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We may not agree on much any longer. But this we seem to share in common: we don’t trust institutions. 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.

Less trust in institutions means fewer close friends. We spend less time with others and feel more disconnected. Through online media we’ve never been exposed to so many competing views, and yet somehow we’ve never been so ignorant of what others believe. The old men who used to volunteer with the Lion’s Club now sit home alone at night watching Fox News.

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 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, published by Basic Books: “A recovery of the ethic of community also stands the best chance of beginning in the kinds of communities that first form out of common religious convictions.”

Levin is the founder and editor of National Affairs and has written for many prominent publications. I previously interviewed him on his excellent book The Fractured Republic. He joins 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.


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 Ph.D. in Public Theology. Learn more at

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