Who do you trust?
Here’s a trivia question: What game show did Johnny Carson host before taking on “The Tonight Show”? It was a very popular show called “Who Do You Trust?” which ran from 1957-1963. The question remains relevant, even if today it is not funny and certainly not a game.
Who do you trust? Who can you trust? Trust is critical for coping with pandemics. Trust is essential for living every day.
It seems we cannot trust the government. We are being lied to and manipulated every day with statistics that are incomplete or inaccurate. We are told to look for miracle cures and vaccines. Politics and economics push ahead of concern for human life. Leadership is cold-hearted and even brutal.
We cannot trust the Church. Preachers continue to ignore the safety of parishioners. Just keep the faith, and God will protect you, they say. Even churches trying to act with reason and good sense have been way too silent on the sidelines. I am reminded of the shameful period of Church history when it turned a blind eye to the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Who can we trust? We can trust ourselves. We have God-given powers of reason and discernment. Indeed, that is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
We can trust each other for many of the same reasons if we employ the cooperation skills with which we have faced other crises. We can trust people and organizations who have shown by their deeds they are worthy of that trust. Words don’t matter nearly as much as deeds. There are many people worthy of our trust and support who are simply too busy doing good work to participate in the national debate.
We can trust God, as long as we understand the nature of this God who draws us into the future with love and grace. This pandemic has revealed other evils present long before COVID-19. Racism is alive and well in the distribution of sick people. It seems that the color of a person’s skin matters in terms of treatment and outcome. Poverty matters if someone must work in an unsafe environment. Increasingly, we hide the number of sick and dying people just because they are in a nursing home, prison or meat processing plant. When there is a vaccine, I wonder where different people will be in the line to get it. Will there be people who never get a place in that line?
To trust God is about the repentance of God’s people. We may someday discover our overpopulation of the earth or our lack of concern for climate change contributed to our vulnerability to this virus. Certainly we should confess that we live as though we are indestructible or live outside the Law of God. God is trustworthy; we are not.
As people of faith, we know what to do. We know that we are commanded to love God with all our hearts and minds and souls and strengths. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Think about that the next time you don’t want to wear a mask even though it could protect those around you. These are commandments, not suggestions or guidelines.
The medicine for this disease may be harsh. Trust is earned. God is still God, and we are not. Who do you trust? Choose carefully!
Tom Hartshorn is the pastor of Christ Reformed United Church of Christ.