Friday, January 7, 2011

The Manhattan Declaration - On Marriage Part 1

      There has been alot of controversy lately over Chuck Colsons Manhattan Declaration and its treatment by Apple Corporation. In early December of this past year, Apple received a petition through, notifying them of the declaration and its "questionnaire" - a questionnaire that stated that you had a wrong answer if you believed that gay people should be allowed to be married. Seeing this, Apple removed the Declarations App from its App store, citing that it was "objectionable and potentially harmful to others". The creators of the App then went back to the drawing board, removed the faulty questionnaire and resubmitted it, allowing you to only read and sign the Manhattan Declaration. Apple once again rejected the App, citing again that there was objectionable and potentially harmful content contained within the Declaration. If you can imagine, the Christian Right was not too pleased with this classification, and claim instead that Apple is suppressing their freedom of speech and that they have labeled Christians as bigots. Regardless of the fact that Apple is a private corporation and thus has no responsibility to protect freedom of speech, and that (as will soon show) the declaration itself is very "bigoted" in a sense, the Christian Right does not see this and instead is still crying foul. In an article that I was reading from the Everyday Christian, they stated...

This action by Apple is beyond political correctness. In effect, Apple has now taken a position against biblical Christianity, as well as against civil discourse and free speech. Rather than remaining true to the freedoms we enjoy in America, it has used its power to stifle the communication of biblically-based values, calling them “offensive.” This is not good PR for Apple. 
In a civil, reasoned, and respectful way, the Manhattan Declaration promotes the sanctity of every human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom. Apple’s rejection of the Declaration’s application paves the way for increased restrictions on religious speech regarding moral issues.  The result of this decision will affect all faith groups if not overturned.
     But is this cry of Apple "taking a position against biblical Christianity" a true one, and does this "pave the way for increased restrictions on religious speech regarding moral issues?" I think not, for instead of the Manhattan Declaration being a benign statement of faith, it is instead a very vehement and condescending document, guised in the language of tolerance and acceptance. And this is only in its marriage section - not even the other two areas of the declaration. But, being that this blog is focused mainly on LGBT equality issues, I will focus strictly on the marriage passages. In this first installment of this two part series I will look into the main "reason" for marriage contained within the document.

     The Declaration starts with the generic concepts of, in a nutshell, God made marriage and it is a symbol of the relationship between Christ and his Church. Then starts a discussion on the importance of marriage in society and the ills that befall a culture when it does not value marriage. For both of these parts, no problem, for they are entitled to their beliefs religiously that marriage is ordained by God. I don't necessarily believe that, but hey who am I to say that they are wrong. Secondly, I would agree with the latter statement about the importance of marriage, it is a very socially important institution that should be respected. Hence why government regulates who can and who cannot be married, for it does have social consequences, both positive and negative, and thus needs to be encouraged.

     It is after this discussion of the importance of marriage that the writers of the Manhattan Declaration get into hot water, for it is here that their discussion goes into what Apple claims is objectionable content. It says,

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships 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 and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. 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 procreation and the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. In spousal communion and the rearing of children (who, as gifts of God, are the fruit of their parents' marital love), we discover the profound reasons for and benefits of the marriage covenant.
    In this section, not only does Colson and the other writers infer that civil and religious laws should be intertwined and equally valid, they at the same time relegate the institution of marriage to the concept of procreation - an argument that I have an unconventional argument again and will address in a bit. To Colson and all, the concept of procreation is essential to their doctrine, to it is the "profound reason for and benefits of the marriage covenant." The Declaration goes on to say,

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God's intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God's patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to "a more excellent way." As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.
In the first sentence, the writers start their decent into labeling an entire people group.  They claim, not surprisingly, that homosexual conduct is "immoral" and that we as LGBT people are somehow "disposed" to such conduct. For many LGBT people, its not that we are "disposed" to homosexual conduct, its just a part of who we are, something that we cannot help just like Colson and the other writers cannot help being "disposed" to heterosexual conduct. But for Colson, this "disposition" is sad, for by having it we have "fallen short of God's intention for our lives." To further complicate the matters, Colson then claims that instead of being angry at homosexuals, the Christian community must never "reject" these poor people who have fallen short of the Lords intention, but instead it must reject the sin that enslaves us poor LGBT people. This is the typical "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" argument that we in the LGBT community here time and time again, and an argument that I will address in a further blog post either today or tomorrow. The Declaration continues,

Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital. They fail to understand, however, that marriage is made possible by the sexual complementarity of man and woman, and that the comprehensive, multi-level sharing of life that marriage is includes bodily unity of the sort that unites husband and wife biologically as a reproductive unit. This is because the body is no mere extrinsic instrument of the human person, but truly part of the personal reality of the human being. Human beings are not merely centers of consciousness or emotion, or minds, or spirits, inhabiting non-personal bodies. The human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit. Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they found a sharing of life at every level of being—the biological, the emotional, the dispositional, the rational, the spiritual— on a commitment that is sealed, completed and actualized by loving sexual intercourse in which the spouses become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation.
Here, Colson bases his opinion on marriage on the concept of procreation. Yet it does not necessarily have to be pure procreation, but instead it can be by "fulfilling the behavioral conditions of procreation."  It is here that Colson's argument is most vulnerable. For we can all disagree with the concept of whether gay and lesbian relationships are moral, and we can disagree over whether the state should put its approval on such unions, but when it comes to the foundational argument of Colson and all, that marriage is when a man and a woman in lifelong commitment to each other fulfill the behavioral conditions of procreation, the argument comes tumbling down through the inconsistencies of its proponents.

   For Colson, marriage now does not necessarily have to be legally or religiously sanctioned. For example, if a man and a woman - who lets say are atheists - decide that they are going to enter into a monogamous commitment to each other and hence have sex - in Colsons mind they are married. Do they have a piece of paper from the state? No, they are just living together. Did they have a commitment ceremony before their God? No, because they are not religious. But because they are committed, and they fulfill this behavioral condition of procreation, they are in fact "married".  Thus, is any government needed? No - for by very definition they are married, since they are fulfilling all of its criteria. Interesting thing to note though, is that many people DO have this arrangement, yet are Colson and writers ok with this? No! Remember when I stated that they said that marriage is important for society and has benefits, well one of the consequences of marriages decline, as stated by the Declaration is....

"Non-marital sexual cohabitation and a devastatingly high rate of divorce."
So Colson, which is it? Is marriage really about fulfilling the behavioral conditions of marriage? If so, then "non-marital sexual cohabitation" sure seems like a marriage to me. Get your logic straight.  Coming up, I will address the rest of the Declarations arguments in detail and show why it was because of these arguments that Apple removed the App from its store.

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