“There is nothing new under the sun” is an ancient saying found in Ecclesiastes 1:9. King Solomon shows the great wisdom God gave him in the truth that humans keep making the same mistakes. One of the repeated mistakes is devising conspiracy theories.
The pandemic that we have just endured is not new and not as severe as what humans have experienced in the past. In 1347, a contagious disease killed between 30 and 40 percent of the European population at its outset. In some places, the death toll reached 70%, and in a few locations, the toll was very close to 100%. What response did people make to this pandemic, referred to as “The Black Death?” A popular view was that it was a Jewish conspiracy designed to destroy Christians.
There was no evidence to support the claim, and Jews were also dying. Regardless of facts, the fringe community promoted a genocidal plot to kill every Jew in Europe over age seven. Those promoting this conspiracy theory conducted raids in which they rounded up and killed Jews and burned their homes and businesses. The church did not inspire this anti-Jewish movement because Pope Clement VI ordered Catholics “not to dare…to capture, strike, wound or kill any Jew.” Anyone who did so would be excommunicated.
There have been other fringe conspiracy theories through the centuries. When the polio vaccine came out, some people claimed that someone had laced the vaccine with anti-fertility drugs or that it would kill children. The list of conspiracy theories goes on and on up to today. QAnon, the Flat Earth Society, and the Tulsa Massacre illustrate how people on the fringe saturate the public with conspiracy theories and convince people to act badly.
All of this is not new to students of the Bible. In the time of Jesus and the early Church, there were fringe people, including Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, the Stoics, Epicureans, and worshipers of a variety of pagan gods and goddesses. Read Matthew chapters 5 to 7, and see how Jesus dealt with all of this. Our Lord taught people to be helpful and loving rather than hateful and destructive.
The message to us is clear, and it is that the only thing you can rely on is God’s Word. Don’t blindly follow politicians, conspiracy theories, or religious fanatics teaching things the Bible doesn’t support. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…”
— John N. Clayton © 2021