It's Thanksgiving, of course. So I would like to give thanks that I was not in Laurie Goodstein's shoes the other day when she heard about the upcoming "Manhattan Declaration" announcement -- click here for details -- and then got the news that she could only write 570 words about this very complex ecumenical statement. Talk about mission impossible.
Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.
"We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence," it says.
I am still trying to wade through the various commentaries and documents linked to this 4,700-word statement. For those who are interested in the emerging world of conservative ecumenical work, there are some highly symbolic names on the first list of signatories. Of course, it is also significant who is not, at this point, in the list -- including a very interesting evangelical absentee in the "W" section. There are crucial Orthodox and Catholic names missing, too.
I do not know what was cut from this report. My only complaint about this short, short story is linked to these two pivotal paragraphs when, once again, the assumption is that the primary purpose of the statement is political.
The manifesto ... is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.
They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Now all of that may well be true. However, where are the attributions for these strong statements of opinion? Cut due to lack of length? Probably. However, I still think that this report is quite solid, in view of the short length. The emphasis on religious liberty issues is, of course, a sign of things to come.
Again, I am truly thankful that I didn't have to deal with this topic in a story of this length in a forum as crucial as the Times. Heck, I may have trouble producing a 700-word column that addresses even one or two issues linked to this complex manifesto.
Photo: Why Cornish Hens? That's what my family always cooks for Thanksgiving so that each of us can baste the mini-bird in the sauce of our choice. Plus, there are no leftovers to freeze as we return to the Nativity Lent fast observed by the Orthodox. So there.