[Jesus] presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
I am what you may call a conspiracy theorist. I am intrigued by the possibility that there could be something going on below the apparent surface of an event or situation. Maybe it is a love for mystery and the supernatural – or at least the unexplainable. Somehow many of us know the world is not as it seems – that there is both hidden evil and hidden good just below the surface. I believe many of us are waking up to a reality beyond what is force-fed us by mass media. And in this waking we are looking for a world that is liberated on all levels from lies and deception. Conspiracy Theory culture is essentially a ravenous breed of truth seekers in an age when a vast majority of us are entertaining ourselves into oblivion.
Truth Seeking or The New Entertainment?
But visit any conspiracy theory forums on the Web and you will find a deep-seeded root of anxiety and fear – a borderline paranoia even. There is always some deception to be uncovered; some abusive, elusive influence or authority to be exposed and some catastrophic disaster to be averted. The interesting thing is – I do not disagree with the basic premise of being vigilant, seeking truth and pursuing a mystery – especially when it appears to have life or death consequences. I am wondering though, what happens when this is the primary lens through which we view all of our experiences and the world. Instead of truth seeking – is the uncovering of conspiracies becoming another twisted form of entertainment for a people who are longing for meaning and purpose?
Strangely, in American culture, the mass media is both increasingly marginalizing and encouraging conspiracy culture. Our movies and television shows – the stories we tell ourselves – are often about criminals and masterminds and enemies (of this world or another) who are secretly weaving some diabolical scheme – while our heroes are the ones who uncover the plot and work feverishly to reverse the intended destruction. Still Watergate of yesteryear and other true life conspiracies today have become embedded in our minds as well. We are not surprised, especially in the realm of government or business, to hear of another high profile leader (or corporation) who was caught red-handed with hands in the bank vault or ballot box. The news headlines also highlight normal everyday folks – like parents or police officers who secretly commit atrocious crimes. We are a nation obsessed with conspiracies.
And the culture wars are, at their extreme, a struggle to disarm the “hideous, subversive” influence ( aka: conspiracy) of either the Left or the Right. This war is only growing more and more pervasive as the cultural gap widens under our churches and institutions.
Undercurrents of Conspiracy Culture
Beyond all this – many people are secretly wondering if this natural life is more spiritually diverse than it appears. Could we be caught up in a matrix of normalcy that is actually masking a fantastical world of angels, demons, aliens, and other extra-worldy creatures – with their attending handlers, hosts or disguises that merely need to be uncovered. As the X-Files of late – reminded us – “the truth is out there” – if only we can get the government to declassify the papers.
On the other hand – increasingly, conspiracy culture is being viewed by the government as a seedbed for domestic terrorists, fanatical extremists, and religious revolutionaries who are waiting in secret to take back or take over America in the name of righteousness and holy war. This is no game – and in a culture with all guns on the table (or maybe under it) – both sides are accused of building up arms.
Conspiracy culture is also deeply suspicious of authority and authority figures. We live in a time when the post-modern paradigm has shaken all authorities who once were seen with god-like status. Doctors, scientists, politicians, pastors, police-officers, presidents and other leaders are often suspected to be harboring some self-serving or secret agenda. This conspiracy culture is the fruit of the post-modern mind. As I read recently we “distrust not only the narratives of the authorities, but even the authority of narrative”. Could it be – we have become our own authorities and in so doing are deeply afraid of “being overthrown”?
Our Deep Anxiety and The Divine Conspiracy
All this is a long-winded way of saying: maybe we are all secretly obsessed with conspiracies. And maybe this paradigm isn’t all bad – or all good. Maybe this lens is a sign to us of our deep anxiety about the near future and what seems to be the shaking of personal and societal foundations that we thought were immovable.
So I am both affirming and critiquing the usefulness of conspiracy theory as a way to view what is happening in the world. If you cannot question what is going on I fear for your honesty. If all you can do is question everything I fear for your sanity. In the end though – this search for hidden truth and an obscured narrative can easily become a flight in fear towards self-preservation and even outright spiritual darkness- especially if we are not rooted in the One who is Truth. I believe what we are really hungering for is the hidden meta-narrative of GOD’s ” divine conspiracy” – good news that ends in a restored world.
The Gospel As Grand Conspiracy
I’ve heard it said that the root meaning of the word ‘conspire’ is “to breathe together” or “to be one in spirit”. Here is where I believe this terminology begins to paint a most interesting image. The root understanding of this word is a beautiful and poetic picture -of two or more people in intimate unity – sharing life and breathe – towards a common goal. As followers of Jesus, the concept of conspiracy is, in my view, an important paradigm from which we understand the Gospel and GOD’s Kingdom. What if our primary lens through which we viewed life was that we are caught up in GOD’s great mustard seed conspiracy?
The reality is – as followers of Jesus – we are indeed caught up in a global conspiracy of epic proportions. We are intimately intermingling our spirit and breathe with our Creator and one another to raise up ‘demonstration plots’ of His loving rule and reign – looking forward to the yet fulfilled transforming of all the nations and the entire Created Order by the fullness of His redemptive intervention in the human/cosmic story.
But this is a “mustard seed” conspiracy as Jesus called it. Over and over in His parables Jesus paints the Kingdom of GOD as something so small it is barely noticeable – and in time it overtakes everything. This plot to overthrow the current order of things will one day be dramatic and sweeping – but for now it is subtle and quiet and almost secret. It is active and unstoppable. Church buildings do not necessarily point to it – but most certainly loving Christian communities do (whether in or out of the building). It begins in our hearts as we respond to the movements of GOD’s covenant love toward us. It continues as we begin to embody together (in small ways) the Life of Jesus and His coming New Creation when death will be swallowed by eternal life and GOD’s work of reconciliation will be fully manifest.
So what conspiracy is driving you?