Saturday, July 18, 2015

Silencing The Conscience

     Christians believe conscience to be God speaking to us through our natures. H. L. Mencken called it “the still, small voice that reminds us that someone might be watching.” Materialists and secularists refuse to discuss it at all.

     As is often the case, there are many theories. As is always the case, there is only one answer, and we the living cannot know it. But we can and do know this: it is real. It has effects upon our thoughts, words, and deeds. They that lack it, or have succeeded in silencing it, though they are few, consistently make the front page above the fold.

     We also know this: rare is the man who will openly speak of its effect on him personally. Thus it is an event of significance to note this occasion:

     I used to be heavily pro-choice. I've been rethinking my views for the last few years, and this just made me 100% Pro-Freakin'-Life. And if you really don't see the problem with harvesting the organs of purposely murdered babies, you are seriously disturbed.

     The fact that the organs are readily identifiable, marks these as partial-birth abortions, not just 'disposing of a clump of tissue.' And don't start throwing exceptions at me -- the vast majority of abortions are NOT to save the mother's life, nor the result of rape. They're for convenience. They're done so that women can let themselves be used carelessly without being 'punished' with the creation of a new human life.

     The social conservatives warned us that legalizing abortion would lead to things like this. They were right, and I was wrong.

     I got nothing else coherent -- I'm just trying not to completely lose my shit over the fact that so many people really don't seem to see anything wrong with this. God help us.

     God help us, indeed. But will He?


     If the citation above is representative, the Planned Parenthood baby-parts-sale scandal will accomplish what even Kermit Gosnell’s House of Horrors could not: it will awaken thousands, perhaps millions of Americans to the commodification of human life. Yet it won’t have told us anything we couldn’t have figured out for ourselves.

     Ace raps us in the teeth with it:

     Planned Parenthood, if they were being honest, would probably say something like this about their videos:

     "Yes, babies' bodies are torn apart in abortions. What were you morons expecting? Most of you want us to supply the conscience-easing, intellectual slop that these are just "clumps of cells," and so we provide you morons with this obviously-dishonest claim. But if you idiots bothered to think about it, you'd realize that of course abortions result in torn apart bodies.

     "But you don't like thinking. You prefer someone else do your thinking for you, and then tell you what you think. Well, we've done that, and now you dare question the manner in which we've done that?

     "The babies were ripped apart, obviously, and we spared you this truth, which you did not wish to confront; and now that we have dead baby organs on our hands, which are, sorry to discomfort you non-thinking two-legged animals again, valuable to biotech corporations, what should we do? Just burn them? Well, America is about making a buck, and we're not making our salaries based on giving out free cancer screening, idiots.

     "All of this would have been obvious to you if you just bothered to think about it, but you didn't want to, so we protected you from ugly reality.

     "You should be thanking us for trying to insulate you from the realities of the world, not questioning us as to why, in this instance, we failed to fully do so."

     So that's their honest answer. But they can't say that, because if they did, people might do some of that thinking that people typically don't like doing. People hate thinking, but they may try it when all other options have been closed to them.

     Gentle Reader, it cannot be put better.


     We have become adepts at temporary, utilitarian silencings of our consciences. We’ve learned to tolerate the intolerable, as long as it brings us something we value. Yet the intolerable must eventually confront us with its evil too baldly to be wished away.

     What has abortion on demand brought us that we value? That’s easy: freedom from sexual responsibility, plus the mollification of a number of special interests. The evil involved – the extinction of helpless innocent lives simply to spare us the consequences of our negligence – has been window-dressed with phrases such as “a woman’s right to choose” and “just a clump of cells.” No doubt those who have contrived to profit from the silencing of our consciences have hoped that they could keep us from pondering the consequences of legal – indeed, government-funded and protected! – prenatal infanticide. Perhaps they could have...if one of their number hadn’t dared to talk out of turn.

     But someone always talks out of turn sooner or later. And if “Wraith,” my Web colleague cited above, is representative, consciences successfully silenced for many years are at last demanding to be heard.

     What will follow? No one can say. What should follow? That, Gentle Reader, is the point of this essay.


     Catholics have a sacrament called Confession or Reconciliation. It involves the honest disclosure of one’s sins to a priest, who then prescribes penance and offers absolution. The underlying doctrine is that only an act of contrition for one’s sins, performed before a living vicar of the Redeemer, can remove the burden of one’s sins from his soul. This distinguishes us from most other religious creeds.

     Confession is a good thing, a necessary thing, and not just for one’s prospects of eternal life in the nearness of God. When it’s at last awakened, a conscience successfully silenced to allow one to commit grievous deeds for his profit or gratification will scream at a volume and a pitch that can destroy him from within. I have no doubt that such a suddenly awakened conscience is the cause of many suicides: persons who cannot bring themselves to confess, or have no one to whom they can confess. Perhaps they know no one who can or will prescribe a plausible and appropriate penance. Thus, they can find no avenue toward absolution. The irony should be lost on no one.

