Building Cultures of Trust

Building Cultures of Trust

Building Cultures of Trust

Building Cultures of Trust


American society is experiencing a profound crisis of trust, from government to mass media to educational and religious institutions. And -- whether we realize it or not -- this crisis affects us all.

In Building Cultures of Trust, Martin Marty proposes ways of improving the conditions for trust at what might be called the "grass roots" 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, churches, and more. Marty believes that such efforts at trust-building will do more than trickle up to larger areas of society; it will become a slow spreading of habits of honesty, inspiring trust on a culture-changing scale.

Far from naïve, Marty realizes that the reality of human nature tends towards trust-breaking, not trust-building. All the more reason, he argues, to develop strategies to bring about improvements, one small step at a time.


Conversations during the seasons in which this book was in process often went something like this: “So you are writing a book on ‘trust.’ I don’t associate you with that topic. Why did you take it up?”

My answer: “There has been some modest association. I have edited two little books with the word ‘trust’ in the title — they were written for specialized audiences — but now I hope you will associate me with the theme. This time it has a broader base and is aimed at a general readership.”

The conversation partner: “Again, why did you take it up? You must think that trust is an urgent issue.”


“If it’s urgent,” the partner would say, “why doesn’t it show up in the opinion polls where citizens rank issues in their order of importance?”

“This is not the kind of topic that pollsters can easily address,” I say. “It’s harder to frame questions about ‘trust’ — or ‘faith’ or ‘hope’ or ‘love’ — than it is to ask for opinions about definite, hard-edged choices, such as, ‘Do you favor bombing a nation that might become a nuclear threat?’ ‘Do you favor this party or that presidential candidate?’ Trust is a more elusive theme.”

The conversation partner typically continues with something like this: “Then how do you determine that this topic deserves so much attention?”

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