The Death of Trust

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The Death of Trust

America has lost one of the world’s most valuable commodities.
From the September 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

Trust is one of the hardest things to win back once it is lost. It takes only moments to lose, but you can spend a lifetime trying to regain it—and not succeed.

America is suffering a trust crisis.

Do you trust those around you? Do you trust the government, the police? Do you trust the financial system? How about scientists, religious authorities, academia?

If you are like most Americans, the answer is no—or at least not nearly as much as you used to.

That is disturbing, because trust is what makes the world go round. It is one of the most important factors that historically differentiated Western society from the developing world.

For the past 17 years, Richard Edelman has surveyed people around the world to gauge trust in various institutions. This year, his marketing and public relations firm has warned that, in many countries, trust is “in crisis.”

“You see it across all the four institutions, especially drops in media and government, in ngos and businesses teetering on the edge,” he says. “Today, we’re talking about a trust crisis that is causing a systemic meltdown. Only 15 percent of our respondents actually said that they trust the system” (emphasis added).

Whether it is big media, government, science, the medical industry, religion, academia, industry or the economy, people are rapidly losing trust.

Consider the United States presidency. What does it mean for the nation when somewhere around half the people do not trust what comes out of the president’s mouth? When half the nation believes he lies continually, he hates women, he is colluding with the Russians to subvert democracy, he is a racist who wants to ban all Muslims, and he is using his office to greedily enrich himself?

What are the effects on the public of being repeatedly told that society is inherently racist, and that all white people are racist, even if only unconsciously? What is the effect of being told that police are racist because black people are arrested at higher rates than white people, that the justice system is racist because African-Americans and Mexicans make up a disproportionately high percentage of the inmate population? That teachers are racist because children of certain minorities get suspended at higher rates than white children and Asians? That America is not the land of opportunity but of suppression and oppression, as America’s previous president expressed?

On June 6, the Guardian published an article titled “Why We Can’t Trust Academic Journals to Tell the Scientific Truth.” It highlighted a disturbing trend that has some scientists agitated: lack of trust in scientific findings.

Seventy-two percent of scientists know of others who have fabricated results to prove their thesis. Fourteen percent know of scientists who have made up whole data sets. Fifty percent of life-science research cannot be replicated. Fifty-one percent of the findings in economics papers can’t be replicated. As other journalists have highlighted, up to 40 percent of medical studies published in gold-standard peer-review journals cannot be replicated. Do cell phones cause cancer? Yes. Then no. Does eating eggs for breakfast increase your risk of heart attack? Yes. It also decreases it. Does drinking milk make people obese? Yes, then no. Do certain fats actually help you lose weight? No. Then yes.

“The findings of these studies resonate with the gut feeling of many in contemporary academia—that a lot of published research findings may be false,” wrote the Guardian. ”Just like any other information source, academic journals may contain fake news.”

Not even science can be trusted?

Every year, Oxford Dictionaries selects a word or expression that epitomizes the social discourse of the year. 2016’s choice?

Post-truth.

It means: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

That is a rather fitting word for 2016, and rather alarming. We increasingly live in a post-truth world. And the ramifications are only beginning to emerge.

According to Richard Edelman, lack of belief in the system + economic and societal fears + loss of trust in institutions = populism.

And when populism runs rampant, history shows that tyranny is not far behind. Dictatorial leaders take advantage of the massive breakdown in trust. And when the system eventually breaks because people fail to solve the cause of problems (think Communist Russia and Boris Yeltsin)—anarchy results.

And a whole new system is needed.

This is exactly what America needs. A new system. One that brings happiness, prosperity, justice.

There are solutions to this world’s problems. But people need to be willing to listen and actually do the things God says lead to happiness and peace.

So there are some dark days coming, but God also says that beyond the darkness is fantastic light.

And that is a truth you can trust.