Trust and Mistrust

There is an old story about a Maine farmer who gets up before dawn, as he did every day, to walk over to the barn to milk his cows.  As he returns to the house, the dawn breaks in full glory — casting its incandescent beauty over the fields and the distant forest.  As he looks out the window while drinking his early morning coffee, his wife breaks the silence:  “Isn’t it a beautiful day?”   He looks at her with a cold eye:  “Yeah, and we’re going to pay for it, too.”

I know that story.  Most of us do.  Maybe not the cow part, but I know the hesitation, if not resistance, to accept beauty or grace or hospitality without wondering if there is a catch — or if the proverbial shoe is going to drop, or if some price is needing to be paid.

It is an issue of trust.  Or,  more properly, mistrust.  Mistrust is sweeping over the cultural landscape like an emerging dawn that threatens to never set.  And  is anything but beautiful.

There is a growing number of people who have a deep mistrust of the government, fearful that it will reach ever deeper into pockets to pull out more taxes, or reach into bedrooms or holsters to take away guns, or standing idly by as a medical procedure reaches into a womb to take what they insist is a baby (at six weeks).  The mistrust can metastasize

Into narratives that deny mass shootings, or conjure up voter fraud — or insist that America’s southern borders have become welcome wagons for refugees and the dispossessed.

When mistrust reaches a certain threshold, as is happening more and more these days, people have a tendency to invest their trust in a demagogue, a dogma or a distraction.  The idea is that giving over complete trust can make life easier.  Instead, it makes life more precarious, if not more dangerous — for everyone; because what is really going on is that people who put their blind trust in a person or an organization are surrendering their agency.  Surrendering — not to a faith, but to an unambiguous view of the world that doesn’t exist.  Surrendering their thinking to someone or something else.  The rigidity, and the certainty that accompanies it, may reduce anxiety, but it only makes the complexity of the world’s problems worse.

The journey of faith necessarily involves wrestling with doubts, which is a form of mistrust.  Frederick Buchner, prize winning author and theologian who died on August 15 at age 96, wrote that doubts are the “ants in the pants in faith.  They keep it alive and moving.”  (Wishful Thinking, 1973).

Mistrust is always either lurking on the horizon or seeping into the stomach.  It is always showing up.  We have to deal with it.  Wrestle with it.   Facing mistrust eventually moves us to a deeper and more abiding trust — which then enables us to greet a sunrise — not with hesitation or fear,  but with a full gratitude.

What Do The Risks of Aleksei Navalny and Jesus Say to Us?

When Aleksei Navalny returned to Russia from Germany in January 2021 after recovering from being poisoned, prison was certain and death was likely.   Navalny died on Friday, February 16 at the IK-3 Penal Colony, located 1200 miles northeast of Moscow in the arctic...

Aging, the Election and a Pathway Through the Chaos

Are Joe Biden and Donald Trump too old to be President?  This question is getting a lot of attention, with no end of commentary.  Assessments are being made as to each candidate’s physical stamina, mental acuity, and psychological health.  Recommendations have been...

Immigration: Moving Beyond Technical Fix to Adaptive Challenge

In 2013 I spent a couple of days at the southern border with a group of fellow bishops.  We stayed in Douglas Arizona, but several times made our way through the checkpoint into Agua Prieta, Mexico.  A small group of us helped deliver water to the several water tanks...

From a Dentist’s Chair: Musings on Vulnerability

Last week I sat for two hours in a periodontist’s office while receiving a dental implant.  My mouth was adequately and expertly numbed, and the only discomfort I felt was the anxiety I experienced when the periodontist began to drill into my jawbone.  There was not...

I Versus We

Some fifty years ago, The Episcopal Church, along with many other Christian denominations, went through a liturgical upgrade.  The Nicene Creed, which was first written in 325 during the Council of Nicea (and from which its name is derived), and which is said at most...

Ep 10 – “How We Learn to Be Brave” with Bishop Mariann Budde

We discuss the process of discernment in decisive moments in life and faith, and how God calls us to be brave in such moments.

Ep 9 – “Following the Way of Jesus” with Pastor Raymond Chang

We discuss the roots of Ray’s faith commitment, the origins and nature of his work to prevent gun violence and racialized violence, current events in Israel and Palestine, and the role of reconciliation in all of this.

Stepping Out of Fear and Into Light and Hope

It was someone else’s story, but over the years I have retold it as if it has become my own.  It was Gardner Taylor’s story, which he told at the end of a sermon during my first year of divinity school, nearly fifty years ago.  Dr. Taylor was then the pastor of...

Ep 8 – “Finding Solutions Together” with Angela Ferrell-Zabala

Our discussion touches on faith and love for our neighbors and Angela shares the powerful example and influence of her mother on her life.

Where Does Evil Come From? How Best to Deal with It?

Several years ago, while still an active bishop, I facilitated a meeting that I suspected would not go well.  It didn’t.  People, including me, came in angry or scared – or both.  Half the group resisted the agenda, and the other half resented the resisters.   Nearly...
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!