As many of you know, I am currently engaged in studying my Doctorate in Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Each group that moves through the program chooses a name which is reflective of the group’s identity. The group to which I belong, chose the name “The Bridge.” We did so because we felt that we are called to bridge so many differences and help people come together. In many ways it felt like the group that came together had crossed many bridges themselves to come together in the first place. This blog is dedicated to my group: Jack, Ray, Lew, Ericka, Rick, and Cyn… THE BRIDGE.
“There’s a land of justice,
cities filled with pride
A mountain of hope, just on the other side
Across a river of indifference,
and a valley of despair
There’s a tower of courage,
piercing through the air
I have a dream for our children,
I want to take them there”
Those are the words of Kevin Cronin. Those who grew up in the 1980s would be familiar with a group of Chicago legacy rockers known as REO Speedwagon. Loyal fans would remember them from the seventies especially if you are from Chicago are indeed the midwest. Cronin is the group’s lead singer. The band’s popularity certainly waned during the 1990s but they continue to tour and to produce music. In 1996 the REO Speedwagon released a CD entitled “Building the Bridge.” The words above are a verse from the CD’s title track.
I had not heard this CD or song until ‘my other brother Darryl’ emailed me a YouTube link to the song yesterday (You can view the video below – Thanks Darryl) What a great song. I have discovered that while this album did not achieve the commercial success of their earlier albums, most notably ‘Hi Infidelity,’ the song writing on this album is superb – the title track especially.
I love the imagery of building a bridge across a ‘river of indifference and a valley of despair.’ Cronin’s song-writing here strikes at the heart of what is keeping people apart. He is in good company in highlighting the danger of indifference. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard insisted that “at the bottom of enmity between strangers lies indifference.” Our greatest challenge as a people is to overcome the complete lack of concern for our fellow human being. Once we bridge that gap there is hope, the there is justice, there is a pride that is pure.
Bridging that valley of despair whose banks overflow with the waters of indifference is no small task. Between us and that better world lies vanity, arrogance, theology, doctrine, creed, race, orientation, gender, the economy, politics, (you can complete this list). If we would come to care enough to remove our indifference, we would empathize with others and embrace the notion that we all suffer when one suffers. We would understand that another’s suffering is not something that we should just summarize with a ‘whatever.’ How often have we uttered, “It’s not my problem?”
I believe that as a society we have drunk far too long at the river of indifference. Our bellies are full of that poisonous drink! It has causes us to lie down in that valley of despair and succumb to the idiom that ‘the problems of this world are too big for me to change.’ Since I have begun working more diligently in interfaith relations I have felt, more than ever, that the ‘enemy’ of the church is not any other creed or profession of faith. It is our own indifference and our own lack of verve for our own profession of faith. It is our indifference. It is time for us to purge ourselves of the belly full of indifference that we are lugging around. We need to heed the words of Revelation 3:
“I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth. After all, you say, ‘I’m rich, and I’ve grown wealthy, and I don’t need a thing.’ You don’t realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked. My advice is that you buy gold from me that has been purified by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothing to wear so that your nakedness won’t be shamefully exposed, and ointment to put on your eyes so that you may see. I correct and discipline those whom I love. So be earnest and change your hearts and lives. Look! I’m standing at the door and knocking. If any hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to be with them, and will have dinner with them, and they will have dinner with me. As for those who emerge victorious, I will allow them to sit with me on my throne, just as I emerged victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. If you can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. ”
I would like to think that Kevin Cronin was influenced by his Catholic upbringing in Evanston IL. and that he was seasoned in scripture and steeped in a faith that taught that being lukewarm is just never enough – that may just be wishful thinking, but it really does not matter. The important part here is that he has penned a great poem encouraging people to embrace passion for change. Such a powerful song, and in fifteen years I have not heard it. I have not heard it because it received little commercial ‘success.’ I am not surprised that people were ‘indifferent’ about this album. I think we like it better when our artists do not rouse us from indifference but keep us entertained and distracted from what is around us. Good on Kevin Cronin for taking the risk and producing a song that is more than just entertaining. The words of Cronin’s song are a great reminder to all of us that we are called to work to build that bridge to bring humanity together. It will take work and patience but we can bridge the divide with hard work and love:
We are building the bridge
One small stone at a time
With a lot of love
And some help from above
From your heart to mine