The End Times and Conspiracy Narratives


The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.'” – Isaiah 8:11-13
The current presidential campaign in the USA is insane. Trump is definitely the weirdest candidate to ever run for president, and the long list of ethical question marks on Clinton's profile have many wondering if she is any better. And as is true of all presidential elections, conspiracy narratives abound. In this article, I would like to share some wisdom on how we as Christians should approach conspiracy narratives. I am not here to suggest that they are or are not true and neither am I here to encourage passivity and a "head in the sand" attitude. Our world is wild right now and things are not looking good. Nevertheless, how should we as Jesus-followers, believers in the one who is sovereign above all things, respond to the numerous conspiracy narratives hitting us from every angle?

According to author Michael Tracey, “Conspiracy theories have always been popular in America to one degree or another.”[1] In my younger years (and I’m still young) I found myself captivated and attracted by conspiracy narratives. They were fascinating and the more I learned of them, the more I felt as though I had some “inside” knowledge that no one else seemed to have.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, I have noticed that many Christians tend to get wrapped up in conspiracy narratives. Certain preachers and ministries work hard to make conspiracy narratives especially attractive within our church and the rest of the evangelical world is not far behind either.

Conspiracy narratives are, nevertheless, harmful. My intention therefore is to suggest a balance when it comes to this issue.  Jennifer Schwirzer got it right when she said, “Conspiracy theories supposedly expose the dark deeds and covert alliances of governments, secret societies and prominent individuals. One feels very powerful in the role of “knowing.” But the knowing can degenerate into an unhealthy fascination with the mystery of iniquity leaving some so consumed with evil that they lose sight of the Savior.”[2]

Most proponents and supporters of conspiracy narratives are often under the impression that they are simply “watching the signs of the times” or “exposing the deeds of Satan so as not to be deceived.” There is something truly commendable here: The desire to be faithful to God. Understand that most who find themselves wrapped up in conspiracy naratives are not wackos or nut cases (though there are those as well). Instead, most of them (at least in Christian circles) are sincere disciples of Christ whose ultimate goal is to remain faithful and loyal to God. However, I would like to propose four reasons why conspiracy narratives, rather than helping, can actually hinder our Christian walk and damage our witness.

1. Conspiracy narratives distract from Jesus
Some may argue and say that they don’t. To those I would say, if delving into conspiracy narratives draws you closer to Jesus, then please don’t stop. However, I am certain that the vast majority of us are not really drawn closer to Jesus at all. We just feel as though we are.

Conspiracy narratives have a way of making us feel like we are more spiritual than others because of the information we have. I have noticed that whenever my spiritual life is suffering I tend to be more vulnerable to conspiracy narratives. This is because they create a false sense of spirituality. I may not be praying more or reading the Bible more or leading others to Jesus more but because I know who killed JFK and I know about the Illuminati, I feel more spiritual. This is self-deception.
Paul encourages us to, “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”

Conspiracy narratives, rather than helping, actually hinder our spiritual growth because they distract us from Jesus while simultaneously making us feel as if we’re closer to Him. If there ever was a true conspiracy taking place right now it’s this one: Satan is working overtime to keep you as distracted from Jesus and His word as possible, and he will do whatever it takes to take your eyes off Him. Wasting time poring over conspiracy narratives is one of many ways he accomplishes this goal.

2. Conspiracy narratives generate a spirit of fear and anxiety
The opening text for this article comes from Isaiah 8:11-13. At this time Isaiah was prophesying to Ahaz, the King of Judah. The kingdoms of Syria and Israel had formed an alliance together to destroy Judah. Ahaz was so afraid of this conspiracy formed against him that he turned to the nation of Assyria and asked their king, Tiglath-pileser, for help. God was angry with Ahaz because he allowed himself to become afraid and instead of trusting in God, he turned to a man for help. God, speaking to Isaiah and Judah told them, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy… and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.”

In this story we notice several things. Firstly, the conspiracy was not just a “theory.” It was real. Likewise, many conspiracy theories floating around may in fact be real. However, Ahaz and Judah became so distracted by the conspiracy that, instead of turning to God for help, they turned to the king of Assyria. In the same way, conspiracy narratives fill us with so much fear that we become afraid. Some stock their basements with canned food, run to the mountains, and do all kinds of bizarre things because they are afraid. Instead of trusting that God will take care of them they turn to the “Assyria within” for help. They trust in their own efforts and strength to save them in the time of trouble.

While there is nothing wrong with preparation for the coming crisis, moving to the country or mountains, and learning how to live off of the land, if one does so out of fear it is not the Spirit of God that is leading, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). “Don’t fear the conspiracies” is the message of Isaiah. Fear God. Satan wants everything that belongs to God, including fear, and conspiracy narratives is one way that he gets it.

