I’ve been interacting with the big dark world of conspiracy theories in recent blogs and YouTube videos. One of my main arguments is that we don’t deal with “conspiracy theories” so much as “Conspiracy.” That in effect there is one viral lie that sheds into individual beliefs, communities’ religious groupings and political movements.
The lie is that we do not have a good God who made a good world and that therefore far from being ordered and knowable, this world is confusing, chaotic and irrational. We cannot trust what is in front of our eyes because this is an illusion behind it is the reality and that reality revolves around a shadowy and select group of people or beings that control overything.
Throughout history, that lie has emerged in different ways. It finds its way into most pagan religions and mixed with aspects of Christianity and Judaism in the early centuries of the church leading to Gnosticism which itself has had an affect of later religions. However, the main lie also sheds off fragments and the most notable of these has probably been antisemitism which cast a dark shadow over Europe during the 20th Century and had a recent revival on the far left as well as the alt-right in recent times. The most current expression of The Lie is seen in the QAnon conspiracy theory that has had a toxic affect on the right wing of US politics.
So one particular danger is that this shedding means that we can pick up little bits of the thing without seeing it in all of its ugliness. Generally speaking most people are not going around saying that there is this shadowy cabal of democratic politicians, billionaires and celebrities who are hiding a paedophile ring and are under Jewish control. Rather you get little bits of it. People will talk about the shadowy control of a few business men whereas others will allude to other sinister influences. Ironically out of fear of this cabal, it is the conspiracy theorists themselves who begin to function in a secretive manner relying on code. Sometimes the code gets innocently picked up and used by people who don’t share the view. A good example of this is the use of the term Cultural Marxism which sounds innocent enough and one would assume refers to left-wing influences on the arts. However “Cultural Marxism” is also a phrase lined to another phrase “The Frankfurt School” and the two come together to form part of the Conspiracy Theory. The Frankfurt School is a reference to Jewish scholars based in Germany, forced to flee to American because of the Nazis and there having a disproportionate and sinister impact on the culture and worldview of US and western thought.
So one problem is that these splinters of fear and misinformation break off and spread into general consciousness. However for me the greatest concern and biggest lie of all is something else. You see, The Conspiracy Theorist believes firmly that there is this small close knit shadowy and secretive group with a malign influence. They create an alternative redemption story or gospel. In the story, we are all the innocent victims, the cabal is the problem and the solution is to find an appropriate hero to expose it and take it down. We are encouraged to think that the problem is with a small group of monsters and we deserve help, rescue and justice. This is in stark contrast to the Gospel. The Bible says that all of sinned. The problem isn’t with one ethnic group or an elite group of powerful and wealthy men. The problem is in our own hearts. It is the problem of sin. Therefore the solution, real salvation is in the coming of the saviour to die and rise for us.
We want to stand firm against conspiracy theories because they distract from the Gospel. We want people to replace their fear of a nasty secret with the discovery of a beautiful surprise, the mystery revealed in Christ. Let’s not just try to counter the induvial myths but instead point to the one true beautiful story of redemption.