Tag Archives: Christianity

Christians and Conspiracy Theories

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)

Is Ambition Good or Bad?

This question has batted around in my head off and on for a number of years.  It seems like the question is answered differently depending on whom the question is posed to.  The answer also seems to vary depending on the definition or the circumstances surrounding the ambition.  So before we make a decision on the matter, I think it best to define what we mean and then draw some conclusions.

Ambition can be defined variously, but for our purposes I would like to think of it as the desire for advancement or success.  I believe that this desire has been ingrained in the heart of every man, woman, and child since the dawn of time.  It is the Adamic compulsion to take dominion over creation that forms the core of ambition.  Ambition separates the proverbial wise man from the foolish man, because it drives him away from laziness and towards productivity.  So in its purest and natural form, ambition is a healthy drive that motivates us all to strive and to achieve and to succeed.

But there is a dark side of ambition too.  We’ve all seen its consequences.  It starts so young and innocently.  It begins as the child who abandons their playmate in order to hang out with the more popular kids.  But it only gets uglier.  It is the dad who is too busy pursuing his career that he has no time for his children.  It is the wife who is so caught up in her own dreams that she leaves her husband.  It is the athlete who is so intent on scoring that his team looses the game.  It is the musician who is overcome with chasing success that he abandons everyone who really matters in life and becomes a recluse.  It is the pastor who is so consumed with the bigness of the auditorium, giving, and attendance that he misses the bigness of the peoples’ need.  Ambition turns dark and hurtful when it is turned inward.  Self-centered ambition is, no doubt, one of the greatest plagues of our era.

Thankfully there is hope.  In the Gospel I find that Jesus has succeeded fully in my behalf.  There is nothing more for me to chase.  There is no achievement, no skill, no paygrade, no rank, no praise, no fame, no experience that will ever make me happy, for Christ came to die to fill all those desires in my behalf.  Now I find myself motivated by a holy ambition.  Driven by grace rather than will-power and driven towards God rather than myself, I find joy in pursuing God’s will for my life.  The Gospel turns my ambition around.  Rather than wasting my life chasing my shadow, Jesus Christ turns my ambition outward and upward.

An Evangelical Christian Defends His Vote For Ron Paul

Let me start by saying that I really dislike politics.  I have some ideas about the subject, but I don’t really like talking about it or promoting political agendas.  The primary reason is that I don’t vest much hope in politics.  Very few great things have been done by politicians, because politicians seemed to be people just like you and me; the often seem big, but for all their bigness they seem unable to do anything.  Meanwhile it is left to the little people to move mountains by faith.  I suppose that someday I will change my mind and fix my opinions to the bandwagon of a particular party or align myself with certain mainstream ideals, but for now, in my youth, I will continue my wilderness wanderings, wanting little to do with the promised land of the Republicans or the Egypt of the Democrats.

Curiously, however, over the past few months my interest has been spurred by a particular candidate.  The slumber of my quiet rest in the realm of politics has been broken by a strange character and a man that I felt to be quite insane only four years ago.  As I considered whether I could vote for him I decided that I must conquer the objections of the strongest of his opponents.  The more I considered their objections, the more I realized that they carried little weight.  The more I realized their weightlessness, the more I realized that, not just the candidate, but his entire scheme of thinking was a viable alternative to the approach that I had been raised in.  So for a moment I will ask you to indulge me as I weigh some of the objections to Libertarianism from some of my Christian brothers.

1. Libertarianism supports gay marriage.  Suppose your friend told you that he does not think you should buy a Ford.  Would you then suppose that he must certainly want you to buy a Chevy?  Similarly the objection to the Libertarian position makes no sense whatsoever.  As I understand the Libertarian position, it considers a federal injunction via a Constitutional amendment allowing only for heterosexual marriage to be outside the scope and role of the federal government.  In this I agree entirely.  Allow me to suggest two considerations.  First, if the federal government is given a precedent to say what sort of marriages are allowed when Christians are in the majority, who is to say that the government can’t begin promoting other sorts of marriages when the Christians are not in the majority?  In other words, was it ever within the scope of the federal government to decide things like whether one should or shouldn’t pray in school or who can or can’t get married or whether or not we have the appropriate levels of healthcare.  I think that many social conservatives happily overstretch the arm of government to suit their causes, but I also suppose that when the social liberals take control again, their laughter will be turned into mourning.  Bear in mind that the same hand that can restrict marriage can also promote homosexuality or any other sort of lifestyle.  It is a double-edged sword.  A second consideration in regard to this matter is that few realize that the Libertarian message is essentially anti-federal.  As I understand the Libertarian position (I am no expert), more allowance in these matters is given to the states.  This opens up more interesting possibilities which fascinate me.  Ultimately the Libertarian message is one that hands this issue back to local communities and churches to decide; therefore, instead of moralizing the nation, the Christian is left with the intolerable business of loving neighbors and shining out lights in the community and other such uncomfortable tasks.  In this sense, the Libertarian position does more to allow the Christian equal footing with the secularist to deal with the issue of gay marriage.  The Libertarian simply pushes it out of the federal agenda without supporting it or attacking it.

