The Imperative of Convergence

By Randy Wills
America’s Right

Readers of my previous work here at America’s Right know that I believe it to be a false promise to pursue the spirit of our Founders–”refounding,” as Glenn Beck might put it–without fully recognizing the inseparable spiritual foundation on which our Constitution is based. I believe that we are doomed to failure if we do not face this reality squarely and seek first to regain the spiritual high ground in our national culture.

An important contribution to this effort to reclaim America for traditional Judeo-Christian values was recently composed and published by a group of 152 eminent persons–theologians, teachers, authors, and organizational leaders–within the Christian community under the title of Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience. As much as it addresses the basic concerns of a large segment of those on the American political right, the published declaration has received very little attention other than on the Internet. The declaration reads:

We, As Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in the Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm; 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right – and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation – to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

The document then goes on to elaborate on the Scriptural and historical societal basis for these articles of faith in reasonable and concise terms. After having read the complete document, one would have to ask: “what Christian could disagree with that?” As it turns out, however, there are a number of well-known evangelical theologians and teachers who do disagree–not with the issues themselves, but rather with the forum in which it was conceived–and have declined to endorse this document.

Now, I don’t dispute their right to dissent on the basis of strict, individually-held theological arguments, nor do I question their motivations, but I do question the wisdom of failing to adequately consider the context in which this declaration is operative — a Scripturally-based moral response to government imposed laws, not the correct interpretation of the Scriptures relative to what constitutes personal salvation. In fact, I personally would agree with the dissenters that the word “Christian” has become almost meaningless as a result of centuries of misinterpretation, misuse, and manipulation by various man-ordained and organized institutions based not on a plain, consistent reading of the Scripture as defined by the Nicene Council but rather on man’s desire to create powerful empires built on the shoulders of Jesus Christ. You know — that unquenchable aspiration of fallen human nature to become “as God” and re-create all that is in man’s image rather than God’s.

That having been said, it brings me to a weighty question: “At what price unity?” My reading of the Manhattan Declaration is that, for the first time, we have a line drawn in the sand that says to those in authority that “beyond this line we will not go, regardless of the consequences.” Perhaps I am overlooking too much, theologically, but I have been yearning for just such an expression of resolve that, in my opinion, must at some time be made to those who would run roughshod over all who would disagree with their plan to “fundamentally transform the United States.”

Please be clear: I am not suggesting that anyone of us should compromise their personal convictions–most importantly, their spiritual convictions–for the sake of expediency or pragmatism, but I am suggesting that we not carry the argument beyond the point of effective convergence within the context of where we are relative to the battle which lies ahead.

Our goal is a return to the values that I believe John Adams had in mind when he said that “our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people; It is wholly inadequate for any other.” I seriously doubt that he was expecting that all persons would believe alike in all matters spiritual. If that were the case, the Framers would likely never have been able to produce the Constitution, because there was obviously a great diversity of religious beliefs and practices among them. What I believe that he was saying was that only a people who are inclined to be self-governed by the laws first spoken by the God of the Scriptures would be capable of preserving the constitutional republic the Framers had created.

Again, it is important to take notice of the context in which Adams set this condition; he was not speaking in terms of personal salvation but rather was identifying a social/civil precondition, most clearly articulated by Christ as the “Golden Rule,” upon which the success of this new form of government would depend. The ever-expanding volume of civil and criminal laws and the obscene national budget attest to the fact that government can never fill the gap left when the citizenry decides to act independent of the Divine law. It will simply collapse under its own unsustainable burden on society.

So I see this as our challenge: can we agree on a point of convergence of beliefs and then agree to move forward from that point as one with a clear goal in mind–not a theocracy but rather a citizenry grounded in Judeo-Christian values of personal integrity and moral behavior–and yet remain faithful to our most deeply held personal beliefs?

Matters of religion and faith have a habit of bringing out strong opinions and fiery passions. Those who choose to forsake God often cite these opinions and passions as they manifest in war and violence in more unstable regions as a reason they choose not to believe. Looking towards the future, this is of deep concern because we are faced with what I consider the most severe challenge to our democracy that we have ever faced in the history of the United States, and I would hate to think that our differences would prevent us from coming together to face our common adversary — the extreme progressive policies of the Obama administration.

I believe that we must identify the point at which our views and objectives converge, much as the Founders did, and then agree to limit our discourse to concerns that fall within that boundary. For some, that may be difficult, but we have to understand the context within which we find ourselves and work effectively within that context rather than hold out for complete agreement by others with our personal perspectives. As someone once said: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” And if we fail to come together, the inevitable fragmentation will accomplish what our political opponents are incapable of doing on their own.

—————
Randy Wills lives in the Northwest with his wife of over 52 years and divides his time between his role as Operations Manager of a software development business founded with his son in 2002 and maintaining close contact with his extended family. Both he and his wife are avid readers and spend as much time as they can together reading and engaging in deep discussion of history, religion, and politics. For recreation, Randy and his wife like to “get away” in their RV.

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Comments

  1. Barabas says:

    That artwork made me throw up.

