The Parable of the Bridge
by Carol Crossed
There was a village and a river ran through its center. Every day at 4:00 people would go to the church to pray for those who were drowning in the water.
The farmers put aside their plows, the students put down their books, the mothers took their children by the hand and they would go into the church to pray.
This went on for years, and a wise person came along and was so impressed with the faithfulness of these people, but said, “Why don’t you also go to the edge of the water and pull the people in who are drowning?”
So every day at 4:00 the farmers put down their plows, the students put aside their books, and the mothers took their children by the hand, and some went into the church to pray and others went down to the river. Some made inner tubes. Others had the idea of teaching swimming lessons.
This went on for many years, until a wise woman came along. She marveled at the dedication and steadfastness of love of neighbor. But she had another idea: “Why don’t you go upstream and find out why these people are in the water?
These are the 3 ‘p’s of ministry: the Priestly, the Pastoral, the Prophetic. The priestly is our spiritual life together. The pastoral is charitable works of mercy: our soup kitchens, crisis pregnancy centers, drug and alcohol addiction programs, and other direct charities. We see face to face the poor we serve. We dry them off and see their smiles.
Going upstream is the prophetic approach.
Justice always asks the question why. Does the bridge need repair? Are there too many people on the bridge? Why are so many going hungry? Why are parents, by aborting their children, throwing them overboard? Why is the military’s budget so high that it takes from social programs? Why is it killing people, including civilians, in drone warfare? Why are the elderly and the disabled at greatest risk for assisted suicide?
Could it be that we are running across the bridge with reckless abandon, intent to get to the other side, and others are in our way?
It’s my lifestyle, my body, my life. There are too many children in the world, too many single moms, we are taxed out of sight. Keeping prisoners on death row is expensive, so let’s have fewer levels of appeal. Let’s throw them overboard.
But while we are up on the bridge asking the question “why,” we cannot be blind to the people falling overboard. What do we do? We involve ourselves in the peace and nonviolent movements of justice: We build human guard rails on the bridge and we work for laws that will build guardrails. We stand on the sides of the bridge and hold signs that say “Stop Drone Warfare!” at Griffiss Air Force Base rallies. “Don’t abort your child” at the 40-days for Life Vigils. “Assisted Suicide: Another name for killing!” at the State Courthouse.
There are all sorts of people holding signs on the edge of the bridge: the progressive, the conservatives, the religious, the humanists. Because of our differences, huge gaps in the guardrails exist because we do not join hands. Your-issue-is-not-my-issue breaks the chain on the bridge and people fall overboard. Do we not threaten our own vulnerable group because the guardrail is not continuous? Can we drop our fears and work together, no matter if the person we want to save is a refugee from Syria, or an aborted child, or a person on death row? The consistent life ethic challenges us to go beyond our ideologies and love all human beings.