On Wednesday evening, September 25, an amazing event was held on the campus of Columbia University, “The Manhattan Declaration Returns Home”.
The Manhattan Declaration is the ecumenical statement of conscience by Christian leaders, dedicating themselves to defending life, marriage, and religious liberty. It was signed in 2009 by numerous leading figures of every Christian denomination and church. The Declaration has since been signed by over 550,000 other people, who have committed themselves to its core principles. It is a vitally important rallying point for people of faith who are engaged in the struggle to defend and restore a true civilization of life and love in our nation. If you haven’t signed it yet, I strongly encourage you to sign it right away.
This event at Columbia was co-sponsored by the Archdiocese, Alliance Defending Freedom (who have been heroic leaders in their defense of the Declaration’s core principles), the New York State Knights of Columbus, and DeSales Media from our neighboring Diocese of Brooklyn (who livestreamed the event over the internet). The event was a landmark, because it represented not only a return of the Declaration to the borough where it was signed, but because of the power of the presentations and the uplifting spirit that they gave the audience.
The speakers were a powerhouse lineup of experts and activists: Eric Teetsel (the director of the Manhattan Declaration); Alan Sears (head of the Alliance Defending Freedom); Ryan Anderson (The Heritage Foundation, and co-author of the seminal book, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense), Sherif Girgis (Ph.D. Candidate at Princeton University, J.D. Candidate at Yale University, and co-author of What is Marriage?); Marjorie Dannenfelser (Susan B. Anthony List), Eric Metaxas (Bestselling Author and Radio Commentator), and Jennifer Marshall (The Heritage Foundation). The evening kicked off with an ecumenical prayer service featuring Cardinal Dolan, who got the program started off on just the right note of prayer and dedication to God’s mission among us.
I served as the emcee of the event, and I made just one small point in my introduction. In spite of the conditions of our society, and the challenges we face, people of faith remain convinced that it is our duty, our privilege, and our honor to bring God’s light into the public square, into the marketplace of ideas. We believe that the eternal truths have something important to off our secularized world. And we are certain that God’s light and truth will enrich the lives of every single human person, and society as a whole.
“The Manhattan Declaration Returns Home” event was important on several levels. It offered people an outstanding panel of speakers who are actively working to defend life, marriage, and religious liberty. Their work and expertise offered a sobering view of where we are in America on these issues, but also hope and encouragement for the struggle ahead. The event was also significant because of where it took place — Columbia University, which was founded as a religious school but now is completely secularized and largely inhospitable to Christian values. Having this event, at this location, is a microcosm of the work people of faith are doing in the public square — bringing timeless principles of our faith to a society that has largely lost those values, and challenging them to recapture the truth and beauty that they are still yearning for in their hearts.
This struggle is difficult, and the challenges are many. The world is working very heard to discourage us, and to convince us that the battle is over, and lost. But we know better. As Ryan Anderson reminded us, and as the Manhattan Declaration proclaims, the battle is never lost as long as we have truth on our side. Truth always wins in the end, over any alluring lie.