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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why Conscience is Necessary

Have you ever felt like the plug was pulled out of your life? How did you cope with the power failure? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1289). 

“When you give up your own truth to win at someone else’s game, everyone loses.” (Stephen C. Paul).

The greatest empowerment of all is the respect shown for conscience.

I can tell you of an electronic picture frame upon which several photos are alternatively displayed. One photo is of unusually large lily pads floating tranquilly upon dark, still water; another photo is a portrait of a woman; the third is of a Black Angus cow standing in the luminescence of sunlight. To a stranger looking at these pictures, very little meaning may be telegraphed. But if I were to tell you that the pictures are displayed in my living room, and that the woman is my wife, and that the Angus belonged to my wife’s father, and that the lily pads were photographed by my wife on a cherished outing we had together not long before she passed – then one begins to understand the meaning that the photographs have for me.

My point is a simple one – meaning heavily depends upon context. Without context there is a sense in which meaning cannot be understood or even existent. Yesterday I wrote a blog regarding a recent news event which showed how justice can be denied when context (the big picture) is not considered [found here]. And this applies of course not only to a high profile incident, but to literally millions of everyday occurrences. One of the truly legitimate cries of many Afro-American people within the United States is that those not sharing their experience “just don’t understand.” I remember vividly one day a youth I was mentoring mournfully observed that a mutual friend of ours who happened to be wealthy simply did not understand the hurt of exclusion and grinding poverty.

Today in a discussion with a person of power and authority within an organization, I found a troubling tendency to find great self-satisfaction and security in bureaucratic rectitude – a smug confidence that so long as policies and procedures as narrowly defined are followed, then there can be no question but that justice has been served. This is so far from being true that it approaches the realm of the surreal and even tragic. For it is certainly true that legalism and “the letter of the law” can be totally blind to reality as it exists in the daily lives of many. That is why it is essential that the warning I received from my friend Cato today be heeded: “When you give up your own truth to win at someone else’s game, everyone loses.” But we must be rigorous in the application of this warning applying it with equal force and sincerity to those who do not agree with us as to those who do. The respect for individual conscience must be absolute so long as the result is not vicious. This is especially true in countries like America where individual rights are plainly enunciated. If the country were to do otherwise it would for short-term expediency sell its own soul and forsake its ultimatel raison d'être.  Conscience brings to bear individual realities upon public life.

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