Reconstructionism is back and bigger than ever before. That word is too long, ungainly, and underdescriptive. Let's call it what it is: Christo-fascism, the evil twin of Islamo-fascism. Like all such movements, it is founded on appeals to myth and morality. You can find a prime example, all dressed up in scholarly robes, at manhattandeclaration.org.
Last November, former Nixon aide and convict Chuck Colson teamed up with conservative Catholic scholar Robert George and Southern Baptist theologian Timothy George, dean of the Beeson Divinity School in Gotham, to release the Manhattan Declaration. Couched in calm, compassionate phrases, it is nevertheless a revolutionary document. It fosters on the one hand a refusal to comply with laws at odds with the signers' theological views and on the other the use of law to enforce -- what else? -- a biblical view of morality. Their biblical view of morality.
The declaration opens with a hagiographic history of Christianity that would make a saint blush. It praises Christians for opposing slavery but fails to acknowledge that it was other Christians who founded the enslavement of Africans on the authority of the Bible. It lauds the early Christian martyrs but overlooks the torture and burning that the church later inflicted on thousands of "witches" and "heretics." It credits the church with reviving civilization after the Dark Ages but fails to acknowledge that Islam carried the torch when Christendom went dark. With astounding chutzpah it claims credit for democracy -- a Greek invention later adopted by the Enlightenment, many of whose members were also at least nominally Christians.
With that fantasy version of history as backdrop, you may not be surprised to learn that the authors' morality focuses not on the poor -- the central concern of Jesus, as I recall -- but on opposition to abortion (nowhere mentioned in the Bible), and the use of embryos in medical research (not even dreamed of in the Bible): "We will be united and untiring in our efforts to roll back the license to kill that began with the abandonment of the unborn to abortion."
Again, you probably won't be surprised to hear that they are steadfast in their opposition to the right of homosexuals to marry:
No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality -- a covenantal union of husband and wife -- that it is the duty of the law to recognize and support for the sake of justice and the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow. First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized...
What a pantload! This has all the moral suasion of a claim that to salve the conscience of Jehovah's Witnesses we should outlaw blood transfusions. Their other big argument against gay marriage? That it will lead to sibling marriage. But we haven't touched bottom yet. You may be surprised to learn that the Manhattan Declaration seeks the repeal of the freedom to divorce: "We must reform ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce."
Read closely, and it becomes apparent that they are against divorce, full stop:
Marriage is what one man and one woman establish when, forsaking all others and pledging lifelong commitment, they ... become one flesh, not in some merely metaphorical sense, but by fulfilling together the behavioral conditions of procreation. That is why in the Christian tradition, and historically in Western law, consummated marriages are not dissoluble or annullable on the ground of infertility, even though the nature of the marital relationship is shaped and structured by its intrinsic orientation to the great good of procreation.
You'll be relieved to learn that this high-minded effort to impose authoritarian Christianity on us springs from the highest of motives: "And so it is out of love (not 'animus') and prudent concern for the common good (not 'prejudice'), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture."
Don't laugh. Close to a half a million people have signed the declaration, and the campaign is on to grow that number. Here's how it plays out among the hoi polloi (from a letter to the editor published today in the Maine Morning Sentinel):
Progressives want to take God out of government
Government officials, media members and special interest organizations, for many years have been attempting to discredit, disrupt and destroy the church of Jesus Christ. ... The Bible is the Holy Word of God and provides his commandments and other scripture, which are our guides for living. I believe that they want to control our lives, the government and society. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Transforming America into a socialist or marxist [sic] and godless society will include taking our taxes and other resources and forcibly redistributing our personal property. ... The intention of this great nation was and is to praise God for our blessings and live godly lives. Go to manhattandeclaration.org to learn more about the Christian history and faith. God bless you.
Make no mistake, behind the whiny plaints of victimhood is a lust for fascism. "Godly lives" is what the mullahs of Iran want everyone to live. It's the Taliban's big plan. And it's what the Manhattan Declaration authors have tucked up their sleeves:
The goal of those of us who drafted and signed the document is not just to get a lot of names on a manifesto, gratifying though that is. We are seeking to build a movement -- hundreds of thousands of Catholic, Protestant Evangelical, and Eastern Orthodox Christians who will stand together alongside other men and women of goodwill in defense of foundational principles of justice and the common good.
The best defense, as Coach Lombardi reportedly said, is a good offense. And, believe me, it's on. The war against science, individual liberty, equal rights and other precious gems of American life is in full swing. That's why people, religious and secular alike, who cleave to the Enlightenment values on which this country was actually founded -- reason, tolerance, a commitment to distribute power, heed the majority but protect the minority, and keep religion separate from government -- must come together under their own broad banner. We need a declaration of our own. With your help, we can get a start right here. The floor is now open for recommendations.
Follow Clay Farris Naff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/claynaff