Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Manhattan Declaration

You can sign the above petition by clicking here.
I'm not one to jump on trendy causes. Usually I can be found swimming against the tide. And I'm not a big fan of online petitions, which is mostly what the Manhattan Declaration amounts to at this point. Having said that, I have to say that this document has taken on a life of its own; perhaps through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit.

The Manhattan Declaration is a Christian statement which focuses on three issues: Human Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. I include below the shorter version of the declaration (the full version is available here). Please take the time to read it. And then afterwards I'll discuss the latest controversy that has recently emerged.
A Summary

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

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. These truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Human Life

The lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are ever more threatened. While public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Although the protection of the weak and vulnerable is the first obligation of government, the power of government is today often enlisted in the cause of promoting what Pope John Paul II called “the culture of death.” We pledge to work unceasingly for the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in conscience, take the same stand.

Marriage

The institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at risk of being redefined and thus subverted. Marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. Where marriage erodes, social pathologies rise. The impulse to redefine marriage is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil law as well as our religious traditions. Yet it is critical that the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It 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 the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. Marriage is not a “social construction,” but is rather an objective reality—the covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize, honor, and protect.

Religious Liberty

Freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized. The threat to these fundamental principles of justice is evident in efforts to weaken or eliminate conscience protections for healthcare institutions and professionals, and in antidiscrimination statutes that are used as weapons to force religious institutions, charities, businesses, and service providers either to accept (and even facilitate) activities and relationships they judge to be immoral, or go out of business. Attacks on religious liberty are dire threats not only to individuals, but also to the institutions of civil society including families, charities, and religious communities. The health and well-being of such institutions provide an indispensable buffer against the overweening power of government and is essential to the flourishing of every other institution—including government itself—on which society depends.

Unjust Laws

As Christians, we believe in law and we respect the authority of earthly rulers. We count it as a special privilege to live in a democratic society where the moral claims of the law on us are even stronger in virtue of the rights of all citizens to participate in the political process. Yet even in a democratic regime, laws can be unjust. And from the beginning, our faith has taught that civil disobedience is required in the face of gravely unjust laws or laws that purport to require us to do what is unjust or otherwise immoral. Such laws lack the power to bind in conscience because they can claim no authority beyond that of sheer human will.

Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.

Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality, marriage, and the family.

Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.

We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
Personally, when I read this declaration I don't see anything offensive. You can certainly disagree with this statement, but that in itself doesn't make it offensive. We live in a democracy and we don't always agree, but we respect the right of others to hold opinions counter to our own. Right?

Some people believe that the Manhattan Declaration should be banned. A group at Change.org decided that this statement amounts to a "hate fest". So they put together there own online petition demanding that Apple pull the Manhattan Declaration App off of the iTune store. They got 7,700 signatures and Apple banned the app. Here is the Change.org petition. Notice the language. Do you find it to be "tolerant" of others that do not share their opinion?
Targeting: Apple Media Relations and Steve Jobs (Chief Executive Officer)

Started by: Michael Rogers

Last month, The Apple iTunes Store approved and made available an application for the iPhone that invites users to join anti-gay and anti-choice campaigns, Jeremy Hooper of the popular blog GoodAsYou.org reported. As Jeremy explains, social conservatives like Watergate Criminal Chuck Colson created the Manhattan Declaration, a set of anti-choice and anti-LGBT beliefs, to promote restrictions on women's choice and LGBT equality.

Want to join the hate fest? There's an app for that!

Download the app and the Manhattan Declaration's so-called "survey" will invite you to answer questions like: Do you believe in the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman? And, Do you support the right of choice regarding abortion? Once you answer the four questions a screen pops up and you learn that "survey" is actually not a "survey," but a "test." If you answer the questions the way pro-choice, pro-equality folks do, you'll be rewarded with this screen: "SURVEY COMPLETE! 0%, You answered 0 out of 4 questions correct. [sic]"

Users of the application are also asked to sign onto a set right-wing talking points that would make the average MSNBC viewer's head spin. This part of the application helps users support the elimination of choice for women, and stop the march to equality for LGBT people. Not enough? They're also all about the elimination of any separation between church and state.

You can see the web listing for the application here. Apple rates it a 4+. And what exactly is a 4+?"No objectionable material." Huh?

Supporters of equal rights and the right of women to control their own bodies must stand together and say to Apple: "Applications that support hate and division have no place in the iTunes Store." Apple needs to hear from concerned people now! Let's send a strong message to Apple that supporting homophobia and efforts to restrict choice is bad business.


