A new Pew Research Center report indicates that a lot of people don't have much trust in religious leaders.
Among all American adults, a total of 46 percent said they had either no or not too much confidence that religious leaders can be trusted to act in the public's interest. When you break it down by different branches of Christianity, you find a fair amount of hesitancy to applaud leaders no matter what branch people are in.
For instance, 21 percent of white evangelical Protestants had no or not much trust in religious leaders, while 41 percent of white Mainline Protestants felt that way.
Which at least is not as distrustful of religious leadership as you find among people who identify as agnostic (78 percent have no or not much trust) or atheist (86 percent).
Let's agree that such polling sometimes tells us precious little. But if we assume that there really is a fairly substantial group of Americans who distrust religious leaders, one obvious question to ask is why.
The Pew study didn't delve into that questions, but we can. A few thoughts about why people might mistrust religious leaders to act in the public's interest:
-- People have some kind of personal experience of having been hurt or betrayed by clergy and no action by other leaders of the congregation in response to that hurt.
-- They have read about the sexual abuse scandal among priests and bishops in the Catholic Church (and other faiths as well).
-- Almost any time they tune into religious broadcasting on TV or radio, the preacher is pleading for money.
-- They have experienced religious leaders become spokespeople for one political party or another.
-- They haven't experienced a truly healthy congregation with highly moral leadership, even though you can find such congregations in every great religion.
No doubt there are other causes for this mistrust that you could name. But the question is what you and/or your congregation is doing to change this mistrust into trust.
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AN AFRICAN MUSLIM'S LOVE FOR AMERICA EXPLAINED
On a more upbeat note, here's a lovely piece from The New Yorker by a Muslim man on why his Muslim father from Ghana loves America. "The reason, he said, was very simple: Americans were the ones doing Allah’s work, by steadfastly upholding the Islamic tenet of zakat—a form of alms-giving that makes up one of the Five Pillars of Islam." Wonderful insight. I hope it continues to be true.