How should Christians respond to conspiracists who are their brethren?

Continuing the discussion from My Question: Racism:

I read the following great observation by @ustaroc on a somewhat unrelated thread:

The article details the recent history of the QAnon conspiracy and its growing base among normal people, many of whom apparently are Christians. It is a fascinating study from which we can glean many lessons. I would like to focus on how we can respond to our fellow pew-sitters who may develop interest in this type of conspiracy. I would like to discuss the following:

  1. What other conspiracy theories have Christians followed or presently do follow?
  2. Is this unhealthy? Why or why not?
  3. If it is unhealthy, how should we respond to a brother or sister who expresses agreement with such a conspiracy?
  4. What does the Bible say about these things?

I look forward to your ideas!

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Hi @blbossard, wow, what a lot to digest in that article!

I have only a few thoughts that might help, and I hope that others will be able to expand on this.

In answer to your question,

I noted that the writer outlined the type of follower to this particular conspiracy theory:

  • a range of ideologies
  • often Christians who have a strong eschatological interest
  • often those who have a focus on spiritual warfare, with the battle between good versus evil

With that in mind, the author outlines groups that appeared in the 19th century. They write:

In his classic 1957 book, The Pursuit of the Millennium, the historian Norman Cohn examined the emergence of apocalyptic thinking over many centuries. He found one common condition: This way of thinking consistently emerged in regions where rapid social and economic change was taking place—and at periods of time when displays of spectacular wealth were highly visible but unavailable to most people. This was true in Europe during the Crusades in the 11th century, and during the Black Death in the 14th century, and in the Rhine Valley in the 16th century, and in William Miller’s New York in the 19th century. It is true in America in the 21st century.

The Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are thriving religious movements indigenous to America. Do not be surprised if QAnon becomes another.

Most of these other groups were formed around apocalyptic predictions, either the end of the world or the return of Jesus. When these predictions didn’t come to pass, the groups somehow rallied and evolved into a newer form that we have today.

I’m not sure yet. I suspect that due to their distrust of any mainstream media, anyone who argues against these theories will simply be perceived as being brainwashed by mainstream media. Therefore, I believe the only way to connect with someone who holds these views would be to come to the word of God, taking time to study it together and find the heart of God.

There’s so much to unpack in the article, that it could be easy to dismiss everything. I think that each of us as Christians are to understand each other’s views in the light of scripture, ensuring we never dismiss someone’s whole view simply because we disagree with a part of it.

I also think we’re not to focus heavily on end times, but to live our lives to the best of our ability to serve God through the callings he’s given us.

I would be very interested to hear other views on this.

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One of the things that I have felt God has been leading me to focus on for about 12 or 13 years is crying out for Spirit of discernment. Coming from a very closed in culture on a small island. I have information overload and it is painful sometimes and I say to myself this is too much to take in.
I try to keep my heart and mind in everything focused on God and always asking Lord give me discernment in all things. Shorting through everything out there is a very big task I think it’s beyond ourselves.
I believe best place to be is in Gods word at all times and if we hear, see or read anything that might sound strange ask the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide in all truth.
I have people in our family in same place, I just say ok but inside I am asking God help me what are you saying? I believe its a safe place to be.

Blessings.

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Hi Brendan!

Thank you so much for bringing up this timely discussion. I appreciate your thoughtful questions and I’m grateful to be thinking of how we might respond with grace and truth.

In addition to @artownsend’s examples I think, specifically, of the Salem Witch Trials which led to mass fear and panic and ultimately the deaths of innocent people.

I think it is healthy to exercise critical thinking, to do our own research, and to explore curiosities. We should do this all the while asking for discernment, as @reshwfhg points out, and weighing things against the truth of God’s word. Things become unhealthy when our extracurricular beliefs begin to affect how we treat or view other people. If our belief in unproven speculation causes us to become prideful, overly cynical, demeaning, or less loving and compassionate, we need to reevaluate.

Again, I love Alison’s thoughts on this

And her admonition to go back to scripture. We can find common ground with other professing believers under the authority of scripture. Also, if their beliefs and words are outwardly hurting or alienating a certain group/individual, we can call them out in love and grace.

More and more, truth is being obscured in our society, yet as Christians we follow Jesus-- THE Truth. We should remember that as Christ’s ambassadors, we carry His truth and with that privilege comes responsibility to steward all truth well.

The article linked below makes a good point.

When we bear false witness, we establish a reputation for blindly succumbing to unverifiable or groundless stories. How can we effectively witness when we have negligently borne false witness? How can we then claim to be the body of truth itself? When we spread conspiracy theories and fake news, we discredit ourselves, and we allow the gospel to be discredited as well.”

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2.3

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:2-5

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God… 1 John 4:1-3

Thanks again, for the discussion, Brendan. May we seek to steward these times and opportunities wisely.

This is the article quoted above.

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