Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them.
Ephesians 5:6-7 (NRSV)
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray,
we don’t get fooled again.
Pete Townsend of the Who, 1971
In a way, it’s all completely understandable. Each Advent begins with an apocalyptic reminder that our faith points to a Kingdom yet to come. The execution of Jesus was legal, as were segregation, slavery, and countless other unjust acts carried out by governments through time. Distrust of the media, authorities, and experts is in some way a part of what it is to live as people who believe that Jesus rose from the dead and reigns forevermore.
And yet, there remains a commitment to be discerning of the things we read, believe, and worse, share. Any trip to Facebook, Twitter, or other similar social media platforms today devolves into slogging through clickbait headlines designed to grab our attention and stoke our outrage. As people who hold to a counternarrative about this world – it and all that dwells within it comes from and belongs to the sovereign God – many of these stories naturally comport with the way we see things.
Yet, as Ed Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today last month in words that remain necessary to remember:
Think about it.
Unless you believe President Trump, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the media, and the scientific community are all in league together (a real leap of faith), you are just embarrassing yourself when you spread Coronavirus conspiracies. These vast conspiracies would mean that President Trump, himself, knew this was a bioweapon, is part of the plan to end religious liberty, plans to use a potential vaccine as some mark of the beast, and somehow 5G is part of it all. (Yes, that’s all out there, one web search away— and in far too many Christian social media feeds.)
It just does not make sense—except to the easily fooled.
What if, instead of a grand scheme involving the complicity of millions, this was a trial and challenge impacting all of us (though not all of us equally)? The first wave of conspiracies largely revolved around how this happened. The next waves will likely involve withheld treatments, lies about the severity of the illness, and who knows what else.
People are stressed and frightened. Conspiracies provide cold comfort and a way of (mis)understanding hard things rather than handling the actual present with grace. And so, friends, we will continue to have good days and bad days as we wait for trustworthy scientists, doctors, and legislators to do the hard work of identifying vaccines, treatments, and policies that will minimize harm and shorten this difficult time for all of us. In the meantime, let us ground ourselves in the practices and disciplines of faith. Let us endeavor to be light, life, and hope in frightful times. Your witness is more important now than ever.
Grace and Peace,