David Brooks surveyed the current political terrain in the United States of America and concluded that “The big flashing lights say: no trust.”

I have four general observations on trust and one specifically targeted at the church:

l. There is today a pervasive loss of trust in western society between institutions and those people the institutions exist to serve.

Few people trust politicians. Lawyers are frequently suspect. Suspicion abounds in the business world. Traditional medical practitioners are under scrutiny. There is a chronic lack of confidence in mainline education. And most people associated with any formal expression of religion have lost any vestige of credibility in the eyes of many people in western society.

Trust is a currency of which we are for the most part currently bankrupt. Brooks is right: “The big flashing lights say: no trust.”

2. Trust is lost when power is abused.

The signs that institutions are abusing their power are clear. The institution loses flexibility and openness; it becomes rigid, relying on rules and demanding unquestioning allegiance to dogmas dictated by those in positions of authority. Leaders in an abusive institution do not listen to their context or the people they are intended to serve. They do not want to hear. There is a pervasive lack of respect and rigid hierarchy which gives preference, privilege and special honour to those in authority who are insulated from the lives of those they are intended to serve.

In such an environment is extinguished.

3. Institutions abuse power when they lose sight of their reason for existing and operate primarily in the interests of the institution rather than those the institution exists to serve.

Trust is shattered when politicians lose touch with the common good, lawyers become disconnected from the pursuit of justice, business is driven by greed, medicine focuses on symptoms rather than overall health, educators put control ahead of discovery, and churches serve the special interest of their little religious club rather than the consciousness of all human beings.

4. Trust will begin to be restored when an institution refocuses on its fundamental reason for existing and gives away its power in service of its true goal.

5. For churches to regain trust:

a. all those who consider themselves part of the church must be clear that church exists to support all people in becoming conscious of the presence and action of God in all of life. Everything flows from this starting point.

b. those in leadership must be committed to serving the deepening consciousness of all people. The higher up the hierarchy of church we progress the more responsible we are to be conscious and to conduct ourselves honestly, openly and in service to the growing awareness of those we serve.

c. leaders must put aside all small self-serving agendas and demonstrate openness and flexibility. We must be willing to listen deeply to the Spirit and to the real lives of the people among whom we live. We must then be willing to respond to what we hear with open hearts.

d. whatever our governance structures may be, we must develop an atmosphere in which all participants feel free to contribute their gift towards fulfilling the purpose for which the church exists.

The church exists to support the fulfillment of Paul’s hope that all people might

open wide your hearts also. (II Corinthians 6:13)

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nb: Trust does not mean I will never be hurt. The belief that any human organisation will never hurt me is not trust; it is foolishness. Human beings hurt each other. Trust means, even in the face of inevitable pain, I choose to risk opening myself to the other and giving myself to serve the well-being of all life forms.

Trust is possible because I know that at the centre of my being dwells an inexhaustible power of love and light that no one and nothing can extinguish. I trust in the power and goodness of love, not in a world that never causes me pain. This is the truth embodied in Jesus.

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for Brooks’ quote see: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/29/opinion/if-not-trump-what.html?_r=0

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