Conscience Steps Up to the Mic ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, September 26, 2005

Conscience Steps Up to the Mic

A code-red instance?

I think we all eventually develop a knack for self-subversion. What's ironic is that we do it by way of self-interest.

In the spiritual realm, we downgrade code-red danger alerts to the level of ozone advisories. Consequently, conscience takes a hit. How does this happen? It's a question of convenience. We discover that "conscience" becomes more manageable, less threatening, when we treat as just one more dynamic that must be factored into decisions.

Something like...

appealing? + cost effective? + feel good? + seem right? = decision criteria
Moral concern become a quality of risk to be managed, a grey area to be allowed for. Conscience stops serving as the primary warning system it was intended to be. For this reason, we often discover there's a need for us to "translate" our consciences.

"a bad idea?" = a morally devastating action
"I probably shouldn't do this" sounds like a recommendation—because it is. We're glossing over the original message, one that carries more than an incidental, experiential clout. Translated, a "bad idea" is often, in reality, a destructive violation of God's intended order. Inner moral flare-ups point to the truth that something greater than a feel-good ethic is at stake. A "bad idea" may have qualifying conditions that make up for its apparent shortcomings. An evil act, on the other hand, is inevitably evil. When the question of right and wrong emerges, our aesthetic preferences had better yield.

seem right? = code red alert
By nature, we prefer to "manage" our consciences like we manage other preferences. But if we paper it over, massage the moral data, there will be fall-out. Evil choices that were smuggled past our consciences can have a dehabilitating (and haunting) effect. Thus, "translating" our consciences into terms of God's words can keep us from crippling ourselves by ill-considered action.

* Inspired by "Heart's Master," a sermon by John Vanderhorst.

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Coach Will said...

Of course, translating our moral indecisiveness into biblical phrases can lead us into a false sense of security as well. If you look hard enough, you can find justification for just about any act you can think of in the words of the Bible. This micro-analysis of the Bible has led to more evil being done in the name of God than you can imagine. And, really, it's still being used today. So perhaps using the Bible as a moral translator isn't the best way for us to always make the right decision.

Ariel said...

"translating our moral indecisiveness into biblical phrases can lead us into a false sense of security..."

As you started in, I thought I was going to agree with you, Coach. People have an ingrained desire to justify whatever they do, and claiming divine approval seems a great catch-all. I've done it myself.

However, Pharisee-ism has the "downside" of being readily transparent to people who actually read the Bible, and interpret it in context. God's book speaks clearly on moral questions. And the Bible condemns hypocrites.

Therefore, tossing the Bible out because some people have abused it is illogical. If we don't use revealed truth as a "moral translator," what do you suggest we do use?

Andy said...

I would rephrase the Coach's last sentence this way:

So perhaps using the Bible as a moral translator isn't the best way for us to always make the right decision if we choose to use good works to get to faith versus using faith to get to good works.

Misinterpretation of the context in which things were written has led to the evil that men have done using the Bible as justification. People have and will continue to selectively choose that which supports their belief - that's human nature.

It's sad, because our faith isn't a checklist.

J said...

I've thought about the topic of the dumbing down of conscience before, but you put a spin on it I hadn't considered before. Excellent post.

Ariel said...

Andy, your qualification does seem to redeem the Coach's remark. Coach, sorry if I misread you.

Thanks for the good word, J.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife