Conspiracy theories are nothing new. You could argue that they are as old as mankind. First Adam and Eve believing the half truths they were told in the Garden. “You will not die,” said the Breitbart news of that day. And then there was the report of the spies to the nation of Israel. “We are not able to defeat these people because they are stronger than we are.” Numbers 13:31.
One of the biggest conspiracy theories of the Bible is found in Exodus 32 – the time when fear drove the Israelites to look for an alternative to what God and Moses had told them. A great deal like the same phenomenon of conspiracy today, here are three factors that contributed to the fall of a whole tribe of people.
First of all, they allowed fear to determine their next move. Moses was delayed in returning from Mount Sinai, and they consequently went to Aaron the high priest and said, “….make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” When fear rules, people make up things to validate their fear. “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” Exodus 32:4.
Second, they suspended all reason. They did not rely on their former experience with Moses. Even though he had advocated for them with the powerful Pharaoh, had demonstrated God’s power in the ten plagues, and had skillfully led them to safety, they preferred to forget that and give their trust to a manufactured calf. This is like contemporary rejection of people of integrity, experience, and training in favor of people, no matter how disreputable, who will calm fears.
Third, they acted according to their new belief – an ancient form of “alternative facts,” using the language of some of today’s political discourse. Exodus records how the people entrusted Aaron with their wealth, in the form of gold jewelry, to subsidize the creation of a calf. After the calf was created, they reveled by dancing around the calf in a frenzy. Had Moses (and God) not acted against their “alternative facts,” God would have abandoned the nation and they would have been left to their foolishness.
The result of allowing fear to rule is the sacrifice of things that are true, knowable, and ethical. As in the case of Andrew Clyde, Representative in Congress from Georgia who said that January 6 was “no insurrection” and that the rioters resembled a “tourist visit.”
Yet, Representative Clyde was photographed assisting in barricading the House doors against the rioters attempting to get in. How is it that we get to the point where we adopt a lie and call it the truth?
Ten spies (out of twelve) told lies about invading the Promised Land and by so doing polluted and deceived a whole nation of people, and the result was tragic. So today, when we allow liars to set the narrative we go to doom.