I am changing my driving habits. I will never cross a bridge again. After the collapse of the bridge on I-5 over the Skagit River in Washington last week I have decided that all bridges are untrustworthy.

The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said the bridge collapse near Seattle is a wake-up call for the nation. The federal government has identified 66,000 bridges that are “structurally deficient,” meaning key elements are in poor condition. To maintain roads and bridges alone, the Federal Highway Administration estimates $190 billion is needed every year, compared to the $103 billion now being spent. The American Society of Civil Engineers says that about $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 to fix the country’s mounting problems.

So I will plan my future routes to avoid all bridges. As ludicrous as this decision is, so is the decision of many people to write off the Church as a part of their lives.

Often we hear of Christian leaders who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy. They have not been true to their vows and have violated the trust that has been placed in them. Serious breaches of moral behavior have occurred among church leaders from small congregations as well as those who have responsibility for millions of parishioners.

Charges of financial and sexual impropriety by people who have been entrusted to provide spiritual guidance are all too common. So it makes sense to abandon the institution they represent, right?

Disappointment and demand for accountability and change are definitely appropriate responses. But deserting the Church makes no more sense that refusing to drive over bridges because of structural deficiencies or shoddy construction.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe that major harm is done when spiritual leaders, clergy or laity, behave in ways that are contrary to the high moral standards of Christianity. I do not condone misconduct and do not suggest that such actions should be overlooked or minimized. I am simply saying just as bridges suffer structural deterioration and sometimes are not properly designed or built, leaders in the church are subject to the weaknesses of human nature and may sometimes abuse their privilege.

That being said, I believe when the attitudes and actions of anyone result in abuse or neglect of any person they are not accurate representations of Christ. Jesus taught that every individual is a person of sacred worth and should be treated as such. When the abuser is a leader in the Christian community, serious physical and emotional damage is done to individuals and to society at large.

Church officials should respond promptly and appropriate corrective action should be taken to address misconduct within its community. But to reject Christ and the institution that He established makes as much sense as leaving bridges out of the routes you plan to drive.

Jamie Jenkins

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