It seems like there is a lot of distrust in America these days. In my conversations, I have been surprised at how much distrust there is. There is a lot of distrust on both sides of the political divide, and I believe distrust is tearing the country apart. From my perspective, there are a lot of reasons to trust societal authorities, the government, police, journalists, etc. So my default mode is to trust, not distrust, the authorities. This post is about why I trust, and not distrust, societal authorities even though they all have their problems.
I believe behind much of this distrust is today’s Postmodern culture. The culture makes us suspicious of the facts because we recognize that there is always a bias (no matter how small) in how the facts are presented. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to believe only the stories that we want to agree with. We are not properly discerning the facts and are falling prey to the spin that promotes our preferred perspective on how things are. There is no self correction, because we, as autonomous individuals, make ourselves out to be the only authority. We alone can discern the truth. All other authorities are suspect, spinning the facts to put their perspective out front. (And today’s culture also allows us to spin the facts the way we want.)
Is it true that the government, police, journalists, churches, etc. put a spin on the facts? Yes, everyone has a bias. That includes you and me, but I believe that American society has built in safeguards to hold people accountable for falsehoods. It does not always work but in general I believe we can trust the societal authorities. There is no need for the institutional disrespect we see today. Yes, we need to hold people and institutions accountable, and there may be biases that need to be dealt with, but in general I believe we should trust our societal institutions.
Let us first take a look at journalists. Their job is to report the news. I believe conspiracy theories are due to not trusting the journalists and the news sources. A journalist would win a Pulitzer Prize if they could prove one of the conspiracy theories to be true. It is that motivation and competition that keeps the journalists honest. So whether the conspiracy theory is one of the 9/11 conspiracy theories or the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theory or a different conspiracy theory, the likelihood that the theory is true is very unlikely. The “what if” possibilities in the conspiracy theories are not evidence of facts. You may want it to be true but it does not make it so. I believe it is the distrust of societal institutions and the journalists reporting that allows these conspiracy theories to flourish. Journalists and the institutions supplying them with information are not perfect, but in America the journalists do a pretty good job. There are biases of varying degrees, but you need to discern those biases. I find the Reuters news service to be pretty unbiased.
(Yes, many of you believe the “Stop the Steal” story, but why were almost all the lawsuits dismissed and why did the Attorney General William Barr say “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election” if the “Stop the Steal” story is true? Maybe you want it to be true, but I believe it is not.)
Many people distrust the police. Some would want to ban police departments, or cut the funding for the police way back. I believe that the vast majority of police officers are good and honest. There are few bad apples that need to be removed, and some department policies need to be reworked so that accountability can be enforced, but in general the American police are in good shape. What happens if there are no police? We have an example from Seattle, WA, June 2020, where for 23 days protestors occupied a few blocks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. The police vacated the area, leaving their precinct station. The protestors started with high hopes. It was to be a police-free, self-governing utopia. Seattle’s mayor Jenny Durkan said the zone could herald a “summer of love”. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be an utopia, and after 23 days and two deaths later, Seattle’s mayor called in the police to end this utopian experiment. The problem as I see it is that we all are sinners and we need the police to enforce some boundaries (i.e. laws) for our good. The police are a necessary part of society. We need them but we also must hold them accountable.
There is a lot of distrust of the government, whether it be federal, state or local. Again, like the police, I believe the vast majority of them are good honest officials, and worthy of our trust, even if we disagree with their policies. Again there are just a few that are “bad apples”. We need to find and remove those. Those who distrust the government, many times say that the deep state or civil servants are hindering government change. Both Trump and Obama supporters have been concerned about deep state interference. My take is the federal government is a huge organization and I see making change to be like trying to quickly turn a massive oil tanker. It will take time.
And today, churches tend to be ignored more than being distrusted. However the sexual abuse scandals have affected the trust in churches. Again I believe the vast majority of clergy and church workers are good and honest, but churches are human institutions, and all humans are sinful so it is no surprise that scandals also are found in churches. And yet we can put our trust in God. He is the trustworthy one, a solid rock that can not be moved, and his love is amazing!
These societal institutions are not perfect, but in America I believe they are worthy of our trust. They do need to be held accountable for their failings. In America, one should default to trusting the authorities. That is where I stand. As a Christian, I take comfort that God has all this in his control. Bad things may happen because of our sin but in the end God will fix all the brokenness.