The list of institutions surveyed goes well beyond these few but the trend is similar – that we trust our institutions less as being capable, in our best interests, and as foundational to our societal well-being. While the Gallup poll does not break this down by faith commitment, I would be surprised if there was much difference between those of faith and those not of faith.
Cambridge scholar Jonathan Chaplin argues that “a credible 21st century Christian voice on the theme of economy and hope needs to affirm loving institutions as key building blocks in any constructive response to our current economic and political malaise…[and] I also propose that Christians need to reckon with the fact that all institutions are in some sense faith-based, and that Christians should be unapologetic both about working to shape existing institutions from within according to their own vision of hope or, where necessary, founding their own institutions”. [The Good Society, Fall 2011]
University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter argues similarly that culture is not autonomous from institutions, but that culture is absolutely embedded in institutions and other structures of power. Further, his research finds that in terms of shaping culture institutions are far more powerful and effective than individuals. [To Change the World; Oxford University Press].
I find this argument compelling and consistent with the Gospel story. While institutions are not mandated by scripture, they have nevertheless played a consistent role in every society through the ages – institutions and systems through which man has exercised (rightly and wrongly) the rule, blessings, and stewardship of the world – functions which form a key part of the human job description. To ignore institutions would therefore seem to be the antithesis of redemptively engaging the world.
The events, programs, and networks of Christian Union New York acknowledge the critical importance of institutions as we seek to engage and transform culture. Far from marginalizing institutions we find frustrating, we need to re-engage them “to shape existing institutions from within”, that they find their purpose in bringing about a society that flourishes as people made in the image of God. Please join us at our events and initiatives this fall as we work toward this.
CU New York hosts our annual Fall Kick-off yacht party on Saturday, September 29 from 5-7pm. Watch your email and social media for more specifics – but please mark it on your calendar. This is a great time to meet the greatest people in New York and enjoy the harbor.
Christian Union New York
For more information on New York City Christian Union Bible Courses and activities, or resources available to you please contact Scott Crosby.