John Stonestreet on the Declining Respect for Clergy

My pastor recently told me that 25 years ago, the first person that people would contact when they faced a marriage crisis was their pastor. Ten years ago, he continued, it was their counselor or psychiatrist. Today, it’s their lawyers.

A recent study conducted by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago concurs. “Doctors, teachers, members of the military,” and scientists are, according to the survey, esteemed “more positively than clergy.” Among infrequent churchgoers, clergy are viewed as negatively as lawyers. (For the record, that last line came from a member of our editorial team who’s been admitted to the bar in two states.)

As my pastor observed, the declining respect for clergy is a trend both in and out of the church, including among those who attend church frequently. While 75 percent of churchgoers “hold clergy in high regard,” they aren’t as positive when it comes to personal attributes and character qualities of their clergy. Barely half consider clergy to be trustworthy, and only slightly more regard them as “honest and intelligent.”

Remember these are people who attend church at least once a month! Among those who seldom or never attend church, the respective numbers on those questions are 23 and 30 percent.

The obvious question is why?

At least a significant part of the answer is cultural. As Religion News Service pointed out, “Historians say public attitudes about clergy have been waning since the 1970s, in tandem with the loss of trust in institutions after the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.”

Actually, the decline in trust and disregard for institutions predates Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War. After all, the 1964 Free Speech movement at Berkeley had a signature saying: “We don’t trust anyone over thirty.” It’s a line that came to sum up the view of many Baby Boomers towards all authority. Governmental, parental, and clerical included.

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Source: Christian Headlines