The Clear Call of Conscience

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There is no innocence in staying silent when evil stares you in the face. Silence may come from cowardice. It may indicate the absence of conscience. Sometimes silence is complicity. GOP Georgia election official Gerald Sterling broke the silence yesterday.

Conscience, Confession, and Courage: the enduring witness of Martin Niemöller

German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller supported Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich before his eyes opened to its horror in the late 1930s.

For his outspoken opposition, he became a prisoner in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1938 to 1945. His poem “First they came…” still calls silent acquiescence to account.

First they came…

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

Who’ll be a witness?

Martin Niemöller was not without sin. Nor is Gerald Sterling. They were and are no less flawed than we who carry the burdens of conscience and complicity. Because they are no more saintly than we, their witnesses to truth and goodness remain long after the silence was broken.

“I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this, and every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have that same level of anger.

“Someone’s going to get shot. Someone is going to get killed!

“It has to stop. Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up.”

Gerald Sterling, GOP Georgia Department of State official, December 1, 2020

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, December 2, 2020.