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The Sinfulness and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories

Chasing conspiracy theories is not going to solve any problems. True restoration begins when God’s people repent and walk in righteousness.

A recent conspiracy theory has garnered much national attention. It involves “Jade Helm 15,” an Armed Services training exercise employing the elite units of the Armed Forces in counter-terrorist warfare. About 1,200 servicemen will run exercises throughout the South West states including California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. It is somewhat larger in area than the normal exercise of this sort, but the planners wanted to focus on problems of long range intrusion and evacuation of troops in sparsely populated desert terrain. That was certainly prudent in view of the ISIS situation in Syria, Iraq, and in West Africa.

“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.

Isaiah 8: 12-13 (NIV)

The conspiracy theory about the Jade Helm maneuvers is not the first time that such exercises have aroused suspicion from the far Right. Something similar happened in the 1960s when John F. Kennedy was President. He was Catholic, which right off made his suspicious to many in the far right. They suspected that an Army exercise, “Water Moccasin,” was really designed to open the door for a foreign invasion of the United States. Several versions of this conspiracy theory circulated, but US Congressman, James Utt (R-CA) spread the most popular version in a letter to his constituents. It suggested that Water Moccasin was the first stage of a UN (and ultimately communist) plot to invade the United States. [1]

War exercises have been held since the 1940’s, when the Army began mobilizing for World War II. General Eisenhower (then a Colonel) was a staff office in the “Battle of Louisiana” back in 1940 when that state was “invaded” by two American Armies. The Louisiana residents warmly welcomed the roughly 400,000 soldiers, who were often graciously billeted in private homes without cost. It was the last big exercise before the real war, and important lessons were learned, including the need for independent armored divisions.

But back to the present. The surprising and disheartening aspect of Jade Helm 15 is the reaction of many sincere Christians who see this exercise through the eyes of a far right conspiracy theory. They are informed, or rather misinformed, by right-wing anti-Obama web sites, and talk radio commentators such as Alex Jones.

A pattern of suspended logical thinking is one of the marks of a true conspiracy theory.

The current conspiracy theory affirms that Jade Helm is a preparation for the invasion of Texas by some sort of politicized U.S. Armed Forces task force. The ultimate intent of which is the disarming and arresting of those Texans opposed to the Obama Administration. Part of this conspiracy theory includes the belief that certain temporarily vacant Wal-Marts will be used by these elite forces as staging areas and/or prisons for the arrested Texans. Some of the “evidence” that this theory is true is the fact that the Jade Helms exercise maps have Texas labeled as “enemy territory.” (Indeed, Eisenhower had a similar map with parts of Louisiana labeled as “enemy.” That’s part of what you do in a training exercise.)

The public briefing about Jade Helm in Bastrop, Texas, by the Army information officer, Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, turned nasty. The conspiracy theory believers called the officer a liar, and that he was hiding the “true intent” of the exercise.[2] The conspiracy theory believers credit the soldiers participating as true patriots but, “They are merely following orders. What are under question are those who are pulling the strings at the top of Jade Helm 15 back in Washington.”[3]

But possibly the worst element of this conspiracy theory incident is that it has been given partial credence by the current governor of Texas, Greg Abbott. He ordered the Texas National Guard to “monitor” the various Armed Forces units that are taking part in the exercise.[4]

The elements of this conspiracy theory, like most others, are illogical and ludicrous. This irrationality is occulted in the believer’s mind by the accumulated distrust, disdain and fear of the Obama administration. This pattern of suspended logical thinking is one of the marks of a true conspiracy theory.

Let me take more time than I should to deconstruct this particular conspiracy theory.

  • A majority of Texans disapprove of the Obama Administration. Using “back of the envelope” figures, that comes to at least 10,000,000 Texans who seriously dislike or distrust Obama. That is a whole lot of “opposition” to disarm and herd into various Wal-Marts. Especially given that Texans are among the most heavily armed segment of the American population, with untold numbers of hand-guns, assault rifles, 50 caliber sniper rifles, etc., in their possession. Our Special Forces and Seals and other anti-terrorist units contain some of the best soldiers in the world, but 1,200 against 10,000,000 is not possible except in action hero comic books.
  • Most officers and enlisted personnel of our Armed Forces are of a center, or right-wing political opinion. Left leaning youth generally have distrust or contempt for our Armed Forces. Thus, few left-wing persons join our Armed forces, either at the officer or enlisted level. The demographics of the Armed Forces makes any campaign against right-wing civilians in Texas, or any other part of America that is “opposed to Obama” impossible.
  • Officers and non-commissioned officers of all branches are educated, as part of their training, to disobey “illegal orders.” I remember instructions on this in my training during the Vietnam War. We had a film showing an imaginary incident in which an officer instructed a sergeant to force prisoners to march in front of his platoon to set off mines in a suspected minefield. That is against the Geneva Convention and the order by the officer was an illegal order. Our class was shown how to disobey such an order. The Armed forces still do that type of instruction. No American officer or soldier would obey the “mother and father” of all illegal orders—to arrest the “Obama opposition” even if such an insane order were given. Next time your son or cousin comes home for leave ask him if he would obey an order to arrest and possibly shoot the “Obama opposition.” This conspiracy theory is a slander to the American Armed Forces.

Even before this current Jade Helm conspiracy theory started doing its rounds, there were other web-based conspiracy theories about a government takeover on the web and talk-radio. One was that the Federal Government agents were disarming the American population by buying up all small arms ammunition. Again, Wal-Mart got into the myth, with the claim that Wal-Mart was completely sold out of small arms ammunition. Actually, many Wal-Marts, which are known for their low pricing on ammo, routinely sell out of stock and then restock within a day or two.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2015

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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