American society is experiencing a profound crisis of trust, from government to mass media to educational and religious institutions. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this crisis affects us all.
In Building Cultures of Trust Martin Marty proposes ways to improve the conditions for trust at what might be called the "grassroots" level. He suggests that it makes a difference if citizens put energy into inventing, developing, and encouraging "cultures of trust" in all areas of life -- families, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, and churches.
His analysis is particularly poignant and his conclusions especially helpful when he advocates trust-building in the religion-versus-science debate, rather than the confrontational postures that characterize much of that debate today. Marty believes that such efforts at trust-building will do more than just trickle up to larger areas of society; they will become slow-spreading habits of honesty, inspiring trust on a culture-changing scale.
Of course, Marty acknowledges that the reality of human nature tends toward trust-breaking, not trust-building -- all the more reason, he argues, to develop strategies to bring about improvements incrementally, one small step at a time. In reply to those who remain skeptical that small-scale efforts at trust-building can make a difference, that efforts to understand and deal honestly with each other can improve the conditions for trust, Marty asks, What is the alternative?
The presidential election of 2000, the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, and the wars ins Afghanistan and Iraq called into serious question for many individuals the degree to which trust in political and religious leaders has been completely broken. In his thoughtful and probing study, Marty, the dean of American religious thinkers, examines some of the reasons that mistrust is fostered in society and then suggests ways that trust can become a more evident feature of society, enriching our lives. Rather than striving to construct a utopian state in which everyone trusts everyone else completely, Marty suggests a more incremental approach in which individuals in various cultures and sub-cultures, such as science and religion, begin to build trust step-by-step through conversations about the nature of human communication and the human self. Open flow of communication is vital, for Marty, to the development of trust as part of the goal of building cultures in a complex society. Part of the Emory University Studies in Law and Religion series, Marty's little book offers hopeful suggestions for restoring trust in a world sorely lacking it. (July) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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