How to personally resist conspiracy theories:
(The following is excerpted from my forthcoming book, “America in Crisis: Left and Right” In it I examine, among other issues, the tremendously negative impact that conspiracy theories (CTs) are having on our nation.)
But I tell you that for every careless word that people speak, they will give an account of it on the day of judgment. – Matthew 12:36 (NASB)
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” – Matthew 15: 18-20
“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ Regarding everything that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
– Isaiah 8:12
If a person is confused about what to believe in the present atmosphere of information overload via cable networks and websites, and specifically which stories may be true or which may be destructive CTs, let me suggest the following:
- Pray that God give you the wisdom and discernment in distinguishing between an item of information that is a false CT and one that may be true. (We have noted all along that a few CT, often denied by reputable sources, are true).
- Remember that a “careless word” is a sin of slander and displeasing to the Lord, even if many of your friends believe and spread it.
- When you hear a story that may be a CT do not ask “Is it possible?” for practically anything is possible. Ask “Is it probable?” That will automatically trigger critical thought and filter out some CTs.
- All persons, including Christians, are more susceptible to CTs as they give themselves the license of “hate thinking and talking” of their adversaries. As Christians we should recognize that hatred towards others is a sin, which includes thinking hateful thoughts against our political enemies (Matt 5:43). Thoughts such as “I hate Nancy Pelosi and everything she does.” (or “I hate Trump…”). This type of hate thinking can be substituted with, “I believe Palosi is seriously wrong in her politics which are harmful for our Country.” You can then pray for her, as in, “Lord, guide her out of error into truth.” That would be a great prayer for any One needs to come to an understanding that the opposition part is not “hypocritical” and evil but works out of differing assumptions. For instance, I have heard some Christian conservatives say things like, “Pelosi is a hypocrite. All she wants is absolute power.” Well, let’s leave the character judgement of hypocrite up to God. In reality Pelosi is acting and politicking on assumptions that are common and perfectly reasonable to Democrats but alien to Republicans, as in big government can solve most problems. That may be true or dfalse and destructive but believing that is not hypocritical.
- If you hear or see a news item on the internet that is not verified by reliable sources, and that is negative towards those you dislike, politically or socially, treat it as an item of gossip. That is, don’t repeat it unless there is verification from reliable sources.
- Vigorously abstain from sourcing radio, TV programs, and web sites that have been proven to spread CTs – as for instance the programs of Alexa Jones. Don’t look at them even for fun.
- Cultivate an attitude of humility towards knowing the truth or asserting as true things that are not clearly true. Here St Paul is a great example. He was the one person in the New Testament who received the most direct revelation form Jesus. Based on those revelation he wrote authoritatively, as in his letter to the Romans. But when an item of controversy was encountered that was not covered by scripture or Jesus’ revelation to him, he expressed his opinion in tentative way, allowing the reader to understand that this was not firm revelation. An example is found in Paul’s response to some questions that arose in the Corinthian Church about marriage and problems of separation from a non-believing spouse. Paul is careful to state that what he says is not based on Jesus’ revelation but has a certain amount of wisdom, and the reader can exercise certain options. (1 Cor 7: 8-39)
- Practice the words of humility when a news item or story is new and not fully vetted. Such words as “perhaps, maybe” or the phrase “I will wait for more information” are great ways to sidestep a story that may be a slanderous CT. Of course, certain professions and lines of work demand decisions and actions well before the full facts are known. Police, for instance, must operate on hunches and tip that that are not true, but it is their job to sort truth from falsehood. For most of us, items of the political or culture wars should be areas where we use the language of humility to express our views.
- Be aware that the phrase “everybody knows” most often refers to opinions held by one’s own group. For instance, in Woke circles “everybody knows” Trump is a fascist. In Conservative circles “everybody knows” Pelosi is a hypocrite and traitor, etc. A reminder, in the Middle Ages “everybody knew” that the Jews poisoned the wells and produced the Black Death.
 See my fuller discussion of the issue of Paul’s epistemological humility in the Appendix “St, Paul and Karl Popper,” in the appendix below.