogging discipline you should write a post entitled, “Why I love conservatives.”

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 5:31 am | Permalink
  49. Tyler wrote:

    One of the signatories explains why he signed it:

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 7:21 am | Permalink
  50. Derek wrote:


    Or maybe a scathing polemic against liberals?

    It seems that conservative thought gets critiqued an awful lot more here than does liberal. Obviously, it is your blog, and since i keep coming back it is clear that i find your blog very stimulating regardless of this perceived discrepancy. Nonetheless, if you center on Christ & the Kingdom of God in political thinking, I would love to hear more about how/why it judges both conservatve and liberal ideologies. I know you have done this a few times in regards to Obama being war-friendly, but the type of longer, thought-out critiques seems reserved for conservative thought.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  51. Theophilus wrote:

    I’ll buy that only if/when other racial and cultural slurs are seen as “humor” and considered politically and socially innocuous. That doesn’t normally seem to be the case around here.

    Also, West Virginia definitely qualifies as a “poor, under-resourced” community.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  52. sjloncar wrote:

    An obvious point: no one in our culture is attacking people who stand up for social justice, helping the poor, etc. One point of the document is obviously to indicate Christian consensus on some major issues that are becoming increasingly unpopular in our culture and have long been unpopular with and castigated by elites. So asking why they don’t address every possible social justice issue misses the point of a document like this.

    Moreover, if one is at a school like mine, in which the very mention of opposition to homosexual marriage will endanger one’s standing, socially if not as a student, having a statement like this can be helpful to show that certain positions are not unique to or necessarily derived from “right wing conservatism,” but are rather things Christians of different theological backgrounds have long agreed on (unlike, for example, pacifism or just war theory).

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  53. Geoff Smith wrote:

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  54. Daniel wrote:


    I enjoy reading the blog because it is often provocative and offers interesting slants on issues theological and otherwise. I would say I frequently disagree but I read anyways because I think its good to expose oneself to a multiplicity of voices. That said, I will say one of the frequent and glaring weaknesses of the blog is the often insular and uncharitable characterizations of people (typically conservative of some stripe or “those people at First Things) and their arguments. This is one just happens to be a particularly obvious case.

    Usually this comes under the guise of radical Christianity or some other claim to radical gospel faithfulness, but it often turns out to be intolerant, self-righteous, ungracious and uncharitable. Instead of seeking to understand people and their arguments in the best possible light, straw men and ad hominems abound. How is this different from so many people whom you criticize? When you say “We are offered here a vision of Christianity completely and intentionally sold over to ideology,” I think you are speaking from naivete rather than a mature well informed position. Its easy to trump Christian pacifism and the like, but to practice the radical generosity and hospitality in the flesh and to our enemies, especially when they are brothers and sisters, is the true mark of the kingdom come. I am sure Yoder, and more importantly Jesus, would agree.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink
  55. rasselas wrote:

    that was fun Jason – took me a long time to find Jesus :) ..then again i’m a little slow

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  56. Scott Coulter wrote:

    IMO it was an inappropriate slur, but Mike read it wrong. Marvin didn’t “imply that conservative Christians must come from poor, under-resourced communities”, he implied rather that conservative Christians signing this manifesto were fearful of the rest of the U.S. becoming like West Virginia. So: not slurring conservative Christians here, but yes slurring West Virginians. I’m not sure if Marvin was slurring W. Va. himself or putting the slur into the mouths of the manifesto signers. Or both.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  57. Scott Coulter wrote:

    “no one in our culture is attacking people who stand up for social justice, helping the poor, etc.”

    Except when the culture is attacking gay Christians (or gay non-Christians) who are standing up for social justice, helping the poor, etc. The disenfranchisement, publicly or ecclesialy, of gifted queer people who are working for the common good, for those on the margins, and/or for the Kingdom, is one of the most hurtful forms of heterosexism.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 9:24 am | Permalink
  58. I should have been clear. I mean the political impotence of institutional Christianity to do anything good for humanity. I don’t think you’ll agree.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  59. Hill wrote:

    I’m not sure how this relates to anything that Halden has said or anything that I’ve said. In what sense is this representative of “institutional Christianity” and what “good for humanity” is it trying and failing to accomplish? If anything, I understand Halden to be saying that it isn’t politically impotent enough, which in a way proves my point: no one actually cares whether or not anything Halden said makes sense or is reasonable, because we all hate conservatives, right?

    I’m perfectly willing to accept that this document is deeply flawed and that it is ideologically motivated in some sense. My point is only that Halden’s criticism cuts far to deeply and attempts to demonstrate bad faith in a way that is utterly circular. It is a bad sign if intelligent people become unable to rationally discuss this sort of thing simply because there is conservative blood in the water.

    The platitudes about “institutional Christianity” are pretty pointless, though, unless you just feel like being reactionary.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  60. Theophilus wrote:

    People don’t attack “teh gays” because of their work for the poor, or for social justice issues anymore than they give trouble to straights for the same kinds of work. They’re given a hard time over and above their straight compatriots specifically because they are gay. That’s not a great thing – even if you don’t like the cultural normalization of homosexuality, that’s no excuse for dumping on all the great work LGBT people can do even without touching on their sexuality. But I do think you’re clouding the issue here.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  61. Hill,

    Honestly, I don’t know how to talk to you about these things. I mean, it is interesting to subvert the meaning of reactionary and being contrarian is fun, but I don’t see how you asking me to explain these things is in good faith.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 7:20 pm | Permalink
  62. Tyler wrote:

    Two very conservative evangelicals explaining why they won’t sign it:

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  63. roger flyer wrote:

    probably the he other Daniel

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Permalink
  64. roger flyer wrote:

    Come on, serious dudes– we all know Halden is into blowing up stuff!

