The Searing of the American Conscience

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Every parent in America mourns today with the parents and families of the 17 children and faculty murdered Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

One of my early thoughts regarding this tragedy was to pray for not only the parents and families and school, but also for the pastors and churches and youth groups throughout Broward County who will do their best over the coming weeks and months to minister the Lord’s comfort to those whose hearts are broken.

Indeed, Scripture promises that God “healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). In the New Testament also, we find these verses:

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.—2 Corinthians 1:3–5”

I thank the Lord that His comfort is real and sustaining, and I’m praying for those who will share it with the hurting.

Once again, Americans find themselves asking why. Why do these senseless shootings happen? Whose to blame? Guns? Mental illness? Laws? Either too many or too few—or not the right kinds?

I do not believe the answer to the problem is found in adjusting our First or Second Amendments. And while I am concerned with the lack of communication between medical practitioners who deal with mental illness and our law enforcement agencies, I believe there is a deeper root problem—seared consciences in America.

Long before there were guns and even before the first instance of mental illness—back when there weren’t enough people on earth for a mass shooting—Cain murdered his brother Abel: “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (Genesis 4:8).

The commonality in every murderous act is the depravity of the human heart that has turned against God.

God has created us in His image and put within our hearts the gift of conscience, which is designed to not only point us to our need for God (when we fail and our conscience troubles us) but to restrain us from evil. Our society, however, is bent on removing references to God and the Ten Commandments. Hence, there are less spiritual promptings in our culture to direct a person’s conscience in the ways of right.

America’s conscience is becoming defiled, evil, and even seared by the day—all conditions referenced throughout the New Testament.

A seared conscience is one that has been so desensitized—like scar tissue over an old burn—that it is no longer troubled by evil.

Even when you think of some of the mass shooters who have obviously suffered from mental illness, many also were suffering from the mental and spiritual strain of living in a high-tech gaming, media-driven world. There is a searing of conscience that takes place through the repetitive acting out of violence in certain games, watching of violence and power abuse in Hollywood movies, and the numbing of one’s mind through drugs. While some European countries have fewer shootings, young people with seared consciences are still turning to destructive ways, including drug abuse, terrorism and bodily mutilation.

As a whole, our country continues to resist God, and the conscience of the nation is reflected in devastation and brokenness daily.

We desperately need a spiritual renewal in our country. The beginning of this renewal is found in turning to Jesus Christ and finding the acceptance, forgiveness and guidance that knowing Him brings (John 1:12).

I don’t believe that large-scale violence will be restrained by anything less than a renewal of the American conscience. We simply cannot dull—and even sear—our consciences and be surprised when the depraved human heart shows great capacity for evil.

Dr. Paul Chappell is the senior pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church and the president of West Coast Baptist College in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @PaulChappell and find him on Facebook.