In this week’s Moore To The Point newsletter, Russell Moore dives into conspiracy theories, with an emphasis on their context in Christian circles.
The reason that crazy conspiracy theories get a hearing in Christian circles is not because most Christians believe them. In talking with a pastor with flat-earth, moon-landing denialists in his church, I asked, “How many of your people are convinced by that stuff?” He said, “No one but the one family, but the people who think the earth is not flat don’t wake up in the morning caring about that; these people do.” So what happens is that the pastor, just out of exhaustion, censors himself from saying things like “Let’s pray for our missionaries around the globe” because he doesn’t want the emails the next day accusing him of being a secret liberal. And the 99.5 percent of the people in his church just think, “Bless their hearts” but don’t say anything—out of kindness, I suppose. There’s a noble impulse there. We all are called to bear each other’s craziness, to some degree. But there’s a point at which it’s not just quirkiness but destructive and predatory (1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 2:23-24; Titus 2:9-10). And the church, in witness and in joy, suffers for it.
He’s right that churches suffer for the falsehoods conceived of, or spread by, their members. It damages the credibility of their witness for Christ. If they can believe things which are so obviously false, one wonders, what about the rest of their beliefs?
Wrong beliefs can also be sources of conflict, even as in the illustration of the church member above and their correspondence with the pastor. This is where the passage from Timothy that Moore cites comes into play.
That person is conceited. They don’t understand anything but have a sick obsession with debates and arguments. This creates jealousy, conflict, verbal abuse, and evil suspicions. (1 Timothy 6:4, CEB)
It may be simplistic to say, not having ever pastored a flock of believers, but I don’t think I could bring myself to change my message to suite the misguided obsessions of a single family of members. Let’s still pray for our missionaries around the globe, whether someone believes in a globe or not.