We are living in a time of wide-spread belief in grand evil conspiracies, that have seized the imaginations of many and filled social media, YouTube channels, and some lives. These grand conspiracies, whatever their particular shape, share an attraction. They also serve a purpose that I think explains why they are so popular and powerful to us.
One of the core questions we humans ask ourselves from the moment we begin to think until the day we die is, “Am I Ok?” or “Am I Good?” We long for the emotional and psychological security of being right. Uncovering a conspiracy gives a massive shot of confidence to that question. It imagines evil as something vast and complex hiding in the shadows, perpetrated by powerful people who have the power to do evil. In uncovering the hidden knowledge of this evil, I am in the right and belong to a small exclusive group of the enlightened while the masses are held in the sway of this great and powerfully complex evil conspiracy.
This construction allows me as a person to take pride in my rightness (or righteousness to use the Biblical phrase) and gives me comfort even in the face of this great complex evil conspiracy. I can now make sense of the world as one where there are massive forces of evil causing all the problems while I sit securely in my rightness. Even the forces of fallen creation are really just tools of evil men of which I am not a part. Well hidden from my view becomes my own fallenness, sin, or, again to use a Biblical phrase, the wickedness of my own heart.
"The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
The truth of the matter, according to the Bible, is that the evil I am in danger of does not arise from national or global cabals, but instead from me.
And He was saying, "That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."
Look at that list! I would much rather believe that the list Jesus gave was the domain of mysteriously complex evil forces engaged in a hidden conspiracy that I, through reading some blogs & watching some YouTube videos have uncovered. If I read the Bible, it tells me a far more convicting story of an angel’s rebellion who thought he knew better than God and whose primary work is now to convince me that I too can know better than God what true evil is.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
This enemy is more than happy to convince my heart that I am smarter than the forces of evil in the world and that my own heart is good and clever while the evil that threatens my world is a powerful external hidden force. This enemy never wants me to humbly accept evil in my own heart as the issue, or understand that he is the enemy rather than a group of human conspirators.
The first conspiracy theory can be found in Genesis 3. Adam does not believe that his sin is his fault, it is the woman that GOD gave him. Eve isn’t to blame either, it was that serpent. They are good, but external forces of evil have conspired against them.
As Israel’s sin began to have consequences and external threats arose, rather than turn to God to deal with the evil of their hearts, they looked outward, grabbing hold of conspiracy theories. They didn’t need to deal with evil, evil was an external force threatening them as good people. God warns Isaiah,
For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, "You are not to say, 'It is a conspiracy!' In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. (Isaiah 8:11-12)
Our hearts, wicked as they are, are programmed to seek out evil apart from ourselves and view that as the threat to fight against. It allows us to salve our pride, see ourselves as good and righteous, and be the hero of the story against the forces of evil and all the dumb people around us who are not as enlightened as we are.
Paul, the longer he sought truth, came to a startling conclusion about himself. As he viewed the cosmic struggle, he settled on one central truth that defined both the workings of the world and how he fit into it.
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
(1 Timothy 1:15)
I am not defined by an external evil, whether it be natural or conspiratorial. I am not in a fight against small or large groups of fellow humans. In fact, even my cosmic demonic enemy is already a defeated foe, but not through any effort of my own nor enlightenment I possess. I have been died for, lived for, resurrected for, and now my life centers around the confession of the wickedness within me and the work of Christ to bring His Kingdom into my own heart.
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."