It's that time of year when Christmas carols remind us of the message the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." We all want that illusive idea of peace on earth, but some new polling data indicates we are anything but a people satisfied and at peace.
America has long been seen as the nation that could potentially lead the planet to some kind of lasting peace but a new Pew Research Center poll seems to indicate we have lost our place of standing in the world. According to the newly released information, a majority of Americans think that U.S. power in the world is steadily declining.
The Pew Research Center found, "For the first time in surveys dating back nearly 40 years, a majority (53 percent) says the United States plays a less important and powerful role as a world leader than it did a decade ago. The share saying the U.S. is less powerful has increased 12 points since 2009 and has more than doubled – from just 20 percent – since 2004."
One of the more stinging highlights of the data was for the first time, 52 percent believe the U.S. should "mind its own business internationally" and 51 percent think that America does too much in helping solve world problems.
When the question was asked, "Why has America turned inward?" the answers varied from war fatigue (like Iraq and Afghanistan,) concerns about the U.S. economy, failed efforts, and lack of leadership. Americans seem to have lost their trust in the global position America has historically held.
As disheartening as the Pew data may be, research from another group indicates the problem may not be global but very, very personal. The General Social Survey (GSS) is a group that "conducts basic scientific research on the structure and development of American society."
Since 1972, the group has been asking questions about trust among the American people - trust not in institutions or government but in each other – and the results are not good.
Their most recent poll reveals that only one-third of us think most people can be trusted, which means two-thirds think we "can't be too careful" when it comes to trusting other people.
Research seems to indicate that our trust in others is set by the time we are in our mid-twenties and doesn't change after that. Trusting others makes government function and economies grow, but more and more we trust each other less and less.
I visited a dairy farm recently with a small outbuilding where the door was never locked but the refrigerator was always open for anyone who wanted to buy eggs, cheeses or jellies. A cash box sat on a shelf and customers were to help themselves to what they needed and put their money in the box. No one was there to monitor the transaction. It was a perfect portrait of trust.
For those of us who are Christ-followers, we know what real trust is. We have learned to trust in Jesus - who He is, what He said and why He died. Because of that transformative Truth, we can, in turn, show a hurting world what both real peace and goodwill toward men really means.