Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley
The lack of trust for institutions in our society may be reaching epidemic levels.
This slow, eroding lack of trust has become a widespread occurrence of an undesirable phenomenon that is ripping at the very fabric of our social beliefs and habits. A recent article in USA Today (10-29-07) by Henry Brinton, a Presbyterian pastor in Virginia, addresses this social shift in attitudes.
Brinton is “convinced that the Christian faith is becoming more like Wikipedia and less like Encyclopedia Britannica. Instead of time-tested religious insights, people are now accepting ‘what others are saying’,” a reference to the fact that any one of 5.5 million registered users of Wikipedia online can edit the religious information.
In a real sense, sophisticated revisionists can re-write history on Wikipedia.
One national leader in an Islamic Republic is preaching that the Holocaust never happened, when in fact the Jews were among more than 6 million persecuted groups that were mass murdered under the German Nazi regime from 1941 to 1945 during World War II.
A survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago has recorded a drop in trust among social institutions since the 1970s. To wit:
Trust in banks and financial institutions dropped from 35% to 28%, major companies from 26% to 17%, the nation’s press from 24% to 9%, educational institutions from 36% to 27%, and organized religion from 35% to 24%.
Apparently some mainline denominational religions that grew in the 1940s and 1950s and began to lose membership in the 1960s are today one-third smaller than they were 40 years ago.
They have been replaced by a rise in non-denominational community congregations that attempt to serve the needs of their worshippers more directly with contemporary praise music in worship and a variety of programs aimed at the needs of children, youths, college students, singles, couples, women and men.
I have attended some worship services at these New Age non-denominational community congregations and can attest to the trend.
As a converted Roman Catholic, I have noticed that many of the New Age churches are not organized in the sense of having and following a liturgical year.
A Catholic Mass is predictable anywhere in the world. There will be the same readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Gospel that strictly follow the liturgical year. The priest will give a homily (sermon for the Protestants) based on the liturgical readings of the week.
Most New Age congregations will hear the pastor preach on whatever strikes his or her fancy at the moment. If more money is needed for a new building or a service program, the message will be tailored to meet the perceived need of the moment.
Many of these pastors are charismatic and great speakers who easily attract a following. If the pastor were to change congregations or religions, I get the impression that many in the congregation would follow the pastor and his message.
The Catholic Church traces its origins to the Apostles and has 2,000 years of history, liturgy and tradition to follow. The unfortunate rise and treatment of pedophile priests has done a grave disservice to the religious community and its followers, and in itself is enough to erode trust in organized religion.
It is not mere conversation to say, “If you cannot trust a Catholic priest, who can you trust?” The fact that there are religious pedophiles in every Christian denomination does not excuse any instance of this abhorrent behavior.
Banks and financial institutions have no real need to fall all over themselves in a fit of righteousness. Some of these lenders have raised lying, cheating and stealing to an art form under the guise of legality.
Clearly the law favors subterfuge in financial matters, and lenders use this cover as an excuse to line their pockets at the borrower’s expense. Bankers think nothing of looking you straight in the eye and telling you what a good deal they are giving you, and encourage you to worship at their feet for the privilege of their services.
What is there to trust when borrowing money from banks and financial institutions? Not much. They advertise about giving customer service and customer care but offer little evidence of doing so when put to the test.
Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a 2-Part Article.