President Biden reported last week that “a ten-year-old girl was a rape victim—ten years old—and she was forced to have to travel out of state to Indiana to seek to terminate the pregnancy and maybe save her life.”
The source for this story is a July 1 IndyStar article. It reports that a doctor in Ohio called an abortion provider in Indiana to say the former had a ten-year-old patient in the office who was six weeks and three days pregnant. Since Ohio has outlawed abortion after six weeks, the Ohio doctor wanted to refer the patient to the Indiana abortion provider. Or so the abortion provider told reporters.
According to the Washington Post (an outlet not known for pro-life advocacy), “there is no indication that the newspaper made other attempts to confirm [the abortionist’s] account. The story’s lead reporter . . . did not respond to a query asking whether additional sourcing was obtained.” Nonetheless, the “one-source” story “quickly caught fire, becoming a headline in newspapers around the world.”
The Post reporter could find no evidence that the Ohio doctor filed the mandated report on the alleged abuse with their local child welfare or law enforcement agency. The article concludes, “This is a very difficult story to check. [The abortionist] is on record, but obtaining documents or other confirmation is all but impossible without details that would identify the locality where the rape occurred.”
A reporter who knows the abortionist personally added, “She has quite a record of extremism in my state and beyond. Given her track record of advocacy over honesty, the skepticism many are now expressing is sadly appropriate.”
And, of course, the entire story shifts the focus from the alleged victim who (if real) deserves our deepest compassion and swiftest justice.
What is happening to trust?
After reading today’s story, how do you feel about the trustworthiness of today’s media? Your answer probably reflects your political and cultural beliefs.
According to a recent survey, only 5 percent of Republicans said they had “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in newspapers, compared to 35 percent of Democrats. Only 8 percent of Republicans said they had “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in TV news, compared to 20 percent of Democrats.
While distrust of the media is obviously higher for conservatives, note that 65 percent of Democrats distrust newspapers and 80 percent distrust TV news.
This trend follows a larger loss of confidence in American institutions across the board. According to Gallup, trust in the following has fallen in just one year:
- Police (following George Floyd’s murder), from 51 to 45 percent
- The medical system (in an ongoing pandemic), from 44 to 38 percent
- The church or organized religion (amid clergy abuse crises), from 37 to 31 percent
- The US Supreme Court (amid recent divisive rulings), from 36 to 25 percent
- The presidency, from 38 to 23 percent
- Congress, from 12 to 7 percent
What’s happening here?
Psychologists explain the process:
- The twenty-four-hour news cycle inundates us with contradictory information.
- As we learn more about the world, our views and norms are challenged.
- This leads to uncertainty, which produces feelings of vulnerability.
- The hormone oxytocin, which is produced in the hypothalamus and impacts bonding behaviors, is lowered. This negatively impacts our empathy, desire to socialize, and willingness to trust others.
- We shut down our belief in external institutions and turn to local and familiar validators.
This would be a damaging cycle even without the pandemic, street violence, partisan rancor, economic suffering, and geopolitical threats that consume our daily news. As it is, we are in a “perfect storm” in which the mortar-like trust that holds our democratic experiment together is weakening, seemingly by the day.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses”
In Psalm 20, David noted that “some trust in chariots and some in horses” (v. 7a). Commentator H. D. M. Spence explains that the nation’s enemies to the north, principally the Syrians, were “especially formidable on account of their cavalry and their chariots.” They were known to have on occasion seven thousand horsemen in their army (1 Chronicles 18:4; 19:18), while David’s army appears to have consisted entirely of foot soldiers.
Our society is losing trust in today’s “chariots” and “horses.” Now it is incumbent on us to offer them something they can trust with their days and their souls: “but we trust in the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ our God” (Psalm 20:7b).
God’s “name” denotes his presence, power, and authority, something like a signature on a check that allows the bearer to draw from the signer’s resources. To trust in God’s name is to draw from his “account” rather than our own, to depend on his capacities rather than ours.
With this result: “They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright” (v. 8). David’s men, by trusting in David’s God, experience all that God can do for those who depend on his omnipotent power.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lᴏʀᴅ”
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced the deepest and sharpest image of the distant universe ever seen. The image was revealed yesterday; it shows thousands of galaxies in a sliver of the universe so tiny that it could be covered by a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground. The full series of images will be revealed later today.
For perspective: astronomers tell us there are about one hundred thousand million stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Scientists estimate that there are as many as two hundred billion such galaxies in the universe. And your Father made all of that.
Are you trusting in “chariots” and “horses” today? Or, like so many, are you losing faith in the institutions of our secular society? Would you transfer your trust account to the omnipotent Creator of the universe, the Father whose Son died so you could live eternally?
The Bible declares, “It is better to take refuge in the Lᴏʀᴅ than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8).
In what—or whom—are you taking refuge today?
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