A Response to the Manhattan Declaration
A group of conservatives recently put forth a manifesto called the Manhattan Declaration, admonishing Christians to join the political cause of the religious right. I was grateful, a few days later, to see that the Progressive Christian Alliance had issued a thoughtful response.
Their response was significant to me because, all too often, we progressives cede the language and community of faith to the religious right. But when we choose silence instead of speaking out about our Christian values, we do not do justice to our nation or our faith. After all, if we are too shy to make the connection between our faith and our values in the public square, how can we expect others to make the connection?
I believe we must reclaim our Christian heritage and express what Jesus’ teachings mean to us if we are to offer our Christian brothers and sisters any alternative to the voices of the religious right. The writers of the Manhattan Declaration speak as if their view is the one and only conclusion possible, constituting the whole truth of Scripture and Christianity. The fact is, in 2009, millions of Christians hold different, but equally deep, convictions about our faith.
Another time I will reflect upon the specific section of this declaration devoted to marriage. But for now, let me continue a conversation that began for me this summer, when I was honored to speak at the progressive bloggers’ conference, Netroots Nation, about the importance of using religious imagery to establish common ground around progressive causes.
Like the writers of the Manhattan Declaration, I am called “to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good.” It is my deep commitment to human dignity that inspires me to work for the full inclusion of GLBT people. When our society tells people that their loving lifelong partnership is unworthy of marriage, we deny their human dignity. The same is true when the church refuses to dignify the call of GLBT candidates to ministry.
For me as a Christian, protecting “the intrinsic dignity of the human person” means loving my neighbor as myself, as Jesus teaches us — and not denying others the simple things I cherish in my own life: the opportunity to marry the person I love, to do meaningful work, and to serve God in the church.
I equally claim our Christian heritage of reaching out “with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.” It is in this tradition that I traveled to New Orleans with a More Light delegation to help build homes for the poor displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And it is in this spirit that I am proud, as a mother and a Christian, to have my son serving in the Peace Corps — a program that was established by one of our nation’s great progressive leaders, President John F. Kennedy, as a way for Americans to serve the poor and suffering people of the world.
I thank the members of the Progressive Christian Alliance for reminding us of our duty to follow Jesus in welcoming all to the table of grace, without exception.
It is time for the progressive Christian voice to emerge from the silence and extend our own invitation to people of faith who share our values. If we do not, then what alternative do we leave those who seek a Christian path in our modern world?