thwarting conspiracies

Christianity’s Role in Thwarting Conspiracies — And Why it isn’t Working Now

Kennedy Lee on March 17, 2021

Last week, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released a survey showing that, despite prevailing belief, the rise in conspiracy theories in the United States is not stemming from social isolation and community disconnection. On the contrary, Americans most connected to local community groups are more likely to believe in conspiracies. This is particularly true among the political right and those who attended the January 6 “Save America” rally at the U.S. Capitol.

Notably, the AEI survey put forward that religious Americans may actually be more susceptible to conspiracy theories than their secular counterparts. For example, four in ten religious Americans surveyed who are part of local congregations believe in the “deep state”, while 25 percent of those lacking formal membership in a church or religious congregation feel the same.

Perhaps most significant was the statistic that, among major religious groups in the U.S., white evangelical Protestants demonstrate a greater tendency to embrace conspiracy theories. For instance, 27 percent of white evangelical Protestants believe the QAnon claim that Donald Trump has been fighting a group of child sex traffickers is either completely or mostly accurate, compared to 18 percent of white Catholics, 15 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 12 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans who feel the same way.

The Trinity Forum, a Christian non-profit organization, welcomed David French, political commentator and senior editor of The Dispatch, to address this alarming trend from a Christian perspective. His recent book Divided We Fall explores this rise in conspiracy thinking, tribalism, and alienation that has been so prevalent in American society as of late.

“Americans have always kind of liked conspiracy theories… what I think is different now is not only a rise in the rate of belief in conspiracy theories, but also the meaning and importance to peoples’ lives and to their political lives,” asserted French.

He attributed this to the “perfect storm” of Americans increasingly clustering among those of like mind, on top of the incredible stress and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

French insisted that conspiracy theories are falsifiable, complex, and widespread, and that they are furthered among those with “an intense sense of fear and animosity, along with distrust.” Therefore, the prevailing negative polarization and partisanship in the United States is the perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theories to grow.

This contributes to “a giant market for manufactured anger and manufactured distrust,” according to French. “We take the negative characteristics of our political opponents and define them entirely by those negative characteristics.”

While Trinity Forum president and event moderator Cherie Harder mentioned that one would hope Christians of all people would be inoculated against such conspiracy theories, evidence like the aforementioned survey shows this is not the case.

French pointed out the need for Christians to differentiate between earned distrust and manufactured distrust. Lockdowns on churches during the pandemic are an example of earned distrust, but it’s vital not to confuse such truly unconstitutional measures with manufactured distrust.

Conspiracy theories are often so hard to address because they often get layered together with a sense of community and purpose, French insisted. He used the example of President Trump supporters flying to DC for the January 6 protest turned insurrection.

“The burning purpose and meaning of their lives was to be there on that day and change history,” French stated.

As for solutions to this growing cultural phenomenon, French postulated that “the answer to conspiracy theories in the long term is in many ways building better institutions and building better communities.”

Moreover, as many of these conspiracies are spread online, we, too, must combat them online. When engaging online, we must “as best we can try to model the values that we seek to advance in American public discourse,” French insisted.

He recounted a recent example from his own life, having joined a Clubhouse room titled “David French: Based or Cringe” just last week. “There was a Clubhouse meeting room going on that was about me… I immediately found out that everyone in there hated me,” he said.

“For the next three hours, I sat in there and had a discussion, a conversation, with some people who really hated me online, but it was worth doing because what did I have? I had an actual conversation.”

Christians especially can — and should — play a special role in this amelioration. French said that he personally looks to two verses from Micah for guidance in navigating these issues.

Micah 4:4 states that “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree,” and it was one of George Washington’s favorite verses when writing and thinking about the republic.

“To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God,” commands Micah 6:8. “These three interlocking obligations should guide our engagement in the public square,” concluded French.

The Trinity Forum’s online conversation with David French titled Faith, Fear, and Conspiracy can be watched in its entirety here.

Image credit: Bruce Van Patter
  1. Comment by David on March 17, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    Religious people are predisposed to believing things without evidence. The rejection of critical thinking and of science (“Covid is a hoax”) got us to the present point.

  2. Comment by Pirate Preacher on March 17, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    There is a conspiracy and has been from the beginning, but it is of a spiritual realm. It is rare we catch a glimpse of it but it’s possible if we take the long range view of God. For example, there is a global movement to separate and isolate. From nations down to communities we are being pulled apart. This is by design, but not of man’s design.

