On April 24, I had the pleasure to moderate a stellar panel, courtesy of Sligo Women’s Ministry, to discuss Christian intellectual health and the power of conspiracy theories. As the final session of the Wellness Wheel, a multi-dimensional mental wellness model, this event explored intellectual wellness during the time of COVID-19.
To look at the rising phenomenon of Christian belief in, and promotion of, conspiracy theories, the panel used four approaches: psychological, historical, spiritual/biblical, and ecclesiastical. Dr. Jerome Crichton, founder and CEO of Every Word Ministries, offered a psychological perspective, grounded in the idea that humanity was created to find and tell a story. Dr. Michel Sun Lee described how historical scholars classify conspiracy theories in societal and individual contexts. Reflecting on the Bible and Christian life, Dr. Olive Hemmings made the case that Christians fall for conspiracy theories because of under-developed personal agency. Thus, Christians are vulnerable, like sheep, to follow loud, powerful voices. Bettina Krause, an associate director of the General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department, advocated for church leaders to speak with courage about Christ-like values and not to let fear of “being political” dissuade such advocacy.
Instant communication and artificial intelligence, algorithmic-enabled media sorting has made the prevalence of belief in conspiracy theories more concerning than ever.
The Bible says Satan is a mighty deceiver, and God is the God of truth.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth.” Pilate asked about truth but did not seek it enough so that he would act honorably toward the Son of God. People progress toward truth or away from truth, often in tandem with others on the journey, and this can be helpful or hurtful.
We are to love God with heart, soul, and mind. A highjacked mind insulates one from clear thinking on the path of discipleship. God is the one who knows ultimate truth. One protection to ensure we are on the path to absolute truth would be to be mindful of God’s incarnate truth, Jesus Christ Our Lord, who came to earth to re-center people.
Authentic Christianity gives a person meaning, safety, and community. Conspiracy theories highjack minds to envelope a person with a false sense of these three concepts. Conspiracy theories provide an explanation, or meaning, to chaotic life, and when a person sees the false meaning, and finds another who believes the same, then, one has a sense of being safe and in control. Thus, belief in a conspiracy theory will bring a person into a “safe silo” of knowledge that is impenetrable. Within this safe silo, one experiences a sort of community.
Conspiracy theories do not promote love. They promote fear, suspicion, and division. Without love we are nothing more than noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.
Rather than a fear that suspects all things, shuns all things, fears all things, and runs from all things, we need to promote a love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Let this kind of love — in the face of all circumstances or supposed conspiracies — be the kind of foolishness for which we are known.
Watch the program below or by clicking here:
Carmen Lau is board chair of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.
Image courtesy of Sligo Women’s Ministry.
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