I am not about to enter the Kim Davis fracas concerning her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But her case does provide space to say a few things about conscience.
Fifty years ago, few people thought little about recycling, seat belts, second-hand smoke, or allowing their children to play football. These were not within the realm of conscience. With more knowledge, perspective, and wisdom, they are now within the realm of conscience for many of us.
In other words, it is possible to add things to conscience.
It is also possible to subtract things from conscience.
For example, fifty years ago someone may have been against interracial marriage and it may have been a matter of conscience to prevent it. As this person gained more knowledge, perspective, and wisdom, she might reflect and eventually decide to eliminate the prohibition of interracial marriage from the realm of conscience.
We have the ability to examine the elements of our conscience. This I what I call the larger conscience. To explain it in Disney movie terms—It is the bigger voice that says to the smaller voices: Reflect on what you’re conscientious about.
If conscience means anything, it must be the ultimate scrutinizer of our moral convictions that stock the smaller conscience. As the ultimate scrutinizer, it reflects on the conscientious stockpile. The larger conscience is ever vigilant to the constituents of the smaller conscience and makes us think about additions and deletions.
People have very intense experiences that change their lives. They become awakened to good and evil in the world and develop convictions that become part of their conscience. However, perhaps the full awakening of conscience is the strict scrutiny of the stockpile of experiences and principles in the smaller conscience and continuously asking the question about what stays and what goes in light of more knowledge, perspective, and wisdom.