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David Hegg: The challenge of a societal conscience

Posted: July 28, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 28, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Several events around the nation have lead pundits and observers alike to label certain actions "unconscionable."

The word defines is considered unreasonable, not right, or unreasonably excessive.

To engage in "unconscionable" activity is to go beyond the restraints of a reasonable person’s conscience.

The assumption is that there is a "societal conscience" that sets the standard for what is reasonable behavior in our culture.

We are hearing more and more about it.

Manufacturing companies must have an "environmental conscience" while those firms that handle our investments are to have a "moral conscience" that defines their fiduciary responsibility to use our money in a way that conforms to the highest standards of honest business practice.

We expect our teachers to have a certain conscientious attitude toward their students, as must our doctors toward their patients.

I could go on but these are enough to show that each area of our society is still held to a certain standard of behavior, and we often refer to it in terms of conscience.

But increasingly, certain displays of conscience are being condemned.

When Chick-fil-a made the news several months ago for their statement opposing homosexual behavior, they did so on the basis of conscience and were soundly criticized for it.

The same can be said for Hobby Lobby who stated they would refuse, on the grounds of conscience, to cover abortions as part of the health care they provide their employees.

The loudest consequence of these decisions by Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby was the proliferation of contempt and criticism against them.

Their actions were called "unconscionable" by those who consider homosexual behavior and abortions part of their inalienable rights.

The charge was clear: The actions of these companies were unreasonable when measured by standards of the new guardians of our national conscience.

Then along came the Occupy movement who, driven by their consciences disrupted traffic, refused to obey law enforcement, and left tons of refuse in their wake.

But, when these political activists engaged in behavior disruptive to society, they were routinely placated and even lauded.

My question is this: Why is it, in a country that is proud of its pluralism, that a conscientious position with generations of historical standing, can be openly mocked and lambasted with the language of hate and contempt, while new ethical positions that are clearly in the minority receive the stamp of conscientious approval?

We are watching our national conscience become hijacked by those who are driven by feeling rather than thought, by immediate personal desire rather than corporate wellbeing.

Look around and you will see that the passion of the moment is becoming the accepted ethic as historical standards of decorum are thrown in the fire.

Yes, free speech is still the law of the land, but this is certainly more and more one-sided.

It is increasingly dangerous to state openly the social values of the Judeo-Christian position.

Some are testing the public waters with the idea that the beliefs of a biblically informed conscience are really hate speech.

Their daily actions promote the doctrine that everything must be tolerated except that which threatens the validity of their latest desire.

But here’s the great thing about truth.

It will never be eclipsed, either by the opposition of its enemies, or the poor behavior of its friends.

My prayer is that the conscience of our nation will understand the value of informed discourse rather than insolent invective, of listening and understanding rather than prejudicial rants.

We are losing our tie to the anchor of truth, and unless we strengthen our hold, we will drift further off on the waves of disunity and discord.

David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. "Ethically Speaking" runs every Sunday.


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