“Mr. Dimmesdale would perhaps have seen this individual’s character more perfectly, if a certain morbidness, to which sick hearts are liable, had not rendered him suspicious of all mankind. Trusting no man as his friend, he could not recognize his enemy when the latter actually appeared.”
The protagonist of The Scarlet Letter, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, was so suspicious towards others that he couldn’t see real evil when it showed up. The same is often true of people who obsess over conspiracy theories. The fascination with conspiracy theories is that they provide an opportunity for endless speculation about the motives, means, and operations of the major players in the world, all from the comfort of your mother’s basement. There are endless conspiracy theories out there to learn about from the notion that the moon landing was faked, to supposed fulfillments of the book of Revelation, to the JFK assassination, to the nefarious Illuminati. In today’s world, it’s even hard to know the difference between fake and real news. So as Christians, how should we approach conspiracy theories?
1. Use Reliable Sources
First, it matters whether the conspiracy is true or not. Christians believe that truth exists, that truth matters, and that truth is the most fulfilling thing we can seek. One way to know if a conspiracy is true is to research it from credible sources.
Too often conspiracy theorists only look at sources that agree with their view.
Too often conspiracy theorists only look at sources that agree with their view. They read website after website, watch documentaries galore, but neglect a more well-rounded approach. They avoid government websites, libraries, scholarly databases, or reading the other side of the argument. To determine whether a conspiracy is real, we should read both sides of the argument from credible sources. Here is a link to a helpful guide on finding credible sources from Purdue University.
2. Use Correct Reasoning
Second, use proper reasoning. Jesus himself is the Logic of God (the Word or Logos John 1:1) who often used brilliant reasoning (Matt 22). Logical fallacies on the other hand are errors in reasoning that we should avoid. One of the most common fallacies in conspiracy thinking is the hasty generalization. This is when we take a few bits of information and leap to a conclusion. Instead of this, we should suspend judgment on an issue until we have investigated it thoroughly.
Another common fallacy among conspiracy theorists is the shotgun fallacy. They shotgun out many pieces of evidence until it seems like the only conclusion is “conspiracy.” Those “facts” appear damning and unanswerable. But are the “facts” really facts? We should investigate each claim. Often when we do, we realize there is only one or two unexplainable things.
We should suspend judgment on an issue until we have investigated it thoroughly.
I have a confession to make. For a few years, I “believed” in a government conspiracy related to 9/11. I became interested in the subject by listening to a talk-show host who liked to shotgun out “facts.” That all changed when I read the government’s side of the story. Everything did not necessarily add up, but, all things considered, their information seemed much more probable than the conspiracy theory. Yes, there are still loose ends, perhaps involving coverups for key individuals. Corruption does exist in the world. It was deeper research that helped me get out of the narcissistic pit of speculation and breath the free air again.
3. Love the Truth
God is a God of truth. He created us in truth and redeems us through the truth of Jesus. We should be committed to truth. Genesis tells the tale of humanity’s turn from God’s truth to human definitions of truth, to our detriment and destruction. And just like our first parents hid from God, we often try to hide from the truth in our shame. Now that God has lovingly sent Jesus to remove our shame, we can embrace, love, and live the truth. Being committed to truth should make us vet any conspiracy theories. But what if in investigating a conspiracy, you discover that real evil is thriving in some place in the world unchallenged. Well, I suggest that you might be called to do something about it.
4. Be Prepared to Act on Truth
Make sure you are willing and able to act to change any real conspiracy. If you cannot change anything related to it, then what’s the point? The same is true if you cannot definitively prove the conspiracy is true. There are, however, many real conspiracies in the world. There are sex-trafficking rings involving modern day slaves. There is the monstrous abortion industry which kills nearly 1 million children in the U.S. alone each year. There is sickness, poverty, unhealthy food, corruption in the government, sin in the church, a widespread belief that “the truth is there is no truth,” and the list goes on. And then worse than all there is the anti-God conspiracy of pride in all of us that we must wrestle with daily. If you discover a real conspiracy, you may be called to act. I suggest that you study, pray, link arms with others, and then seek to act. We must remember that God’s conspiracy is that the world would come to know, love, and reflect his Son. So how can you harness your passion to uncover evil and use it to advance God’s kingdom?
5. In Conclusion, Be Aware of and Avoid the Dangers
Still, there are dangers involved in conspiracy theorizing. Conspiracies may be false and so a waste of time. We’ve got to research them more thoroughly as I mentioned. Also, we might become proud over our special knowledge of conspiracies. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity:
“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”
Similarly, we may become, like Dimmesdale, too skeptical of others, always seeing the log in other people’s eyes, quick to see a conspiracy. We need to repent of an overly judgmental attitude, trust Jesus’ forgiveness, and learn to love others. After all, our loving Savior offers his mercy even to masterminds of evil.