I read an article the other day that said Christians believe in Conspiracy theories because they’re narcissistic. And in his extrapolation of this point, the author claimed that the reason these “conspiracy theorists” take it as a personal attack when challenged is this narcissism. Need I point out the irony in claiming a group of people is narcissistically imagining personal attacks against them — in the middle of an attack on the character of those very people?
Mocking Christian Conspiracy Theorists
As I mentioned in my previous post about conspiracy theories, articles like these* — mocking and deriding “Christian conspiracy theorists” — are popping up all over. Most of these articles have two things in common (besides a lot of assumptions): a failure to clearly articulate a distinction between an “acceptable” theory and a “ridiculous” one, and an arrogant attitude toward those they believe are being undiscerning. Is this helpful? And if not, what should be our approach toward those we believe lack discernment?
Is This Helpful?
The first important question is whether articles like these are helpful. Of course, this is partially a matter of opinion, but let’s look at some principles.
Does Scripture encourage us to view ourselves as better than others?
On the contrary, we’re told to practice humility and recognize that whatever good is in us is a blessing from God. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” (Ph’p 2:3) “…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk. 18:14b — even better, read the full context)
When we have a concern for a brother or sister, are we encouraged to focus on spreading word of their sin or foolishness around the community at large?
“Hatred stirs up strife, But Love covers all sins.” (Prov. 10:12) “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.” (Prov. 17:9) If we are to refrain from gossiping about our brothers’ sin, how much more ought we to refrain from gossiping about his weaknesses?
What does the Bible tell us about the weaker brother?
When Paul talks about the “weak brother,” in the context of eating meat sacrificed to idols, he tells us that “knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8)
The situation here is obviously different, but the principle at the foundation of the passage is to have greater concern for the brother as a person than for our own knowledge and what it means for us. We are to care about our brother’s conscience.
What is the purpose?
What is the purpose of an article telling Christians who aren’t considered “conspiracy theorists” all the things one finds wrong with those who are? Does this puff up, or build up? Love builds up (edifies), so if we’re puffing ourselves up rather than building our brothers up, we aren’t demonstrating love.
What Is a Helpful Approach?
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:35)
A biblical approach is to love each other — and love (as we’ve already seen) will build up.
The first step is to approach the subject — and the people with whom we have concerns — with an attitude of humility. For all we know we could be the ones who are mistaken. But even if we’re right, our own knowledge was once lacking and our own maturity was once immaturity. We are not superior when we know more or have more experience than someone else; we are merely farther along the path.
Mocking and demeaning is neither humble nor loving — and it isn’t a mark of maturity. Gentle humility will be much more likely to inspire a receptive response.
I know. It’s hard to listen with a humble attitude when you’re sure the person you’re listening to is being ridiculous. But we’re called to be quick to listen and slow to speak. (Ja. 1:19) We need to have all the information before we respond. (See Prov. 18:13)
In this context, that means more than just knowing the general idea of what a given theory is. It means knowing what the facts (true and/or false) are that are used to support the theory. It means understanding the reasons a person believes it. (Not what we assume his reasons are, but what he tells us his reasons are.) It means knowing what part of the theory a person believes.
For instance, Wikipedia tells us that “A 2011 study of people from the US, Canada, and the UK found that 2.6% of the sample believed entirely in the conspiracy theory [of chemtrails], and 14% believed it partially.” If you’re addressing someone’s belief in chemtrails, and he’s among the 14%, don’t you think it might be beneficial to know what part of the theory he believes? It’s possible in some cases we don’t even disagree on anything except terminology!
Teach and/or guide.
When we’re sure we clearly understand what it is that we’re addressing, then we can guide people into greater discernment. Share information they may be lacking. Provide biblical context for their ideas. Ask questions to encourage critical thinking and analysis. Be an active part of helping people evaluate ideas.
It might seem absurd to suggest that those who oppose conspiracy theories should practice discernment, but the reality is that a failure to practice true discernment from the one “side” breeds a lack of discernment on the other.
Shutting down discussion about unorthodox and/or uncomfortable subjects is not discernment. And by mocking, belittling, demeaning, and censoring those who are willing to remain open to possibilities, we ensure that they are on their own to work through these ideas.
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Prov. 11:14) We need to encourage open, respectful discussion of conspiracy theories specifically because that is how discernment is practiced and developed. These ideas, like all ideas, must be weighed against Scripture and scriptural principles, and mature believers are in the best position to help less mature believers do that.
Humbling ourselves and being willing to do the work of helping our brothers and sisters think well is a more beneficial and biblical choice than accusing them of arrogance and laziness.
*I am intentionally not linking to these articles, because I don’t want to reward them with traffic.
How Should Christians Talk About Conspiracy Theorists? is a post from: Titus 2 Homemaker
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This post first appeared on Titus 2 Homemaker - Hope And Help For The Domestic, please read the originial post: here