How Christians Become Targets for Grifters and Conspiracies

How Christians Become Targets for Grifters and Conspiracies April 18, 2024

Image created via Dalle

It’s an ironic twist that a religion founded on the teachings of a truth-seeking Messiah has become a fertile breeding ground for outlandish grifts and conspiracy theories. Does the leap of faith required by Christianity predispose its followers to abandon rationality? Perhaps. After all, if believing a man walked on water and turned water into wine comes easily, then questioning the motives behind “miracle” spring water sold for $99.99 might not. It’s the same old snake oil, just in a new bottle. 

Serpents in the Garden: Modern Myths and Ancient Faith

From faith to folly, the modern-day serpent doesn’t tempt with fruit, but with juicy tidbits of secret knowledge and alternative facts that sound eerily like the plot of a bad 80s sci-fi movie. Remember the uproar about Starbucks’ red cups and the alleged war on Christmas? Similar faux-fervor erupted when Transgender Day of Visibility coincided with Easter, leading some Christians to claim the Biden administration was replacing Easter, despite the date being established back in 2009. Or the time scamvangelists claimed Jesus personally endorsed a presidential candidate? It seems the more bizarre a theory, the more fervently it’s embraced. Why? Because, like any good conspiracy, it positions the believer as an enlightened underdog in a cosmic battle between good and evil—scriptural themes repurposed for the digital age.

Fringe Fest: Where Eccentricities and Evangelicals Meet

Dive into the demographics of conspiracy theory groups and you’ll encounter a surprising prevalence of traits often associated with personality disorders—traits like black-and-white thinking and a penchant for fringe beliefs. Christianity, woven with themes of persecution, redemption, and ultimate victory, particularly attracts those who instinctively frame the world in terms of villains and heroes. While not every Christian drawn to conspiracy theories necessarily has a disorder, these tendencies significantly amplify the manipulative reach of grifters.

Drowning in Disinformation: The Crisis of Christian Media Literacy

In today’s information deluge, many Christians find themselves adrift, as wary of the Satanic Panic from the 80s as they are of today’s drag shows. They navigate Sunday sermons and Bible studies with ease but falter amidst deepfakes, echo chambers, and the rapid-fire pace of Twitter feeds—akin to watching your grandmother attempt to use TikTok: a blend of humor and concern. This lack of media literacy, a critical skill in discerning reliable information, presents a gaping vulnerability that grifters exploit mercilessly. Thus, a community already on edge becomes prime territory for those who weave a few biblical references into their schemes. Faith mingled with paranoia creates a potent and toxic mix.

Lone Wolves Seeking a Pack: The MAGA/QAnon Connection

Finally, let’s address the elephant—or perhaps the donkey—in the room. Groups like MAGA and QAnon, though widely seen as dysfunctional, function like an Island of Misfit Toys for many Christians. Here, those who feel marginalized by secular society find not just solace but significance, visibility, and a role in a grand narrative. It’s an Eden crafted for vindication against perceived enemies, where the veracity of these narratives is as questionable as a flat earth but seemingly irrelevant to its believers.

A Call to Wakefulness

The vulnerability of Christians to conspiracy theories and dubious prophecies isn’t merely an odd trait—it strikes at the heart of their faith, undermining what it means to follow Christ. Being the light of the world is unattainable if one fears reality. It’s crucial, then, for Christians to ignite their critical thinking and skepticism, starting within their own communities. The Bereans in the Book of Acts were celebrated for their diligent scrutiny of Paul’s teachings. Modern Christians would do well to emulate their vigilance, critically examining the words of those who might lead them into a promised land of gleeful lunacy. After all, it’s pretty hard to love your neighbor when you believe they’re part of a sinister global cabal of baby eaters.

Take Action: Educate, Discuss, Reflect

So, what’s a believer to do? Begin by deepening your understanding and that of your community. Champion media literacy and cultivate conversations that challenge rather than echo your perspectives. Reflect critically on the teachings of Christ to discern whether your beliefs align with his message or with motives far less noble. It’s imperative for Christians to wrest back their faith from those exploiting it for personal gain.

 

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About Stuart Delony
I'm Stuart Delony, your companion on this exploratory journey. As a former pastor now podcast host, I've shifted from sermons to conversations with Snarky Faith, promoting meaningful discussions about life, culture, spirituality. Disheartened by the state of institutionalized Christianity, my aim is to rekindle its foundational principles: love, compassion, and dignity. If you're yearning for change or questioning your faith, you've found a refuge here. You can read more about the author here.
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