  3. Comment by Jeff on March 17, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    Who says it isn’t working? That Christians aren’t rejecting conspiracy theories? Here are just a few of the false CT’s pushed by the mass and social media that I soundly reject!

    1) There are more than 2 genders
    2) Climate change is anthropomorphic
    3) The 2020 presidential election was free from fraud and Biden won
    4) There is no evidence of a deep state run by rogue federal bureaucrats
    5) Officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd
    6) “ Never Trumper” David French is a conservative

    You’re welcome. Glad I can help! 😃


  4. Comment by Douglas on March 17, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Nice one Jeff .As soon as I saw David French I knew we had a winner.

  5. Comment by Gary Bebop on March 17, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    It’s LOL funny that David French exhorts us to grow up in our thinking but is promptly followed by a comment box expounder who claims “Religious people are predisposed to believing things without evidence.” That claim is a hoax and a dangerous libel.

  6. Comment by Dan W on March 17, 2021 at 8:16 pm

    I’m not convinced about the Deep State, Q Anon or Blue Anon. I am convinced – correlation does not equal causation, David French is trying to sell a book, and the AEI survey referenced in this article probably was designed to produce the result they wanted.

  7. Comment by David Mu on March 18, 2021 at 8:41 am

    In today’s world – organized religion is tailored made to provide aid and comfort to – stupid people, and its better when yet still dumber. This whether ‘left’ or ‘right’.

    The thinking person is far better when he or she walks out and stays far, far from it.

    Don’t like that? Too bad.

  8. Comment by Jeff on March 19, 2021 at 1:21 am

    Mr. Mu,

    Thank you for your intriguing comment!

    >> In today’s world – organized religion is tailored made to provide aid and comfort to – stupid people

    I’m guessing that, in your opinion, you are not a member of that cohort you label “stupid people”. So, as a not-stupid-person, what exactly do you prescribe vs. what you label “organized religion”?

    Thanks, and Blessings,

  9. Comment by Mark Cartner on March 19, 2021 at 10:27 am

    Everyone is religious. We just practice different faiths.

  10. Comment by David Mu on March 20, 2021 at 5:12 am


    Save your ‘blessings’ for those who want them. Whether leftist or rightist in policy, the churches are filled with two-face holes yourself, and no one needs your anything. The sooner people empty these organizations – the better.

