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The Sinfulness and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories

Most Christians today are aware of Nazi anti-Semitism and its conspiracy theory myths, but have little knowledge of the long and tragic history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity and the part that conspiracy theories played in that tragic history. There were pogroms against Jews by Christians throughout the Middle Ages. This reached a murderous crescendo when the bubonic plague spread among in Europe in the years 1347 to 1352, killing over 30% of the population. As the plague was taking its deadly toll a conspiracy theory spread that the Jews were causing it by poisoning the wells and other imagined means. No one had the slightest idea that the disease was spread by rat lice. Mobs rioted, chased down and murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews, often burning them to death. Jews were banished from most countries in Western Europe and fled to Poland, where the plague had not spread, and to Arab lands.[6]

The illogical coupling of death by plague and Jews in a causative relationship points to how easily conspiracy theories are generated. All that is needed is a negative or tragic situation, and a hated group or person—no provable or logical connections needed.

The CIA Did It!

A recent example of a conspiracy theory with no discernible connection grew out of the tragic floods that afflicted Pakistan in 2010. The floods were unprecedented in Pakistan history. In some areas twelve feet of rain fell in a week’s time. Over 700,000 people were made homeless and the death toll was very high (and suppressed by the government to avoid political fallout). The immediate cause was an unusual shift in the jet stream which pushed the monsoon rains to the north and upon the treeless mountains of north Pakistan. A strong high pressure front in China kept the rains in place. Weather scientists blamed this unusual chain of events on climate change.

But the disaster was also man-made. In 1948 the newly independent Pakistan was one-third forest, mostly in the mountains. Only about 4% remained forested when the rains came in 2010. Few trees were left to absorb the rains and slow the water. That change had been caused by the expanding population’s needs for wood for cooking, but mostly by the “tree mafia” which illegally cut trees in great numbers and bribed politicians and police in order to get away with it.[7] However, on the city streets another reason was given for the floods; “The Americans did it!” How? No explanations were given; the CIA is known to be evil, smart and technically savvy. Further, when the chaos of the situation prevented the quick arrival of US Aid the Pakistanis anger towards the Americans went up another notch.[8]

Similarly, certain left-wing and Afro-centric groups in America blamed the CIA or other government agencies for creating the HIV virus as a purposeful genocidal tool aimed at African Americans and homosexuals. Unlike other conspiracy theories which have nebulous origins, we now know where this one came from. It originated as a propaganda piece produced by the Communist East German Government as part of the anti-American campaign they supported for decades.[9] That claim was repeated in African American and left-wing journals in the United States and overseas. Scientific studies have conclusively shown that the HIV virus jumped from Green Monkeys (where it was non-lethal to the monkeys) to humans sometime in the early Twentieth Century, but remained localized until the 1970s when better transportation made the spread possible.[10] Even today many people believe in this “made in America” conspiracy theory. Again, good science does not matter in the face of a need to invent a villain as the cause of a great tragedy.

The majority of the conspiracy theories circulating in the United States nowadays come from right-wing sources. But this has not always been the case. Jim Jones of Guyana was a radical left-winger who disguised himself as a Christian pastor although he was really a non-believer. He established a commune in California which he then moved to Guyana. His group was known for placing social activism and racial integration on top of their agenda. Before they relocated to South America they had attracted many luminaries of the Democratic Party who did not discern Jones’ radically communist agenda (or chose to ignore it).

Jones blended Marxist doctrine with New Age ideas and topped it off with a conspiracy theory that CIA was coming to destroy the group in a paratrooper attack. Jones assured his group that the way out was to be “translated” to a socialist paradise in another planet by way of suicide. That mass suicide/murder[11] of his commune in 1978 cost the lives of over nine hundred people, three hundred of which were children.[12]

William Buckley Spares the Republicans of Conspiracy Theory Domination

William F. Buckley

The founder of the modern American Conservative Movement was William F. Buckley, Jr. His book God and Man at Yale launched him as the preeminent spokesman for the anti-liberal and conservative view.[13] He worked for several years in the conservative Journal, The American Mercury, but resigned from it when he noticed a creeping anti-Semitism in its writers. In 1955 he established the National Review that serves to this day as the main voice of American Conservatism. He was a devout Catholic, and strong anti-Communist. Significantly, he strongly opposed the influence of Ayn Rand on conservatism, seeing her atheism as destructive to the conservative’s sense of religion and spiritual accountability.

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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 (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook AnglicalPentecostal.blogspot.com

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