O God of earth and alter, in mercy hear our cry;
Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us, the words of scorn divide;
take not thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches, from lies of pen and tongue;
from all the easy speeches that satisfy the throng;
from sale and profanation of honor and the word;
from sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good God!
Conspiracy and the Christian
by Viola Larson
Several years ago I answered a letter a gentleman had written about my article, "Identity: A "Christian" Religion For White Racists." The article, in The Christian Research Journal, was about the supposedly “Christian”' arm of the Neo-Nazi Movement, and it included a reference to conspiracy theories and The John Birch Society. I believe the answers I gave to the gentleman's questions might be useful for any Christian attempting to view history and the future from a conspiracy viewpoint. The gentleman, who was, I believe, a member of the John Birch Society, voiced several complaints, which could undoubtedly be formulated into two questions:
Why shouldn't Christians view and explain events and/or history using a conspiracy theory?
Why mention Robert Welch or the John Birch Society in a paper concerned with groups that are racist?
Using some of my notes and the letter the following comments are my answers to those two questions:
The correspondent wrote that the conspiracy becomes a theory which, “can serve effectively as a lens though which to view events.” The use of this kind of lens poses two problems for Christians. First, historical theories about events and history fail because they are themselves a part of history. The only truthful as well as complete explanation for historical events would have to stand outside of history. However, for the Christian there is only one who stands outside of history and events. He gives humanity the freedom and ability to garner some of the facts of history, some understanding, but only His revelation gives real explanation. Only God can see or know the minute detail that is needed; at best, we know very little. Thank God, He knows it all.
Second, the advocates of conspiracy theories often understand goodness and evil within the framework of the theory. For instance, an article in The New American suggests that Aryan Nations and Randy Weaver were part of or used by the leaders of “the conspiracy” to ferment anger and bring about restricting laws against the conservatives in Idaho. (See Dec. 14, 1992, “Randy Weaver's Role …In the Plot To Discredit Idaho's Conservatism.”) Although the author of the article stresses the evil of bigotry and racism, within his theory the main acts of wickedness become the acts of those plotting against conservatives. The wickedness of racism is never really approached in a prophetic manner. The Biblical viewpoint of evil and even conspiracy is quite different. God's Word names evil in such practical terms that we can see plainly in ourselves the evil nature.
The Bible speaks of conspiracy: Ahab and Jezebel conspired to take Naboth's field; Judas conspired with the temple authorities to help in arresting Jesus; and Ananias and Sapphira conspired to lie to the early Church about the price of a field they sold. However, all of these stories are very practical if applied to individuals. God's revelation speaks to our own greed, lust and pride. Not so the evils connected to conspiracy theories. The “Insiders,” those involved in the conspiracy, become the other and we are left untouched. All to often the “good” is defined as working to expose those involved in the conspiracy.
Additional problems arise in the search for conspirators. The theory often serves as truth rather than documented evidence. Many people are slandered although innocent, and real offenders are not called to truthful judgment. They are seen as bigger than life, a member of some elite conspiracy. For example, the abortionist is a murderer and the banker who mismanages and spends other people's money is a thief; to call them conspirators trying to take over the world is to fail to name real sins. It also fails to call them to repentance. They become members of some secret group and can no longer be treated as individual humans with individual qualities, needs or concerns. God considers even the sparrows important individually, and one by one He calls us to repentance and to himself.
The second question: Why mention the John Birch Society or Robert Welch, founder of the society, in a paper about groups that are racist, is a question I found many were asking. That is a good question since neither Robert Welch or the Society he founded was or is racist. I must admit I chose Robert Welch and The John Birch Society deliberately. Robert Welch and the Society he founded provide an excellent example of the kind of thinking and perspective about history and religion that fed the rising Nazi movement in Germany before World War II. That perspective simply needed a racist outlook to become very evil, and Hitler provided that extra.
