LOPEZ: Why just Christians?
GEORGE: For too long, the historic traditions of Catholicism, Evangelical Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy have failed to speak formally with a united voice, despite their deep agreement on fundamental questions of morality, justice, and the common good. The Manhattan Declaration provided leaders of these traditions with an opportunity to rectify that. It is gratifying that they were willing — indeed eager — to seize that opportunity. Of course, as Cardinal Justin Rigali observed at the press conference at which the Declaration was released, the foundational principles it defends “are not the unique preserve of any particular Christian community or of the Christian tradition as a whole. . . . They are principles that can be known and honored by men and women of goodwill even apart from divine revelation. They are principles of right reason and natural law.” So the signatories are happy to stand alongside our LDS brothers and sisters who have worked so heroically in the cause of defending marriage, our Jewish brothers and sisters, members of other faiths, and people of no particular faith (even pro-life atheists such as the great Nat Hentoff), who affirm our principles and wish to join us in proclaiming and defending them.
LOPEZ: Many who signed the declaration are politically conservative. And yet you don the cloak of a Christian tradition of “proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed, and suffering.” Conservatives aren’t exactly known for such things. though. Should they be? Are those who signed the declaration doing anything to change the perception?
GEORGE: Actually, not all of the signatories are conservatives. Ron Sider, for example, who leads Evangelicals for Social Action, is an unabashed liberal. On matters of economics and foreign policy, he would be more comfortable in the company of the editors of The Nation than in the company of the editors of National Review. Several other signatories fall into that category. But they are strongly pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro–religious liberty. I would add that many conservatives certainly have resisted tyranny and reached out to the poor, the oppressed, and the suffering. Conservatives fought Soviet tyranny and worked for the liberation of millions of oppressed and suffering Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Russians, Romanians, and others.
Many conservatives have been in the forefront of the fight against poverty and disease in Africa, the trafficking of women and girls into sexual slavery at home and abroad, and the fight for human rights across the globe. Are there many liberals who have accomplished nearly as much as has been accomplished by the conservative activist Michael Horowitz on any of these fronts? Moreover, it is worth noting that many people who are today “conservatives” were civil-rights activists in the 1960s. Start that list with Mary Ann Glendon, Leon and Amy Kass, and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. They have not changed their views about racial justice. They are today “conservatives” and no longer “liberals” because mainstream liberalism has embraced a combination of statism and moral libertarianism that they regard — rightly in my view — as deeply misguided.
LOPEZ: What’s the top-priority issue for signers of the Manhattan Declaration?
GEORGE: The three principles — life, marriage, and religious freedom — are integrally connected. They are, as the Declaration says, foundational to justice and the common good, properly understood. They will stand or fall together.
Read Reminding Caesar of God’s Existence on NRO.