Sarah Pulliam Baily of the Religion News Service recently reported that six Christian leaders, including Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, have created a new coalition called "Imago Dei," Latin for "image of God," to encourage people to treat one another with respect. Samuel Rodrigues, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who is leading the cause declared, "I want Christians to not be known for what we oppose but for what we propose."
The campaign declares: "For the image of God exists in all human beings: black and white, rich and poor, straight and gay, conservative and liberal; victim and perpetrator; citizen and undocumented; believer and unbeliever."
Let's hope the leaders of this campaign and those who join them will actually live out the commitments such a theology demands.
The clear implication of this declaration is that we are all God's children, the divine DNA resides in all of us, we all have the Spirit, we all belong to one another.
Of course, this "word" means very little unless it is embodied in flesh and translated into lived action and behavior. I wonder if the conservative Christian leaders who initiated this are prepared to walk the talk.
Are they prepared to not only display compassion for those marginalized and disenfranchised, but are they prepared to be their advocates, to stand with them and beside them even if they disagree with their beliefs and lifestyle? Are they willing to contend for the rights of all people and speak out against the injustices in our laws and courts, in our immigration policy, and in our denial of civil union rights to same-sex couples?
As you might expect, I am hesitant about being too optimistic. In 2009, a group of conservatives that included Rodriguez and Daly produced the Manhattan Declaration, a manifesto that emphasized religious liberty and also opposed gay marriage. That document included a section that humans bear the image of God. Apparently, just because same-sex couples bear the image of God doesn't necessarily mean they should have the same rights as straight couples.
If we say we believe something then we should carefully consider the implications of our belief. Treating same sex couples with respect means recognizing their civil union rights (marriage) under the law, regardless of what one believes about marriage.
It would be a great thing if such statements as "Imago Dei" get actually translated into compassionate service and social justice. I will cautiously wait and hope.