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Wordio Version

Detrital: adjective. Disintegration, destruction, or wearing away.

Soup: noun. A liquid food…; an unfortunate predicament.

(merriam-webster.com)

Chuck Woolery.

Yes, that Chuck Woolery. You don’t know who that is, you say? Well, he is a lifelong host of television game shows like Love Connection, Scrabble, and everybody’s favourite The Dating Game. Still don’t know who he is? Sorry, can’t help you any more than that.

Donald Trump.

Yes, that Donald Trump. Current President of the United States and faithful devotee of conspiracy theories.

Anyway, old Chuck tweeted something about the coronavirus being a hoax. Apparently Donald Trump follows him on Twitter (why am I not surprised?) and the President retweeted Woolery’s insightful opinions for the world to see. Trump later removed the tweet and Twitter has since banned Woolery for some of his statements.

And we are left with the question. Chuck Woolery?

There was a loud, raucous public meeting in Palm Beach County, Florida. Was the fiery issue hunger, poverty, high taxes, gun violence? Nope … face masks.

A handful of citizens shouted conspiracy theories at municipal officials, accusing them of being ignorant rubes for the one world government. There was plenty of clamour about Chinese plots, 5G surveillance, ‘plandemic‘, Bill Gatesand dire warnings of God’s judgement on the lying liars who were participating in the cover up. If you insist on watching some crazy, you can see it here.

Earlier in July an armed man breached the grounds at Rideau Cottage and was arrested for an alleged plan to harm the Prime Minister of Canada. Investigators discovered a letter Corey Hurren had written in which he blamed the government for his desperate lot in life, pointing to many of the conspiracy theories mentioned above.

CTs are real and they’re out there

Conspiracy theories abound in our society and a shocking number of citizens actually believe them. Some people are innocently convinced of almost anything if they see it in print or hear it from someone who speaks with confidence.

When conspiracy theorists (seen & unseen, domestic & foreign) manipulate information by repeatedly making abstract accusations and asking leading questions, it has the effect of chipping away at solid truth until all that’s left is a detrital soup of untruths. In their hands, every activity by others is suspicious and nearly everything is a plot.

That in itself is scary but what is truly un-nerving is that conspiracy theories have established a comfortable place in religious culture.

Have you heard of Flat Earthers? They don’t represent a large number of people but surprisingly, 52% of those who believe the earth is flat describe themselves as ‘very religious’ while another 21% are ‘somewhat religious’. *

There’s more. Three-quarters of evangelicals think that mainstream media produces fake news, compared to 54% of the secular population. Surprisingly, 77% of evangelicals use Facebook, 46% of them use YouTube, and nearly half of them use other social media to inform themselves about social and political issues. **

But it extends beyond our homes and computers. For instance, the American Family Association is an evangelical organization that has a fledgling news wing called One News Now, that is “… without the liberal bias that characterizes so much of the ‘mainstream’ media”. Earlier this year ONN promoted a story that Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, knew as early as 2005 that chloroquine could be used against coronaviruses. It was never close to true and has now been disproven. That’s what I would call ‘fundamentalist bias’.

InfoWars is an angry conspiracy site operated by professed christian Alex Jones and is full of all kinds of nefarious ‘facts’ and goings-on like: Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a pizza parlour; Robert Mueller is a pedophile who is possessed by a demon and, worst of all, the claim that the Sandy Hook child massacre was staged and didn’t really happen. Traditional christian values are notably absent, obviously.

Or how about the QAnon movement which began in 2017 after someone known only as ‘Q’ posted a series of conspiracy theories? A network of independent churches called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW) have sprung up around these theories and their spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, the retired firefighter-turned-Trump-prophet who I have written about in at least a couple of my ‘Circus’ blogs.

Even mainstream ‘end times’ speculation is based on fear and thin theology. Names like Hal Lyndsay, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry Jenkins have cooked up enough future conspiracies (Armageddon, 666, Mark of the Beast, etc.) to make themselves rich and feed evangelical paranoia for three generations.

How many times in the past has christianity had a well-meaning (or not well-meaning) person gather a crowd of followers while predicting the actual day of Jesus’ second coming? (Many.) How many times has ‘the antichrist’ have been cooked up throughout he course of church history? (Many.)

But think about this. A study in 2015 found that conspiracies are more likely to be shared by conservatives who have a high interest in current events but a low level of trust in people and systems.

my theories

I am of the opinion that CTs are vile, anti-christian, and probably a sin because God’s people are supposed to be sources of goodness and light, not bitterness and slander.

So let’s dip our toes into the salty subject of evangelicals and conspiracy theories. It is not my intention to declare war on the specific theories themselves, I don’t have an army of researchers. Instead, I will post some blogs about the reasons I think CTs have been able to gain a toe-hold in the evangelical community:

  1. Confirmation bias
  2. Bible abuse
  3. Poor discipleship
  4. Dumbing down
  5. Fear

Next time we will consider a vulnerability that infects each and every one of us and pre-disposes us to believing conspiracy theories in the first place.

scientists speaking truth

World famous physicist Stephen Hawking did not make a deathbed conversion as conspiracy theorists imagined. He is credited with this nugget of wisdom, however:

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Yeah. It is amazing how much energy some christians divert from loving God and neighbour, just so they can chase strange inventions that tickle their negative view of the world.

Conspiracy theories provide a hot, gooey, detrital soup that is not only unhealthy but also dangerous.

Until then, let me leave you with this challenging thought from Galileo who was the victim of some conspiracy theories himself. “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

 

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* https://today.yougov.com/topics/philosophy/articles-reports/2018/04/02/most-flat-earthers-consider-themselves-religious

** https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2020/05/17/too-many-evangelical-christians-fall-for-conspiracy-theories-online-and-gullability-is-not-a-virtue/