Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Revenge of Conscience

Unfortunately, the condition of human beings since before recorded history is that we don't want to learn hard lessons. We would rather remain in denial. What power can break through such a barrier?

The only Power that ever has. Thomas Aquinas writes that when a nation suffers tyranny, those who enthroned the tyrant may first try to remove him, then call upon the emperor for help. When these human means fail, they should consider their sins and pray. We are now so thoroughly under the tyranny of our vices that it would be difficult for us to recognize an external tyrant at all. By our own hands we enthroned them: our strength no longer suffices for their removal: they have suspended the senate of right reason and the assembly of the virtues: the emperor, our will, is held hostage: and it is time to pray.

Nothing new can be written on the heart, but nothing needs to be; all we need is the grace of God to see what is already there. We don't want to read the letters, because they burn; but they do burn, so at last we must read them. This is why the nation can repent. This is why the plague can be arrested. This is why the culture of death can be redeemed. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before thee . . . a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
J. Buziszewski is Associate Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas and author of Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (InterVarsity). An earlier version of this article was published in William D. Gairdner, ed., After Liberalism (Stoddart).
"Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person."
— Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956)

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