For the past several weeks, I’ve been getting COVID-19 vaccine-related letters in the mail. These letters aren’t from any official government source. They’re not from my doctor. They’re not even from the manufacturers of the vaccines. No, these letters are handwritten conspiracy theories from a pastor I’ve never met in New York state. In case you’re wondering, I did not sign up to be on this mailing list.
Conspiracy theories should not surprise us. They’ve been around for as long as human beings have formed societies. When human beings decide to live in community with other human beings, trust is required. Whenever trust erodes, suspicion and fear fill the void. Suspicion and fear formalized become conspiracy theories. We happen to be living during a time when trust in society’s institutions—things like media, corporations, and government—is extremely low. We shouldn’t be surprised to see conspiracy theories filling the void.
What does surprise me is the role of Bible-believing Christians in furthering many of these conspiracy theories. The letters I’ve been getting in the mail are just one example. They are filled with out-of-context Bible verses equating the COVID-19 vaccine with the mark of the beast. They pretend to rely on legitimate scientific research. Did you know that the vaccine (apparently, they’re all the same) injects a chemical called Luciferase into your bloodstream? I didn’t either.
The vaccine conspiracy theories are just one example. We may scoff at the ridiculousness of Luciferase, but there are others that are more widely accepted. Our former president insisted for months that the election was stolen and offered to the public conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory in his desperate ploy to maintain power. Every single lawsuit failed. Why? Because there was no evidence of a stolen election.
When people buy in to conspiracy theories on a widescale basis, violence results. We saw that on live television in our nation’s capital on January 6. Five people tragically lost their lives on that day. It could have been much worse. A presidentially-sanctioned conspiracy theory was the cause.
As Christians, we are called to be people of truth (John 8:32). That used to be the default position of American evangelicals. When the Lord saved me through the witness of faithful evangelicals in 2002, I remember hearing warnings about cultural relativism. At that time, evangelicals were committed to defending absolute truth. You can’t just make up reality to fit your narrative. Truth is truth. We do not have the authority to fit reality to our preferences. God has spoken, and his word is final. I still believe that.
But here’s what saddens me the most about Christians and conspiracy theories: we don’t need them. In Luke 10:23-24, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Why were they so blessed? They were standing in front of the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in human form. They were given the privileged position of witnessing the arrival of God’s kingdom in the person of Jesus. They had received what all of God’s people had been waiting on throughout history. In Christ, salvation had finally arrived, and they had front row seats.
Christians today are even more privileged than they were. We’ve seen even more. We’ve seen the cross and resurrection. We have the full revelation of God in Scripture. We know that Christ is reigning at the right hand of the Father and will return to consummate his kingdom. We have God’s Spirit as the guarantee of our own eternal salvation. We have been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). In short, we have it all.
If that’s true (and it is), then why are we drawn to unfounded conspiracy theories? Do we really believe that the secret knowledge we really need is found in dark corners of internet chat rooms? Are we really willing to sacrifice truth to further a narcissist’s political agenda at all costs? Is Jesus not enough? Does the full revelation of the gospel just not do it for us anymore? Are we bored with Christ? May it never be!
Let me tell you about one conspiracy I believe with all my heart. Satan wants God’s people to live as if the gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t sufficient. He wants the church to look to conspiracy theories instead of God’s Word for insight about what’s really happening. So far, he’s been wildly successful.