When I was a a child and early teen, these theories traveled quickly through Adventist congregations in the form of cassette tapes. Prior to the invention of tapes, false beliefs and conspiracies were flew around in print form, and before that word-of-mouth was sufficient I am sure. With the internet, today conspiracy theories spread faster than ever through our communities, among Adventists, and everyone else alike.
On the Fringes
According to Merriam-Webster fanaticism is defined as an “outlook or behavior especially as exhibited by excessive enthusiasm, unreasoning zeal, or wild and extravagant notions on some subject.” People who embrace conspiracy theories very often do so in a “fanatical” way. They show “excessive enthusiasm, unreasoning zeal, or wild and extravagant notions” for those beliefs.
Conspiracy theories have always been on the fringes of the Adventist Church. Frequently, Ellen White talked of meeting fanaticism back in the 1800s. Yet they are still with us today. While in society these conspiracy theories tend to be about politics, government, and economics. Inside churches, the Bible starts getting misinterpreted in light of the conspiracy theory and fanaticism takes hold. Various groups, early in church history and more recently, have broken off and lost their way entirely over fanaticism and doctrinal mistakes.
As Adventist Christians, we have some fairly rigid beliefs. That rigidity can attract people who may struggle with mental health concerns or have personality disorders. These persons are looking for stability, and rigid beliefs can, to an extent, offer this. Put this fact together with our biblical beliefs about the end times and we are primed and vulnerable to conspiracy theories.
Could she have described today better?
“We are living in a time when every phase of fanaticism will press its way in among believers and unbelievers. Satan will come in, speaking lies in hypocrisy. Everything that he can invent to deceive men and women will be brought forward.” (EG White, 1 printed in Mind, Character, and Personality [MCP] 38.1)
The devil does not care which ditch you end up in, as long as he can get you off the road! He has a conspiracy theory for every single one of us. There is one for you. There is one for me.
Have you been caught in one? Do you know someone who is currently stuck in this trap?