Nobody I’ve ever met likes abortion and considers it a moral good, although I’m sure there are a small number for whom it poses little if any moral quandary. Nobody I’ve ever met wants to weaken the institution of marriage, although I imagine there are a few hedonists who feel the world would be a better place if it resembled a Hugh Hefner pool party. Nobody I’ve ever met wants to deny the basic freedoms of speech, conscience, or religious faith, although most of us are more nervous about some people’s speech, conscience, and faith than we are about others’.
But as I read and reread the statement released in November by prominent Christian leaders on the sanctity of life, “traditional” marriage, and religious freedom, I realize that its framers and signers must look out at the rest of us who didn’t sign and wonder: What’s wrong with them? Are they pro-abortion, anti-marriage, and anti-freedom? And sadly, that’s a question that seldom gets asked or answered, because, by framing issues in an us-vs.-them way, declarations too seldom lead to dialogue.
If such a dialogue were to occur, the quarter-million-plus signers of the Manhattan Declaration would have the chance to learn some important things about the rest of us.
For starters, they would learn that many of us do in fact abhor abortion. But many of us do not believe that the best way to reduce it is to criminalize it. And even some who would favor criminalizing it do not believe that the approach of the Religious Right in recent decades is an approach we could support—whether on moral, political, or strategic grounds.
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