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The Non-Violent Conscience

June 05, 2009


I blogged recently on this website about "Abortion and Torture".  These two issues seem to engage differing political constituencies, and yet I have sensed a consistent fundamental value at the heart of each: a preference for life in the midst of death.  The murder of a physician who performed abortions within a Lutheran sanctuary last week, allegedly by an advocate for the "pro-life" position, has only reinforced my own need to ask the question again:  can we see the abortion issue not as the condemnation of those who perform or experience them, but as a context for the inclusion of the unborn?  And certainly, in the aftermath of the murder, an additional question comes to the surface:  "Can we not see both the pro-life and anti-torture positions as being fundamentally non-violent in theory and in practice?"

The good news of Christianity is that retaliation is rejected (see Matthew 5), in favor of the more radical way of forgiveness.  This was not only the teaching of Jesus; it was his practice, as we remember his word from the cross, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23). 

As the last Pope (John Paul II) insisted, we do inhabit a "culture of death".  No political party or religious denomination can imagine that it stands apart from such a culture, as if we are on the side of life, in judgment of those who unlike us have failed morally.  The principalities and powers at work in a culture of death can only be transformed by a commitment to non-violence.  This commitment begins in the conscience of the individual, and, as readers of this blog and listeners to Day 1 would acknowledge, the formation of the conscience happens, for many, in the preaching and hearing of the word.  For this I give thanks, even as I am aware that the formation of conscience is a complex process in our present circumstance.




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