Conspiracy theories as idolatry

After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long timeā€”if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol … I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess … you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.

Deuteronomy

We get a glimpse in Deuteronomy of idolatry as a denial of reality.

How can you worship these things which are not alive when you have the witness of heaven and earth that your forefather saw?

How can you deny the reality of the power Yahweh and instead run after inanimate objects? They clearly can do nothing.

What the Deuteronomist is calling out here is a fundamental misattribution error. You take the blessings and cursings of Yahweh who made the world and you with it, and attribute it to something in that world.

Instead of placing your God in the centre of your being, instead of attributing causality to him, you put some warped version of reality there instead.

At some level this is all about what you hold to, centrally. What’s at the core of your being. Everything else flows from that.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs

Conspiracy theories are very much like idols. They speak to your core. In fact, there’s considerable evidence they exist to protect your core beliefs. You reconfigure an inconvenient reality so you don’t have to reevaluate that thing you hold most dear.

This clicked for me this weekend when I stumbled across this fantastic video:

I had always wondered why conspiracy theory types were almost universally Trump supporters. And this gives us a starting place to figure out why.

You kind of need the conspiracy theory, since Trump is so obviously a grifter and a conman. You can’t take Trump-the-Man at face value. He’s transparently awful.

You have to engage with Trump-the-Myth. Because Trump-the-Myth is a completely different animal. He’s a genius, a Christian, a prolife champion, an antipaedophile warrior… really, whatever you need him to be.

Once you’ve got that mythos in your deep heart, confronted with the real Trump, you start to make stuff up. Or you seek out stuff other folks made up.

Trump doesn’t think COVID’s a big deal? I’ll turn the simple act of wearing a mask into an no-holds-barred cage match. Trump downplays racism? I’ll deny the lived experiences of others and instead attack CRT, etc. I could go on, and on, and on.

It’s astounding, really, and there’s a whole other discussion to be had about why so many Christians in particular seem primed to discard reality in favour of conspiracy. (Could it have something to with the widespread antiscience conspiracy theory that is YEC?)

At the end of the day, praying to the invented god Ba’al via house idols so your crops don’t fail isn’t so different from pinning your hopes on Trump to do x, y, & z.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart / And do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs

Ba’al doesn’t exist.

The Trump you worship doesn’t exist either.

And as always, maranatha.

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