Confidence in religious leaders is at an all-time low, according to the General Social Survey. Or to put it a different way, used car salesmen and members of Congress need to slide over and make room for us because only 20 percent of Americans (that’s one out of five) have a “great deal” of confidence in leaders of religious institutions.
Dr. Mark Chaves, professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University, doesn’t think this is as bad as it sounds. “This trend looks bad, but it is important (if not very comforting) to recognize that the situation is not unique to religion. Confidence has declined across a range of American institutions. Americans are less confident in the leaders of many kinds of institutions than they were in the 1970s.”
So, they’re not just picking on us, but that’s not much comfort, is it? I was wondering why the American public has lost confidence in religious leaders. Do you suppose it’s because…
- some of us get caught with our pants down?
- or some of us molest children?
- or some of us protect those of us who do?
- or some of us steal?
- or some of us use illegal drugs?
- or some of us have two wives?
- or some of us are suspected of murder?
The amazing thing is all I had to do was google each of the categories above and not one, but multiple references to each type of tragic offense came up. No wonder confidence in leaders of religious institutions is down.
What do you think are the causes of this staggering decline in confidence in leaders of religious institutions? Am I too hard on us “folk of the cloth,” or is something else at work here that has nothing to do with us (although it does seem to me that we as a profession are tainted by every failure)?
Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia.