FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Chuck Colson onThe Manhattan Declaration

with Chuck Colson | July 1, 2011
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Marriage is under attack. Find out how former presidential aide Chuck Colson and others with similar family values, including Dennis Rainey, came together to craft and sign a statement of belief called The Manhattan Declaration, pledging their commitment to the sanctity of life, the preservation of traditional marriage and religious liberty.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Marriage is under attack. Find out how former presidential aide Chuck Colson and others with similar family values, including Dennis Rainey, came together to craft and sign a statement of belief called The Manhattan Declaration, pledging their commitment to the sanctity of life, the preservation of traditional marriage and religious liberty.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Marriage is under attack.

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Chuck Colson onThe Manhattan Declaration

With Chuck Colson
July 01, 2011
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Bob:   Jesus said the Great Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  The second is like unto it.  It is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Chuck Colson says loving our neighbor happens in both in individual context and in a cultural context. 

Chuck:  Every human rights campaign that has ever been waged has been waged by Christians since the beginning of the faith because we believe every human being is made in the image of God and is, therefore, infinitely precious.  If you compromise that, everybody is in danger.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 1st.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey; and I'm Bob Lepine.  As we prepare, as a nation, to celebrate our declaration that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, we need to talk about our responsibilities as well.  Stay tuned. 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us.

Dennis:  You got to share with folks what just happened. 


Actually, set our guest up.  Chuck Colson joins us on FamilyLife Today.  You folks wonder why we have so much fun here in the studio.  There are moments that will never make it on air; but something just happened, and I want Bob to explain what took place and what set Chuck up for what he said.

Bob:  First of all, welcome back to FamilyLife Today; great to have you here. 

Chuck:  Thank you, Bob.  Thank you, Dennis.  I’m glad to be with you guys. 

Bob:  We were getting ready to record, and our engineer said, “We don’t have a backup tape running today.”  We thought, “Well, that will be okay.  We’ll trust the Lord to preserve this, and Chuck said...”

Dennis:  What did you say, Chuck?

Chuck:  What I said is, “If there is an 18 ½-minute gap, don’t blame me.” 


Dennis:  If there is an 18 ½-minute gap...

Chuck:  In the tape.

Dennis:  There will be a lot of radio stations wondering, “What happened to FamilyLife Today?” 


Bob:  Well, there may be some folks who are 30 and under who are going, “I don’t understand the 18-½ minute gap.”

Chuck:  Yes, that needs to be explained.  Actually, during Watergate—during that great scandal that some of you have read about in your history books—that I lived through because I was one of the senior aides to President Richard Nixon—there was a taping system. 

They later discovered that that taping system had an 18 ½- minute gap in a crucial conversation, which was later explained by the President’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, having stretched way backwards to turn another machine off and inadvertently turned it off.  If you believe that, there is costume jewelry for sale in the basement, if you’d like; but it was a famous infamous remark.

Dennis:  Oh, it was.   

Chuck:  It lives through the ages. 

Dennis:  Yes, no doubt about it.  Well, I welcome you to FamilyLife Today as well.  Our listeners had to hear that.  It was a classic, and we do have it on tape. 

Bob:  That’s right.  We do.

Dennis:  Chuck, of course, is an author of more than 20 books.  He is the host of BreakPoint.  He and his wife Patty have three children and five grandchildren.  He has been a guest in the past on FamilyLife Today, but we finally won an arm wrestling contest—got him to Little Rock.  I think he has enjoyed his stay here in our city.  We had dinner together last night, just a delightful time with Chuck and his daughter, Emily.

Chuck:  I loved it.  You were quite right.  That was the best salmon I have had. 

(laughter)  Marvelous!

Dennis:  Well, Chuck, you might not know this; but back in 1990, FamilyLife took the better part of a year to consult with more than two dozen scholars, theologians, pastors, educators, and counselors.  We crafted a document called The Family Manifesto.  It was a statement of beliefs around marriage and family at that time, we felt we needed to have a stake in the ground around. 

