Do you know what one of the biggest problems with conspiracy theories is? It’s not that the theorists lack access to the facts on the matter or that they are necessarily failing to share them. Rather, what happens is:
- The conspiracy theorist has learnt not to trust those in authority and therefore infers suspect motives to all that is said and done.
- They believe that truth is being supressed and that they are the only ones with the courage and integrity to share it.
- Whilst they may have the facts in front of them, their suspicion leads to a distorted perspective and so the facts are assembled into a very different narrative to reality.
For example, take the rumours around Roswell. Conspiracy theorists are convinced that this is the site of an alien spacecraft crash and that evidence is being held on the site. This is based on facts, namely that
- The US airbase is a secure military complex and what happens there is classified.
- That strange unidentified flying objects have been seen in the vicinity.
Now, the reality is that first of all, there are plenty of classified military bases around the world and there are good reasons why the military would want to keep them classified without resorting to theories about aliens. There have also been lots of weird and wonderful flying machines observed around the world. That is unsurprising because both civil and military aviation pioneers are constantly trying out new craft. There is a museum full of such experimental craft at RAF Cosford, less than an hour away from where we live.
Now, let’s turn to the question of Coronavirus. Apparently, a few people in the US have picked up on an interesting fact. Of all the reported deaths due to coronavirus, only 6% were due to COVID-19 alone. The other 94% of death certificates identified other causes alongside the virus. The conclusion from this is that there is no pandemic, we can reduce the number of deaths by 94% and if there is not pandemic, then this must all have been a plot by those in authority to suppress our freedoms.
The conspiracy theory is based on fact. It is true that the vast majority of deaths linked to COVID-19 came with co-morbidity. However, the problem with the theory is that this has not been some closely guarded secret. Rather, from day one it has been explained that many people, especially those who are fit and healthy, under the age of 70 are likely to experience the illness in a reasonably mild form no worse than having a cold or at worst the flu. The danger is specifically to those with underlying health conditions and particularly to the elderly.
The conspiracy theory assumes that the 94% who were identified as having co-morbidity would have died anyway but that is some assumption. Just because someone has a chronic health problem does not mean that they are necessarily in danger of imminent hospitalisation and death.
It is therefore vital that we don’t leap on every grand announcement of conspiracy but take time to carefully assess the facts. This is particularly important for Christians for two reasons. First of all, so many of us are desperate to see a return to normality, we struggle with the lack of normal fellowship, we find the current restrictions distressing and so we are desperate for good news that will enable them to be lifted or excuse us from complying with them.
Secondly, we are aware that our message is counter-cultural. Christians are seen as intolerant because we proclaim that Christ is the only way, unloving because of our stance on euthanasia and abortion … and let’s face it, as being just a little bit weird. This has led to numerous tensions for Christians and court cases for businesses, public employees and evangelists have been increasing in recent years. We should not be so naïve as to assume there is no opposition. However, whilst it may be the case that opposition to the Gospel is growing and a real period of intense persecution will come, it is important not to raise false alarms. This will not help us be prepared to face real persecution.
The reality at the moment is that we are living in testing times for everyone. Governments must balance different advice and different needs. There is the need to protect public health and there is the need to protect public freedoms. We should not expect them to get everything right or keep everyone happy all the time.
It is important that we pray for our governments. It is right that we hold them to account too. However we should do so based on truth and this means we must be careful and discerning about the things we read on line too