This is a post that looks at evangelical Christian culture and conspiracy theories. This shows the harm that they do and asks the question if Christians who believe in conspiracy theories can be considered an unreached peoples group. This also explains how the harm from such theories affecting dark and disturbing situations in places like Harvest Bible Chapel and Sovereign Grace Churches.
“As a historian, I’m skeptical about conspiracy theories because the world is far too complicated to be managed by a few billionaires drinking scotch behind some closed doors. But I do think that the voters are correct in sensing that they’re really losing power. And in reaction, they give the system an angry kick.”
Yuval Noah Harari
“Whenever you’re faced with an explanation of what’s going on in Washington, the choice between incompetence and conspiracy, always choose incompetence.”
24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:24 NKJV
The sign for Comet Ping Pong in Washington, D.C.
A couple of years ago I met with someone in the Washington, D.C. area. They were involved in Sovereign Grace Ministries for a long time. We met and had dinner and discussed the culture and issues at Sovereign Grace. I was trying to understand what hit me from Redeemer Arlington. Then something happened which shocked and changed my perspective of the source I was speaking with. This individual shifted the conversation and then started to speak about a troubling conspiracy theory. If my memory serves me correct it was about an international conspiracy theory involving the Jews and banking at key parts around the globe. It was about efforts to pool money in certain financial capitols around the globe. He tried to explain this to me and I just was not buying it. I looked at my smartphone and checked the time occasionally. My opinion of this individual changed the more I listened to him. Privately I began to wonder about what he said earlier and asked myself was that based on fact or fiction? Did he engage in conspiracy theories in other areas of life? How could this guy be taken as a source if he was engaged in such behavior? After the talk about the international financial conspiracy the talk moved to child sex abuse inside Sovereign Grace. For me though the damage was done, and I decided to leave it be and not pursue contact. Too many red flags stood out in my mind and I left that dinner with a personal lesson about vetting and checking sources, which I already was doing. I decided to write about this topic after reading about the effects of a few conspiracy theories.
How Conspiracy Theories Have Changed with the Internet
When I was growing up I rejected all conspiracy theories. I heard about how some believed that there were more than one gunman in the John F Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963. I was aware of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about the Jews and banking which I categorically rejected. There was the belief by some that the HIV or AIDS virus was invented by the CIA. Then some believed that the moon landing in July of 1969 was faked. Then in the course of time new conspiracy theories developed. This happened after the invention of the internet and had more severe consequences. Some people were pushing the false belief that vaccines and vaccination caused autism. Other claimed that the September 11, 2001 attacks were an inside government job. Then you had the claim by Donald Trump that Barack Obama was not an American citizen and born in Kenya, which is also false. Alex Jones promoted that claim that the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut in 2012 never happened. Another popular one dealt with the Q Anon theory that says that Donald Trump’s opponents are involved in an international ring that involves the trafficking, abuse, and yes sometimes the eating of children. Q is allegedly a high level military official. Then you also had Pizzagate that claimed that Hillary Clinton ran a pedophilia ring and engaged in Satanism inside a pizza parlor in the Washington, D.C. called Comet Ping Pong.
I could go on and on but this is a brief list of some of the conspiracy theories that have occurred over time. What was naïve and harmless evolved into something dark and troubling. Conspiracy theories have substantial issues and in the process also reveal anti-Semitism, bias, diminished thinking capacity and more in this writers opinion.
Evangelical Christians and Conspiracy Theories
Honestly I remain baffled as to why evangelical Christians peddle and promote conspiracy theories to the degree that they do. It really stands out in the volume of conspiracies that people attached themselves to. All I had to do in the past few years was study my social media. Mainstream Protestants don’t engage in conspiracy theories to the same degree, neither do Roman Catholics. Yet evangelicals seem to be attached to them. Honestly I wonder if this is also the fruit of the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” I wrote about Mark Noll’s theory in, “From Mormonism in Montana to Sovereign Grace in the Washington, D.C. Area; The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Comes Full Circle.“
Does the anti-intellectualism honestly drive some evangelicals to believe that the Sandy Hook massacre never occurred? Or that Hillary Clinton was engaged in pedophilia in a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.? Does this also help explain why evangelicals get involved in churches like Sovereign Grace, Acts 29 or Harvest Bible Chapel. After all if you buy into a conspiracy theory that says that Trump’s opponents are engaged in trafficking and the eating of children does that make you a great candidate to support individuals like Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, or James MacDonald and buy their material. I often remain baffled as to why people flock to and buy their books, sermons and more. In the end is this about reducing the bar to the lowest common denominator? I don’t know I am thinking aloud as I contemplate and write about this problem. The question needs to be asked, why do evangelicals engage in conspiracy theories to the degree they do? I think many of us can agree it shows how evangelicalism has rotted out and hit the bottom. If conspiracy theories are an extension of evangelical Christianity can it be said that its the result of living in a world of alternative facts that rejects intellectualism.
Center for Inquiry discussing conspiracy theories at CSI Con 2018
One other point that needs to be made. Many evangelical Christians proclaim atheists and secular humanists to often be lost. But when it comes to atheists and secular humanists they very much reject conspiracy theorists and more. A couple of years ago I wrote about the Center for Inquiry (which is associated with Richard Dawkins today) and how they confronted those engaging in the anti-vaccination movement. You can read that post in, “The Anti-Vaccination Movement, Much Like Polio, Needs to be Eradicated; Plus the Center for Inquiry Confronts this Dangerous Faction.” When you research at the Center for Inquiry website these are some of the conspiracy theories written about and challenged. For example you can read what is written about the Roswell conspiracy theory. Then you can see what was written about the moon landing being false.