We crafted this document.  It was edited dozens of times, spoken into by a number of folks, both men and women across the country.  We had over 1,000 people sign that document.  It is framed downstairs.  Perhaps as we leave the office today, I can walk you by and show it.

Chuck:  I’d love to see it.

Dennis:  The reason I had that done back in 1990 was because I felt like marriage and family were under severe attack.  If we, as followers of Christ, did not have a clear statement of what we believed biblically about the institution of marriage—now, back then, it was not under the assault in terms of its definition as it is today.

Bob:  No, but you remember back then when Candice Bergen came on at the end of the famous Murphy Brown episode; and everyone was gathered together, and marriage was any two people who loved each other.

Chuck:  Yes; and Barbara Bush said at the 1992 Republican Convention, “Marriage is whatever people decide it is.  Call it what you want.”  That was the time we were beginning to see an erosion; but you guys certainly had a lot of foresight because this is one of the main lines of attack today in our culture against the most vital institution for preserving a civilized society. 

Any civilized society has to respect the institution of marriage because that is how you propagate the human race.  That is how you discipline and train “young barbarians,” which is what little babies are (laughter), and turn them into self-respecting citizens, law-abiding citizens.

Bob:  Have there been civilizations in history that have attempted to redefine marriage and succeed?

Chuck:  No.  The history is that marriage has always been, in every civilization and throughout history, the union of a man and a woman or men and women— but never same sex.  I mean, Rick Warren and Larry King—back when Rick was flying high and Larry King thought he could get a soft answer out of him on a tough cultural issue said, “You don’t really believe homosexuality is wrong.  Do you?”  He said, “Larry, let me explain.  Stand up a naked man and a naked woman next to each other, and there is your answer.” 

Of course, it is perfectly obvious biologically we are made for that purpose.  When you try to say, “We are going to take two men or two women and that is going to be good.”  It can’t be marriage because marriage—the very definition of marriage is the sacred union of a man and a woman.  That is what it is, and always has been. 

No, this is a new experiment.  In Western Europe, in the last 25 years, we have started to experiment with, “What would happen if we let man and man or woman and woman marry?”  We are discovering, although there has never been a thorough test of this, empirically-validated, but we are discovering evidence in countries where they do that, that heterosexual marriage declines because the heterosexuals look and say, “Well, all it is is an agreement between two people who live together.  Why should we bother to get married?”  It takes away the meaning of marriage.  It guts it. 

This is a new experiment that has never been tried before.  We don’t know the outcome, but I think I can see what the outcome would be.  The outcome would be that the prison ministry that I started 35 years ago will be exploding because the consequence of the breakdown of marriage has been to fill the prisons.  I can prove that—I can demonstrate it—prove it with studies. 

Folks out there are saying, “I want to be compassionate, tolerant.  I want to let these people bring their lives together and adopt children or have them by artificial insemination.”  Folks, get ready for the bill that you are going to pay, which is going to be staggering in terms of social costs.

Dennis:  We will not be able to build enough prisons.

Chuck:  We can’t.  As a matter of fact, if we don’t move pretty quickly to save this generation of kids, there won’t be grandmothers around who will teach their kids.  What you have done is erase the knowledge of right and wrong, and the sensitivity to right and wrong, and the values you live by, which are only passed on by what sociologists call the Community of Memory, which means that the father teaches the child, and that child becomes a father and teaches the next child, or a mother. 

Now, in many families in America, it is the grandmothers in the cities who are doing that teaching.  When that generation of grandmothers dies out, who is going to remember to teach them?  That is the tragedy.

Bob:  If someone from The New York Times was listening to this program, they would go back and write a headline:  Chuck Colson says, “Gay marriage will lead to an explosion in the prison population.”

Chuck:  That is true.

Bob:  People would read that and go, “That sounds far-fetched.”

Chuck:  Yes; but I started working, Bob, in the prisons right after I got out of prison in 1975.  In 1976 we incorporated Prison Fellowship.  There were 239,000 people in prison.  Today, there are 2.3 million.  Just stop for a moment and think of that.  That is a ten-fold increase in 35 years.  Staggering! 

