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.