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4 Kinds of Conspiracy Theorists in Your Church
You certainly have some of these.
It is possible that you have come across one of four kinds of conspiracy theorists in your leadership who are either outspoken or quiet about their belief in or deliberation of conspiracy theories. Here’s a diagram showing the relationship of these four kinds of possible conspiracy theorists who you may know.
1. Outspoken Believers
Outspoken Believers are the kinds of conspiracy theorists you can’t miss. They are evangelists for their conspiracy theories. These are the kinds of theorists who may write you angry emails and approach you after the sermon wondering why you didn’t tie in their pet theory to your morning message.
These are the kinds of theorists who may lead a charge to get you fired or unseated from your leadership position because you don’t validate their theories. Frankly, these are the kinds of theorists who take serious action regarding the theories they believe.
2. Outspoken Deliberators
Outspoken Deliberators are the kinds of theorists who aren’t so sure they believe the conspiracy theory they are flirting with, but they think it’s worth consideration. They may not even technically be conspiracy theorists yet, but they’re closer than their Quiet Deliberator counterparts because they think there is enough merit to their preferred theories that they bring them up in casual conversation without fear of being socially hindered.
They aren’t willing to wed themselves to the conspiracy theory they talk about in small group, at least publicly, but they do think it’s worth mentioning and bringing up casually. It is possible they are outright believers of their favorite theory or theories, but they want to test the social waters and see where others are regarding their theories.
3. Quiet Believers
Quiet Believers are, arguably, the most dangerous kinds of conspiracy theorists. Why? They have the same fervency and devotion to the conspiracy theories as their Outspoken brothers-in-arms, but they don’t have the mouths.
They don’t telegraph their plays and tell you they’re going to undermine your leadership if you don’t endorse their second set of religious beliefs.
You may never hear from this kind of conspiracy theorist, you may not even know they’re in your church or on your team, but you’ll feel their influence soon enough.
4. Quiet Deliberators
Quiet Deliberators shouldn’t even be called conspiracy theorists, probably. It is likely that many people you lead would fall into this lower left quadrant of the diagram. Quiet Deliberators are the kinds of people who have seen plenty of conspiracy theories on their social media feeds, enough that they’ve clicked on a few links, read a few articles, and watched a few videos about them. They’re interested in the possibilities of these theories, but they remain unconvinced.
It’s also possible that the Quiet Deliberators in your care have close friends or family members who are Outspoken Believers. They trust these friends and family members on other matters, like matters of faith, so they wonder if they should trust them on these theories too.
How do you know if you have conspiracy theorists in your church or under your care? You need to be in constant communication with people, especially people you suspect may be caught up in conspiratorial thinking for one reason or another. In short, you can’t do this. If you have the courage to remove or keep your head from being buried in the sand, the first step is to have a conversation with the conspiracy theorist(s) you love. Pay attention to what people are posting on social media. Be aware of the most prominent conspiracy theories in your cultural context, talk with the people you lead, and listen for conversational clues that the people you lead may be caught up in them.
At the same time, while you talk with potential conspiracy theorists in your care, guard your own heart. Many who have adopted conspiracy theories evangelize their same theories in the same way Christians share the gospel. Some proselytize because they believe you will be better off if you adopt their theories, while others proselytize because they want to feel validated in their beliefs.
Regardless, you need to guard your own heart and mind as you converse with the people you love who are caught up in these theories. Make evident that your love and care for them does not hinge on whether or not you adopt their theory—even if they think it does—and don’t let yourself slide into a spot of Quiet Deliberation. Even if, somehow, their conspiracy theory one day proves true, to be blown and tossed by the winds of conspiracy theories is rooted in fear and prevents us from following Christ with confidence in His promises and peace because of His love for us.
We must love people out of their belief in conspiracy theories because it will often feel impossible to reason them out.
Encourage the people you lead to reject conspiracy theories and cling to Christ, who we can trust to carry us through any conspiracy the world can conjure.