The explosion of conspiracy theories around COVID-19 hasn’t helped matters in these distressing times. Questions abound. Numerous narratives have been spun and shared widely. In the internet age, it’s harder to sort through rumours and vital information. Sadly, misinformation is growing, tensions are rising, suspicion is building, and fears are being stoked.
Christians would be naive to think that conspiracy theories have no consequences
Conspiracy Theories are Dangerous
Recently we have been treated to all manner of tales. Admittedly, I am no expert. I dare not pretend to be able to comment on whether COVID-19 is a bio-weapon or whether 5G technology is behind the outbreak. I will leave it to people more qualified than me to comment on vaccines and global trade wars. And I will steer clear of all the eschatological spins that have been put on the current crisis. My contention, however, is that Christians would be naive to think that conspiracy theories have no consequences.
History is a store full of useful lessons. Conspiracy theories were a potent tool in the hands of Emperor Nero as he sought to exterminate early Christians. Adolf Hitler used them to incite hatred against the Jews. The details of the Holocaust are nightmarish. Propaganda and misinformation are not harmless.
Most conspiracy theories are openly bogus, but we are called to be sober minded and watchful
A Divine Command
These examples must inform how Christians think about all the conspiracy theories that are being circulated. Most of them are openly bogus, but we are called to be sober minded and watchful (1 Peter 5:8). This is not just a nice suggestion. It’s a divine command.
So, what should we remember the next time we receive a text promoting these complex theories?
1. We are People of the Book
Nothing dispels the darkness of error faster than the light of God’s truth. God’s word is the truth. Conspiracy theorists claim to have “special knowledge” that would untangle every puzzle. It’s a claim to secret wisdom. But the truth we glean from God’s word endures beyond the rise and fall of cultures, civilizations, and human philosophies (Isaiah 40:8). It gives us a foundation of wisdom to rest upon. This is the knowledge that truly accords with the way things are. Conspiracy theories are as hard to prove as they are to disprove, but in the end, conspiracy theories prove that they were just that – theories. But every word of God is tested (Proverbs 30:5).
God and the Deceiver
While the motivation behind every conspiracy theory is to unveil what is supposedly hidden, the Bible reveals what the actual conspiracy in the world is. It makes it clear that sinful humanity is involved in the conspiracy against God’s Messiah (Psalm 2:1-3). All those who aren’t Christians, regardless of their socio-economic status, are in league with the Deceiver who spun the conspiracy that God is not to be trusted right from Genesis 3. The word of God can’t be clearer.
Conspiracy theorists advance the notion that world history is one big cover-up. This is fanciful and fatalistic. It’s also a false claim
Conspiracy theorists advance the notion that world events are controlled by a few ultra-powerful, super-rich people and that world history is one big cover-up. This is fanciful and fatalistic. It’s also a false claim. It also flies in the face of a biblical worldview. While I don’t deny that there is much evil being propagated in our world today, the Bible is clear about who actually runs the world. “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples” (Psalm 33:10). The Bible reminds us that we are not mere victims or pawns in some global chess game among the powerful.
In reality, nothing can inoculate the Christian against these faulty claims better than God’s word. It is the Bible, not social media, that Christians should be listening to. After all, it is a simple man who believes everything (Proverbs 14:15).
2. We are People on a Mission
We are privy to the real conspiracy as Christians. Therefore we ought to spend our time exposing it by preaching the gospel. We are not to be agents of modern conspiracy theories. Our preoccupation should be with things that are true and right, not hearsay. Instead of spreading the hysteria, the Christian is to preach the gospel that avails peace with God. For this peace truly matters. Rather than being alarmists who specialise in peddling paranoia, we need to be pleading with sinners to be reconciled to God because his day of wrath is surely coming. It is the one thing we should warn people about while holding out the hope of the good news. It’s our mission.
We are not to be agents of modern conspiracy theories. Our preoccupation should be with things that are true and right, not hearsay
Do Not Fear what They Fear
We would also do well to remind fellow Christians of Christ’s exhortation, “Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe God; believe in me also” (John 14:1). We need to be wary of having our eyes and ears in the wrong places. The old prophet offers us some instruction: “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it” (Isaiah 8:12). Conspiracy theories always leave people more fearful than hopeful. We are to be agents of hope, not fear.
Conspirators advance the narrative of “them” against “us”. Even random events are usually given a spin. Blame gets shifted to the invisible hand of the supposed “evil alliances” made up of some rich, powerful people in the world. People lose sight of who the real enemies are. We should recall that our mission is to point people to the Saviour who alone can deal with man’s ultimate enemies: sin, hell, death and the Devil. O, how we waste our mission when we get caught up in the cultural wave of conspiracy theories and self-preservation!
3. We are Called to Love Others
God calls Christians to love each other with a love that is sincere and fervent (1 Peter 1:22). This is the mark of our discipleship to Christ (John 13:35). Christian love should spill over to those who aren’t Christians. The irony is that conspiracy theories have a way of dignifying and sanitising sin, especially the sin of lovelessness. When we don’t speak the truth to each other, we are forsaking love.
When we don’t speak the truth to each other, we are forsaking love
While the word of God is clear that we should rid ourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind (1 Peter 2:1), suddenly it becomes okay to slander one’s enemies instead of praying for them. We become intoxicated with gossip. We learn to look at our leaders as suspects instead of as people to pray for. Somehow, harbouring hatred for people of a certain nationality or race becomes justifiable. How often do we hear rich people around the globe being called Satanists with little to substantiate such claims? It’s unloving.
Hold Fast to What is Good
The Bible says we are to test all things and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Christians should not be caught spreading false reports about other people. This is defamation. It is slander. Moses warns about it: “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness” (Exodus 23:1). To do this is to be carnally minded and unwise. It’s to break the eighth commandment.
When we wake up to another juicy conspiracy theory, we should remember that we have a more sure source of truth
In a pandemic like this, propaganda may not cease. But I propose that when we wake up to another juicy conspiracy theory, we should remember that we have a more sure source of truth. Our mission as Christians should not be abandoned and perhaps we could love people better by not spreading unverified facts about others or about COVID-19.