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?