For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Esther 4:14
Almost no one saw it coming. Those who did have an inkling of the danger their nation was facing couldn’t bring themselves to believe that the insanity would prevail, or that the man at the center of it would last. He was, after all, only a retired corporal, an unemployed paper hanger, and a political rookie. His ideas were far too radical, and his style too fanatical, to be countenanced by the sophisticated populace for long. The electorate would soon come to its senses and turn him out. But the intellectual and political elite of 1930’s Germany were completely wrong about their fellow citizens. It took a very long time, three or four years, for them to figure it out. By then it was too late to do anything about it. Adolf Hitler had too much power. The nation, and the world, paid a terrible price for that error.
Thankfully, we do not have a Hitler in our political midst, or at least we do not have one running for office this year. But we do have some things in common with pre-war Germany of the 1930s. First, there are deep and long-lasting cultural and political changes happening all around us, dismantling the social and legal foundations on which our civilization was based. Second, very few of us grasp the long-term significance of the shifts taking place. We’re too busy just trying to make ends meet and live the American dream. And third, the ideas taking hold in the American psyche are contrary not only to Scripture, but also to the common good of every citizen.
When something like that is happening, when a civilization is rushing headlong over a cliff, and when many in the church are running with the herd, it becomes imperative to declare as clearly and reasonably as possible what we stand for, and what we will and will not do in response to the rush. That is what Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonheoffer and others did in 1934, in a document called The Barmen Declaration. A large portion of Germanic Christianity, called the German Christian movement, was drawing its doctrines, polity, and practice from Nazi dogma. Author David Alan Black sums up the Declaration’s intent:
"The Barmen Declaration was not so much a critique of Hitler’s policies (although it was that) as it was an alarm sounded against the usurpation of power and authority in the church by the “German Christian” movement." (see daveblackonline.com)
The Manhattan Declaration is a similar document for a similar situation. It addresses the three most crucial socio-political and theological issues separating Christians today: the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, and the freedom of religion. It articulates, without rancor but with clarity and conviction, what we believe about these things, why we believe them, and what we will and will not do in response to the movements and pressures of the culture.
I urge you to read it, and, if you agree with it, sign it and learn to articulate its precepts. You can find it at their website: www.manhattandeclaration.org.
Who knows, it may be that you and I are people appointed, “for such a time as this.”