A Rose Conscience
November 2, 2020
Nathan Stanton has spent the last 10 years as a pastor, church planter and artist on the West, South and Northsides of Chicago, and is an Interfaith America Racial Equity Media Fellow.
We are at a Kairos moment in our country, one where change seems eminent and chaos is just on the horizon. Yet we are faced with a polarized nation largely along liberal and conservative lines. Maybe that is the natural way people will divide? But I have one question, Where is our collective conscience? Where is that tender portion of our psyche that leads us through the unknown valleys of life? We seem to have traded it in for one that is as predictable as it is prideful. Our rose-colored view of our future will have to die the hardest of deaths before the reality of our situation can set in.
I like to say I was born an optimist or born with the view that life will fundamentally work out well. This was the reality on the night of November 26th. Then my family was informed that my 32-year old sister had tragically died in a car accident. That moment shook me up as it did the lives of her children, all four. They’d had their anchor in this world snatched and my 4 brothers, my mom, dad and I had a light go out. This is the time where I had to evaluate my occupation as a self-styled positivist-One with the rose-colored glasses who always saw the upside. You see with all of the powers of a creative I could not find the silver lining. There were several paths to consider and they all looked bleak. This forced me to embrace the chaotic process of grieving the loss of my only sister. A year later I found I could be more honest about the way I felt and lament the injustice my optimism only allowed me to endure. Catharsis was found in the expression of sorrow locked up in my very soul.
So now we stand in the wake of and on the precipice of disease and disaster as a nation. No matter the choice for leader of the free world that is finalized, we’ll find our real comfort has officially deserted us. It does not matter who becomes president or a whole slew of other offices. We are officially broken but there seems to be a chasm between our reality and our rosy disposition that can only be mended with the most courageous truth-telling, Listen!!
We are a loose collective of cowards who are more known for what we think than what we believe, or that which moves us. Our ideologies choose a distance of inactivity, an essential posture of a coward. No conviction can happen without a conscience and we have none. No matter how pure or certain a moral position may seem, there remains a litany of assailants waiting to take it down. Mostly online. Where is the tenderizer for a collective conscience hardened by pride and thought? But what do we believe? What are we convinced and convicted of? The choice of comfort fed upon by the mighty powers that have a vested interest in benefit, has created mouths that parrot the same “realities” without a cost to be had.
In 1 Chronicles 21 David orders a census which was explicitly against the law God had given at that time. As a punishment God give David three choices: a famine, defeat by foes or destruction by way of a God-sent plague. David chooses the latter and 70,000 Israelites die. As an act of mercy God instructs David to construct an altar on the land of a man named Ornan. When Ornan hears this, he offers David his land free of cost. In verse 24 David responds:
“No, but I will surely buy it for the full price, for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings with that that costs me nothing”
Although David went against his conscience in ordering the census, he found it when honoring and worshipping God. Our collective conscience must be developed by belief that leads to courageous action. Without it we are governed by comfort that creates cowards. The 1000 deaths of our collective conscience daily creates an environment rife with opinion yet anemic with action.
I pray we truly embrace the place we find ourselves as a people. That this moment would infuse our hearts with courage to tell the truth. A truth that moves us out of comfort into just action. Inviting us to leave the land of opiniated cowardice and enter into the lush ecosystem of courageous movement.