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I think I understand why we have contempt for conspiracy theories: No one wants to be the National Enquirer. (Although, wasn't it the National Enquirer that broke the John Edwards extramarital affair story?) Liberals and conservatives may hate each other, but they cozy up like Herod and Pilate after Good Friday when it comes to disdain for the big "C" word. If anyone out there is conspiring against this country, the best thing he has going for him is our snobbery regarding conspiracy theories.
But conspiracy theory is right up our alley as Christians. We see conspiracy from the day a garden fruit was sampled at the behest of a serpent who came in secret to plot the original power-grab. There was a cover-up, and there was finger-pointing when the little cabal was exposed. Conspiracy is vintage Christianity.
Any half-catechized child can name a few biblical conspiracies after Eden: Joseph's brothers (Genesis 37:18); Absalom's against his father David's crown (2 Samuel 15:12); Haman's nearly successful plot to annihilate the Jews (Esther); the conspiracy to kill Daniel (Daniel 6); the conspiracy to kill the inconvenient Lazarus (John 12:10); the conspiracy to kill Jesus (Matthew 26:3-4, John 11:53); several plots to do away with Paul (Acts 23). The best argument in favor of conspiracy theories is that there have been a lot of conspiracies in history.
Naaah, those aren't real conspiracies, you say. Not like the kind the whackos are alleging today.
What are the whackos alleging today? Let me shout from this rooftop what has been whispered in the inner rooms for many a month:
"You know, when I read these guys say, 'The government needs to do this, and the government needs to do that,' it's as though these people in government are making honest mistakes. Nobody's this stupid in government to make these honest mistakes! This has been tried countless times in the past, the world over. It doesn't work unless your objective is something else. If your objective is to wreck the economy—to cause more chaos, more unemployment, create greater dependence on government—then this is a championship policy. But it is not a championship policy to revive the U.S. economy, and everybody involved in this knows it...
... "This is why some of these people involved in this need to be seriously questioned about their intentions for this country. This is not merely an economic mistake. This is not a divergent opinion. This is not left economics versus right economics . . . what Obama is doing here, there is nobody that can say, 'This is an honest attempt at really doing what they think is best.' Maybe so, but for them, not you and not us. . . . Obama is purposely destroying the private sector" (Rush Limbaugh, July 3, 2009).
Another conspiracy theorist, former Clinton adviser Dick Morris, is disseminating the insane idea in his book Catastrophe that the president's plan to "spread the wealth around" (I won't call it by the conspiratorial "S" word) is too big to shoehorn into 4 years or even 8 years. Therefore he has a four-part plan for political dominance reaching into the foreseeable future: (1) illegal immigration; (2) "cook the census," with a little help from ACORN census takers and their "survey sampling"; (3) eliminate the secret ballot in union elections (these first three will ultimately generate a larger Democratic base); (4) appoint community boards to advise the FCC on how well the radio stations serve the interest of communities.
The evaluation of conspiracy theories—like the evaluation of any report or lead—must be an intelligent weighing of various kinds of evidence. These would include empirical evidence for the matters alleged (Do they seem to be in fact happening?) as well as evidence regarding the character of the alleger (Has this guy normally been sane and rational?).
Little Lucy was almost written off by siblings Peter and Susan for her strange tales of a land called Narnia, and the two thought they would find an ally in the old Professor. "'Madness, you mean?' said the Professor quite coolly. 'Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad'" (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).