Trust In A Financial Crisis

When the recession began in 2008 and huge, fabled institutions were shown to be less secure than most people had believed, the word “trust” started showing up in op-ed pieces on the economy. Too much trust had been placed in the proposition that housing prices would continue to rise indefinitely, many wondered if their pension funds could be trusted, citizens absorbing the cost of the recession learned to distrust firms that sucked up unbelievable amounts of tax funded bailouts while their executives continued to indulge in lifestyles of the rich and famous.

The failure of trust should not be surprising. “The very genius of our society,” Stanley Hauerwas notes, “is to forge a political and social existence that does not have to depend on trusting others in matters important for our survival.”

In a crisis of trust, a society should be able to look to those communities within it for which trust is a way of life for a model of what a restoration of trust would look like. The church, it should go without saying, should provide such a model.

Do we provide the needed model? Or are we as enamored with self-sufficiency as our post-Christian society? The early Christians formed a community in which they had to trust one another in matters important to their survival. That means there are at least two possible conclusions to be drawn. Society has so changed over the last two millennia that such trust is no longer necessary in a fallen world. Or, we have become so worldly that a Christian distinctive has been lost.

I find the issue more than a little threatening. Do I even want to forge a way of life that requires trusting my fellow Christians in matters important to my survival? If I do decide to live that… well, radically, what happens if my fellow Christians are unworthy of that trust?

There is an old Irish folk saying: “When mistrust comes in, love goes out.” St. Paul agreed: Love “always trusts,” he wrote to the fractious Corinthian church—a community where it must have seemed suicidal to trust anyone with anything.

How to begin? I’ll tell you what: let’s simply begin trusting one another.

You start.


Hauerwas (A Community of Character) quoted in The Relational Way by M. Scott Boren (Touch Publications) p 74.
Irish saying (
I Corinthians 13:7.