The Manhattan Declaration of Anti-Christianity

In the US, the Salvation Army (and other charities) have been so hijacked by anti-immigration rightwingers that they are now apparently insist on proof of citizenship status before giving donated toys to children. Seriously.

They don’t claim to know who’s been naughty or nice, but some Houston charities are asking whether children are in the country legally before giving them toys.

In a year when more families than ever have asked for help, several programs providing Christmas gifts for needy children require at least one member of the household to be a U.S. citizen. Others ask for proof of income or rely on churches and schools to suggest recipients.

The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are among those that consider immigration status, asking for birth certificates or Social Security cards for the children.

As someone put it on Boing Boing:

“Evidently, I missed the part of the New Testament where Jesus instructs his followers to check people’s immigration status before rendering charity to them.”

But religious organisations being used to push a message that’s clearly contrary to their mission statement is hardly unusual.

Take The Manhattan Declaration, signed by prominent “Christian” leaders in Washington last month. If I were a Christian – someone who believes Jesus Christ was the Son of God sent back to teach us, and that the four Gospels in the Bible are an accurate reflection of what he taught – I can’t see how I’d be anything but appalled by that document:

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.

What an extraordinary thing for anyone calling themselves a “Christian” to sign. The things Jesus Christ actually talked about “claim our attention”, but we are MUCH MORE bothered by gay marriage, abortion (NOT the death penalty), and our freedom to make sure other people don’t have freedom in relation to those areas.

Or, to put it even more succinctly, Charles Colson – one of the drafters – explains the point:

The signers … say they also want to speak to younger Christians who have become engaged in issues like climate change and global poverty, and who are more accepting of homosexuality than their elders. They say they want to remind them that abortion, homosexuality and religious freedom are still paramount issues.

“We argue that there is a hierarchy of issues,” said Charles Colson, a prominent evangelical who founded Prison Fellowship after serving time in prison for his role in the Watergate scandal. “A lot of the younger evangelicals say they’re all alike. We’re hoping to educate them that these are the three most important issues.”

Not merely “still paramount” – “the three most important issues”. We must re-educate these younger Christians before they start basing their faith on Jesus Christ’s actual teachings.

These people, who call themselves “Christians” – not “Leviticians” or “Paulians” – have the temerity to push the stuff Jesus did talk about below the stuff he never mentioned even once. If I were a Christian, these people claiming to speak for me (and my Lord) would be a direct attack on my faith.

I’d want my religion back.

ELSEWHERE: Fred Clark’s eloquent and witty retorts to the Declaration and its drafters are well worth a read.

AND IN OTHER RELIGIOUS NEWS:

  • The Victorian government funds religious forum whilst denying assistance for an equivalent atheist meeting.
  • American Christians try to come to terms with their pastor going through divorce – apparently the instinctive response is to “abandon them” for this betrayal of their congregation.
  • An Indonesian government minister is blaming natural disasters on “immorality” (by which he means failure to adhere to Muslim rules).
  • And a Malaysian woman is fighting for her right not to be a muslim, after being “converted” as a child.
  • US Christians concerned about what will happen to their pets when they’re Raptured are being offered quite a deal.
  • Some Americans are optimistically selling a version of the Bible on a game console, Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

UPDATE: Colson being softly interviewed by failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee:


Chuck Colson: oppressing gays “is what’s given us a just society, one of the greatest civilizations in human history”.

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26 responses to “The Manhattan Declaration of Anti-Christianity

  1. AND IN OTHER RELIGIOUS NEWS:

    A Mexican cardinal has declared that gays “will never enter the reign of god”.

    http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&id=91852264-3048-741E-9870142928939885

  2. I do suspect that if there ever is a second comming, the people who get damned to the fires of hell will be the ones who least expected it to happen to them.

  3. Not half as gobsmacked as they will be when they discover there is no afterlife at all and their whole upbringing has been one gigantic con.

  4. They seem fairly safe on that gamble, actually – if there’s nothing, then they’ll never know.

    But they’ll definitely be gobsmacked if one of the other religions is right.

    One thing that always gets me about the afterlife wager – if there is a God, and he’s going to reward/punish us eternally based on whether we guess right, then he’s pretty bloody cruel.

  5. They’ll (and atheists such as yours truly) would be more than gobsmacked to find Huitzilopochtli running the show …

    [Huitzilopochtli was the god who was supposed to guide Aztecs towards a promised land in the South. He incited Aztec people to fight without mercy, to form an empire, and to gather prisoners to sacrifice to the gods.

    Aztecs used to offer frequent and numerous human sacrifices to their gods in order to secure rain, harvests and success in war. The victims were usually prisoners captured in the frequent wars that Aztecs were fighting against their neighbors. The most common form of sacrifice was to tear out the heart of a living adult or child and offer it to the Sun.]

