Without Trust We Self-Destruct

For as much as critics dismissed [The Thing movie] as expensive trash, there is an idea here: that fear and paranoia can dissolve the bonds of friendship, camaraderie and citizenship. That they can sap us of our ability to work together and paralyze us in the face of crisis. It is an idea which, in our age of misinformation, public distrust and pandemic disease, lands with heavy force. Written by Jamelle Bouie here

Nobody trusts anybody now and we’re all very tired.” Kurt Russell in The Thing.

Apparently a remake of the classic movie The Thing is happening. We’ll see how that turns out.

Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times wrote an op-ed about the 1982 original recently and his point was that the world today is experiencing a “thing” which has infiltrated our lives and caused us to distrust each other. Parents don’t trust vaccinations. Emerging generations don’t trust institutions. Nobody trusts politicians.

Even those of us who say we trust God actually don’t. Otherwise, we would never worry about medical tests and job searches and what in the world will become of The Church post-pandemic.

Either we believe God’s got us or we don’t. And by this I don’t mean that believers never become sick or unemployed. I mean that God uses everything including terrible things. And God has acted through history as trustworthy. We’re the ones who have screwed up.

Someone said to me recently: “I trust Jesus. I just don’t trust The Church.” And we could exchange the word “Church” with “my pastor” or “the Presbytery” or “the elders” or “religion.” There are countless reasons not to trust The Church. Or those other things. Power, greed, envy – all the human characteristics that make us sinners are especially ugly in settings that are supposed to be about service, generosity, and kindness.

What builds trust in The Church today? Here’s what I’m seeing:

  • Non-transactional blessing. (Don’t offer support to refugees and expect them to join your church in return.)
  • Organizations that exist to serve rather than perpetuate their institution. (Hello Presbyteries and Synods.)
  • Keeping confidences which is not the same as keeping secrets. (No I won’t share your addiction struggles. Yes I will report your misconduct.)
  • Being a safe place for everyone and not just for the dominant demographic. (I’m looking at you “friendly churches” who aren’t actually friendly to everyone.)
  • Authentic kindness (as opposed to “for show” kindness while skewering me behind my back.)
  • Working together for something life-giving beyond ourselves.

It feels like nobody trusts each other now and we are all very tired. And yet there is tremendous hope if we are committed to being trustworthy in a weary world.

The Church is at an important moment right now. Let’s not waste this opportunity because God’s got us. And we have work to do in Jesus’ name.

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