Saturday, December 5, 2009

Manhattan Declaration

A coalition of 150 Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical leaders have recently signed their names to a manifesto declaring their rejection of any attempt by secular authorities to impose laws which would force them to accept abortion, same-sex marriage and other ideas that conflict with their religious beliefs or that would force them to mute their criticism of either the abortion culture or gay marriage.

The 4,700-word document is called the "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," and signatories include many well-known evangelical leaders (though there are some notable omissions) in company with a number of Catholic leaders. The Declaration calls on Christians to engage in civil disobedience, if necessary, to defend their right to proclaim and practice their faith.

Charles Colson, one of the drafters of the document, says that abortion, marriage, and religious liberty are the three most important issues facing believers today.

The Declaration proclaims that "We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them." It goes on to list the "fundamental truths" as the "sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and the rights of conscience and religious liberty."

The document also declares that "Throughout the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required," and cites as an exemplar Martin Luther King and his willingness to go to jail for his beliefs.

Not all Christians agree with Declaration's emphasis, however. Some, such as Ron Sider, argue that these three issues, though crucially important, are no more important than fighting poverty and racism, and promoting the dignity of women. Others take the Declaration to task for not offering more guidance on how best to respond to a secularized culture that seems bent on diminishing our rights and liberties.

Be that as it may, the Manhattan Declaration is an important statement of the concern that many are feeling at the erosion of the moral fabric of our nation and the threat to our First Amendment rights posed by our infatuation with political correctness.

You can find the document here, and you can read more about it here. If you'd like to express your support of the Declaration's principles you can sign it here.


Leaving the Right

Andrew Sullivan, who writes at the Daily Dish, offers us a manifesto explaining why he can no longer call himself a conservative. The wonder is, given what he says, that he ever did call himself one. Here are his reasons with some remarks interspersed:

I cannot support a movement that claims to believe in limited government but backed an unlimited domestic and foreign policy presidency that assumed illegal, extra-constitutional dictatorial powers until forced by the system to return to the rule of law.

Not only does Mr. Sullivan not enumerate the dictatorial powwers of which he speaks he makes no attempt to explain how conservatives are implicated in such treasonous activity. In fact, he uses this rhetorical device several times in his manifesto. He levels an accusation at conservatives and thereby gives the impression that conservatives are actually guilty of something, but he never explains precisely how they're guilty of the errors for which he faults them.

I cannot support a movement that exploded spending and borrowing and blames its successor for the debt.

This, of course, is specious. Conservatives did not explode spending and borrowing. Republicans started the practice under Bush and the Obama folks escalated it by orders of magnitude. Conservatives have consistently opposed the spend and borrow regime under both parties.

I cannot support a movement that so abandoned government's minimal and vital role to police markets and address natural disasters that it gave us Katrina and the financial meltdown of 2008.

Once again he conflates conservatives with Republicans. This is both naive and misleading. Most conservatives, it is true, vote Republican, but only because the alternatives are so much worse.

I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.

"Core value"? What on earth is he talking about?

I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.

Perhaps Mr. Sullivan would favor us with an example to illustrate what he's talking about here. It's hard to imagine any civil political decision that is not informed by one's religious views, whether theist or secularist, but perhaps Mr. Sullivan can think of one.

I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful.

It gives off a racist vibe because its opponents relentlessly accuse it of being racist. It's a defense mechanism employed by the left because they know that if minorities actually knew what conservatives stood for they'd leave the Democratic party in large numbers. Better to keep the blacks on the plantation by making them think that the alternative is full of racists and bigots. Unfortunately, the strategy works.

As for homophobia, Mr. Sullivan levels the charge at conservatives because conservatives don't agree with his conviction that marriage should be an option for gays, a point, by the way, upon which most minorities agree with conservatives. Conservatives also don't believe that polygamy should be an option. Does that make conservatives polygaphobic? Is that bad? Why?

I cannot support a movement which has no real respect for the institutions of government and is prepared to use any tactic and any means to fight political warfare rather than conduct a political conversation.