  2. Uncle Rick says:

    I agree with Randy. While my own beliefs about the Bible, Jesus and much else are decidedly unconventional, there is simply no doubt that the Founders and their opus were firmly based in well-established and well-understood Judeo-Christian principles an values, and they made no secret of the fact.

    It is sad that some Christians will part company with others over trivial matters (well, trivial to me, any way). Will God ask us what we believed during this life when we cross the bar? I doubt it; the Bible gives no evidence that personal belief – or doctrine – was a matter of importance either to Jesus or to his predecessors, except as that belief directed the person's behavior. If there is any place where we can all stand together, it must be here.

    If things get ugly, I will certainly stand with the Christians and the Jews.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Most of my relatives are strict religious fundamentalists. They believe that Catholicism is a cult. They would agree with everything in your "Declaraion" except with the inclusion of Catholics. Perhaps you revise it.

  4. Boston Blackie says:

    I believe that if we do not come together, draw that line in the sand, fill it in with cement, more of this will happen.

    http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20091215second_grader_sent_home_after_drawing_crucifix/srvc=home&position=1

    Asked to draw something that reminds him of Christmas, a second grader drew Jesus on the crucifix. He was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation because he had created a “violent drawing.”
    How much more of this will we tolerate!?!

  5. whats_up says:

    Randy,

    Interesting article. I think many people are turned off by relegion because of the perceived two faced nature of it. Two examples come to mind, the first being in North Carolina right now where you have relegious folks who dont think that a duly elected person should be allowed to take office because he doesnt believe like they do. Second is this statement from the above decleration:

    1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life;

    they make this claim but the relegious organizations spend huge amounts of time telling us segments of the population dont deserve equality. No one in America like hypocrasy.

  6. elspeth says:

    Randy,

    I have been raised under the guise that we do not discuss religion nor politics. The past 12 months have me thinking otherwise.

    If we do not discuss either, the fabric is weakened.

    That's not to say we all must agree; far from it!

    By not discussing religion or politics, we lose a connection.

    I believe that we must discuss religion and politics if we want to turn the country around.

    Faith is stronger when we know we are not alone. Politics works the same way — we're stronger when we unite.

    How can we unite if we do discuss enough to know with whom to unite?

    Am I making sense, or just yammering away on something I don't fully understand but believe to be true?

    elspeth

  7. Lilly says:

    Randy-
    I agree with your point, find a common point and move forward from there. Most people have the same moral basis and whether they believe in God or not, they come from the 10 commandments. I do not like organized religion but have my beliefs and nothing will change that. To of the hardest things to talk to people about are politics (but getting easier everyday) and religion. That needs to change. Conversations do not have to get ugly.

  8. Anonymous says:

    that photo from Passion Of The Sheist?

  9. Gail B says:

    Barabas–

    My stomach is stronger than yours, but it did nauseate me.
    ——————————-

    The Manhattan Declaration was emailed to me some weeks ago, and I endorsed it on the spot.

    Great piece, Randy! Thank you!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Lilly,

    I guess there was no need to get 'ugly' at Concord and Lexington either? It's getting to the point ugly may just be what is needed, IMHO.

  11. TNelson says:

    Why is it that so many Christians are eager to point out the Judeo-Christian values that were considered 'self-evident truths' during the construction of our Constitution, only to quickly dismiss the 'Judeo' portion in favor of a 'Christian only' mindset? I know many will say these are intertwined and cannot be separated, but the founding Fathers tried to (and did I will argue) do just that. Is that not the reason for the word 'God' being prominently displayed? Nowhere in any of the official documents will you find 'Christ', despite the obvious Christian beliefs of many of the Founding Fathers. This was by design, was it not? In the minds of these men, the only known was that there is a GOD. Not one of them would argue that the country be founded on their narrow, personal definition of that God.

    Communities though….that's a different story….

  12. Gail B says:

    whats_up–

    I understand what you were trying to say, but what you said is a bit misleading. The objection in North Carolina regarding that elected official is due to the wording of the Constitution of North Carolina, not due to hypocracy.

    Unfortunately, I have already deleted the personal emails and WRAL's eNewsletter regarding this, but I can get it. I believe it happened in Asheville, as a city council issue, if I remember correctly.

  13. John Feeny says:

    Randy -
    Another great piece, which in a much more formal way reiterates what many of us have been thinking, if not saying, throught the course of the past year: this man and his followers are not going to go quietly, if for no other reason that this is their last (I think) and best chance to accomplish their goals. As to whether we can ever find that point of convergence, I don't know; I think, unfortunately, there are simply too many now who want nothing to do with the 'unity' that our Founders created. They want a mindless collective (makes me think of the 'Borg' in Star Trek, if anyone understands the reference). I think, in the end, if it ever becomes very clear that the political winds have decidedly switched back to where they were intended to be, something really big is going to happen, and it could be as simple as our being told that are money and belongings are no longer worth a dime.

