About Christians who unfold corona conspiracies: Gullibility will not be a non secular reward Trade
A great crisis provides a fertile field for conspiracy theories to be created, and the current global pandemic has spawned a large number of them.
One of the sad things I've learned over time is how conspiracy theories misled Christians disproportionately. I have also said before that if Christians spread lies they must repent of those lies. Sharing fake news makes us look stupid and harms our witness.
We saw this in the last election when some of the Troll factories focused on conservative, evangelical Christians. This is disappointing. Now we see it again. So how do we react?
First, we need to speak to others – especially those who have been cheated again – and say affectionately, "You have to go to trustworthy sources." Your social media news feed is not a trustworthy source. But you can find them when you are ready to look. That's why we created coronavirusandthechurch.com to provide credible information to churches. However, there are many credible news sources – generally from outlets that have no conspiracy business success story.
Second, God has not called us to be easily deceived. Gullibility is not a Christian virtue, and we should not act that way. Believing and sharing Covid 19 conspiracies does not honor the Lord.
Now, however, there seems to be a new flood of conspiracy theories. Take a look at the list on Wikipedia or search yourself with a few keywords.
Distrust of the media and government
I understand the distrust that many Christians have of the media and the government. But too often, this distrust means that believers are not more critical, but become gullible for any alternative narrative.
God's Word calls us to be "wise and not foolish" (Eph 5:16).
If you want to believe that a secret laboratory created this as a biological weapon and now everyone is covering it up, I can't stop you. If you want to believe one of the dozens of conspiracy theories already in circulation, this is your reputation. But if so, what will you do if you think the vaccine is part of this conspiracy?
Similarly, we see some Christian leaders exaggerating the idea that you are being persecuted if you ignore current guidelines and try to bring a thousand people together for worship in a global pandemic. We saw how some pastors made a spectacle of themselves at Easter when we were supposed to do a lot with Jesus.
There are some problems – yes, some mayors and one or two governors did and said stupid things. These are being pushed back in court. This is not a deep state conspiracy. It is what happens in a global crisis when some overreact and others react to it, and we will get through it well.
In addition, China has been neither helpful nor transparent, and further details are required. Eligible questions can and should be asked (and will be asked!), But there are stunning and bizarre conspiracy theories about biological warfare, secret shameful vaccination plans, religious liberty plans, 5G cell towers, and more.
They fill the social media feed of many self-identified Christians. Again.
Pastors and church leaders train people in your church about these things. One of the reasons why I wrote Christians in the age of indignation: how we can do our best when the world is worst is because Christians are indignant about things that are not true. The bottom line is that they are easily misled and come together to create ideas that can do real harm, especially if we develop a vaccine that can bring significant help to our communities.
People of all ideologies can fall victim to conspiracy theories, just as people of all origins can be cheated by fraudsters. But we who know Jesus as Lord should do better. Much better.
In 2017, I wrote an article titled "Christians Regret (Yes, Regret) Spreading Conspiracy Theories and Fake News – It's a Wrong Testimony." While I was talking about someone else in the centuries-old habit of spreading unproven conspiracies, the point I made back then has to be done again.
I observed how many Christians believe that "everything is fair" in some wars and warned against breaking the eighth commandment in Exodus 20:16 to give false testimony. We are not to be driven by fear or anger, but by the desire to "tell the truth in love," as Paul said in Ephesians 4:15.
In this article I also said, "Our worldview should make us different. We cannot use moral equivalence to justify our own behavior. Our definition of sin is not based on comparing others. It is based on God's standard of holiness."
I still believe that the spread of unproven speculation is a false testimony, and I still believe that if we have testified, we must turn back. We need to spend more time in God's Word and less time being influenced by social media trolls and clickbait.
It is not a mistake that some of the same people who spread Pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracies that have long been discredited are back to spread coronavirus conspiracies.
May Christians not be among the fools or among those who spread stupidity.
Our witness is affected
If you don't believe that President Trump, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the media, and the scientific community are all together (a real leap in faith), only be ashamed of spreading coronavirus conspiracies. These massive conspiracies would mean that President Trump himself knew that this was a bio-weapon, part of the plan to end religious freedom, plans to use a potential vaccine as an animal sign, and somehow 5G is part of everything. (Yes, it's all out there, web search away – and way too many Christian social media feeds.)
It just doesn't make sense except for being easily fooled.
If you still insist on spreading such misinformation, would you consider removing Christian from your biography so that the rest of us don't have to be embarrassed?
To cause harm
In short, you are ultimately harming yourself and your community. You may feel like you make a difference when you are not. They undermine important information.
Most importantly, if you focus more on unproven theories and speculations than on preaching the good news that our Lord has given us, you are damaging your testimony and that of your church.
Austin Jones tweeted, “Last week my Facebook feed was full of people posting crazy Covid conspiracy theories, followed by posts about evidence of the resurrection. I don't think they recognize the message they are actually sending. "
The last earthly words of Jesus in Acts 1: 8 promised us that we would receive the power of the Spirit and testify of Jesus. You do not need the power of the Holy Spirit to make a distinction, and you do not testify to our Lord's saving work by spreading conspiracies.
I am grateful that many, many pastors and church leaders and their churches have used this unusual time not to spread conspiracy theories, but to proclaim Christ, not to feed their fears, but to serve their congregation.
Let us continue to provoke one another to good works, to hold onto what is true and to reject what is wrong.
Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, dean at Wheaton College, and publishes resources for church leadership through the Mission Group. The Exchange team contributed to this article.