Why Conspiracy Theories Are Harmful and Dangerous
Conspiracy theories are dangerous for a multitude of reasons. They can actually incite people to act in a certain way. For example Pizza Gate led a man to drive up from North Carolina and go into a pizza restaurant and fire a weapon and almost kill someone. I wrote about the danger that conspiracy theories pose in that they can also erode society, government, church and media. Conspiracy theories can undermine our culture and harm it long term. One immediate affect can be religious blogs like this one. You can read about that in, “How Pizzagate and Fake News Threaten the Legitimacy of Religious Blogs.”
Conspiracy theories also cause pain in that they torment victims, survivors and more. Another factor that led to this post is reading the following article in the London Guardian. In the following article you can read about the bullying, threats and more that are faced by many individuals. From someone who lost their six year old son in Sandy Hook to how a business owner of a pizza restaurant is dealing with threats, bullying and more. Nothing good comes from conspiracy theories which is why they are harmful and dangerous. Another factor to consider is that conspiracy theories show how lazy some people can be. It takes work, effort and labor to think and work through an issue. How many people just want to be told how to think. Conspiracy theories are worse because people go beyond being told what to think, they create alternative facts and an alternative reality and live in that. Where does that warped reality cross over into other areas of your life? If you are going to be believe the false information that vaccines causes autism, then why would you accept what the doctor is telling you when you have a form of skin cancer that can be treated?
Are those Who Believe Conspiracy Theories Dealing with Mental Illness?
Here is another question that I ask as well. Earlier in my life I had someone I knew who believed that September 11, 2001 never happened. She believed that the Twin Towers are still standing and the footage showing their collapse and destruction was created by the United States government. In the process it should also be said that this person who believed those conspiracy theories about September 11, 2001 was also dealing with mental illness as they dealt with schizophrenia. Here is another question that must also be asked. Can it be possible that some of the people pushing conspiracy theories are also dealing with mental illness? Combine that with the “Biblical Counseling” that exists which can discourage psychological and psychiatric help, does that explain why more people are inside evangelicalism believing conspiracy theories? They are dealing with illness and the system prevents them from getting the mental health that they need. If that is true can it be said that evangelicals in the end are living in their own prison that they constructed that they can’t break free from?
Why One Should Stick to Facts Using Harvest Bible Chapel and Sovereign Grace as an Example
I don’t believe in conspiracy theories. In addition I fully embrace science, psychology and psychiatry as well. But let me pose a question to you. Say you were involved in Harvest Bible Chapel and you also subscribe to the Q Anon conspiracy theory about a deep state in the United States government. Then you also listened to Alex Jones for years and you believe that the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut never took place. When you start to speak about corruption or child sex abuse inside Harvest Bible Chapel why should you be believed? Why would you have any credibility as a source? Do you believe that child sex abuse happened in Harvest Bible Chapel because of cold , hard facts? Or do you believe that because you buy into other conspiracy theories and now here is another one for you to follow. Do you see the difference?
Here is why I believe there are child sex abuse issues inside Harvest Bible Chapel. I have spoken to people who are involved. There are internal documents and messages which I heard about, and I know form multiple sources that they exist. I spoke with people who interacted and trusted their children to Paxton Singer. Together when I line up the facts it checks out as the evidence points to it. Facts are everything and facts are what should govern your decision making process. The same holds true for Sovereign Grace. I have spoken to people over the years who told me stories about the child sex abuse and their family. And in Sovereign Grace there ae documents, emails and more that speak to this issue. For example look at the correspondence between Tommy Hill and how C.J. Mahaney was in the decision making process to approve a hush fund to buy a Sovereign Grace pastor’s silence. Read the actual emails from inside the Sovereign Grace Ministries organization.
Evangelicals Can We be Committed to Facts?
In this last section I would like to challenge the evangelicals who read this, can they committed to facts? I have yet to understand why people who claim to follow Jesus who taught about following truth would buy into half baked conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton and pedophilia, school shootings being non-existent and more. If Jesus spoke about following him in spirit and in truth can it be said that many evangelicals are spiritually lost and possibly be considered an unreached people group? Quite simply you can’t honor both God and engage in conspiracy theories simultaneously.
Evangelicals is it possible to shift your thinking? For example I will use Pizza Gate for this post. Is it possible for an evangelical who is opposed to Hillary Clinton to base that decision on philosophy and facts? You disagree with how she views things and leave it at that, in that context. That sounds much better, is factually sound and makes good sense. That is preferable to clinging to a conspiracy theory while despising Hillary Clinton because you believe she is running a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C.. If Christians can’t accept basic facts then why should what they proclaim be listened to? Or honored and respected? If evangelical Christians want to be respected by the world can they realize that buying into conspiracy theories hurts people in the end? Is being a Christian about causing pain or hurting other people? Is that what Jesus taught? And if Christians are choosing to act in that context are they really Christians in the end? This is a post I have been meaning to do for sometime but a couple of articles I read, combined with a couple of situations led me to sit down and compose this article.