We’ve all heard them at one point or another. September 11th was orchestrated by the American government. Lady Diana’s death was arranged by a member of the Royal Family. The 1969 lunar landing was staged. The world is controlled by secret societies, multi-national cartels – or the Jews. There are no shortage of conspiracy theories around – particularly if you talk to people who don’t trust government agencies, corporations and foreign powers.
Australia has a range of localised versions. Did you know our Prime Minister Harold Holt was abducted by a Chinese submarine while swimming off the coast and has never been seen again? Or that the fall of Gough Whitlam’s government in 1975 was done at the behest of the U.S. Government? Or that our governments are fluoridating the water supply for devious reasons? Or that we’re secretly housing nuclear weapons for the US at the Pine Gap facility in central Australia? All true – if you talk to the right people. And let’s not even get started on vaccination speculation…
I wanted to write about conspiracy theories because I’ve been watching re-runs of the X-Files – a hit 90s TV show about a government conspiracy involving the cover-up of alien activity on Earth. One reason I believe the show was such a hit in its time (and continues to have a considerable fan-base) is because many of us are susceptible to mistrust of governments and other powerful organisations.
The famous catchphrase “The Truth is Out There” resonates with inquisitive minds that value open enquiry and are cynical enough to suspect we’re often being lied to by people with power. And due to the secrecy required for international intelligence communities to thrive, we find it easy to imagine that perhaps bigger secrets are being kept from the public than we might imagine.
While the age of Freedom of Information Acts, Wikileaks and the Panama Papers often proves there are secrets that governments and corporations wish we didn’t find out about – so far there is little in the way of earth-shattering revelations coming to light.
Christians are people of the truth and should desire to see evil exposed. We should want facts rather than misinformation to guide our societal assumptions and activities. But exactly what truth we’re preoccupied with and how we go about dealing with the unknown, unexplained and unverified is very important.
The X-Files’ main character, Fox Mulder, is an FBI Agent on a quest to prove the existence of aliens.
Mulder is intelligent, capable and one of the FBI’s most talented investigators, but his incessant preoccupation with paranormal activity and extra-terrestrial life earn the ire of his superiors and the nickname “Spooky Mulder” from some of his colleagues. His most important goal in life is to expose the truth about aliens – which he believes is concealed by a top-level government conspiracy.
Christians should be ready to endure insults for what we pursue in light of our beliefs. But there’s a few very good reasons we should be unwilling to waste our time entertaining conjecture about secret government cover-ups and plots for international domination.
1) There’s only one truth many people around us are blinded to that they really need to hear about.
Christians don’t have the luxury of spending their time trying to uncover dark secrets hidden from sight by the powers-that-be, because God has given us one central truth to pre-occupy ourselves with, shape our lives by and talk to others about. Millions of people in the world are blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4) to the reality that Jesus is the Son of God; that God has a plan to save people from every nation, tribe and language through His death and resurrection; and that Jesus will take complete control of the entire globe and put every person not allegiant to him on trial. God’s mysterious plan concerning Jesus is not being hidden by the rulers of this world, so much as it is being hidden from them (1 Corinthians 2:8)
Since Jesus is returning at a time people don’t expect, the most urgent secret you can be talking to people about, isn’t what the government is up to, but what God is up to in Jesus. It’s not a dark, evil secret, but what missiologist Lesslie Newbigin called the “Open Secret” – one we need to tell everyone about.
2) We should not risk our credibility as ambassadors of the truth by engaging in unwarranted speculation
Let’s face it, we all judge people’s credibility and trustworthiness based on their past-record of truth-telling and how careful they are with evaluating and communicating information. Most people tend to value respectability of their opinions and at least give lip-service to an evidence-based approach to much of life. So if they find out you have “interesting” beliefs about government surveillance, Freemasons running the world or a celebrity’s death being a politically-motivated assassination – based purely on your own unsubstantiated speculation – they might find it harder to be open to your beliefs about Jesus when you share them.
There’s a lot about Christianity that sounds weird to the outsider. If people mock us or reject us because of their bias against the supernatural or the historical reliability of the Bible, or the incompatibility of our theology with their assumptions about the world – so be it. That’s always part of the risk of sharing our faith. But if you get the reputation for being paranoid, suspicious and prone to believing any theory that suggests dark activity by governments and corporations – it’s your credibility as a person that’s affecting the plausibility of the gospel: when the good news of Jesus comes off your lips a few days after your latest, wild theory.
3) Conspiracy theories often make light of the principle found in the ninth commandment
Another reason to distance yourself from conspiracy-theory-style-speculation is that you run a high risk of bearing false witness against your neighbour. When Christians pass on dubious news reports about on the internet without verifying the source, we often participate in the damaging of a person, group or company’s reputation without grounds for doing so.
When you say “the government is doing X” but can’t back it up with evidence, you’re using your hunch, your personal mistrust as a grounds to slander leaders by implying they are guilty of maliciously harming the public.
Unsubstantiated rumours are very often more evil than the person or group they’re about. Ironically, by suggesting “this group killed him” or “this person is secretly this” – you could well be the one obscuring the truth by spreading misinformation. In other words, you’re creating the very kind of smoky haze over the facts and public knowledge that you’re accusing more powerful people of doing.
4) There is enough openly evil activity in the world for us to worry about
Some Christians (particularly those with a certain understanding of how to interpret Bible prophecy) see Satan as orchestrating a stealthy global take-over through corrupt governments, secret societies and would-be antichrists. They fear that our ignorance of what’s really happening behind global events will stop us from seeing the rise of a one-world government with the Antichrist at it’s head, until it’s too late. Some believe that millions of people will receive “the mark of the Beast” (effectively sealing their eternal destiny) without realising what they are doing, because it will be a cleverly implemented micro-chip program or something of the like.
I know this well, because I was one of these Christians. I was certain that the European Union was the Revived Roman Empire, that a certain European politician was the future Antichrist and that the world was all heading towards some kind of totalitarianism by stealth.
At the time I thought there was very good evidence for the above. Time proved me to be wrong. Things that needed to happen to confirm the “evidence” didn’t take place.
As I’ve come to understand the Bible better and how Jesus must always be the focal point of interpreting Bible prophecies (rather than the weekly news), I must say that I think there’s enough evil clearly visible in the world for us to worry about – rather than delving deep into the darkness to find hidden plots and satanic secrets. Psalm 2 clearly states that the kings and rulers of this world have set themselves against YHWH and His anointed one. The plotting and rebellion has been going on for centuries. Millennia even. Romans 1-3 paint a clear picture of humanity utterly compromised by sin and handed over by God to plunge deeper into the depths of our depravity.
The social changes we see in our world are often driven by the spirit of the age. But rather than a secret conspiracy, they seem to be part of an age-old pattern of people rejecting the God who made them and willingly shifting their thoughts and behaviour away from what He has revealed. Satan is at work – but the main work we should be concerned about is his blinding of people’s minds to the gospel to keep them enslaved to sin – not his covering up of a plan to take away their civil liberties and enslave them to others.
So whatever your understanding of what will happen between now and Jesus’ return – focus on the one secret that people can’t afford to be ignorant of any longer: Who Jesus is, what He’s done and what He’s about to do.
 Michael Gil Conspiracy Theory (CC BY 2.0) flickr
 Schutz “Pine Gap Sign” (CC BY-SA 3.0) flickr
 Public Domain
 sdobie Martin, Les – X Marks the Spot (1997 PB) (CC BY-NC 2.0) flickr