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Trusting institutions

Trusting institutions

Something from BARNA research to consider while we are re-imagining The Episcopal Church:

In the not-so distant past, institutions were trusted and valued as important parts of a functioning society—from government, corporations and schools to marriage and even organized religion. Yet trust in institutions is quickly giving way to a nation of cynics. New Barna research reports that Americans are ranking their confidence in institutions at abysmal levels. And this institutional skepticism comprises a significant backdrop for the major faith and culture trends of 2014.

…while tens of millions of adults are questioning the value of institutions, there is also a growing countertrend revealed in new Barna data: increasing resolve among many Americans to advocate for these institutions. This erosion of public trust—as well as the countertrend of supporters of those institutions—underscores three of the major trends that Barna Group has included in the newly released Barna FRAMES project.

1) The role of “church” generates both more skeptics and stronger apologists.

2) Americans wrestle with a culture of violence.

3) Trust in the public school system is failing.

Read more details here.

How do you see these trends affecting The Episcopal Church’s efforts to reorganize its structure?


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Thoughts in response to this “distrust of institutions” phenomenon (one leading national reporter has a regular “Keeping Them Honest” segment: because “They” have a typical inclination to be dishonest?), I found myself thinking of the Hebrew Bible, of all things. Specifically, all that “thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s feet” etc: I think societies, in general, used to do that. All the kings’ and presidents’ mistresses, that Just Were Not Discussed.

Now, we DO “uncover the nakedness”. We EXPECT our media to do that . . . and we’ve come to expect the “nakedness” as well (I recall reading somewhere, early in President Obama’s administration, “let him keep smoking: if he’s made to stop, he’ll probably have an affair”).

I don’t know how I feel about this. No one wants to feel fooled—that a powerful person was living a hypocritical life (while simultaneously having power-over one’s self, that one should NOT engage in the same acts s/he was, secretly).

At the same time, I think our very search for hypocrisy (the expectation of it) somehow “feeds the beast”.

[Also “stronger apologists”? I think that may be the result of our extreme polarization. All the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, for example, leads to the existence of a Bill Donohue: “We’re being oppressed!”]

Just my 2c.

JC Fisher

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