In a trend that is moving slowly downward over the last few decades, more American find pastors and religious leaders less honest and trustworthy than ever before, according to the newest Gallup poll. 47% of the respondents had a very high or high view of the ethics of the religious profession.
The poll included the question, "How would you rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields?" It was the first time the number went below 50%.
Those with a very low or low view of pastoral ethics was at 11%, slightly higher than the average. Nurses, pharmacists, grade-school teachers, doctors and officers scored higher.
The Christian Post article stated that scandals are likely the cause of the increase distrust of the clergy. In particular, professor Fea at Messiah College specified:
"Within evangelism, part of the problem is all kinds of moral lapses among pastors. I think this Mark Driscoll plagiarism thing...the [Vision Forum] president who had an extra-marital affair. All of this kind of bad behavior by pastors causes people to mistrust these kinds of spiritual leaders"
Other less-than-obvious reasons for the results of this study could include false teachings and poor research. False teachings, such as legalism, has lead to some fallout among homeschoolers. Last year's article, The Homeschool Apostates, certainly paints a picture of people hurt by such false teaching who are likely to have a lower view of pastors.
The lower view of pastors' ethical standards can also be partly explained from the poor research by some pastors. Although not a pastor, David Barton is a good example of bad historical research. His book, Jefferson Lies, was pulled by Thomas Nelson publishing, affecting his reputation among various Christians.
A more relevant example is from the Christian movie Divided. It was discovered to have a flagrant historical misquote, undermining the historical claims of the movie. The quote was from the work of the leading pastor in the movie. Similar gross historical errors are found in some homeschooling circles.
Sin and error will always exist on this earth until Christ returns. But Christians are called to a high standard. And pastors are called to a more consistent standard. May the Lord grant pastors more grace and a consistent witness for Christ.