Saturday, January 30, 2021

On Conspiracy Theories

On Friday, I wrote about how often, someone who is disfellowshiped with you if guilty of projecting onto you the things that they are guilty of themselves. 

For example, someone who constantly complains that you think you are better than they are is possibly someone who has a reputation for thinking they are better than others. Someone who complains that you speak with a harsh tongue probably speaks with a harsh tongue. Someone who complains that you don't remember things correctly (and thus, misrepresent them) probably doesn't remember things correctly and is misrepresenting you. 

It's just human nature- we're full of more grace for ourselves than we are for others, but at the same time, the things that bother us most about others are the things that we have been unable to redeem in ourselves. We're more likely to see those things that bother us about ourselves because we're looking for them. 

Now, I want to pivot on that thought a little bit. Because in the past few months, we've heard a lot about conspiracy theories - about the pandemic, about politics, about stock markets, about whatever. And the question has come out: 

Why is it so hard to get 'people' to just believe the truth? Why do they hold so tightly to their 'conspiracy theories'? 

And the answer's kind of the same principle at work here. 

Not to get political, but let's take the election as an example. A lot of my friends, fellow pastors, voices that I listen to on a regular basis were weary of all the talk around election fraud. Why can't we just admit that the election wasn't stolen? Why can't we say that it was fair?

The answer is that because for years, we've been talking about how fair our elections have been, even though most Americans also understood that they were not. We were talking about how fair our elections were when women were not allowed to vote, and we were talking about how fair our elections were when non-white persons were not allowed to vote. And here we are now, talking about how fair our elections were. And the voices that were most trying to tell us that our elections were fair this time were the voices of those previously disenfranchised by our so-called 'fair' elections - women and persons of color. 

And the initial gut reaction to this, from those who have known all along that our elections are not fair, is...wait a minute. You can't say our elections were fair. We know our elections were not fair, and we know that they have historically been not fair to you. We made up that line about them being fair. That's our line. So you must be lying to us the same way that we've been lying to you. 

Thus, the conspiracy theory is born. It simply cannot be true if it's a lie that we've been telling for years. Something has to be amiss. 

And then these voices come back and they insist - they insist - that those who are struggling most with this election have not been disenfranchised. The roughly half of Americans who voted for the losing candidate have not been disenfranchised. But here again, they recognize this line - because they're the ones who have been spewing it for generations, knowing full well that they were disenfranchising those who were being told they were not being disenfranchised. And then they hear those words that spark in their hearts their sense of their own evil - you are not being disenfranchised - and it doesn't set well with them. 

Spoiler alert: it didn't set well with those you've been saying it to for generations, either. That's kind of how we got to where we are. 

And that's why truth isn't possible without grace. Or without love. Because we're just unwilling to give the kind of grace we've depended upon in our own lives, and we can never extend truth or grace without real love - the kind of love that doesn't separate us into an 'us' and a 'them.' The kind of love that doesn't manipulate community for its own gains. 

That's why it's easier to just love one another. To stop worrying about who's right and who's wrong, who's left and who's right, who's Democrat and who's Republican, who's gay and who's straight, who's black and who's white, who's reasonable and who's unreasonable. Just love one another. 

The only way we move past our conspiracy theories is to stop lying to each other. About anything. Because the moment you know that you're lying to someone, to anyone, it takes almost nothing at all to convince you that they're lying to you.

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