I know that this post will probably frustrate some of my friends and may drag things deeper into issues that may be counter-productive in the end. But I thought it worthwhile to at least attempt a discussion of the issue of conspiracy theories in the local church. Let me begin by saying that I have many friends who would be considered by some to be hardcore conspiracy theorists. As I write this, I mean them no harm; however, I think that we all ought to take some time to consider a little about conspiracy theories and how they affect the church. I also suppose that this post may frustrate some of the more general population who may object to how I categorize the issue. I also will wax a little preachy in this post. I apologize also for this in advance. This issue has been on my mind for some time and has been brought up again recently, so I want to forcefully and directly address the issue. I will beg everyone’s forgiveness in advance in hopes that through this dialogue, we all may become more effective as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Definition and Sources of Conspiracy Theories
As I mentioned, I have many friends who could be considered “Conspiracy Theorists.” Perhaps some may even lump me in with them. Really, in some small way, we all are conspiracy theorists. We all have unique beliefs that we believe to be outside the mainstream. Somewhere in all of us there is an individuality to what we believe. We all have a desire to hold truth exclusively. And as long as that desire prevails upon humanity, conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists will persist. Everyone has bought into a conspiracy. Whether it is the conspiracy of the liberal, the conservative, the libertarian, or the statist, we’ve all chosen our political perspectives. We’ve all picked our poison. Moving forward, I will be defining the idea of a conspiracy theory as a political viewpoint which lays claim to special insight into current or past events in which covert plots are being carried out.
Categories of Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy theories come in all shapes and sizes. These theories are as extreme as the political positions that birthed them. The liberal sees the agenda of the conservative as fringe and extremist. To them the conservative is in cahoots with big business and is linked with all sorts of corporate corruption and as a plot to destroy the poor of the nation. To the conservative, the liberal is linked with big government, communism, and a plot to invent global warming and destroy Christianity. The libertarian sees anyone else as federalist (usually liked with big business) and accuses many with media cover-ups of the US governments’ involvement in 9/11, the need for gold investments, and vote-fixing in national elections. On the other hand, federalists see everyone else as anarchists who are desperately plotting to destroy the government. My point is that all of these views are odd. The way every position sees the other has some quirks and curiosities. They all believe that they have an edge on the truth.
My concern in this post is not to debate who has the best conspiracy theory or the merits of each position. We all have our views, but, as a Christian, I see that God’s view is all that matters (Prov. 21:2). What I wish to discuss, then, is to what extent the Christian should approach conspiracy theories differently.
The Christian and Conspiracy Theories
Given that we all accept some conspiracy theory or another (whether or not we are honest with ourselves to admit this), I think we can safely say that it is not wrong to be a conspiracy theorist. From the very inception of Christianity, conspiracies existed. The early church was aware of plots to discredit the resurrection and the celebration of the Eucharist. I suppose that for the first few hundred years of the church’s existence, most Christians would have been considered hardcore conspiracy theorists. All this said, I think there are two important virtues for Christians to develop in regard to their politics:
- Be guarded. Some conspiracy theories are overtly sexist, racist, or anti-Christian. These positions are not fitting for a child of God.
- Be wise. Let your view be critiqued by everyone (Prov. 11:14). Become aware of the inconsistencies of your position and the foibles of those who hold it. Don’t turn off your critical thinking (1 Thess. 5:21)!
There are also a number of issues to avoid:
- Don’t let it steal your joy. When your favorite political team is winning and your cause is moving forward, don’t let it be the source of your joy, because as quickly as you derive joy from its success, you will also be driven to despair when you see it fail. The more “outside the mainstream” you begin to see yourself, the more alienated you will feel. As you proceed down this path of loneliness and sadness, there is little fruit that resembles the Gospel. Do a quick reality check. Ask yourself honestly about how you respond to the success or failure of your political worldview.
- Don’t let it steal your focus. What consumes the better part of your internet research, Youtube views, Facebook posts, or conversations? Is it your political views or is it Christ (Matt. 6:33)? We claim that Jesus is the Lord and the Master of our lives and all we can think about is politics. We say that Jesus is the King of the Universe, but for some reason we fear the petty political leaders that come and go as surely as night turns to day (cf. Psalm 2). If Jesus is King of all, then why do we allow ourselves to be consumed or even worry with the state of politics. Politics is a sad substitution for the Savior. Idols come in many shapes and sizes, and, unfortunately this is one of them. Spend some time considering what is really important in this life and the life to come (Luke 12:4-5).
- Don’t let it motivate your spirituality. You and I should be witnessing and sharing Christ whether the end of times is at hand or not. Don’t let your concerns about anti-Christian legislation, unifying world governments, or decline in government care for the poor fuel your spirituality. Let the Holy Spirit be the source of your motivation and strength. Here’s a quick reality check: if all the banks, or liberals, or conservatives disappeared tonight, would you still be as motivated to live for and share Christ as you are today?
- Don’t let it give you a superiority complex. Read Colossians 2. These were people who thought they had the corner on the market of truth. Be careful not to go down this same road. Be careful once you begin to feel that you have access to special insights that the rest of humanity and other Christians have missed out on. Be careful once you begin to feel that you have special insights have allowed you to see faults in others that they themselves do not see. Be careful when you start doubting the authenticity of others’ beliefs on the basis of their politics. As soon as we start thinking that we’ve figured out the deep secrets of our opponents, we become the Illuminati that we feared from the beginning!
- Don’t let it become your identity in the culture. We are commanded to be making disciples of Christ, not our politics. If your talking points with your co-workers include controversial political statements, consider whether you are opening the door of the Gospel to them or shutting it down (and bolting it shut???). We ought to be circumspect in what we say, so that all of it may point to Christ (Col. 4:2). May it never be said that our political views kept someone from coming to Christ.
- Don’t let it become your identity in the church. The church is the place where we are to minister to each other and to glorify God. Don’t get caught up in empty discussions (1 Tim. 6:20-21). This is not profitable for your brothers and sisters. Never assume that they all believe like you do. Never try to use the church as a platform for your opinions on world events. Always ask for prayer for your government, but never target particular politicians or parties in your speech. This is divisive and destructive.
- Don’t let it destroy your family. Almost every person I know who holds strong political views and can’t avoid talking about them with others who don’t hold them ends up driving people away. Some of these people have told me that they don’t really mind. The truth hurts and some people may not want to be their friends. I could question whether this is a biblical position, but I digress. I’d rather pose this question. Does your love for your flavor of politics demonstrate love for your spouse? In other words, have you stopped to consider the effect your clamor for your political views has had on your wife and whether people avoid her in order to avoid your obnoxious political rants?
In conclusion, I would hesitate to tell anyone to abandon their conspiracies, but I would encourage all Christians to hold them lightly. We should all pursue politics to the glory of God and vote our conscience. I would encourage everyone (no matter what political system you subscribe to) to consider your politics through the grid above and see what you need to change. I know I’ve got some work to do.
“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isa. 8:12-13)