So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
Psalm 102: 21
The making of New Year’s resolutions can have a positive effect on our lives. However, I suspect for most of us they are more a source of despair as we fail to keep them. I came across a series of resolutions made by someone who was ‘keen’ to be a frequent worshipper at their local church.
2006: I will go to church every Sunday.
2007: I will go to church as often as possible.
2008: I will attend the Christmas Carol service.
2009: I will try to watch Songs of Praise.
It is understandable that as we fail to keep resolutions our future resolutions are likely to be less demanding. That is unless our situation becomes desperate and will only get better if we are resolute, motivated, and uncompromising.
It is the opinion of a good many Christians in America that their situation is desperate. The moral decline of their nation has accelerated markedly under their new president. The sanctity of life, the married family, and religious freedom are being gravely undermined by a totalitarian agenda dressed up as choice, diversity and equality. In the face of this moral challenge Christians of all denominations have united to make the Manhattan Declaration. They say:
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
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 defence, and to commit ourselves to honouring 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. (www.manhattandeclaration.org)
And the list of religious leaders who support this declaration is quite possibly the most formidable ecumenical gathering in US history, consisting, as it does, of eminences, graces, archbishops, bishops, reverends, professors, doctors, pastors, presidents, CEOs, deans, directors, founders, editors, not to mention a ‘TV Host’.
The US is not the only theatre for the culture war. Writing in the Telegraph, Gerald Warner highlights its international dimension: ‘In a world where a Swedish pastor has been jailed for preaching that sodomy is sinful (similar prosecutions have taken place in Canada), the European Court of Human Rights has tried to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms, Brazil has passed totalitarian legislation imposing heavy prison sentences for criticism of homosexual lifestyles, Amnesty International is championing abortion, David Cameron has voted for the enforced closure of Catholic adoption agencies, and Gordon Brown’s government has just been defeated in its fourth attempt to abolish the Waddington Clause guaranteeing free speech – this robust defiance (the Manhattan Declaration) is more than timely.’
Perhaps we could take a leaf out of the American Church’s book and make a similar stand for truth, righteousness and justice by endorsing the sentiments of the Manhattan Declaration. It concludes:
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force 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 and immorality and marriage and the family. 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.
So, as true followers of Jesus Christ, let’s emulate the spirit of the Manhattan Declaration with a New Year’s resolution. Not one about meeting for worship frequently, although we should, nor a promise to watch Songs of Praise, which should always be optional, but to fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and under no circumstances to render to Caesar what is God’s.
Happy New Year!