PETITION TEXT
Please remove anti-LGBT, anti-women application from iTunes Store

Mr. Jobs:

I am joining with thousands of others in signing this letter to ask you to remove the Marriage Declaration application from the iTunes Store.

Apple has always been among the most progressive companies and earned a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, and yet, the company has approved application that is offensive to Americans who support equality and free choice.

The Manhattan Declaration application exists to collect signatures on a website which espouses hateful and divisive language, the very kind of language I hope the iTunes Store will not want to help disseminate. Despite the store rating the application 4+ ("no objectionable material), I can assure you that the application does in fact contain lots of objectionable material.

I am writing to ask that you immediately remove the application from the store. Apple's reputation is too important to be associated with this hate filled organization.

[Your name]
Apple came out with this tersely worded official statement explaining their decision to pull the Manhattan Declaration iPhone application from the iTunes store.
"We removed the Manhattan Declaration app from the App Store because it violates our developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people."
Eager to join in on the Christian-bashing parade, the secular press has chimed in with headlines that say volumes about their inability to maintain a professional, objective stance on this issue.
Despite all the anti-cyberbullying rhetoric from the politically correct press, it seems that when it suits their purpose bullying is good. They seem to believe that it is just fine to bully Christians into accepting their secular dogma of political correctness, even when it is in direct opposition to fundamental Christian beliefs.

This was the whole point of the Manhattan Declaration in the first place. It was a statement encouraging Christians not to be bullied into submission by the "humanist" forces that seek to impose their views on society. And now we can see a very clear example of why such a firm statement of Christian opposition is necessary. It is not just empty rhetoric. It is not a hypothetical theological argument anymore. It is a reality in which we are living, which does not allow Christians to practice their faith in the manner that they have been taught for more than two millennium.

Despite the headlines, this is not an "anti-gay" campaign. We can respect a person who is involved in a homosexual relationship while still condemning his lifestyle choice as wrong. This is what Christ taught us. He did not condemn the woman who engaged in adultery, but he did condemn adultery. Christ teaches us true tolerance – not pretend, politically correct, as-long-as-you-agree-with-me "tolerance".

In this case a petition by 7,700 people at Change.org drowned out a petition by over 478,000 people in favor of the Manhattan Declaration. BTW, I don't know why I keep coming back to the "drowning" analogy. It seems to be an internal vision that I have of the Church being overcome by a flood of water and struggling to stay afloat. Perhaps it is an allusion to the struggles of the Church in Revelation 12:15-17.
The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.
And this brings us to where we are now, and a new petition. This one to reinstate the Manhattan Declaration App. Perhaps through their bullying tactics Change.org and Apple will give more needed attention to the urgency of speaking out in defense of our Christian principles, which is the underlying spirit behind this declaration.
Petition to Steve Jobs and Apple

A petition to Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc., to restore the Manhattan Declaration App

We, the undersigned, urge you to reinstate the Manhattan Declaration App to the Apple app store.

The Manhattan Declaration, in a civil, reasoned, and respectful way, promotes the sanctity of every human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.

That Apple would deem the Manhattan Declaration as “offensive” is alarming and distressing. Some who are “offended” by the Manhattan Declaration can only be offended by the positions the Manhattan Declaration takes—positions based on biblical Christianity and affirmed by nearly half a million Christians representing dozens of denominations.

Despite the claims of some, the Declaration does not promote hate or homophobia. It is not anti-gay. Rather, it proclaims that all human beings are loved by God and are worthy of respect.

Civil discourse is a hallmark of a civilized and free society. Disagreement is not hate. We urge you and Apple, therefore, to promote communication and civil dialogue on these important social issues by reinstating the Manhattan Declaration App.

Thank you.
You would think that a company that has as its logo an apple with a bite taken out of it would be more sensitive to the Christian worldview; unless Steve Jobs thinks that he is on some sort of satanic mission to tempt mankind. Just to be on the safe side, you might want to have your iPhone exorcised. Is there an App for that?

Seriously, is this going to lead to a Christian boycott of Apple? I'm not sure that the Microsoft alternative is any more appealing to Christians, given the pro-abortion activities of Bill Gates. Should we all have our PCs and Macs blessed by our local priests? It certainly wouldn't hurt to start with a prayer before firing up our laptops and going online, given all the temptations that one is exposed to in the virtual world.

"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from Evil." (Matt 6:13)

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