Micah has written a most interesting post, very much of course conditioned by the US experience, but applicable directly across the capitalist, industrial, wealthy, developed countries, as well, to a degree, to pretty much everyone else in the globalised society. His thesis, that the trust on which society depends for its viability is increasingly under threat, is as relevant in the UK at the moment as it is across North America. He writes:
Because I can trust others, I generally don’t sweat every detail of life. I am able to focus on my most important tasks, rather than worrying about whether the mechanics did an adequate job repairing my car, or whether the mail will arrive on time and in good condition. Because I trust my mechanic and the postal service. Because I trust them to do their jobs to the best of their ability, I can do mine.
But what happens when trust breaks down? How will it affect me if I no longer feel confident in the safety of the food I buy at the grocery store, or the quality work of my mechanic or postal delivery? I’ll worry more, for one thing. If I can afford it, I’ll probably also pay extra for assurance that those I depend on will come through for me, if only out of a sheer profit motive. A world without trust is one filled with contracts and lawsuits, high fees and deposits; it is a world of constant stress and second-guessing.
Micah’s conclusion – that in God we can trust – is one that we liberal Quakers in Britain Yearly Meeting, and perhaps also in Friends General Conference, may find hard to accept at face value. But I would suggest that trust is at the root of who we are as Quakers, whether we self-identify as liberal, evangelical or conservative. We sit in the Light, and we trust that we receive in the silence vastly more than we could ever give. The very first of our Advices and Queries (1.02) reads:
Take heed, dear Friends, to the promptings of love and truth in your hearts. Trust them as the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life.
Our lives are not our own: they are far more than that, and ultimately our very breath is trust. We came into this world, and we shall leave it, anything but under our own steam, and the processes that keep us alive for our few years on earth are far from fully under our own control. By trust is our very existence made possible, however we may explain to ourselves the recipient of that trust…