I have been asked what I think of An Evangelical Manifesto, and so I read through it this evening. A short twenty pages, it was mostly magnificent. I read into it for sixteen pages without reading anything I differed with, and I was reading much that was weighty, solid, good, and desperately needed.
But if this manifesto were a twenty-days-to-a-smoke-free-tomorrow, the arm patch worked just great for sixteen days. Couldn’t have worked better. But then Joe Evangelical lit up three cigars all at the same time. On page sixteen, I began to encounter clouds of smoke like the following:
“We are firmly opposed to the imposition of theocracy on our pluralistic society.”
“In contrast to these extremes, our commitment is to a civil public square — a vision of public life in which citizens of all faiths are free to enter and engage the public square on the basis of their faith, but within a framework of what is agreed to be just and free from other faiths too. Thus every right we assert for ourselves is at once a right we defend for others.”
According to this manifesto, the law over the public square must be faithless, and this faithless source of law must faithfully guarantee liberty and freedom of conscience for all. But why would it want to do that?
While we are all of us down in the new civil public square, jostling around, visiting, talking, sampling one another’s spicy foods, and the Evangelicals are busy witnessing, some of us find ourselves talking to a Muslim and a Buddhist. We tell them, rightly, that Jesus is Lord and that we all must believe in Him, and follow Him. The Buddhist points to the fellow, a big guy with a square jaw, arms folded, standing at the entry way to the public square. He is the guy maintaining order in the civil public square. “What about him?” the Buddhist asks. “Does he have to follow Jesus too?” “Yeah,” the Muslim wonders. “Does he?”
“Um, no,” the manifesto says. “Actually . . . and I know this must sound a little strange to you guys . . . especially to you, Muhammad, but that one is actually required not to believe. It’s a theological thing. Or, rather, its not a theological thing. We’re not sure what it is, frankly. Let’s just hope he behaves.”