Have you noticed the massive increase in the number of conspiracy theories in recent years? There have been what are called troll farms on social media, many of which are run by foreign countries, purposefully spreading lies. They create totally fake articles meant to deceive and create mistrust.
One article said, “Facebook took down 1.3 billion fake accounts between October and December of 2020, and that it had over 35,000 people working on tackling misinformation on its platform. The company also removed more than 12 million pieces of content about COVID-19 and vaccines that global health experts flagged as misinformation.”
This kind of report is highly frustrating. Who can we trust? There is an eroding trust in our society because of the prevalence of intentional deception. In the late 1950s a group called the National Election Study started polling people about their level of trust in government. Into the mid 1960s, public trust in the government was as high as 80%. That means in a year like 1965, 80% of people indicated that they trusted the government. In the last ten years, that number is closer to 20%. In fact, Pew Research said, “Only about one-quarter of Americans say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (2%) or “most of the time” (22%).”
It’s hard to know what to do about this. Paul says, “Do not be deceived,” and he is right. We should actively pursue the truth. But who has time to investigate all the conspiracy theories? I don’t. It is a huge time waster, one that can lead to going down the rabbit hole of social media.
But shouldn’t we Christians want to know the truth? Yes! It is good, therefore, to ask: How trustworthy is the government? If your preferred political party is in power, are they more trustworthy? Do you actively spend more time believing in conspiracy theories when you the party you don’t prefer is in power?
What is a distinctly Christian response to this?
First, I would recommend that we Christians keep the main thing the main thing. I believe that is what Paul is trying to say to the Thessalonian Christians: “People, Jesus has not come. I didn’t write that letter to you. Let me give you a few very specific things you can look for, to prove to you that Jesus didn’t come back. And even if he did, you need not fear, because Jesus is exceedingly more powerful than the evil one. So instead, be not afraid, focus on the truth.” The truth is that Jesus is King, no matter what the powers of evil try to do to scare us or deceive us. So let us be people that focus on getting to know him, his heart and the mission of his Kingdom. Whether our own government, media, or a foreign government or media is trying to deceive us, do not fear. Jesus wins. Trust in him. Focus on him.
Second, we Christians should have a newspaper in one hand and a Bible in the other. While you don’t need to spend all day every day making sure you find the truth, we Christians are people who ground our lives on truth. We should do diligence in learning about the presuppositions and beliefs of the news sources that you listen to. If a source is far right, we should know that it is far right. If a source is far left, we should know that it is far left. I personally believe that we should strive to listen to sources in the middle. There are independent organizations that rate news media as to their ideological presuppositions. Or visit a source like allsides.com that seeks to present a balanced view on the news.
Third, practice humility. In a world where it is hard to know who to trust, we Christians should be the first to say, “I could be wrong about this.” We don’t have to be precisely right about all matters, because we can trust in Jesus. We need not fear. We have Jesus and therefore, we can be humble.
Fourth, listen to this podcast, which gives even more practical advice for how Christians can have a specifically Christian response to conspiracy theories.