24th February 2021

The latest version of the so-called ‘Q Anon’ conspiracy theory followed by many Trump supporters has it that he will be inaugurated as America’s true President on March 4th. A related theory says that the snow in Texas last week was fake…

Bizarre… It’s easy to pour scorn, but such theories have one thing in common with an aspect of religious belief – ‘cognitive dissonance’ – when the thing you believe is going to happen doesn’t, you don’t stop believing, you reconfigure your beliefs.

As for Q Anon, so for lots of predictions about the end of the world. When the world hasn’t ended, the theories come up with another date…

Cognitive dissonance can be applied to prophets such as Isaiah and Micah. The return of the Exiles to Israel happened, but was hardly the glorious return predicted by, for instance, Isaiah (Chapter 35).

Gradually such predictions have been taken up into the world of poetic, glorious predictions of God’s new age, when, at the last, God will rule for ever (Revelation 21).

Conspiracy theories have to mutate as evidence in this world keeps showing them up as untrue.

But then… along comes Jesus and starts predicting his own death (Mark 8:31) and his resurrection. You can see how some of his followers were unimpressed. They surely quite liked the idea of Jesus ‘rising again after three days’, not so much the death that preceded it – especially not when Jesus called for them to accept such a death as theirs as well.

Most conspiracy theories offer comfort, but without much cost. Christian belief does as well, but it asks something of us first…

Michael Docker