The parable of the compassionate flock
Once upon a time there lived a flock of chickens in a very nice run. There was abundant food, and a large coop within which they roosted each night, and within which they laid their eggs.
Across from the chicken run was a dense line of trees. It was dark and foreboding, and looked to all the chickens as if it must be a great forest, and contain many bears.
The chickens were dreadfully afraid of many things, but they were afraid of bears most of all. They felt quite safe within the confines of their run. But the chickens felt very sorry for all of the unfortunate animals outside of their run who must share the forest with the bears.
So, they decided upon an idea. They constructed a sign, and the hen which all agreed had the best penmanship wrote upon it in bold lettering:
REFUGEES FROM BEARS WELCOME
It wasn’t long before a passing opossum saw the sign. He waddled up to the entrance of the run and inquired of the chickens, “Excuse me. What is it that you are offering to refugees from bears?”
“Why,” the chickens replied, “whatever poor animals of the forest displaced by awful bears need! Food, shelter, and security, to begin with.”
“I see,” said the opossum, a tear welling in his eye. “Then at last I am safe from the terrifying bears that have pursued me all my life.”
The chickens rushed him inside and began to tend to him. They fed him on their grain and, when he tired of that, agreed to give him a few of their eggs. “After all, we mustn’t be bad hosts and let him go hungry,” they said to one another. “We have plenty here.”
That night, he slept in the rafters, hanging by his tail.
So it went, with the opossum keeping company with the chickens, eating their grain (and a few eggs), and sleeping in the safety of their coop. In time, another opossum saw the sign and found his way to the run.
“The many villainous bears that vex me so will never get me now!” he declared to the chickens, who promptly opened the way for him to enter. Like the first, he was treated to a steady diet of grain, and a few eggs.
In this way passed the weeks and months, with the occasional opossum finding the run and declaring himself on the lam from the bears of the forest. Each was given the same hospitality as the first. Eventually the first litter of baby opossums were born in the coop, and there was much rejoicing. Other litters followed in time.
There were a few chickens who whispered about there being more opossum young in the run than chicks — made more pronounced by the fact that the opossums were eating all of the eggs — but they were quickly silenced by the other chickens.
“These opossums need our hospitality or they will DIE!” said the chickens. “Would you grumblers rather send them off to their deaths at the hands of bears than spare a fraction of our bounty to keep them safe?”
Such a rebuke was enough to silence dissent, and the chickens summarily added a few lines for emphasis on their sign under the word WELCOME.
Time continued to pass, and now all of the chickens were old. The aged hens no longer produced eggs, which meant that the opossums ate that much more grain. One morning, all of the chickens woke and proceeding outside to find the opossums — who missed their eggs and tired of grain — consuming the carcass of a chicken they had killed in the middle of the night.
Before the flock even had the chance to exclaim, a great machine was heard that drowned out all sound. It approached the dense line of trees and pushed, until each and every one of them was uprooted and removed. Now that the chickens could see beyond the dark foliage, they beheld not more forest, but a wide road. And, on the other side, a great field planted with wheat, and more such fields as far as the eye could see.
At last, one old rooster found his way past the shock to speak.
“Without a forest,” he declared to the opossums, “there can be no bears. All this time we have shown you hospitality under false pretense, and you have repayed it in blood. Why, oh why did you lie to us?”
A spokespossum stepped forward and addressed the flock of chickens.
“My dear hens and roosters,” he said. “You posted a sign which promised food and shelter, the good life, to those who could tell you a convincing story, and one which you wanted to hear. We,” he gestured to his opossum kin, “are the performers who provided you with the opportunity to believe that the world is what you thought it was. Because of our services, you have lived this entire time esteeming yourselves higher than you ever esteemed yourselves before, on account of your altruism.”
“Regrettably,” he went on, “the eggs have run dry, and the ruse is up. This is our run now, and you will remain alive such as we need you for labor… or food.”
With no young roosters to drive off the opossums, there was nothing the flock could do. From that day forward the opossums acted as ruthless overlords in the run, until the very last chicken was eaten.
Moral: see to your own posterity before you set after saving the world.
Apropos of nothing, one of our editors posted this on twitter yesterday:
It seems that the LCMS is knowingly coaching opossums, er, Turks, er, Persians on how to pass an interview about bears, er, their Christian faith so that they can remain in Germany as refugees eating… eggs.
Apropos of nothing.