December 20, 2013
I recently read an article in The Economist that referenced a study produced in the US about trust. It implied that trust of others was at an all-time low. It seems North Americans don’t trust their neighbors, businesses, and especially not their politicians. The congressional approval rate is at an all-time low … in the single digits … and fewer than ever trust their representatives to do what’s best for the country. In the political discussions about an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, repeatedly political pundits have said “Iran can’t be trusted” to keep its agreements. In the little I’ve read about congressional support for the accords, or lack thereof, and comments by others, the issue of trust comes up repeatedly.
In local news here in Colombia you hear the same kinds of things. As many are aware, the government and the FARC have been in peace talks for over a year. A recent revelation regarding a supposed FARC plot against the life of ex-president, Alvaro Uribe Velez has led to a call from some that the FARC can’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith. Recently, there was news in Bogota that the Attorney General had removed the Mayor of Bogota, which in Colombia is within his legal rights, for suspending garbage collection contracts that created a huge problem for the city (health hazard, among others). While it’s within his legal rights and obligations to do so, it’s also widely held that people don’t trust his motives, feeling they were more politically driven than with regard for the residents of the city.
I have to admit that I’m among those who don’t trust. I recently wrote a blog post about vestments. The story behind the post was about my causing a little of a scandal, unbeknownst to me, by celebrating the Eucharist at the youth retreat without an alb (just a stole). I wrote a lengthy post on vestments reflecting on the role, or lack thereof, of vestments in spiritual authority. And before you ask, “No,” I didn’t post it. After writing it, I decided I should run it by some friends to see if I had said anything that might upset someone. Although neither friend saw an issue with anything I wrote, I decided that having to send it to two friends for comment probably meant that I wasn’t comfortable posting it … so I didn’t. I guess you could say I didn’t trust you, my readers, enough to accept what I had to say and, if you felt the need to do so, to respectfully disagree with me.
As I pondered the article in The Economist, considered the post I didn’t publish, and thought about trust/distrust in society, I started to reflect on the fact that we’re in Advent. Isn’t Advent about trust? Aren’t we, as people of faith … those who trust … awaiting the second coming, which we acknowledge in Advent? (In case we’re not all on the same page, Advent is about both the remembrance of Christ’s birth as well as our preparation for His return, which is why many of our scriptures in Advent reflect penance and judgment as well as stories related to the nativity.) If we say, through an expression of our faith, that we “trust” God and “trust” that “Christ will come again” as we proclaim in the Eucharistic prayer, are we being dishonest or disingenuous when we also say we don’t trust our neighbor? Isn’t our theology and Christology a little out of whack if we hold both to be true … as in, many of us express that we experience God and Christ in community?
I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity to reflect on the issue of trust during this Advent season. As I continue my reflection, I ponder the words of Yentl’s father from the 1983 Barbra Streisand movie in which she asked her father to teach her scripture (which women at the time were not allowed to do), “I trust that God will understand. I’m not so sure about the neighbors.” I suspect that’s the position of many Christians, whether or not we admit it. My prayer for 2014 is that we begin to recognize and appreciate that there IS a relationship between our trust of each other and our trust in God, as I’m not so sure we can truly trust God when we can’t trust our neighbor.