I can’t keep up with the conspiracy theories I’ve seen floated via social media in the last few weeks. What’s additionally frustrating is the volume coming from otherwise intelligently perceived individuals, most who are professing Christians, who seem to hold well to rational common sense in nearly every other facet of life.
- Antifa (which by the way – I’m Anti-Fascism, does that make me Antifa?) is going to overthrow the government.
- Trump is going to cancel the November election and assume a dictatorship.
- Obama is managing all the protests remotely through his organizing group.
- China created and released Covid-19 just to bring down the American economy.
- Black Lives Matter won’t stop until all white people are dead or enslaved.
- Hillary Clinton is single-handedly responsible for over 40 political assassinations of Americans.
- White women are the single largest demographic group discriminated against in America.
- Bill Gates is going to micro-chip the entire world, ushering in the “mark of the beast” and the end of times.
- Wearing masks is just the beginning of religious persecution that will eventually destroy Christianity in America.
The list goes on and on… those were within 5-6 scrolls on my Facebook page.
Seriously. It’s unbelievable. Literally. Unbelievable.
I was trying not to get sucked down any one specific rabbit-hole but instead began to ponder the bigger concern of why we seem to be so prone to these theories. What is it about the fanciful, the fearful, the absurd, the evil, the unknown, the secrecy of these ideas that so powerfully draws us in? The lyrics of one of my favorite songs came to mind…
“Whispers often are contagious when they offer the outrageous and they find an itchy ear to get inside. They get passed along for ages, find their way through fools and sages until the truth is more easily denied.”
Inside – Matthew Perryman Jones
I’ve had a long-held perspective that the most rational and simple explanation is typically the truthful one. Conspiracies are complicated and rarely live in secrecy for long. Groups of people are not very good at keeping quiet and any conspiracy is only as secretive as it’s weakest secret keeper. I know many will label me naive, but I think we landed on the moon. I think COVID is a naturally occurring disease. I think most of our government officials are trying to stop a pandemic not steal our liberties. Honestly, even if those are all wrong, I’m OK with that too. As life goes, sooner or later the truth will be revealed and if it is nefarious it will be exposed for what it is.
I can’t help but think that all these conspiracies and alternative facts are just a massive adventure in missing the point. They are shiny distractions to the real challenges of current life.
When I was serving in local church ministry, one of the most common phrases I’d hear was “I just want to go deeper.” Spiritual ‘depth’ was the abstract moving target everyone desired but could rarely quantify. Pursuing ‘depth’ over pursuing Jesus became the reality for many individuals. For some it was an emotional high – the Holy Spirit tingles during worship service, the prophetic word that fit their challenges, the adrenaline rush of sharing their faith in a way that could be rejected, etc… For others, it was the gathering of knowledge – verse by verse preaching, connecting the dots of numerology in the bible, understanding the signs of the end times from Revelation, etc… What we end up with is a constant chasing of self-satisfying behaviors that never yield the “depth” we desire. We have more emotional highs but never enough to sustain through the challenges of life. We have more knowledge, but that’s a diminishing return as it usually only leads to more questions. The challenge is one is emotionally-driven and the other is information-driven, but neither are in and of themselves Spirit-driven.
I remember hearing a pastor once say “the truths of scripture are mined on the surface.” That is to say, if we could simply read the Bible at face value and live an honest attempt to be obedient to it as we understand it, we’d have no need to dig for ‘hidden’ nuggets of extra revelation. Just like conspiracy theories, I don’t think the Bible is cryptic – I believe that the most rational and simple explanation of scripture is also typically the truthful one. What if we actually took the words of Jesus at face value and tried to live them well instead of digging for more palatable truths?
The religious leaders of Jesus’ time were great at trying to find the cryptic over the simple! Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Seems clear enough even if the reality is terribly difficult to live out. But instead, they tried to quantify it with questions like, “Who is my neighbor?” Instead of answering their spoken question, He answers their religious piety by telling them the parable of the Good Samaritan. He turns their whole religious hierarchy on its head, making the socially and spiritually outcast Samaritan the hero of the story. He tells them, “Your neighbor is any person in need around you, and by the way, the people you judge as ‘less than’ are better at it than you.” They wanted to narrow the scope, and instead, Jesus blows it wide open.
Here’s where all the dots start to connect for me…
Propagating conspiracy theories, chasing spiritual depth, digging for hidden nuggets of revelation – they’re all painfully insignificant to our everyday life and the things that really matter.
They’re rooted in pride and arrogance and more often than not, they’re used as tools to measure judgment and condescendence toward others. I see the ‘real truth’. I have knowledge that you don’t. But what comes of these pursuits? What is the outcome of chasing conspiracy theories or finding some crazy meaning in the original Greek of Revelation 3:14? Instead, Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 13. Maybe you’ve heard it at a wedding recently…
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
(1 Cor 13:1 NLT)
I know it’s crazy, but what if Paul wasn’t just writing to give us a great passage to be read at weddings? What if he was actually illustrating his teaching from 1 Corinthians 12 as he corrects people abusing their spiritual gifts and creating division among the church? He’s telling the Corinthian church that it doesn’t matter how great they think they are if they’re not actually loving one another – the very command that Jesus gave to His followers. He’s telling them that if they’re not leading with love, they’re just an annoying sound that has no benefit.
When the unbelieving world hears Christians these days I fear they’re hearing a whole lot of noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.
Leading with love is immediately practical even if challenging in execution. Don’t try to dissect it or narrow it’s scope. No need to over complicate it – just live in the challenge of simple obedience.
Leading with love in today’s world means you wear a mask, not because of your own opinions, but to put the safety and wellbeing of others first.
Leading with love in today’s world means your primary engagement of others is with empathy and seeking understanding, not correction.
Leading with love in today’s world means the best way you can express that all lives matter is by living in a way that demonstrates that black lives matter equally.
Leading with love in today’s world means you find ways to actually care for your neighbor.
Leading with love in today’s world means you stand up for the downtrodden, the outcast, and the overlooked.
Leading with love in today’s world means you own your role in bringing peace and healing even if you didn’t contribute to the brokenness.
Leading with love in today’s world means you fight against injustice in both the actions of individuals and systems of our world.
To carry Paul’s musical analogy a little further, we’re called to lead with love in a way that brings beautiful harmonies to the world so they’d hear the message of Jesus with clarity. Instead, we are too often an annoying gong and clang that make a terrible noise that drowns out the message of Jesus.
If you’re reading through that list and your gut response is pushback on the verbiage, you might be prone to gongs and clangs. If your first responses are politically prompted, you might be prone to gongs and clangs. If your immediate response is to go to social media and be a keyboard advocate, you might be prone to gongs and clangs.
I’m prone to gongs and clangs. My guess is you might be too.
Leading with love so the message of Jesus can be clearly heard is really hard. But the challenge isn’t in the understanding of our mission, it’s in our willingness to be obedient to the simple words of Jesus.