The prisons are jammed.  It costs us, on an average, $35,000 a year to keep a person incarcerated.  You can do the math.  The more you continue this explosion of the prison population, which in many states, we are paying more for prisons than we are for education.  It is insanity.  It is madness.  What is causing it? 

Sociologists believed in the 19th and 20th Century, early 20th Century, crime was caused by deprivation.  It was caused by racism; it was caused by poverty.  Ramsey Clark, who was Attorney General in the ‘60s said, “Poverty is the cause of crime.” 

Two scientists, social scientists, one a psychiatrist, one a psychologist, did a 17-year longitudinal study.  Both happened to be Jewish.  They discovered that crime was not caused by environmental factors.  It was caused by the individual making the wrong moral choice.  This is a Jewish doctor who made this statement.

Dennis:  Imagine that.

Chuck:  Yes.  The answer to crime is the conversion of the wrongdoer to a more responsible lifestyle.

Dennis:  Where does that happen best—to a moral lifestyle—but than in a family? 

Chuck:  Exactly.

Dennis:  I have heard you say that we don’t have empirical data to determine the impact of what is going to take place in a child’s life who is raised by two mommies or two daddies.  We do have empirical data about children who are being raised in single-parent families. 

In fact, 70 percent of those incarcerated have grown up in a single-parent family.  When you couple that with what is taking place today, with live births being 40 percent to single parent moms, in 15 to 20 years, what you have described here as a ten-fold explosion in our lifetimes will be nothing compared to what will happen in the future.

Basically, Chuck, what motivated you, or a piece of what motivated you, is looking at the assault on marriage today.  You ultimately moved to gather some scholars, a small group, to craft a statement of beliefs that was a lot different than The Family Manifesto we created in 1990 because you just took on three fundamental issues.  Explain what you did and why you crafted this document.

Chuck:  Obviously, when you did The Family Manifesto, you saw what was coming.  God had given you an insight of what was going to happen.  Two years ago I realized we were going to be entering a really dark era for Christianity, which is under assault on many fronts.  I gathered some people together and said, “We have to start figuring ways to work together—cooperate.”  Out of that came a conviction on my part that we were going to face the same kind of situation the Truman church faced in the ‘30s when Hitler began to take away the liberties and rights of the church. 

Dennis:  Yes.

Chuck:  Scholars:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a great martyr; Karl Barth, great theologian; and Martin Niemoller got together and drafted something called The Barmen Declaration.  That was the confessing church saying, “We are going to stand on Scripture and are not going to be corrupted by the State.”  Most of them ended up in prison. 

That is a model I took to Dr. Timothy George at Beeson Divinity School—great evangelical theologian.  He happened to have copies in his brief case when he came to a board meeting because he said he wanted to hand them out.  We both realized it was time for that kind of a statement.  That was over a year ago now. 

We got in touch with Robby George, a great legal scholar at Princeton.  The three of us drafted a 4,700-word document.  We invited religious leaders—you were there—to a meeting in New York.  Maybe 80 or 90 came.  It was an extraordinary outpouring of people who came.  I presented this.  To my amazement, they all said, “Yes.  We need to do this.” 

What it is is a manifesto saying, “Based on our common Christian commitment and the Bible that we read, and we cite the Bible verses, we who sign this are pledging with one another that we will not compromise on the sanctity of human life.  That is a fundamental principle, the undergirding of Western ethics, that gives everybody meaning and purpose in life—that protects the innocent.”  

People are always saying, “Why aren’t we caring about the poor?”  You care about the poor because they are made in the image of God.  That is No. 1.

No. 2 is the preservation of marriage—one man and one woman—the institution of marriage.  We confess in there our own failure to do this as a church.  We have not done a good enough job in preserving the institution of marriage, and giving reasons for it, and explaining it to society.

Dennis:  By the way, when we were in that meeting in New York City, there was a moment in that discussion where there was a pause and shame was all over the room as we talked about how divorce has just shredded marriage today—how in the Christian community, those who professed to follow Christ, have allowed marriage to be really in a weakened state within our own community. 