3. Conspiracy narratives generate a spirit of distrust.
John F Kennedy once said:
"They [conspiracy proponents] look suspiciously at their neighbors and their leaders. They call for a ‘man on horseback’ because they do not trust the people. They find treason in our finest churches, in our highest court, and even in the treatment of our water."[3]
As Kennedy so eloquently pointed out, those who focus on conspiracy narratives eventually become distrustful of everything and everyone. They can’t see the world the same way again because their “knowledge” has opened their eyes to the “truth.” As a result, nearly everything that happens is a conspiracy of some sort.

Those who focus on conspiracy narratives become so distrustful that nearly everything becomes a conspiracy. The logo for Taco Bell supposedly has Free Mason symbols. The latest movie has Illuminati undertones. The pastor’s wave looks like the hand sign of a secret society. The U.S. president is going to become a dictator and oppress Americans. The General Conference of the church is in league with the anti-Christ.  Protestant universities are now under the control of the Jesuits who have introduced heresies to our theology majors. The church has rewritten its history to deceive us. There are secret agents for the papacy in each of our Protestant churches. The government listens to all of our phone calls and reads all our emails. The Catholic Church is responsible for all the new versions of the Bible because they want to erase true doctrine. Everyone is out to get you. Don’t trust anyone. And on and on. Perhaps the same kind of thing was happening in Judah during the days of King Ahaz which is why God told them, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy.”

4. Conspiracy narratives damage our character and our witness.
I have a friend who is not a Christian but has Christian family members. Some of them are high on conspiracy narratives to such an extent that they always seem fearful, worried, and anxious about something. How do you think their non-Christian family member feels? This person looks at them and wonders why they worry so much when they are supposed to trust in God. Other conspiracy theorists seem full of pride, arrogance, and a “holier-than-thou” attitude. While not all conspiracy proponents are like this. many of them are, and those who aren’t, seem to attract and produce followers of that nature. Thus, many begin to think that all Christians are like this, and that, if they were become a Christians, they would be the same. Their natural reaction is to stay as far away from Christianity as possible.

Ellen White warned us of this when she wrote,
“We should never give to the world the false impression that Christians are a gloomy, unhappy people. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus, we shall see a compassionate Redeemer, and shall catch light from His countenance. Wherever His Spirit reigns, there peace abides. And there will be joy also, for there is a calm, holy trust in God.”[4]
Conspiracy theorizing ruins our credibility and witness among thinking people. Many conspiracy proponents are actually brilliant professionals who could do much good for the church, however their credibility has been deeply damaged by a focus on conspiracy narratives and division rather than revival follows them wherever they go. Some conferences and many pastors don’t want these presenters in their churches – not because they speaks the “truth” and they don’t like it – but because they speak conspiracy narratives that do more harm than good. While these presenters may have reached a lot of people for Christ, they would accomplish a much greater work if they were to focus on biblical truth.

Not only do conspiracy narratives damage our character and our witness but they reduce our ability to engage in evangelism. In many cases this is due to an inability to get along with others who don’t share the same views. In other cases it is due to a lack of interest – preferring to speak of how the U.S. invaded Iraq for their oil – rather than of the cross of Christ. In his article ‘Why Some Christians Still Love Conspiracy Theories,’ former pastor and author John H. Armstrong said,

What’s the harm in a little innocent speculation, or such conspiracy thinking?’ The short answer is that this conspiracy business keeps people from living the really important eschatological aspects of biblical teaching…. if we remain focused on all these conspiracies we will miss the present opportunity ‘to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8). I am convinced that most Christians who are preoccupied with conspiracies, whether the secular or religious variety it does not matter, will be rendered fairly useless to the real work of the church in the world today. They have no deep and abiding interest in the missional mandate of Jesus.[5]

Not everything is the result of a conspiracy
If you believe in conspiracy narratives, I want to appeal to you right now: Not everything is a conspiracy. Not everyone is out to get you. And no I am not a Luciferian posing as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor to “deceive” you and lead you into error and eternal doom. There are evil people in the world who do evil things to get their evil way. But there is no need for us, as God’s people, to concern ourselves with those “secret” things and become so obsessed that we turn into worry warts instead of mighty warriors for God.

Some conspiracy proponents argue "they are not theories, they are facts!" and they could very well be right. The point is not whether the theory is fact or fiction, the point is that regardless of how true it may be such things are, nevertheless, meaningless and speculative. Scripture tells us, “We should not indulge in useless speculation that takes time and effort away from our work for Christ…”[6] 1 Timothy 1:4 says, “Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees [genealogies]. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.” While this text is not talking about conspiracies – much like myths and spiritual genealogies, conspiracy narratives also lead to “meaningless speculations.”

