I’m sitting on my back porch – our slightly peeling but sunny, little deck – and that’s it. I’m just sitting. A sprinkler is whirling unhurried in one corner of our small backyard. I look at the water. It’s relaxing and calming – a refreshing, dancing trickling that looks clean and sounds nice. I notice the birds chirping. Little children a yard over are playing. A light breeze is blowing. To my ears, indeed, this simple scene is good and sweet.
But why listen? Because if I go back inside and turn on the TV, watch YouTube, scroll through social media, or listen to the radio, the world is screaming.
About what? Panic and pandemonium. The sky is falling. Evil forces are taking over the world — controlling the media, plotting against the government, creating deadly vaccines, using 5G to spread coronavirus, infiltrating our microwave ovens, plotting through a deep state to destroy urban cities, our suburbs, and our world. The message from it all: Be afraid.
You’ve probably heard some of these theories. In the U.S., as we get closer to a national election – and while we endure a pandemic – the intrigues get louder, more unsettling, and scarier. But what are we really hearing through the clamor? And Who can help us handle it?
Well, first, in a word, we’re hearing fear.
Both theologians and psychologists say uncertainty and change leave people feeling threatened and out of control. Enter the conspiracy theorists, all too eager to “explain” what’s “really happening” so that anxious people will “know” the “real” truth. (And, yes, that’s a lot of quotation marks.)
I’m saddened, indeed, to learn that some conspiracy followers tend to be socially isolated and alienated, spending hours following social media feeds and news show talking heads who peddle the latest panic.
Embracing these plots may make people feel “smarter,” experts say, by “knowing” what others “can’t see.” As Bible scholar Dru Johnson, director of the Center for Hebraic Thought, explains, such thinking is a soft form of Gnosticism, the second-century idea that special knowledge (gnosis in ancient Greek) enables redemption, instead of Christ alone.
Lacking, however, in this conspiracy dynamic, says Johnson, is humility. Two key questions that conspiracy followers don’t ask, are “How could I be wrong about this?” and “Could I be participating in misleading others?” — not to mention misleading oneself.
But what happens if we turn to God?
Sitting on my back porch, listening to children laugh and birds sing, I think of what Jesus said to His anxious disciples and reminds us today: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 NIV).
In Him, with hearts freed from trouble, we’re granted this stunning gift: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27 NIV).
Turning off troubling news – a challenge for me, as one of His humble journalists – tests me every time. What if I miss an important news story? A vital press conference? A breaking news announcement? (Or, actually, the latest TV gossip?)
Or I could do this instead: listen to the One who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). What if we surrender our fears and listen to His bidding – to live in this uncertain time with deep-hearted confidence, trusting and believing His gentle invitation to hear His voice of calm and not chaos?
As He promised, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 NIV).
So, if we’re tempted to follow those who speak conspiracy not Christ, here’s the best way to respond: Let’s turn them off. And then, let’s run to Him. He’s waiting on our porches – and in our hearts – to give us perfect peace.
If we're flirting with and following those who speak conspiracy not Christ, here’s the best way to respond: Let's turn them off. And then, let’s run to Him. -Patricia Raybon: Click To Tweet