  14. NOTHING SACRED ANYMORE says:

    By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY

    A push to spread the gospel about the 2010 Census this Christmas is stoking controversy with a campaign that links the government count to events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

    The National Association of Latino Elected Officials is leading the distribution to churches and clergy of thousands of posters that depict the arrival of Joseph and a pregnant Mary in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. As chronicled in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph returned to be counted in a Roman census, but he and Mary found no room at an inn, and Jesus was born in a manger.

    "This is how Jesus was born," the poster states. "Joseph and Mary participated in the Census."

    Most of the posters are in Spanish and target Latino evangelicals, says Jose Cruz, senior director of civic engagement at the Latino association, which launched its Ya Es Hora (It's Time) campaign in 2006 to promote voter registration among Latinos.

    It is promoting the Census, used to help allocate $400 billion a year in federal dollars, redraw state and local political districts and determine the number of seats each state gets in Congress.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I love the comments that follow the articles that the AR contributors make, and this case is no exception. I respect every one of you who take the time to express your views, even when they may be diametrically opposed to mine.

    My wife is telling me it's time to leave for a dentist appointment, so I'll leave for now, but would like to respond directly to some of the comments later. You make some good points.

    One thing that I most certainly agree on is the historical problem of hypocrisy.

    More later.

    Randy

  16. Randy Wills says:

    Oh nuts. I hit the 'send' button before I entered my name as the heading. Sorry. I'm not really "anonymous".

    Randy

  17. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    Randy sez:

    "My wife is telling me it's time to leave for a dentist appointment, so I'll leave for now, but would like to respond directly to some of the comments later. You make some good points."

    It's official. Reading America's Right is better than pulling teeth.

  18. whats_up says:

    Gail…

    I am talking about the direct quote from Mr. Edgerton who lost the race:

    "My father was a Baptist minister. I'm a Christian man. I have problems with people who don't believe in God,"

    That is his rational why Mr. Bothwell shouldnt have been sworn in.

  19. Randy Wills says:

    If I try to answer each of the comments and questions directly, it would constitute another article and Jeff might take a dim view of that (and by the way, give credit – or blame if you must -to Jeff for the graphics. He does his best to make my rough submissions into something interesting by adding a picture or two), so I'll try to hit the high spots.

    I make no distinction between "God" and "Christ", other than the distinction made in the Scriptures; "God the Father", "God the Son", and "God the Holy Spirit". The Founders were wise to use the all-encompassing term "God" rather than draw a non-existant line of separation, and I do the same.

    There is no Christianity without recognizing that the Jews were, and always will be, God's "chosen people" and we Gentiles were "grafted in to the Vine" only after the Jews rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah. The fact that Christians have demeaned and persecuted Jews for centuries attests only to the fact that Evil seeks every means possible to destroy the message – and the Messenger – of God.

    Personally, I do not identify with any particular denomination or organized religion simply because, in my opinion, that obfuscates my single-minded devotion to Jesus Christ. Others believe differently and I respect that, but, as the Founders did, within the context of the issues facing the very existence of our Constitutional Republic, when and where we can agree, we must, and from that perspective, it is perfectly legitimate for Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Protestants to find common cause in resisting the government's intrusion into the moral issues addressed in the "Manhattan Declaration". Therefore, I believe that we should all support it.

    And yes, hypocricy has been a hallmark of virtually all religions as practiced by humans, but that does not invalidate the truth of the Scriptures. What it does undeniably establish is the natural state of darkness within the universe, including the hearts of man. Light comes only from expended energy; complete darkness is the natural state of all things.

    What was it that someone said – "All that it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing"?

    Randy

  20. Jan says:

    Randy – I love this article! As a follower of Christ (I don't follow a denomination as they tend to blur the lines a bit) I believe we must get back to basic and simplistic truths.

    For decades truth and morality have declined in this nation. We have little respect for the value of life today. No hesitation for killing anyone.

    Personal responsibilty is no longer because the blame games is so much better.

    Honesty, integrity and character seem to have fallen by the wayside as well.

    So much of our founding was taken directly from the 10 Commandments because they were seen as universal truths. Other scripture too helped form our form of government. While I would love to see everyone as Christians I realize and accept that this is just not to be. This does not mean that we cannot find that common ground and move forward. I just finished an excellent study on the Apostle Paul and am reminded of his love and compassion for all whether they believed in Christ or not. That is what I strive to do. Not through my power, which is impossible, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. Loving people, though, does not mean that I am a pushover and will blinding accept anything and everything. I will stand up against wrong but I will not forsake my convictions.

    Thank you for this wonderful article. It is so encouraging in the current time and state of things. God bless.

  21. Anonymous says:

    To "Jan".

    Thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging comment. There is strength in numbers, and I know that there are more than a few like-minded readers of AR.

    Unfortunately, a few ("Susan" comes to mind) that I looked forward to hearing from appear to have moved on. Too bad. We need every truth-speaker that we can find if we are to see any real changes in this downward-spiralling world that we live in.

    Blessings.

    Randy

    Randy

  22. Randy Wills says:

    Oh no. I think that I did it again. The last comment should have a heading that says "Randy Wills says;".

    Old age rears its ugly head again.

    Randy

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