It’s easy to become desensitized to violence, suffering, and death. This, naturally, can happen to someone in the midst of horrible evil. In those cases, though, desensitization doesn’t necessarily lead to a numbing of the conscience but instead can become a grace that allows one to bear the weight of tremendous suffering. How else could one live in the midst of war, violence, terror, and sin? I don’t fault anyone for this type of “desensitization”, if we can call it that. This state typically drives people to good works, to acts of mercy and love in the face of oppression, persecution, and violence. It can be sacrificial for the sake of goodness. It can bear the sword for the destruction of evil and for justice.
But there is a wicked conscience that is desensitized and numbed by apathy and moral relativism. This is the worst state a person can find themselves in. This is the conscience that cannot grieve at the murder of children at the abortion clinic. This is the conscience that doesn’t flinch when the poor are robbed and exploited. This is the conscience that cannot mourn when it encounters violence and war. This is the conscience that winks at women and men whose bodies are commodified as merchandise on the sexual marketplace. This is the conscience that feels no guilt when children are castrated in the name of progress and gender ideology. This is the conscience that rejoices in bloodguilt and blood money. This is the conscience that feels no remorse for harm it does to others. It is a conscience that easily kills, without shedding a tear, in the name of anything it can capitalize on, whether it be the proletariat, the rich, the nation, the family, the religion, the individual, the rights, the environment, the revolution, the liberation, the freedom, or the ideology. It is a conscience that has nothing to do with truth telling, with living in reality, with morality, or with God. This desensitized conscience is not tribal. It is the universal property of all men under the fall of Adam, who have grown so accustomed to the curse that they can no longer feel their own evil or the evil of others. It is a conscience that is numb to conviction and sin and the law of God.
When the elderly are dragged from their houses by terrorists and set on fire, our consciences should cry out. When we euthanize our aging parents out of convenience, our consciences should cry out. When children weep next to the bodies of their murdered parents, our consciences should cry out. When we take drugs to starve our children in our wombs, our consciences should cry out. When women are taken as booty and raped and dragged into captivity, our consciences should cry out. When we sell our daughters and our women into fornication and adultery, our consciences should cry out. When homes and businesses and churches and nations are burned and bombed, our consciences should cry out. When we sell our homes and businesses and churches and nations to evil men, our consciences should cry out.
Of the many ills of globalization and technology, one of the worst must be exposure to suffering and violence that we have no interest in. It is easy to read the news of others who are killed while sipping our morning coffee. It is easy to watch the videos, and then switch the screen to football and Facebook. But this can be a natural consequence of our limited power to do anything in the face of evils abroad. It is not always wrong. We must live and work and eat and provide for our families. We must fulfill our obligations and duties to each other. We are never justified, like those pimps and priests of victimization who love to live for trauma, in rebelling against God. We must do what He calls us to do, even in the midst of sin.
But if there is a silver lining of globalization and technology, it ironically must be exposure to suffering and violence that we have no interest in. In this, against our tribal, national, religious, and familial ties, we are reminded that we are all children of Adam. When through a screen I see the face of a crying Israeli child, my conscience is confronted with the faces of the children in my family, in my church, in my community. When through a screen I see the mutilated body of a murdered Israeli woman, my conscience is confronted with the bodies of the women in my family, in my church, in my community. When through a screen I see the arms and legs of men trying to protect the weak and vulnerable, my conscience is confronted by my arms and legs, and by the arms and legs of the men in my family, in my church, and in my community who have an obligation to protect the weak and vulnerable.
And when I see the sins of monsters, my conscience is confronted by my own monstrosity. What weight of guilt the first man must have felt to look at the first woman and the animals and the stars and the ground and the heavens and to know that they were all cursed with death and violence because of his one sin. And what weight of guilt to know that his children would be cursed as well. Who would save him, and all others, from the body of death?
As news of evil reaches my eyes and ears, my conscience points me to that Jesus who was crucified outside of Jerusalem so long ago. What weight of guilt the second man took upon Himself for violent sinners. Never has such innocent blood been shed. And not for Himself, but for others. He had no desensitized conscience. He swallowed violence, suffering, terror, and death. His arms and legs, which were only used for good, were nailed to the cross for the weak and the vulnerable. He bled. He shed tears. He grieved. He mourned. He lamented. He did not forget one face.
Our consciences should be like His.
When we face evil, we should not be numb. When we wrestle our consciences, they should deal seriously with the reality of suffering and sin. This is the work that we have to do when we encounter evil anywhere. When we are able to take action, we must. When suffering is out of our control, we must not let our consciences be desensitized to it. We owe this to our neighbors and to God.
May He avenge all those whose blood cries up from the ground for justice.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.