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.

Recent Posts

Changing the Gun Culture

Changing the Gun Culture

America is awash in guns.  With a little over 4 percent of the world’s population, Americans own 42 percent of the world’s guns.  Gun purchases across the country have skyrocketed.  Restrictions on the carrying and permitting of firearms have eased in many states;...

Election REsults:  Stalemate or Opportunity

Election REsults: Stalemate or Opportunity

The mid-term election results are almost all in.  The Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate, and it looks as though the Republicans will have a slim majority in the House.  Some will say this represents a balance of power; other would argue that it is a...

A Response to the Midterms and Fear

A Response to the Midterms and Fear

I carried a lot of fear into a recently completed five-day canoe trip in the Florida Everglades. Particularly of alligators and pythons, which reportedly lurked throughout the endless mangrove wilderness. Thankfully, they never showed up. The anticipatory fear...

More Guns: A Manifestation of the ‘I’ Culture

More Guns: A Manifestation of the ‘I’ Culture

In half the states in America, it is now legal to openly carry a handgun, without getting a permit or receiving any training.  The New York Times reported on October 26 that the law in Texas, which went into effect in September, 2021, is making law enforcement...

Changing the Gun Culture

America is awash in guns.  With a little over 4 percent of the world’s population, Americans own 42 percent of the world’s guns.  Gun purchases across the country have skyrocketed.  Restrictions on the carrying and permitting of firearms have eased in many states;...

Our Framing Stories: How They Can Free Us or – As In the Club Q Shooting, Can Demonize Us

We are framed by stories.  Our values, horizons and purpose are shaped by the stories that we have heard, read and absorbed.  Some of those stories are constructed – and refracted, to reinforce prejudices and resentments.  While we don’t yet know for sure if the...

Election REsults: Stalemate or Opportunity

The mid-term election results are almost all in.  The Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate, and it looks as though the Republicans will have a slim majority in the House.  Some will say this represents a balance of power; other would argue that it is a...

A Response to the Midterms and Fear

I carried a lot of fear into a recently completed five-day canoe trip in the Florida Everglades. Particularly of alligators and pythons, which reportedly lurked throughout the endless mangrove wilderness. Thankfully, they never showed up. The anticipatory fear...

More Guns: A Manifestation of the ‘I’ Culture

In half the states in America, it is now legal to openly carry a handgun, without getting a permit or receiving any training.  The New York Times reported on October 26 that the law in Texas, which went into effect in September, 2021, is making law enforcement...

Surrendering Into a Portal

Last week, while driving on a highway in the pouring rain, my car spun out of control as I took a turn.  I went around a couple of times and hit the left side retaining wall with my front end.  The collision knocked the car back onto the highway and pointed me...

Invitation to Humility

As our airwaves and platforms are saturated with requests, threats and predictions over the upcoming midterm elections, the unrelenting messaging machines generate visceral reactions, to be sure, but also – maybe, some personal reflection, if not introspection.  What...

Scapegoats, Ego, Soul and Mandorla

In the early rituals of Yom Kippur, (which the Jewish family observed last week on October 5) a goat was presented to the high priest in the holy of holies.  On the goat’s flanks were written the sins of the community – all sorts of scurrilous and cruel thoughts and...

The Importance of Honest and Vulnerable Stories

Our lives are framed by stories.  Stories that we read, hear and see; and stories that we tell – about what we know, what we see, and what we feel.  Yet increasingly over the last several years stories have come under intense scrutiny. In more and more cases, stories...

Religion in the World: A Challenge and an Opportunity

When religion ventures out of its traditional worship space, controversy inevitably ensues. We have seen that recently in Iran where the morality (read religious) police arrested 22 year old Mahsa Amini because her hair was not properly hidden under her hijab. She...
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!