     Clerically prescribed penance more often than not takes the form of prayer. This is a relatively recent practice in historical terms; not that long ago, a Catholic who confessed to some trespass against others would be required to make some form of restitution. Were we to return to that earlier standard, how could we make restitution for abortion on demand? How could we “make it up” to the millions upon millions of unborn children whose lives were snatched away from them before they could draw their first breaths?

     Perhaps prayer is all that remains to us. I hope it’s sufficient.


     Not long ago, I wrote of an encounter with a young colleague who was unexpectedly and unhappily pregnant:

     "I can't make up my mind," she said.
     I nodded. "I can only imagine how hard it must be."
     "I want to know something," she said. "Did you always hold your current opinions?"
     "About abortion, you mean? No, I didn't. They started to change about twenty years ago."
     "Why?" she said.
     I thought about it for a moment.
     "If I were to say that it was a conclusion logically arrived at, I'd be lying to you. I think my current convictions are logically defensible, but only on the strength of a premise a lot of people reject."
     She frowned. "What premise?"
     "That conception produces a unique human being with a right to life."
     "Oh." She smirked. "That's really the issue, isn't it?"
     "Of course. People don't get worked up over demonstrable facts. They quarrel over things that can't be proved or disproved. When was the last time you saw a public demonstration about the Sun rising in the East?"
     Her mouth fell open. I got that little thrill that says you've opened a new avenue of thought for someone else.
     "Well," she said, "what about clones?"
     I chuckled. "Let's wait until someone succeeds in cloning a human being to tackle that one."
     "Okay," she said. "But I still can't make up my mind. Wait." She held up a hand. "You said you didn't arrive at your opinions that way."
     I nodded.
     "Well? How did you get there?"
     I shrugged. "Conscience. The still, small voice."
     "Oh." She sat back, looking satisfied. "Religion."
     I shook my head. "No, conscience. Everyone has one. Perhaps our ability to hear them differs. But I imagine that you're thinking that my Catholicism has more to do with it."
     "Doesn't it?" she said.
     "Only in this sense," I said. "When I came to believe that abortion is morally wrong was when I first became qualified to become a Catholic. The order is important."
     "Oh." She grimaced. "I'm not religious."
     I did not reply.
     Presently she said, "What's the point of it, anyway?"
     "Of religion, or being a Catholic?"
     "Either or both."
     "That's a very long conversation, dear. If you're really interested, we should have it outside of work. Care to join me for lunch? My treat."
     "Uh, not today. Next week sometime, maybe?"
     I smiled. "Just let me know."

     As I told my young colleague, I’d had my awakening of conscience some years before. To call it a brutal event, utterly reaving and humbling of one who’d preened himself for far too long about the “rightness” of his opinions, would do it scant justice. It leveled me. I needed all my powers of body, mind, and soul to recover, to rise and bear the weight from my conscious recognition of what I’d supported.

     You might think I’d refrain from wishing such a painful event upon others, even upon others I dislike. You’d be wrong. Americans need it desperately. We must accept the agony and recover before the weight grows any greater. If we delay much longer, we could become incapable of ever repenting.

     Perhaps we’ll have it now.

2 comments:

  1. Americans need it desperately. We must accept the agony and recover before the weight grows any greater. If we delay much longer, we could become incapable of ever repenting.

    This is true. I was an atheist and a hedonist for the first four decades of my life. (Hmm...I 'wandered in the desert' for 40 years. Coincidence?) I did things against God and humanity that were inexcusably wrong, and I can't say 'I know that now,' because I always knew it--I just chose not to listen to my conscience(or, as I have come to realize, the Holy Spirit. I believe they are one and the same). God didn't lay a Road To Damascus moment on me, as He has so many others. He let me find Him gradually, in His mercy, that I might be able to withstand the full comprehension of my offenses without suffering fatal despair.

    I have a lot to make up for. Indeed, I've done more than I ever could make up for, but for God's grace. All I can do is repudiate my former lifestyle and attempt to turn other sinners from their path with the voice of experience.

    When people would ask me what I wanted to be, my smartass answer was, "I'm gonna be a bad example." That was exactly what I became, and perhaps that example--and the demonstrable results of it--can serve to bring others to God.

    He does seem to have a great sense of irony. :)

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  2. From an earlier, more savage lifetime.


    UNNAMED

    My child never saw the sun in the sky.
    It never will laugh, it never will cry.
    Murdered before it could draw its first breath,
    Is there no one on earth to mourn for this death?

    Like hope in the breast of a man condemned-
    Like an joyful flame dancing in the night-
    Like a flickering thought in an old fool's head,
    So too was the life of my child.

    The long, long walk from cell to noose
    Trod ever so gently to hear the sound
    Of a saving pardon that never comes.
    The trap drops open, and hope falls through.

    The lamp burned brightly 'til darkened by hate,
    And the one charged by God with guarding the flame
    Abandoned her duty and snuffed out the light.
    Now He will be judging the worth of her life.

    The thought was conceived to awaken our love,
    But the love wasn't hers, only mine.
    Now it lives in my heart; the thought, not the love,
    For my love has gone with the child.

    My child never saw the sun in the sky.
    It never will laugh, it never will cry.
    Murdered before it could draw its first breath,
    It has only me to mourn for its death.

    The "Unknown Father" Jan. 14, 1993

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