In February 2018, Dr. Graham exchanged his earthly rewards for his heavenly rewards, marking the first time since 1955 that he was not included in the annual Gallup poll of American’s most admired men. Sadly, the 2018 poll of the most trusted Americans by occupation also witnessed a continuing decline in the respect afforded to the clergy.
The decline began in the mid-1980s when two-thirds of those surveyed rated clergy as either “highly” or “very highly” honest and ethical. By 2002, the perceived trustworthiness of the clergy had waned to 52%. The results hovered around the 50% level until 2012. Confidence in clergy has declined steadily each year since, a 29% rate of decline.
The 11.9% decline from 2017 to 2018 was the steepest in recent history and the 37% rating is the lowest rating clergy has received since the inception of the poll in 1977.
The seven occupations rated more trustworthy than clergy were nurses (84%), medical doctors (67%), pharmacists (66%), high school teachers (60%), police officers (54%), accountants (42%), and funeral directors (39%).
Journalists ranked immediately behind clergy at 33%, followed by building contractors (29%) and bankers (27%). The trustworthiness of journalists grew by 10 percentage points (43.4%) over the past year.
The least trusted were telemarketers (9%), car salespeople (8%), and members of Congress (8%).
The reasons for the results of polls of this nature are always open for interpretation, especially when the poll does not ask in-depth questions to determine why those surveyed rated professions as they did.
On the one hand, while a number of highly-publicized scandals among members of the clergy have likely had a causal effect, the Open Doors annual World Watch Report 2019 indicates significant growth in the persecution of Christians as our culture becomes more secularized and moves farther away from a biblical moral compass.
We can all agree that the trend is disturbing, we can pray that confidence in the clergy will be restored in the days to come, and we can be confident that the Lord is working, even in this news, so that all things work for the good of those who love Him and are the called, according to His purpose.
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- Christianity Today, The 7 People Christians Trust More Than Their Pastors
- Gallup, Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics
- Gallup, Americans’ Ratings of the Honesty and Ethical Standards of Professions, 2018 (Trends)
- Open Doors, 2019 World Watch List
- Open Doors, 5 Major Trends Influencing Global Christian Persecution
- Warren K. Leffler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons