A Christian Response to Conspiracy Theories
Several years ago, I tried to write a book on conspiracy theories. I’ve always thought they were fascinating, but I didn’t know any good Christian material on the topic. But, try as I would, nothing came out of my electronic typewriter. A year or so later I tried again. Same result. Then again. Still nothing.
I had basically given up on the idea when 2020 came along. Suddenly, our benevolent omnipotent government locked us all inside our houses and there was nothing to do but try to figure out what in the world was actually going on. Something about it, even from that very first day, was … off. It’s amazing that I thought that, because to this very day I still know people that think absolutely nothing was, has been, or probably will ever be off about anything our government, media, or anyone else says or does. Besides, Romans 13 mandates that we don’t even question them, right?
As I started searching, even with all the censorship that was already in place, including Google and other search engines deliberately suppressing much of anything unless it was absolutely perfectly specific, it wasn’t hard to find a plethora of websites that were willing to think, shall we say, outside the box.
That’s when I found The Conspiracy Which Must Not Be Named. That seventeenth letter of the alphabet. One of those “sponsored by” symbols that was always at the end of Sesame Street. You know the one I’m talking about? The one that you aren’t allowed to mention by name, the one that gets you demonetized, gets your entire channel obliterated from YouTube, entire platforms permanently deleted from Facebook (mine still haven't been given back to me, not that I'm angry or anything), friends you haven't heard from in 20 years calling you to set your straight because – there’s absolutely nothing to it?
I took the deep dive.
And yep, did I get in trouble for even daring to think about it. Several friends began calling me, IMing me, emailing me. Some were just worried. Some said I was crossing a line. Some basically accused me of being in a Trump-cult, even though I literally never said a word about the man. It was extremely discouraging and to this day, I find myself baffled at some of the reactions, though I will admit, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into and probably should have kept my mouth shut even though I was concerned, as I figured most people were, about all that was happening around me and I wanted to help prepare people. Silly, stupid me. Right? Since I'm at it and in order to give equal opportunity, it should be noted that I had at least ten times more positive reactions than negative, some extremely thankful for daring to speak publically, giving a voice to things they were thinking and wondering, but didn't feel safe to tell anyone else about. I think it's fair that both sides be known, but this last side also has its own troubling ramifications, especially for churches, but that's for a different post.
At any rate, within about a week of this, I started on that book again, and within six days I had finished, cover to cover; the writing phase of getting a book out was complete. Now, this isn’t really a post on the above cryptic “conspiracy theory.” Rather, it is a post on that book, which did use that theory as a launching pad for what I hope was a much more timeless discussion.
My goal was to help Christians learn to think historically, rationally, and biblically about that evil four letter word, well, actually more like sixteen letter two-word taboo: “conspiracy theory.” I was proud of how it came out and am still proud of it today. My purpose was not to look at any one theory or even group of theories and try to figure out if they were true or not. I leave that to all my readers, assuming they have any desire to do such things.
Rather, my purpose was to give a brief history of the term, where it originated in pop-culture, how it has been appropriated by the mass media and government, recall a short history of known conspiracies, including from the Bible, and then to help people think through the ramifications of both believing in conspiracy theories (and becoming obsessed with them) and ... not believing in them or taking any of them seriously at all.
Sadly, we’ve seen a host of big-name Evangelicals and Reformed folks in the last three years taking it upon themselves to tell us all how evil all conspiratorial thinking is. Their public shaming is, well, shameless. Because that's all they have to say about that. I find that kind of ironic when you actually know your history (especially as an American, as our very nation was birthed out of a conspiracy theory against Britain and our Founding Fathers essentially believed that the sign of a free thinking person was that they could contemplate conspiracy theories and think through them rationally). It’s also rather disconcerting, given that I personally know of at least two stories within the Reformed and Evangelical world where the people were approached, by very powerful and deep Pockets, to essentially lie to the world about certain topics and they would have unlimited access to all the money they would ever want or need for their ministry. And yes, that's very true. But I digress.
More than anything, what I’ve never been able to figure out is how we conservative Christians, people who pride ourselves on believing in original sin, the human propensity towards evil, and even “total depravity,” seem to throw all that biblical doctrine in the nearest rubbish bin as soon as our four letter, er, sixteen letter double-word come around. It’s as if the government, big pharma, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the media, you name it, are somehow exempt from that which plagues all of us individuals. It just isn't possible for the Omni-Benevolent to be evil. Except that they aren't God. Oh well. I can only do so much.
If you are someone who would like to think a little more on this important topic, I give you a link to my book Conspiracy Theory: A Christian Evaluation of a Taboo Subject.
Hopefully I won’t turn you into a tin-foil wearing nut-job. But hopefully I might also help you learn to understand that those same people are people who at least sometimes might not be quite as crazy as you think they are. Especially after the last three years.
Doug Van Dorn