Who Do We Trust?

Click to enlarge, otherwise you’ll put your eyes out.

The article entitled “The Key to Prosperity” in Christianity Today reports a survey of 400,000 people across 100 different countries who were asked:

“Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?”

And from that survey was generated a map of correlation between per capita income plotted against “trust” percentile rank.

The article is introduced with the following words:

“What are the most important qualities of a society that allow economic prosperity to take root? A lust for learning and knowledge? A blistering work ethic? Increasingly, academic research has highlighted a characteristic that may surprise many: Social trust.

Trust and its inseparable counterpart, trustworthiness, are themes that run strongly throughout Scripture.”

Keeping in mind the usual caveats regarding correlation versus causation, it is nonetheless interesting to note the way nations across the globe are clustered. You can draw your own conclusions.

Conspicuous on the graph are the orange “Christian” nations high and to the right. These are the most prosperous nations. They are also those that carry the highest historical level of trust that their politicians, generals, faith leaders, and CEOs are going to do what they say they will do.

Seems to me we are witnessing a calamitous decline in trust and trustworthiness in these orange-dotted countries whose decline in prosperity may be correlated in a graph a century from now with the collapse of Christian civility.

The kind of Christianity espoused by the politically-vocal so-called evangelical voice is devoid of charity, instead characterized by a high level of suspicion and mistrust for the poor, for refugees, for prisoners of any kind, of environmental advocacy and for aliens of other colors and faiths. Their central dogma is mistrust, and is as antithetical to the Old and New Testament’s mandate to care for “the least of these” as I can imagine.

My personal take-home from this and related reading is that if Christians are going to be ambassadors of our faith, we must take every measure to be trustworthy and above all, to trust those we do not understand, do not agree with, and especially those who come to us in need, not judging their motives or intent or skin color or expecting payment in return.

The MESSAGE / Matthew 34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me–you did it to me.’

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I notice Pakistan very high in trust. I have a friend who is a devout Muslim Pakistani, so that fact is of interest to me. So sad that our neighbor Mexicois so low.

  2. It seems to me that the graph is all over the place. That seems to indicate there is no relationship at all between the two. Perhaps the only conclusion from the article is that the answer to the question “WHOM do we trust?” is “who cares?”.

  3. Curious observation and conclusion, Steve. Not sure what you intend. I find the erosion of trust concerning and think the article’s point is valid: if we want to promote well-being and reduce suffering and privation, trust and trustworthiness are foundational relationships. I think many care about that.

  4. Fred, this chart is a mess. It appears to me that the nations clustered at the top right are in fact some of the most secular nations on earth. And Italy, Mexico, and all those South American nations are not Christian? Someone is trying to make a point that serves them.
    While I agree that the growing lack of trust is concerning, I think it may have to do with the perceived failure of many institutions, the church being just one of them.
    In addition, there is a distinct difference between personal income and GDP per capita I think, though I readily admit economics is not my strong suit.

  5. Peg, agreed–secular in the present but not by history. Again, the caveat about correlation. I have no reason to think the authors moved the dots to make a point. The point of the article has more to do, I think, with prosperity related to TRUST than to faith, given the questions that were put to respondents.

    The lower-left countries suffer relative poverty related to a national instability. Whether mistrust is a cause or an effect is another matter.

    Catholic nations vs Protestant is the divide, not Catholic vs Protestant. I think the countries on the graph are accurately portrayed in that regard–painted with a broad brush, of course.

    I posted the graph because the article in which it appeared was helpful in my stream-of-consciousness thinking about “the poor” that some want to literally WALL OUT of our sight versus what the Bible actually calls the church to do on their behalf.

    And if the 400k responses from the various countries are indeed accurately placed, I find the graph interesting to ponder in regard to public perceptions of TRUST which is in such vanishingly short supply these days.