    … although with a name that translates to “Blue Hummingbird on the Left” I find him a perfect god for us godless lefties.

  6. … although with a name that translates to “Blue Hummingbird on the Left” I find him a perfect god for us godless lefties.

    Well he sure did a lousy job of protecting them from the conquistadors. I think the roman god Bachus would be more apropriate for us immoral, debauncherizing and destroyers of society and civility lefties.

  7. These are just typical conservative Christians who delight in casting the first stone, and see no problems with that camel getting through the eye of a needle.

  8. “One thing that always gets me about the afterlife wager – if there is a God, and he’s going to reward/punish us eternally based on whether we guess right, then he’s pretty bloody cruel.”

    Or when I think along these lines, I think why would an all knowing, all powerful God involve himself in petty human affairs? I mean if he can do anything why bother creating millenia of misery?

    Like you say, punishing people for eternity for backing the wrong horse would be the action of a cruel, nasty entity. An entity I would never worship!

  9. i miss the old segment “This Week in God” on The Daily Show 😦

  10. I have no problem with people wanting to give money to those they deem worthy. Do you decry Muslim organisations giving to their own selected causes? Or is it just Christians in your sights? And why is it wrong for Christians to respect citizenship rights? Just because you don’t particularly care what country you were born in (as long as you were born in a country that was rich and had internet access to whine on that is).

  11. I’m simply saying it’s not very Christ-like to deliberately take positive steps to withhold charity from children on the basis of their citizenship status.

  12. Actually I don’t think the Houston Sallies are doing that Jeremy.

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6747215.html

    They ask for documentation to protect against fraud, not to separate citizens from non-citizens.

    I think whoever wrote the original article saw the opportunity to manufacture a scandal, rang a few people, took a few quotes out of context – and viola! – instant scandal.

  13. as long as you were born in a country that was rich and had internet access to whine on

    No internet, now that would be hell.

  14. Tim – they should’ve been a lot more careful not to even start discriminating against non-citizens. The effect of the rule they were proposing should’ve been obvious.

  15. There’s always been a bit of a wide gulf as far as the politics of the Salvation Army are concerned. Safe-injecting rooms are an example – you can go to one Salvo and get a pro and another and get a con, and you can expect them to go at it at some length.

    New York Salvos seem to have a reputation for being a bit thick-headed. The employment of gays and lesbians being an example of a topic which they handle bone-headedly.

  16. Is this post one of those instances of non-Christian atheists lecturing Christians on what Jesus taught? Am I unique in finding that absurd?

    In any event, this post seems to be something of a random walk. On the immigration thing, that is nothing to do with theology, it is the result of a government out of step with its people in maintaining the nation’s borders. People in the US are convinced they must take individual and collective action due to continued government inaction on ‘the border’. It is not religious, it is political.

    On the declaration, I am not sure what your point is. It seems these Christian leaders are merely stating that they are concerned about the attacks on traditional Christian institutions. Why is that a surprise?

  17. “Is this post one of those instances of non-Christian atheists lecturing Christians on what Jesus taught? Am I unique in finding that absurd?”

    What Jesus taught is right there in the Gospels. I’ve read them. Have you?

    “It seems these Christian leaders are merely stating that they are concerned about the attacks on traditional Christian institutions. Why is that a surprise?”

    Because what they’re complaining about aren’t “attacks on traditional Christian institutions” at all.

    No-one is forcing “traditional Christians” to get gay married or have abortions. It’s these “traditional Christians” (and that really does need to be in quotes, because I can’t see how campaigning against these things as a priority is Christian at all) who are trying to force THEIR beliefs on everyone else. Not the other way around.

  18. Indeed, I have read the gospels, Jeremy. However, I tend to leave the Christian theology to actual Christians. That seems most sensible for a non-believer.

    And you are being a bit too cute on the subject of marriage, etc. What these Christians are objecting to is the attack on Christian social institutions, not merely the practice of Christian worship. For example, gay marriage is obviously an assault on a Christian version of marriage as traditionally practiced socially, not individually.

    Of course, it would help if American liberal pressure groups were not so keen on persecuting Christians – no prayers in schools, no public nativity scenes, no ten commandment monuments and the like.

  19. “What these Christians are objecting to is the attack on Christian social institutions, not merely the practice of Christian worship. For example, gay marriage is obviously an assault on a Christian version of marriage as traditionally practiced socially, not individually.”

    Only if it was forced on Christians. Is someone proposing forcing Christians to get gay married?

    “Of course, it would help if American liberal pressure groups were not so keen on persecuting Christians – no prayers in schools, no public nativity scenes, no ten commandment monuments and the like.”

