Whom Do You Trust?

Posted on April 12, 2018


Not too long ago a ranking of “professionals” appeared in a pretty reliable online journal named Christian History Today. The article was in the News and Reporting section and entitled “The 8 People Trust More Than Their Local Pastor.”

Being a professional of sorts myself, I quickly looked at the sources used by the author and found that at least two were sources I can usually trust, the Gallup poll, and the Pew Research Center. So, I wondered why pastors were such a suspicious bunch.

The article of course started with a dramatic, “catch-you” lead. “Less than half of the country—just two out of every five Americans—believe clergy are honest and have high ethical standards, a recent Gallup poll found.”

So, who were more trustworthy than the teachers of our faith? How about judges, day care providers, police officers, pharmacists, medical doctors, grade school teachers, military officers, and, receiving the highest trust marks, nurses. Where I wondered were college professors? Read on.

Self-identified Christian responders to the poll of course gave higher marks to their pastors than non-Christians, and the two groups also split in some other professions, Christians finding military officers trustworthy (74%), significantly more than non-Christians (63%). Christians also trusted police officers, auto mechanics, and business executives more than non-Christians who tended to trust grade school teachers, judges and newspaper reporters more than Christians.

Car sales people, members of Congress, advertisers, and lobbyist are at the bottom of the list for Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

This next one really surprised me. Last year pastors ranked among the leaders Americans believed could generate healthy conversations about societal issues, while earlier surveys have indicated that Americans view professional athletes as more impactful than faith leaders. Whaaattttt??? Have we gone that low in our value system?

The Gallup findings also found that dynamic pastors are less of a draw for churchgoers than the sermon message itself. Well, that statistic redeems my characterization of the American public, somewhat.

Despite the slow erosion of trust in the clergy, the Pew Research Center concluded that the church overall has maintained its reputation, and American tend to view the impact of religious institutions more positively than colleges, labor unions, banks, or the media.

Nurses are almost always on top as the most trusted profession, while lobbyists are consistently ranked lowest by Christians and non-Christians alike. I like nurses too, and I always trust them almost entirely to get the needle into my veins without hurting me too much when I donate blood to the Red Cross. You have got to have trust when someone comes at you with a needle.

Members of congress are highly distrusted by both Christians and non-Christians (a paltry 11%), while car salespeople and advertisers also come in close to the bottom.

Now, I know some of you may be curious how college professors are ranked. If you are, try a website “www.ratemyprofessors.com” which will give you a look. My last ratings from a few years ago went from a few “awesomes” (obviously astute and perceptive students) to at least one “poor” by an equally obvious disgruntled student who complained the exams were too tough and you better be in class.

College professors weren’t listed in the 22 professions ranked by the Gallup poll and the Pew Research Center. Was this an oversight? Are we college professors—old and new, Christians and non-Christians, Republicans, Democrats and Independents—not professionals? However, an earlier Gallup poll, from last summer, did rank college professors, but low, down with journalists, in the trust and esteem of the public.

What to make of all this? Will Rogers had a lot to say about life in America, but I’ll just share a few: “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” How about: “A fool and his money are soon elected.”

And, one I always enjoyed: “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

I like that nurses, and other health professionals, like doctors and pharmacists, are high in our trust. I bet if pilots had been included in the list, they too might have rated high. They are all entrusted, to one degree or another, with our health and safety and well-being.

What is cause for concern is that those entrusted with truth, honesty, virtue, and morality—to mention just a few areas we should strive to excel in as well as health and safety–come off so badly in our estimation.

Published as “Whom do we trust? You’d be surprised,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday Feb. 4, 2018.

Posted in: Life in America