Chuck:  I would say to anybody who is listening, who is a believer, recognize that this is your holy obligation—to preserve the relationship which is a covenant between a man, and a woman, and God.  We consider that paramount.  We consider that the Bible is very clear:  God created a man; he created a woman; and then he joined them as one flesh.  That was the first act that he did. 

The third thing that we said we won’t compromise is on religious liberty.  Most of the assaults on religious liberty have come about as a result—most of them—of our stand for life and our stand for marriage. 

Dennis:  Right.

Chuck:  That is where the assaults have come.  You can’t separate these three issues.  They are absolutely fundamental.  They are threshold issues.  They lead you into everything else. 

We end up the document by saying, “We pledge to one another that we will render ungrudgingly to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but never under any circumstances will we render to Caesar what belongs to God.  These are non-negotiable.”  The interesting thing is, Dennis, people signed it immediately. 

We had a press conference at the National Press Club.  We had, within a week, 100,000 signatures on a website we set up overnight with no money.  Today, we are almost at half a million signers.  Think about that—half a million people have pledged that they will go to jail before they will compromise life, marriage, or religious liberty.  That is a very, very powerful statement to our culture. 

Dennis:  You know what I want to do right now?  I want to crash your server again. 

Chuck:  Good.  Good.

Dennis:  I want to challenge our listeners because they may be listening to this thinking, “This is only for leaders or people in high-ranking positions in organizations or businesses to sign this.”  This is about grassroots America stepping up and saying, “We follow Christ; and we want to put our names on this document as saying, ‘We believe in these three areas.’” 

We just need to go to the website right now, sign up, and put your name with ours.  Pledge to uphold these truths whenever you are given a chance in the marketplace—to push back against evil. 

Chuck:  Don’t just sign it.  Read it.  I know it is going to take your time.  It is 4,700 words; but once you have read that, you will understand the contours of a biblical world view in the most effective way you can understand it.  You will understand the three great issues that are the fault lines of our culture—that could cause everything to collapse—that we believe in passionately.  Learn it, advocate it with your neighbors, and then get your friends to sign it. 

Dennis:  A mom who is listening to this right now is saying, “I can sign that, but how do I take that to my children?  How do I bring it home?”  Those three issues that you talked about—really, moms and dads, grandmas, and grandpas need to be training the next generation of young men and young women in families today to know what they think and what the Scripture teaches about each of these three areas and hold firm convictions because we are losing a generation of young people who don’t have convictions based on the Book. 

 Chuck:  Absolutely.  It is scandalous when you look at the number of people who leave church, go to college, and lose their faith.  It is like 80 percent of Southern Baptist kids—I’m a Southern Baptist—who come out of our churches and go to college where they are bathed in relativism—the idea that there is no truth, that tolerance means you accept anybody else’s behavior, which is not what tolerance means, but it means all behaviors are equal.  “Who are we to judge one another?” 

They start learning this, and before they have graduated from college, they have left the faith behind.  They just weren’t prepared.  If you took—a great catechism would be this declaration—to sit around the breakfast table, or dinner table, or with the kids—and explain to them why life is so important.  People always say, “You Christians have a love affair with the fetus.”  I say, “No.  We are trying to save your life.” 

Also, every human rights campaign that has ever been waged has been waged by Christians since the beginning of the faith because we believe every human being is made in the image of God and is, therefore, infinitely precious.  If you compromise that, everybody is in danger. 

Folks, we have to make the case in a much better way.  We can stand outside the abortion clinics and we can say, “Abortion kills babies,” and that is true; but you have to make a case to your neighbors that the whole question of the sanctity of life underlies Western ethics fundamentally and is the one protection of every single human being. 

Bob:  Chuck, I have asked you the hard question.  You have friends who have not chosen to sign the document, put off by the ecumenical nature of it.  What do you say to them?

Chuck:  I am sorry for them in a sense because there is nothing in it other than Scriptures.  The only thing we talk about is Scripture.  The only thing we talk from is Scripture.  If a Christian can’t agree on what the Scripture teaches about life, marriage, and liberty, I say to them they are letting differences, which are important theological differences—I am a Baptist; and I am very, very convinced of my own theological positions—but that doesn’t mean I won’t work with another person who is of a different confession or a different tradition if they love Jesus, and if they believe the Bible is true, and if they can affirm life, liberty, and marriage. 

Let’s stand together.  This is not a time for us to be divided.  I have argued with some of those friends.  I have got something to swing around.  I talked to one guy who said, “I am not going to sign that because Orthodox and Catholics are signing it.”  Then he read it, and he saw some of the people signing it—because the most conservative Christians in America have all signed it.  He not only signed on; but he sent us a check and said, “Here, this will help your work.” 


People can be educated. 

We live with life-long prejudices.  Sometimes they get in the way of doing God’s work.  What did Jesus say the night before he was crucified?  What was his great high priestly prayer?  “Father, may they be one with one another as I am one with You so that the world will know that Thou didst send me.”  When we are fighting among ourselves, we are hurting our own evangelism. 

Dennis:  Chuck, I want to thank you for your courage in stepping out and calling a group of Christian leaders together to start the ball rolling.  I really want to turn to the listener right now and say to you, “Will you go to the website and, as Chuck said, read it, and then sign it?” 

Then I want to ask you to do something that I see on the internet all the time.  It is a viral email.  Chuck wants to get to a million signatures.  Truthfully, there are enough people listening to FamilyLife Today, who have friends they can send this to, who could just paste it in an email and say, “I signed this.  It is good enough for Chuck Colson, Dennis Rainey, and Bob Lepine.  Let’s get the word out about this; and will you sign it, too?”

Chuck:  That is wonderful.  That is wonderful, Dennis.

Dennis:  I think then to begin to read it to your children and talk about this at the breakfast table or dinner table.  Equip the next generation to know what they believe because, Chuck, I am not only concerned about today, I am really concerned about the young people growing up in families today who are not properly anchored in the Scripture, and do not think biblically, and don’t have convictions around some of the simplest teachings of the Bible.  I think you have nailed it here, and I really appreciate what you have done.

Bob:  You know, as we have been talking about all of this, I have been thinking about the book that our friend, Dr. Wayne Grudem, wrote on politics.  In fact, it is called Politics According to the Bible.  Chuck, you said about that book, “It is a wonderful resource as we face growing tensions from an ever-more powerful State.” 

The great thing about Wayne’s book is that it helps us to think biblically about how the city of man and the city of God should interact—how our spiritual and moral views should influence or should engage with public policy.  I hope our listeners have heard about the book, maybe have a copy of the book.  If you don’t, go to our website,; and there is information available there about how you can get a copy of the book, Politics According to the Bible, by Dr. Wayne Grudem. 

There is also information on our website about The Manhattan Declaration.  If listeners would like to find out more and want to consider signing on as signatories to The Manhattan Declaration, as Dennis and Barbara Rainey have done, again, go to and click the link there to The Manhattan Declaration.  You can get your questions answered there. 

We have heard from a lot of our listeners this week; in fact, from a lot of new listeners who have gotten in touch with us about a booklet we have been offering this week because we think it is a very helpful booklet for people who wrestle with the question of the goodness of God in the face of evil.  The booklet is called If God Is Good, Why Do We Hurt?  It is written by our friend, Randy Alcorn. 

Again, this week, we are making the booklet available to any of our listeners, especially our new listeners, who would like to get in touch with us and find out more about the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We will be happy to send you a copy of this booklet out to you when you request it either online at or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY and let us know you would like to get it. 

Again, the title of the booklet:  If God Is Good, Why Do We Hurt? by Randy Alcorn.  Undoubtedly, that is a question you had to wrestle with at some point in your life.   Maybe, you are wrestling with it today; or you know someone who is.   Contact us and get a copy of this booklet.  Again, we will send it out to you upon request.  Just call 1-800-FLTODAY or sign up online at 

Well, we hope you have a great weekend.  Hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and hope you can celebrate together on Monday, on the 4th of July, which, of course, is a holiday here in the United States. 

Our friend, Dr. John Piper, is going to join us Monday.  We are going to talk about life having meaning and purpose and being focused on what really matters.  I hope you can tune in for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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