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I can’t find much agreement between on Christians on COVID-19 and whether or not to re-open our churches and country. But I sense much agreement on one point: We don’t trust institutions. This pandemic may have revealed this change, but it didn’t cause it. Distrust has been building since before millennials were born. Just the drop in Americans’ confidence in organized religion should concern us: from 65 percent expressing a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in organized religion 40 years ago down to 38 percent in 2018.

Yuval Levin argues that we thrive inside institutions where we develop relationships of commitment, obligation, and responsibility. And he sees a particularly important role for churches. He writes about this in his new book, A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream.

I previously interviewed Levin on his excellent book The Fractured Republic. He joined me on Gospelbound to discuss a wide range of topics: how populism combines with identity politics to resist restraint, the lure of cynicism and outsider politics, our pervasive culture war, the culture of celebrity as the enemy of integrity, and much more.

“The power of religious institutions in particular, as opposed to all of our other institutions, is that they are inherently formative,” Levin told me. “They begin from that sense that the human person enters the world fallen and unformed and unprepared to be free and in need of formation before we can be free. That is a message that our traditional religions can deliver in a way that no other institution possibly could, and we have that obligation to deliver that message, to convey it, to show people why and how it points toward a better society.”

This episode of Gospelbound is sponsored by Southeastern Seminary, equipping today’s ministry leaders with the Word of God, a philosophical foundation, and care for the lost through their Masters program in Ethics, Theology, and Culture and the PhD in Public Theology. Learn more at sebts.edu.

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