I don’t know about you, but just the phrase “conspiracy theory” puts an image in my mind of a semi-grimey (and very single) white dude in his early 40s named Darrell, whose closest friend is his pet iguana.
I imagine Darrell with long oily dirty-blond hair, wearing a red bandana. He keeps a full and unkempt beard, sports a pair of $5 reading glasses from Walmart, and every morning chooses from one of thirty-three Hawaiian themed short-sleeve button-ups that line his closet. He wears his favorite cut-off jean shorts at least four days-a-week, and a pair of black flip-flops he’s had since he was fourteen, which he slips over his long white tube socks.
His home is his parent’s basement, his office is their garage, and his desk is a brown six-foot foldout table.
He “works” from a Windows 98 computer which he has somehow jerry-rigged to last another twenty-six years, either because he’s scary cheap or hates adapting to change more than you can possibly imagine. And every single day he tweets his 34 followers with the latest answers to the things we all know the government is hiding from us.
That guy is a conspiracy theorist.
But you and me? Nah. We just take things as we see them. Right?
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, I would venture to say that nearly all of us subscribe to at least one conspiracy theory. And that isn’t an improbable assumption since there are so many to choose from.
There are the ones most of us find entertaining enough to play along with but never take seriously. Like, is Elvis really dead? How about 2Pac? And are you sure we really went to the moon?
But then there are the ones that, for some reason or another, seem a bit more plausible. For example, does Area 51 contain proof of alien life? Who really killed JFK? And is the world actually controlled by the Illuminati?
Historian Kathryn Olmsted got it right when she told the New York Times, “Conspiracy theories wouldn’t exist in a world in which real conspiracies don’t exist.”
Conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen. Some are crazy. Some are not so crazy. But there are at least 3 reasons you and I might subscribe to them. And it can be traced back to the very first conspiracy theory in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3).
An article from Slate references a poll taken in 2007 where nearly 1 in 3 Americans believed that certain leading government officials either knew about, or perhaps even helped plan, the 9/11 attacks.
The article continues:
Conspiracy believers are the ultimate motivated skeptics. Their curse is that they apply this selective scrutiny not to the left or right, but to the mainstream. They tell themselves that they’re the ones who see the lies, and the rest of us are sheep. But believing that everybody’s lying is just another kind of gullibility.
When you assume that everyone has only evil motives and is always out to get you, it becomes easy to buy into at least a couple conspiracy theories.
This is exactly how Satan tricked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He deceived them with the idea that the One in charge—that is, God Himself—was hiding something from them. He deceived them into second guessing their trust in God.
[The serpent] said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1)
‘Conspiracy theories are for losers,’ says Joseph Uscinski, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami… ‘People who have lost an election, money or influence look for something to explain that loss.’ (TIME)
We hate the feeling of being lied to. We are not in control of the news or the media, so what we read in the “official report” could have easily been tweaked and edited to cover up the real story.
So we do our own research, ask our own questions, perform our own investigation, and read blog posts that make us feel like we know how the story really unfolded.
No one is going to pull the wool over our eyes.
Surely this is how Adam and Eve felt. They decided they weren’t going to be pulled along by God’s puppet strings anymore. They finally knew the real truth about the forbidden tree and about the God they thought they could trust.
“But the serpent said… ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Gen. 3:5)
Psychology professor Viren Swami tells the New York Times:
“If you know the truth and others don’t, that’s one way you can reassert feelings of having agency.”
Conspiracy theories make you feel like you have special secret knowledge. There’s a sense of identity that comes with understanding and believing them.
You are special. You are elite. You have information that few are privy to. You feel really smart for being above everyone else’s gullibility.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate… (Gen. 3:6)
I’m not telling you to never believe another conspiracy theory. But I do want to share three challenges with you that I think can help keep us all in check.
1. Ask yourself what conspiracy theories do you subscribe to, and why?
Be honest about the what and the why.
Does it come from a general assumption about the motives of others? Is it a need to control? Does it make you feel special?
2. Be more cautious about doubting the motives of others.
I’m not going to tell you to reject all conspiracy theories. But I would challenge you to be careful to not always assume that everyone’s motives are always wrong all the time. Remember, we are all made in the image of God, which means even in our sinful state, we still have some resemblances of Him and His character.
3. Ask yourself what areas do you trust God the least, and why?
If we, like Adam and Eve, begin to buy into Satan’s conspiracy theories against God, we will quickly fall into deception. So it’s a good idea to keep an honest assessment of what areas of your life you are doubting God’s goodness or His sovereignty, or both.
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