You don’t have to read much on social media to discover there are a lot of folks caught up in conspiracy thinking. QAnon is the latest, but far from an isolated theory. There are many. Apart from the “deep state,” conspiracy theories have grown up around vaccines, voter fraud, voter suppression, white militias, and Antifa. Of course, conspiracy theories are nothing new. The theory that rose up around John F. Kennedy’s assassination is still going in some circles. And the theory of Area 51 in Roswell, NM as a secret place where aliens are being held also continues to resonate with some people.
But conspiracy theories go back much, much further. In fact, the Lord references them in speaking to the prophet Isaiah,
This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people: “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.
He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”
Bind up this testimony of warning and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. (Isaiah 8:11-17)
The Lord illuminates the problem with conspiracy theories: They cause fear and dread. Think about QAnon. It is causing people to fear that our government is being secretly controlled by a cabal of people bent on controlling us. People have become genuinely afraid and dread the thought of this taking place. So, they are warning their family and friends, and doing what they can to expose what they are convinced is happening.
The truth we find in Isaiah is that when we are filled with fear and dread, we are not trusting the Lord. We are not trusting his omnipotence. We lack faith.
This is likely to be offensive to some, but the Lord is very clear that the only one we are to fear and dread is him. Jesus echoed this in his teaching,
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)
I have read recently of pastors who are growing increasingly concerned about people in their congregations embracing these conspiracy theories and promoting them to others. From my social media feeds, I can sense the fear that is out there, but it is not the fear of God, but of man. I believe this is what is driving the embracing of these theories. The words of David, who was facing real enemies, can be a good reminder to us, “In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:10-11)
We serve the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, the King of kings and Lord of lords! We don’t serve some wimpy god who needs our intervention to make things right, and who is unable to protect us in times of danger and tumult. Whom shall we fear, but God alone?
When we are caught up in our own fears of the present and the future, we are, likely unintentionally, making the Lord small in the eyes of the world. We are saying, in essence, God is not big enough, powerful enough, or wise enough to handle the present political environment, the failing economy, and the pandemic. We are saying, “Be afraid!”
What we need to remember is the phrase uttered 77 times in the Scriptures, “Do not be afraid.” There is a reason it appears so many times; we are prone to fear. The Lord doesn’t judge us for being afraid, but rather for giving into our fears instead of giving them over to him and living in trust that he is in control.
He wants us to be a witness to the world of his uniqueness, his love, and his power. This means that in situations of tumult and upheaval, in times of danger and uncertainty, we are to be witnesses of confidence in the Lord. We are not rattled, because we know the Lord and we trust in him. Fear of anything but him undermines that witness, because we are reacting just as the world reacts—with fear and dread. We may say we trust in him, but our actions betray our words.
Life is tough right now in so many ways; yet we serve the Lord, who has overcome the world. Let us who follow him live out the faith we claim, not in fear, but in confidence. This is to be our most powerful witness to the world.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.