In whom do we trust? Part 1


I am continually perplexed by the fact that while many of my friends and I share the same faith, the same commitment to our children, and the same passion for reaching out to those who are hurting, or in need, we often have opposite views politically.

Whether it is on issues like education, or transportation, etc., it seems that their immediate assessment of why such services may not be working effectively is because of a lack of funding. And, to them, the immediate solution is to solicit more funding from the government.

I take the very opposite view. I become immediately suspicious of government becoming more invested in our lives. The more we rely on government, the less we rely on God, ourselves, and the community around us. We lose motivation to exercise our God-given creativity and imagination toward effecting the ideal outcome for our specific situations.

Over time, I’ve come to believe that it is not simply that my political opposites are misinformed or flawed in their beliefs — though I am convinced they often are — it is that they are mistaking socialism for compassion.

Because of their deep desire to help others and have a government reflect this, they believe that the ideal society has a government that will tax its citizens so that it can provide for their needs. However, history has shown us the very fallacy of such an ideology.

Whether it was Germany of the 1940s or Vietnam of the 1970s, for example, history is replete with examples of societies that moved towards socialism and eventually communism in the name of compassion. These governments promoted notions of societal egalitarianism by exploiting the economic disparity of their citizenry and the plight of the poor and marginalized as rationale for levying more taxes and regulations.

On the surface, such reasoning seems to make sense. However, what check does the government have to ensure it acts fairly and justly? Are politicians and government workers of such noble character that we should trust them to equitably distribute trillions of dollars and not abuse their powers?

I think most people would say that they do not trust their government that is not directly accountable to its citizenry to always do the right thing.

Still, detractors may ask, is there a better proposal for meeting the very real needs of society? Is there a viable alternative to a centralized governmental having direct involvement in our daily lives (i.e., education, healthcare, transportation)? Can we really trust individual citizens to act justly?

By extolling ever increasing resources and powers to our government, we seem to state that we have greater faith in those of the political class (i.e., a subset of those untrustworthy citizens) to shape a more equitable and compassionate society than we do in individual and collective groups of citizens (e.g., charitable individuals, non-profit organizations, and churches) to advance the socio-economic conditions of our society, or meet the needs of the most destitute.

I find the ability to distrust our citizens, while trusting our government to bring us towards a more utopian society to be logically incongruent.

And I find myself asking, why is this? Why do so many people not seem to recognize this contradiction?

Then the thought occurs to me that while experience teaches us that mankind is untrustworthy, we desire to retain a notion of being good and doing good without ever really defining concretely what “good” is.

Somewhere along the line, between our television shows and our professors, we have come to believe that we do not need to have a moral lawgiver — God — to define what is good.

So, we expel our Creator from the public marketplace of discussion as being irrelevant, and lose our point of reference for any individual, moral accountability.

To fill this void, we look for a substitute. That substitute often becomes a collective entity to which we hold ourselves accountable — a government, a society, or a culture. We can now use this entity to define our morality and submit ourselves to it.

This is not to say we live in a society that doesn’t believe in God. To the contrary, recent polls from the Pew Research Center indicates that the vast majority of Americans identify themselves as people of faith with more than 70 percent identifying themselves as Christians.

But many may have accepted the notion that their faith is a private and individual matter not to have any bearing in the public marketplace.

So this is my postulation: if our society continues to decrease in its acknowledgement and trust in God, we will inevitably shift towards socialism because governments are often the next greatest entity that directly impacts the lives of its citizens.

As we rely less on God, we will see our society become more antagonistic towards people of faith, more divisive, and violent.

Final note: I recognize this article raises a lot of implications, the chief of which is how can we live in a free, pluralistic society and include God in the equation.

The short answer is that this is what we have done since the founding of our country. The longer answer is to read Part 2 of this article, God-willing, next week!

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]