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The Second Great Crisis of Faith in Institutions

I grew up in the 60’s, early 70’s when many young people had a crisis of faith in institutions. The war in Vietnam, the murders of Martin Luther King, John and Robert Kennedy and continued segregation and racism in the South left many college students disillusioned about the authority structures of society. They grew to distrust congress, the presidency, the church, even the institutions of marriage and their parent’s authority over them. But for the most part, middle age and older people still believed.

But we are now in what I’d call the second great crisis of faith in institutions. But this time it’s not being led by college students and intellectuals.

I have great friends, who’ve always been respectful of their pastors and church leaders who’ve left their churches over silly issues as masks and social distancing requirements. I have thoughtful, successful, mature friends who have lost trust in our courts and the election process, based on websites and new sources who claim they have information the U.S. Justice Department apparently doesn’t have or is intentionally ignoring. They deny Covid has killed one million Americans. It’s the flue, they say. Doctors and hospitals are in cahoots to claim deaths by Covid for financial gain. Could some of these things be partially true? Of course. But as I recently told my pastor, “We have lost our minds!” Common sense and faith in church leaders, our courts and traditionally trustworthy news sources has been replaced by almost anything that claims to be “news” or an opinion that agrees with them. Okay, that’s the problem. What is the solution?

Environmentalists have an old motto: Think globally – but act locally. Here’s how I’m trying to counteract the erosion of faith in institutions.

  1. When I get what I believe is a video, or article from a friend that appears to be off-the-wall, I try to fact-check it and thoughtfully respond to the sender with what I’ve found. I try to avoid arguing with them, or sending them my opinion, but just fact-check their news sources. It was shocking to me how often their medical opinions were being shaped by a veterinarian, or researcher who has been discredited by internationally known experts in their field. I’ve asked friends to please not forward this story to anyone else.

  2. When I heard a family left our church over masking and social distancing, I reached out to the husband I know to encourage him/them to return. They didn’t.

  3. I’ve written texts and emails to our church staff and some elders affirming them. (I’ve not always agreed with all their decisions, but the church isn’t a democracy.) It’s a theocracy. Christ is king and “love your neighbor,” “trust your leaders,” and to the best of your ability, “live in harmony with one another, “ still apply. Cheer your leaders on.

  4. I’m spending more time with our high school and college age grandchildren so they too don’t give up on the institutions that have been the foundation of society forever just because some older Christians are. I try to present them with thoughtful, biblical explanations for what they are observing particularly in people who call themselves Christians. In my opinion, more young people are walking away from the faith over the behavior of right-wing evangelicals than to the Dalai Lama! I’ve always considered myself an evangelical, but not that kind of evangelical and I want them to know why.

  5. I’m no longer just pulling the straight party lever when voting. I’m spending more time researching who are the thoughtful, moral, moderate candidates from any party and I’ll be voting for them, or at the very least not voting for politicians who appear to have lost their way and abandoned the traditional values of my party.

  6. And last, but not least, I’m praying for Holy Spirit wisdom for myself. I could be wrong in some of my opinions and I’m open to the Holy Spirit correcting me.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

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