Thursday, April 25, 2013
John Brockman Crane
The Atrophy of Conscience (part 1)

 (This commentary is the first of three parts of an unpublished essay I wrote a number of years ago surrounding the Terri Schiavo case. It has been adapted here concerning Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s recent “house of horrors,” as there is considerable cross-application.)

For the last month or so, there has been a deafening silence about the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who has been charged with murdering babies after they had survived his botched abortions. We cannot restore the lives of these precious little ones. All we can do from this point on is use this tragedy as an opportunity for introspection and action, both personally and as a nation.

The trial of Dr. Gosnell is merely another symptom of the debilitating malady we have allowed to contaminate our culture. For amid the clamor of protests (many regarding the silence of the press) and conflicting opinions, a far more insidious transformation is taking place in this country – the atrophy of conscience. Our conscience is degenerating from disuse.

An expected consequence of our media-saturated world is that we have become callously accustomed to disaster and human tragedy. What used to sear our conscience has become nothing more than a flashing headline as we quickly scan the newspaper over breakfast.

Tragically, this is not the first, nor will it be the last, time that innocent life is taken at the hands of another. And, with the taking of each life, our collective conscience is gradually becoming desensitized to the long-range implications of our short-sighted decision-making (as this incredibly calloused perspective in the NY Timesrevealed some years ago).

While Gosnell is being held accountable for his heinous crimes, the fact is, we have undermined our ability to truly condemn him. How? Because the killing of innocent life inside the womb has not only been encouraged, but even sanctioned, by our society.

As difficult as it is to imagine, we have provided the logical reasoning for a recent article in the Journal of Medical Ethics asking, “Post-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?” This is the culture in which we find ourselves. A culture of our own making. To what end?

The reality of our cultural condition is echoed in the letter of C. S. Lewis’ devilish mentor, Screwtape, to his young protégé, Wormwood, “Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep.” And so here we find ourselves, not only complacent about, but complicit in, the moral deterioration taking place in our culture.

It has been famously said, “In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people…America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” As our conscience devolves, our character goes with it.

(Stay tuned for part 2 next week…)

Veritas Rex author John Brockman Crane is the Executive Director of the Sagamore Student Leadership Initiative

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