Welch held that the theory of history propounded by Oswald Spengler was the correct way to understand history. This is a cyclical understanding of history, a historiography that sees the movement of history in the rise and fall of great civilizations. Spengler believed that cultures had souls; as great souls developed culture developed, as they died the culture died. Welch assumed that a cyclical view of history with its corresponding view of cultural souls was the preventative of a progressive theory of history interested in collectivism. Progressive historical theory and collectivism were the ideas espoused by Karl Marx the father of Communism. In his Blue Book, Welch wrote, “Spengler's theory is absolutely fatal to the acceptance of socialism or any form of collectivism as a forward step, or as a form of progress, in man's sociological arrangements.” (36) Marx understood the progression of history in terms of the collective advance of the masses or workers. Welch, on the other hand, believed the advance of humanity could only be achieved by a belief in a kind of advanced god who was somehow part of humanity's aspirations. Welch wrote:
We have to find something to live for, Gentlemen, that is greater than ourselves, or we surely fall back from the semi-civilized level of existence, which man has laboriously achieved, in to a moral jungle and its inevitably concomitant intellectual darkness . . . Before our very eyes lie all the incentives man needs to set him back on the road of striving towards moral perfection, true intellectual greatness, civilized relationships, and eternal hope for a still better and greater future, which seemed to him to be such natural goals a hundred years ago. Making those incentives understood, and giving contemporary man a renewed faith in himself, in his destiny and in a still greater God than was recognized and worshiped by his ancestors, is a task for myriads of dedicated individuals over generations of time. (The Blue Book of The John Birch Society, 1961, 56-58.)
This “greater God than was recognized and worshiped” by contemporary humanity's ancestors is later described by Welch using the words of a poem by William Herbert Carruth, “Each in His Own Tongue.” The words: evolution, autumn, longing and consecration are used to define the meaning of God. In fact, Welch insisted that:
It is hard for man to realize that the infinite still remains infinite, untouched in its remoteness and reduced in its infinity by man's most ambitious approaches; or that all of man's increasing knowledge leaves the unknowable just as completely unknowable as before. But I think that, being allowed now to grasp this truth, we should cease to quarrel and disagree over how close we are to God. For we are using a term which, in a literal context, or objectively, has no meaning. (Welch, Blue Book 137.)
Welch maintains that the higher good humanity should live for is “the tug or upward pull within humanity.” His experience-laden theory is similar in content to the views of Friedrich Schleiermacher, the father of liberal theology. They both rejected revelation and replaced it with human experience. Likewise, both Welch and Schleiermacher rejected the Biblical understanding of the fall. Within this theory is the understanding that values and ethics begin with human experience. Both God's revelation and the need for redemption are missing from their political and theological world views. In such a world view it is hard to see your own sin; where would you turn for redemption? Since evil is not something which exists in all of humanity it tends to be isolated within the few. The problem exists in others: the insiders, the insane, the stranger, the immigrant, the Jew. Isolating social problems and evil in a minority group is called scapegoating. People who get in the way or who are perceived as impeding the progress toward utopia are seen this way by such theorist as Welch.
Going beyond Schleiermacher, Welch rejected the personality of the Biblical God. Without an understanding of God's personal aspects of mercy and compassion human leadership often develops into tyranny. Certainly, Welch's practical instructions on how to fight Communism in this country reflected such theological thinking. When speaking of leadership and tactics, Welch wrote, “What is not only needed, but is absolutely imperative, is for some hard boiled, dictatorial, and dynamic boss to come along.” He further suggested that after individuals had gathered under this dictatorial boss they build a wall and then, “get the heaviest clubs you can find, . . . and don't hesitate to break the heads of any saboteurs you find monkeying with it. Don't even hesitate to break the heads of those you find creeping towards the wall, if you are sure of their evil intentions, just as a warning to the rest of the gang.” (106) Christians must not allow themselves to become demoralized by looking for enemies while holding hands with those who do not know Christ and His love. It is God who has told us who He is and how we are to live: to go beyond that is to go beyond Christ. (2 John 1:9) There is an upward call for the Christian! That is, all who belong to Christ are called to move away from the vain philosophies of the world to a fuller relationship with Christ. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.” (Phil. 3:14)
I am not sure if it is still in print but I have a trustworthy booklet published by Eerdman's. The booklet's title is The Christian and The John Birch Society, written by Lester DeLoster and published in 1966. The booklet was first an article in the Reformed Journal.