Who do Aussies trust? The ABC asked us, and our answers are revealing:
- We trust: doctors/nurses (97%), scientists (93%), police (84%), judges (80%).
- We mistrust: celebrities (8%), politicians (19%), corporate executives (20%), religious leaders (29%).
Celebrities are fake, of course. Actors are somebody they’re not. When Jesus spoke of hypocrites, his word literally meant an actor, someone playing a role in a Greek play. He called the religious leaders actors. Aussies agree.
But if the church’s message is faith (trust), while our leaders are not credible (not to be trusted), will the church disintegrate? Will people vote with their feet?
Any time there’s a vacuum, something else rushes to fill it. The most surprising figure in the ABC survey was the trust Aussies have in military leaders (76%).
In the 1960s, people realized that they’d been fed lies and propaganda, that truth is the first casualty of war. Postmodernity was born: a distrust of those in power, a mistrust for the metanarratives they spin. With the Vietnam War, we lost confidence in our military leaders.
But 50 years on, who do we trust to save us? We have little faith in religion. Our faith is in our military leaders.
That includes many in the church. Many of us have this disconnect between the physical world and the spiritual one. We trust our armies to save us from invasion in this world, and we trust Jesus to save us in the next. But limiting Jesus to saving us in the next world is failing to recognize him as Lord of this world too. Jesus won’t permit that disconnect. He reckoned that where a people spent their treasure revealed where their heart was. The billions we spend on submarines and jet fighters tells us where our trust lies.
Scripture won’t let us isolate God’s kingship to some future time. God reigns both in the present age and in the age to come. We’re not trusting God to save us in this world if we’re trusting our military hardware.
Horses and chariots were the military hardware of the ancient world, so the Psalms in our language would sound like this:
Some trust in submarines and some in fighter jets,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our leader.
(Psalm 20:7, adapted)
No country is saved by the size of its army;
no fighter escapes by its own power.
A nuclear warhead is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its power to destroy, it cannot save.
But the Lord oversees those who recognize his authority,
those who place their hope in his sovereign faithfulness.
(Psalm 33:16-18, adapted)
This was NOT what Jesus said to the crowd on the mountain:
Trust me to save you for heaven, but trust Herod to save you on earth. Use his army to resist an evil person.
So, I tell you, kill your enemies, and drive back those who oppress you. In doing so, you make it clear to everyone that you are children of a Father who doesn’t care at all about providing for you in this world.
(Matthew 5:39, 44-45, a perversion)
So how do we convince Aussies that Jesus saves the world, defeating evil and restoring God’s governance? Celebrity endorsement, miracle stories, and high-profile religious leaders won’t work. None of that is credible.
Here’s what Jesus actually said:
I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45, NIV)
For the first three centuries, that was the verse quoted most by the church fathers. In the Middle Ages, church leaders lost this focus on enacting God’s grace. They replaced it with a story that gave them power (condemnation of sinners).
Our king never appointed us as judges. Or as executioners (killing our enemies).
Aussies respond to action:
This is how everyone will recognize you’re learning from me: when you’re a community that cares. (John 13:35, paraphrased)
God’s kingdom is good news when it’s enacted. In the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone Is Credible.