This is another instance of that neat, if dishonest, rhetorical trick I mentioned above. By stating his inability to support such a movement he gives the impression that conservatism is such a movement. The charge stands unsupported, of course, because he offers no examples of how conservatives actually engage in this sort of skullduggery. And while he's at it maybe he ought to take a look at how the other side plays politics. It's not conservatives who sought to ram "stimulus" legislation through Congress without allowing for serious debate. It's not conservatives that support organizations like ACORN and others that corrupt the political process. It's not conservatives that have been lying about the need for climate change legislation nor conservatives who keep deceiving us about what's really in the health care reform bill.

I cannot support a movement that sees permanent war as compatible with liberal democratic norms and limited government.

Well, what's the alternative when Muslims around the world have declared war on us and do not quit the fight just because we say we're tired of fighting? Should we just ignore them as they fly their hijacked planes into our skyscrapers so we can bask in the glory of our "liberal democratic norms"? What does Mr. Sullivan recommend as an alternative to a protracted war on Islamist terrorism?

I cannot support a movement that criminalizes private behavior in the war on drugs.

Specifically, how do conservatives do this? Many legislatures, including our federal legislature, are in the hands of liberal Democrats. If conservatives are the bogeymen in this regard why don't these legislatures simply decriminalize private drug use?

I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.

No? Would he support a movement that would back a presidential candidate who was "manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism." Which unqualified candidate did Mr. Sullivan vote for in 2008? The Democrat or the Republican? We might also ask Mr. Sullivan how we would be worse off today had McCain/Palin been elected last year rather than Obama/Biden.

I cannot support a movement that regards gay people as threats to their own families.


I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.

Well, here again Mr. Sullivan needs to be much more clear. What does he mean by the "fact" of evolution? I wonder if he even knows. Conservatives are all over the map on this question, but most of them agree that whatever the explanation for how life developed, it didn't just happen as a result of blind, mechanistic processes acting solely by chance. If this position grieves Mr. Sullivan so then I'd like to ask him how he knows it to be a fact that this belief is wrong.

I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy.

Ooops. Perhaps he's been away the last week or so and hasn't been following the news out of East Anglia.

I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.

Now he's clearly gone over the edge. Conservatives have been nothing if not adamant that we must reduce spending and the size of government. It's been liberal Democrats who have blocked consistently blocked attempts to accomplish this every time it's tried.

I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck.

I wonder if Mr. Sullivan is a little jealous because he's not as popular as the demagogue or the nutjob. What he needs to do is to tell us not what he thinks of the character and sanity of these men but what it is about what they say that's wrong. Just calling them names doesn't make them wrong.

I cannot support a movement that believes that the United States should be the sole global power, should sustain a permanent war machine to police the entire planet, and sees violence as the core tool for international relations.

I'm beginning to wonder what planet Mr. Sullivan's living on. No one wants to be, or thinks we can be, the world's policeman, but conservatives do think that if you're going to fight terrorists it's better to fight them over there than over here. Assuming Mr. Sullivan believes we should continue to wage the war against terrorists what alternative to fighting them overseas would he like to see us implement?

Does this make me a "radical leftist" as Michelle Malkin would say? Emphatically not. But it sure disqualifies me from the current American right. To paraphrase Reagan, I didn't leave the conservative movement. It left me.

I doubt that Mr. Sullivan can show that the principles of the conservative movement have changed much at all over the past fifty years. If he was attracted to those principles in the past and is no longer attracted to them today then it really is he who has changed, not the principles.

I also doubt that Mr. Sullivan was ever a part of the conservative movement to begin with. He's a libertarian and has been one at least for the last decade when I've been reading him. To allege that conservatives have somehow betrayed him is disingenuous. He's like an Episcopalian who spends years in a Baptist church and who finally decides to leave because he can't persuade the Baptists to become more like Episcopalians. On his way out the door he allows as how he's not really leaving the church, the church is leaving him. It's pretty silly.