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  65. John wrote:

    I am not a Christian and in my opinion I find most of what is now called “conservative” to be form of toxic psychosis—with murderously reasonable intentions.

    After all many of these heavy dudes can also be found on various right-wing publications (both paper and electronic) which also feature the voices of Russ Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter.

    Do any of the people who have made comments on this post by Halden like what Limbaugh & Co represent AND invoke?

    From my perspective I found Halden’s assessment of the historical and cultural contexts of this manifesto to be very good.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink
  66. d barber wrote:

    I appreciate the directness of John’s question, and would be happy to see those who have posted respond.

    And to add: if the theological angle is taken, I’d be happy to hear what difference, concretely/politically, the theology makes, ie how it differs from Limbaugh, etc.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  67. Theophilus wrote:

    The most important difference I see between the Manhattan Statement and the talk radio right wing is that the Manhattan Statement affirms the value, dignity, and humanity of those with whom it disagrees, and it does not impute malice on these people. The talk radio right does none of these things. This sober-mindedness and civilty is crucial if we are to avoid a scorched-earth, zero-sum, winner-takes-all approach to the political questions of the day. This kind of measured language also doesn’t incite people to violence as does incendiary talk radio style rhetoric.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  68. roger flyer wrote:

    John-If my memory serves me,it seems there have been a few people who jump on Halden’s posts and probably resonate with those ‘conservative’ voices. I think most of the commenters on ID (myself included) would be embarrassed and saddened to be lumped in with the thoughtless radio personalities you mentioned.

    Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
  69. TKM wrote:

    John MacArthur won’t sign. Is he like us?

    Saturday, November 28, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Permalink
  70. Hill wrote:

    MacArthur wouldn’t sign it because he thinks Catholics and Orthodox are “apostate traditions” as opposed to his “authentic Biblical Christianity.”

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  71. I don’t know who McArthur is but after reading thru the posts on his blog about the M.D. it seems like the Anglicans could snatch up a few of his moderate dissenters to make up for the homo/gyno phobes they lost to the RC’s. God never closes a door…..

    Sunday, November 29, 2009 at 9:01 pm | Permalink
  72. Jason wrote:

    Yeah, and even though the poor are mentioned in the first paragraph, I have yet to find in that word balloon.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
  73. chris wrote:

    The desire for cultural power is true for both left and right wing. Let’s not forget that mainline churches were the structures of white power during the civil rights movement. They still want that power back from conservatives. I say we opt out of the power struggle altogether. Let ‘em have it.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink
  74. Jon Trott wrote:


    I resonated virtually completely with this post. And it isn’t “wildly over done” — I think many of us who refuse to leave the Evangelical fold due to our theological journeys and spiritual familial ties to it, yet agonize over the direction much of Evangelicalism seems to have gone in the past 20 years, would probably react even more strongly than you did. I was going to avoid commenting altogether on this when a friend first posted the link to the so-called ‘declaration’ on my facebook page. But after reading just a few of the comments you’ve gotten, I felt I had to say something.

    It isn’t that the debate itself is shallow. It isn’t. There is a real tension there between being political activists motivated by our gospel concerns and being political bullies attempting to institute some sort of semi-theocratic government — one based on *ONE* alleged biblical interpretation of reality.

    This is a dance. None of us will get it right. But we all have to try, and we all have to think outside our comfort zones. I say that as somewhat of a political liberal yet theological conservative. Suffering and growth are, after all, closely related.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  75. Andrew wrote:

    Actually, you have given that award three times.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 6:58 pm | Permalink
  76. Martin Snigg wrote:

    Marriage and family is the best defence against poverty. Africans are converting en masse in large part because of its elevation of the dignity of women and children. I admire Robert George (who had to leave his beloved Democratic Party because of abortion) and the signers for standing up for the poor and minorities with this document. Black babies are being killed at an astonishing rate and asking citizens to pay for them leaves people like Dr Dobson saying jail, fines or exile are his family’s only options if it came to taxes paying for child murder.

    This is Christian leadership to me, a willingness to be persecuted by Caesar rather than offer to Him what is God’s.

    On the proper ordering of the male-female relationship every other relationship in society depends – no stable national or international institutions can be built if there is chaos in the home. We as Christians need to have a unity of mind on abortion, the family and be in solidarity with same sex attracted Christians like Eve Tushnet and John Heard who are outstanding disciples of Christ working to preserve traditional marriage from those who would change its fundamental meaning.

    Lets not politicise what are just bedrock Christian beliefs that are under assault. We shouldn’t project politics onto this, it is simply an affirmation of natural law and its centrality in preserving a peaceful civil society.

    Monogamous marriage was afterall a response to the violence that occurred with the alternatives. We have duties to the children and those that come after to risk following Jesus to Jerusalem and confronting the religio-political powers.

    Denunciation of this document looks from my perspective here in Australia to be very convenient given what standing for these Christian principles might mean in terms of martyrdom. I think Halden … well I don’t think much of what you wrote.

    Martin Snigg 36 Domincan Postulant.

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 4:18 am | Permalink

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