    “Persecuting” = “objecting to their being given a privileged position over the rest of us”.

    Not being privileged is not the same as being persecuted.

  20. Jeremy, you are missing my point. I specifically, said these objection are not about private worship (or values) but social institutions that are based on Christian teaching. In other words, the fact that a Christian may still be allowed (I say may) to disagree with gay marriage once it has been institutionalised, does not mean that said Christian will not be upset that a previously Christian institution, marriage, has been debauched.

    And, on the subject of public displays of Christianity, I do not agree that forcing the removal of nativity scenes and the like is equivalent simply to the removal of a privilege. The fact is that such judicial and legislative attacks on public displays of Christian faith are oppressive and ridiculous. What do you think about the Swiss minaret and French burqa bans? (Neither of which, as I understand, are strictly religious institutions, but may serve as comparisons.)

    It seems that atheism has become the new sectarianism!

  21. Well said Jeremy. “Persecuted” indeed!

    These are the people whose religion is recited in parliament every time it sits, their god is the one court witnesses must swear an oath of truth to before they testify, whose religious leaders are rarely if ever called out for their fundamentalism, whose religion forms the foundation for which our laws are built, whose religion is the one our major public holidays are based upon, and which is shared by the majority of people in this country who identify as religious.

    Yet it doesn’t stop their sooks from trying to maintain the discrimination against members of our society….on the basis that they are persecuted! Disgusting!

    I can’t stand religious fundamentalists.

  22. “these objection are not about private worship (or values) but social institutions that are based on Christian teaching.”

    What do you mean “based on”? They existed before Christianity, and the Christians have long since lost their monopoly on the institutions in question.

    “does not mean that said Christian will not be upset that a previously Christian institution, marriage, has been debauched. “

    So what? They can be “upset” all they like. Their being “upset” at someone else having equal rights before the law is a miserably paltry excuse for the proposition that that person should NOT have equal rights before the law.

    “I do not agree that forcing the removal of nativity scenes and the like is equivalent simply to the removal of a privilege.”

    Who’s “forced” the removal of nativity scenes from people’s private property? Or are you talking about objections to the GOVERNMENT that represents all of us endorsing one religion over everything else?

    “It seems that atheism has become the new sectarianism!”

    When Parliament doesn’t open with an oath to Christianity, when witnesses in court aren’t told to swear on the Bible (unless they make a fuss and affirm), when religious institutions don’t get massive tax breaks just for being religious institutions, then we can talk about the oppression of the atheists!

  23. Jeremy, you are being ridiculous.

    While marriage existed before Christianity, western monogamous marriage is based on Christian teachings. Indeed, I am not sure why religions have supposedly lost their ‘monopoly’ on marriage. This isn’t France where one must go to the Mairie and do a civil ceremony, pastors etc are authorised to perform legal marriages.

    As for Christians being upset about gay marriage, wasn’t that the subject of your post? That Christians shouldn’t be upset by the destruction of Christian institutions, because they should instead be fixated on other – supposedly more important – matters such as ‘compassion’?

    And I totally reject the idea that allowing people to pray in schools, for example, is equivalent to (what was your wording?) endorsing one religion over another. No one was forced to pray to a Christian God, or pray at all. The same goes for putting up a nativity scene. Again, this is just atheist sectarianism or, to refer to its antecedent, crude anti-clericalism.

  24. “While marriage existed before Christianity, western monogamous marriage is based on Christian teachings. Indeed, I am not sure why religions have supposedly lost their ‘monopoly’ on marriage. This isn’t France where one must go to the Mairie and do a civil ceremony, pastors etc are authorised to perform legal marriages.”

    What’s your point? Many, many people have non-Christian marriages now. They are recognised by the state.

    Why should the state only recognise marriages that Christians approve of? It doesn’t now. Should everyone but Christians be forcibly divorced – after all, if they don’t believe in God, it’s not a “Christian” marriage, and by your logic – no marriage at all.

    “That Christians shouldn’t be upset by the destruction of Christian institutions, because they should instead be fixated on other – supposedly more important – matters such as ‘compassion’?”

    The stuff Jesus talked about, you mean? Jesus Christ, the guy they named their religion after?

    Yeah, I think they should be fixated on what he said.

    As for them being “upset” – you dodged the point. They can feel however they like about “unworthies” getting married. It is NOT a reason for the government to discriminate against them, though.

    “And I totally reject the idea that allowing people to pray in schools, for example”

    Who’s stopping people praying in schools?

  25. Heh – Jeremy, even though you’ve read the gospels, you only ever talk about the stuff that Christ said when they agree with your own particular ideology. How about all those hellfire and brimstone passages in the gospels, or the apocalyptic preachings? (etc). They never get a look in on this friendly lefty blog.

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