2.  Libertarianism supports drugs.  Once more the idea that allowing someone to make a decision is tantamount to supporting the wrong decision arises.  This is as if God allowing Adam to decide whether or not to take the fruit in the garden somehow stands guilty for Adam’s poor decision.  Drugs have consequences.  So does alcohol, tobacco, food, pornography, racing, swimming, and so on.  There are certain things that one can do to their body that can be judged as morally or pragmatically wrong.  But is it the government’s role to tell you what you should or should not do to your body?  While I certainly believe that it is the government’s role to tell me what I should or should not do to someone else’s body or property (hence laws against theft, violence, abortion, etc.), I do not believe that decisions about my own are within the purview or the prerogative of Constitutional law.  We must bear in mind the same conundrum as before, namely that the same government that can restrict alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana can also tell me that I shouldn’t fast, or drink soda, or eat too much turkey on Thanksgiving.  The double-edged sword surfaces once again.  I could discuss the pragmatic effects of ending the war on drugs and the end of violence and border wars that would occur, but for now suffice it to say that the opposition to the war on drugs does not necessitate a capitulation to a druggie state (just as the end of Prohibition does not mean that everyone drinks, a fact I didn’t understand until I spent time in society).  Permitting people to make decisions (what religion will I believe, what political opinions should I have, where should I work) has consequences, but restricting those decisions beyond the scope of natural law seems to me to result in even more dire consequences.

3.  Libertarianism supports Iran over Israel.  One final time we run up against our problem and once more we find the double-edged sword.  But from the outset I must clarify that I wholeheartedly love Jewish people and have visited Israel and enjoy Jewish culture and their heritage, which brought me one of the things I love the most – my belief system.  I do not suppose that the Libertarian feels any differently.  My understanding of the position seems to clarify three matters.  First, Libertarians are not anti-war.  Libertarians believe that we may go to war, but that war must be declared after a formal debate and decision as is directed in the Constitution.  When a Libertarian says that we ought not to be entangled in certain wars, what they mean is that we have entangled ourselves in foreign affairs in an un-Constitutional manner.  Secondly, Libertarians oppose not only military aid to Israel, but to all countries.  They do not see the role of the United States as the world’s bank or armory.  Traditional politicians use the government in such a manner and this is why countries that we used to like have weapons of mass destruction, cool military tech, and all our old gear (i.e., Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., etc.).  I don’t suppose that these favors have done much to support the nation of Israel.  Finally, Libertarians oppose entangling the US government in foreign affairs in general.  While this would allow Iran to continue their plotting within their own borders, it would also allow Israel to continue to do what it needs to do within her borders as well.  In the mind of the Libertarian, the United States has no right to tell Israel how many settlements it wants to build or whether or not it should build another housing development in Jerusalem.  The same government that can attack Iran at a whim (viz., without Constitutional authority) can place a chokehold around Israel (and currently does).  The same government that can throw millions of dollars in military aid to Israel can throw tens of millions of dollars in aid to her Arab neighbors (and currently does).  So once again, the Libertarian does not oppose Israel, but rather respects her and relates with her in a much better way than the current federal model does.

These key objections may not be answered to the liking of all of my readers and I wish them well in voting for the candidate they feel best represents them (it’s Constitutional, after all).  But for those willing to take a journey outside the partisan bickering and the red and the blue, the road less traveled makes all the difference.  Libertarianism has been a seed in the back of my mind for some time now.  It is a seed that has been taking root, but has encountered several objections.  It would not be fair for me to dismiss them outright, especially since some of my brothers and sisters have questioned whether these Libertarian ideals are in opposition to the Scriptures.  Now that I have answered the objections to my own satisfaction I have moved into accept the position more fully.  The position gives me the reasons for elements of what I have believed for so long.  I’ve always believed in limited government, anti-federalist, Constitutional government.  Now I know why.  +1 for Ron Paul.

Spamming God

I hate spam.  For me, it’s not that it clutters my inbox.  Getting more email makes me feel important.  It’s also not because they’re advertising a product.  As long as it’s something I like, it doesn’t really bother me.  I think the reason I hate spam is because it’s so impersonal and repetitive.  Blog spam is the best in this regard.  It’s so general and vague and usually refers to how great your post was in the most obtuse way possible (not to mention the horrible grammar).  In reality the approach of the spammer is almost insulting.

I’ve been thinking over the last month or so that maybe my prayers are sort of like spam too.  What I mean is that I think I’ve been too careless, too repetitive, too casual, and too impersonal in my prayers.  I guess it’s a bit of a challenge.  I know that the Holy Spirit takes my sloppy, selfish prayers and cleans them up and prays them for me (Rom. 8:26-27).  I know that Jesus pleads my case before God the Father when I pray (1 Tim. 2:5).  I know that the prayer of the instant necessity, like the woman who cried out “Lord, help me” (Matt. 15:25), is just as welcomed as the prayer of long contemplation.

All this makes sense to me, but I also remember the words of Jesus when He spoke of not being empty or repetitive in our prayers (Matt. 6:7) and this urges me to consider the worth of my thoughtless lunch prayers and little meeting-closing prayers.  Do I weigh the words as if they are being delivered before the throne of the Almighty?  Clearly the disciples felt that this was a matter of enough import to ask Jesus to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1).  They were humble enough to realize that they had sloppy prayer lives and needed help (I suppose spending a few years with the Messiah would do this to me as well), but I think I may not be as aware as my problem in this area as the disciples were.

For quite some time I’ve questioned the use of written prayers.  Often these prayers, when read aloud, seem stiff and impersonal too, but part of me is beginning to think that maybe the thought, the intentionality behind them is more of something like a five-course meal than the little fast food prayers I often offer over my lunch.  This year I’m going to spend more time writing out prayers driven from the text of Scripture in order to course-correct in this area.  Instead of spamming God, I’m going to start writing Him some meaningful communication.