So is the solution then to be gullible and believe everything the media tells us? No. We shouldn’t walk around as if everything is perfect. There is a real battle going on between good and evil. Everything is not OK. The west is under the spell of consumerism, the papacy is regaining its universal influence and political power, and current events clearly show that the world is being prepared for a showdown against God. Revelation 13 seems more possible today than it ever has. But we need not fear, for “if God is for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?”

Rather than entertaining conspiracies, as Christians we should be students of prophecy. Biblical prophecy exposes much of what will happen behind the scenes in the end times and prepare us for the coming events.

What’s different between studying prophecy and conspiracy narratives?
There is a world of difference. One is biblical revelation that was given to inspired writers by God Himself. The other is the pursuit of rabbit trails, obscure history, and limited data in order to arrive at a conclusion that supposedly reveals the absolute truth. One has Christ at the center and consistently uplifts the risen Savior while diminishing the forces of darkness. The other has pride at the center and consistently uplifts the forces of darkness. One is truth. The other is speculation.

As Bibleanswers.org puts it,
Speaking up and uncovering the truth is certainly biblical. The prophet Nathan uncovered David’s conspiracy to cover up his sin of murder (2 Samuel 12). Paul’s nephew uncovered a plot to assassinate Paul, and his knowledge foiled the attempt (Acts 23). Wickedness likes to hide. John 3:20 says, ‘Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.’ We should always seek the truth. ‘Love truth and peace’ (Zechariah 8:19)…. [However, while] [e]xposing the truth is good. Obsessing over rumor and hearsay and half-proven theories is harmful. Ephesians 5:11-14 is an excellent guideline. Verse 11 says to expose ‘the fruitless deeds of darkness.’ But verse 12 says not to mention them. How do we expose them? Not by conjecture or worry or fear or never-ending deliberation, but by waiting on the words of verses 13 and 14: ‘Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.’ Speak the truth and wait for God’s timing.[7]
Focus on Jesus instead
I am not condemning those who believe in conspiracy narratives. But I appeal to you to devote the time, intelligence and energy now devoted to conspiracy narratives into knowing Christ more and proclaiming the good news of salvation. Whether the conspiracy narratives are true or not, whether the governments and the police are out to recreate Hitler’s Holocaust on U.S. soil, or whether Hollywood is conspiring to deceive the world into thinking that Jesus is evil and Satan is good, should not make us lose sleep or precious time.

Do not be overcome with fear, anxiety, and worry. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Preach the gospel. Proclaim the prophecies. Lift Christ up and let God worry about the wicked. Don’t fret over their plans and purposes so much. Don’t freak out over their evil deeds and secret activities. No matter how powerful they are, or what they plan or conjure up, it is written, “The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord…. But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them” (Psalms 2:2, 4).

Halleluiah! We have nothing to fear.
_____

[1] Tracey, Michael. The Explosion of Christian Conspiracy Theories in Obama’s America. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/11/17/the-explosion-of-christian-conspiracy-theories-in-obamas-americ/ 
[2] Schwirzer, Jennifer. Conspiracy Theories or Prophetic Facts? http://ssnet.org/blog/conspiracy-theories-or-prophetic-facts/ 
[3] Kennedy, John F. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/jfk-conspiracy/  
[4] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 153. 
[5] Armstrong, John H. Why Some Christians Still Love Conspiracy Theories. http://stevebrownetc.com/2007/06/26/why-some-christians-still-love-conspiracy-theories/ 
[6] Should a Christian be interested in conspiracy theories? http://www.gotquestions.org/conspiracy-theories.html 
[7] Should a Christian be interested in conspiracy theories?http://www.gotquestions.org/conspiracy-theories.html 

Comments

  1. Thanks for this Marcos, I could agree with you more. God bless you as you continue to share relevant messages for these days.

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  2. Marcos, let me the first one to comment. It is an excellent article. It is thought provoking than any conspiracy theories out there. I had no idea about all these. You really helped me today. This is meant for me. Thank you Lord. I was under the impression that whenever I know something, I have to warn others. My intention is good. But that is not what we should be spending our time now. Our Lord knew the Jewish leaders were planning to kill Him but He never worried about it or told the people. He waited until the last moment to tell them what is going to happen. If He would have told them what is coming first, there would not have been any followers for the Lord. They would have lost all the hope. Lord, you knew my heart and sent a msg just for me. This is why the Lord said in John 16:12 I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them NOW. I am going to focus on the good news rather than the bad news. I know all these things that is going on then I don't get this from the pulpit, I get upset. Let the devil do his work, our job is to finish the great commission and leave the worry to the Lord. Thanks again Marcos. God bless and have a blessed day.

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  3. this strange picture is freaking me out

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  4. Many thanks. Excellent and thought provoking article.

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