  11. Comment by Loren J Golden on March 21, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    “In today’s world – organized religion is tailored made to provide aid and comfort to – stupid people, and its better when yet still dumber. … The thinking person is far better when he or she walks out and stays far, far from it.”
    Mr. Mu,
    I would be curious to know how you came to this conclusion, for although I cannot speak to all “organized religion,” in all my experience and study, I find that it is most definitely not true of Christianity.
    First, how do you suppose life on this world came into existence at all?  The much-lauded Theory of Evolution posits that the more complex forms of life evolved from less complex forms, on on its own, quite apart from divine intervention.  How, precisely, did that happen?  While microevolution—evolution within species, with the products of mutation still able to mate with those of the same species who have either not mutated or mutated in different ways—has been observed in nature and replicated in the laboratory, macroevolution—evolution resulting in new species, in which the mutated species is unable to mate with either the unmutated parent species or with other derived species that have mutated differently—has neither been observed in nature nor replicated in the laboratory.  Nor, for that matter, have any cases been observed in which single-celled organisms have bonded together, losing their distinct identity, in order to form a multi-celled organism—naturally, the first step necessary in the long supposed rise from single-celled organisms to human beings, inarguably the most complex organisms living on this planet.  And if that were not enough, no scientific theory has been able to explain how life on this planet began in the first place.  To be sure, there is no end to the gibberish spoken of life emerging from some primordial soup, but there is no concrete scientific evidence that clearly explains how inorganic matter could be transformed into organic life through natural processes alone.
    Conversely, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments uniformly attest to the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God who created this world, and all that is within it, in an orderly manner, and within a span of six days (Gen. 1).  To be sure, there is debate as to whether the six days should be interpreted as six literal 24-hour periods or six long eons, but the Biblical account teaches that God created everything deliberately for a determined purpose—proximately, to create a race of beings (humanity) in His own image and an environment suited for this race of beings to inhabit; and ultimately, for the praise of His own glory, for as we Presbyterians confess, humanity’s “chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 1)
    Second, what do you suppose makes something right or wrong?  Why is it right to tell the truth, and wrong to tell a lie?  Why is it right to buy or sell something for a fair price, or better still to give something away to assist the poor and needy, and wrong to take that which neither belongs nor was freely offered to us?  Why is it right for a man to remain loving and faithful to his wife for all the days of their lives, and wrong to cheat on one’s spouse, or to sexually, emotionally, or physically abuse someone—either one’s spouse or someone else altogether, especially a child?  Why is it right to show kindness to one’s neighbors, or even to complete strangers, and wrong to deliberately hurt someone or even kill a person?  The world seems to think that it either just is that way without thinking about why it is, or that this is just society’s consensus, and that makes it right.  But society’s consensus has often been unjust.  For example, consider the Antebellum American South, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Cambodia under Pol Pot, North Korea.
    However, Scripture teaches that right and wrong are defined by the Law of God.  To be sure, God gave His Law to Ancient Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 20).  “And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Dt. 4.8)  And if that were not enough, He has written His Law in the created order: both in the creation itself and also on every human heart.  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1.19-20)  And again, “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.  For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 2.12-16)
    Yet with the knowledge of the Law comes knowledge of Sin, which, as we Presbyterians confess, “is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 14)  And this is a very serious problem for us, because the same God who created the Universe and upholds it by His Word of power (Heb. 1.3) is holy, righteous, and just, “who is of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Hab. 1.13), “the Judge of all the earth” who must “do what is just” (Gen. 18.25), and we “therefore must be perfect, as (our) heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5.48).  But we aren’t morally perfect, nor can we be, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3.23)—Romans 3.9-18 paints a bleak picture of the human condition—and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6.23).  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4.12-13)  Each of us falls short according to his or her own personal morality, but we fall utterly and miserably short of the absolutely pure moral perfection that the holy God requires of us His creatures.  “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21.8)  And while the eternal punishment that awaits us all might not be a literal lake of fire, it will be an horrific punishment that will punish us for all eternity.  To put it mildly, there is no comfort in this for “stupid people” or anyone else.
    We are thus faced with an impossible situation: We have offended a holy God by everything we have done, for even our best works are tainted by our sin, and what we have done deserves eternal punishment.  Even if we were to amend our ways and live our lives in perfect obedience to the Law of God from this day forward—which we cannot because we are sinners—we cannot atone for all the evil that we have already done, for God commands perfect obedience from the heart, and there is nothing we can possibly above and beyond what He already requires that could possibly make up for past wrongs.
    “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5.8)  “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mt. 19.26)  The omnipotent God who created the world is not only holy, righteous, and just, He is also compassionate, gracious, and merciful.  Because of our sin, we have deeply offended God, and because we have violated His Law, we have justly earned His wrath and deserve to suffer for all eternity.  But we are still made in His image, and He still loves us.  Yet, because He is holy, righteous, and just, our sin must be punished, so that the holy and righteous Law of God is fulfilled.  Therefore, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4.4-5)  This Son whom God sent was Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son (Jn. 3.16), whom He loves dearly (Jn. 3.35, 5.20, 10.17, 15.9-10, 17.23-26), and who is one with the Father in being, nature, and purpose (Jn. 10.30).  The only way we can be saved from sin and sin’s penalty is for a substitute to bear the penalty on our behalf—this was the point of the Old Testament sacrificial system.  But “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Heb. 10.4)  It was man who sinned; therefore, it is only man who ought to be punished for it.  But man is a sinner and cannot pay for his own sin.  But “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8.3-4)  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Cor. 5.21)  Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, was made flesh (Jn. 1.14) by being born of a virgin and thereby being kept from the sin of Adam.  Jesus Christ, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2.6-8)  “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53.5-6)  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (I Cor. 15.3-4)  For Jesus Christ did not stay in the grave: God raised Him from the dead.  He died to pay the penalty for our sins, and He rose on the third day to demonstrate victory over sin and death, and as a sure and certain promise of resurrection life for all those who believe and trust in Him.  For this resurrection life Christ achieved by the grace of God for all those and only those who have faith in Him: “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Gal. 2.16, Rom. 3.28, Eph. 2.8-9)
    So then, I trust in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin and death.  Yes, this makes me one of the “stupid people” in the eyes of the world, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Cor. 1.18)  And I am not ashamed to confess that my “only comfort, in life and in death,” is “that I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;” (actually, He has willed that quite a lot of hairs should fall from my head) “indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation.  Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on you live for him.” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 1)
    So then, Mr. Mu, what is your only comfort, in life and in death?

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