A conspiracy theory with wings

BY ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN, Columnist
Posted 9/11/20

We have not one but two “Plandemic” conspiracy theory films, both of which falsely assert that the coronavirus was “planned” by powerful people in order to make their fortune. Even though …

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A conspiracy theory with wings

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Posted

We have not one but two “Plandemic” conspiracy theory films, both of which falsely assert that the coronavirus was “planned” by powerful people in order to make their fortune. Even though Judy Mikovits, a former research scientist, has been discredited and her claims about the coronavirus proven to be misleading or outright lies, a second video has surfaced to spread more false information.

A conspiracy theory often cherry-picks facts, then assembles them to create the appearance of an argument. But just because I picked a bird feather from the ground, a battery from a smoke detector and a chair from my kitchen table doesn’t mean that I’ve made a machine that will fly.

Neither should these “Plandemic” theories have ever gotten off the ground, much less become viral videos.

While conspiracy theories have existed for decades — such as the claim that the 1969 moon landing was fake — we now find these otherworldly claims are given the light of national attention rather than tucked away in the dark corners of the political fringe.

The president of the United States frequently tweets the conspiracy theories of a group known as QAnon, which claims — without evidence, mind you — that President Trump is battling a “deep state” primarily composed of Hollywood elites who wish to destroy America.

I received a mailing attacking Cal Cunningham, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, as “Communist Cal.” I looked to see what special interest right-wing group paid for this propaganda, but I was dismayed that it was the Republican Party of North Carolina. Not a word about policy in a time of a global pandemic and economic recession. Their political platform is a conspiracy theory.

Modern conspiracy theories result in division. Instead of the common good, the goal is to pit people against one another. To yell accusations at one another and point fingers of blame. Political, civil and religious leaders fan these flames in order to stay in power rather than work with others to solve problems.

Yet, the word conspiracy is derived from the Latin “con-spiritus,” which did not refer to paranoia, fantasy or falsehoods. It meant “to breathe together.” The Latin originally referred to people who played a musical instrument together.

This makes me think of a healthy community of faith. I realize that certain religious leaders preach and promote conspiracy theories. But a church, mosque, synagogue or temple can also be a rare place in our culture where people with different opinions voluntarily come together. This gives me hope.

The legendary Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson used to slip unnoticed into rural churches on Sunday mornings. She called such places her “filling stations” because, even though she didn’t know a soul, the common bond she experienced with people in worship gave her energy for the road ahead. Visiting these churches was her little secret, her little conspiracy. She said it gave her spirit its wings.

Jackson heard the story in those little churches about a brown-skinned homeless man who wandered the countryside talking about sowing seeds. This fellow knew full well the power of the Roman Empire, yet he plotted and planned to overcome the might of the sword with the power of forgiveness, hope and most of all love.

Maybe such a holy conspiracy will take wings and soar.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and author of Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems. He is currently working from home with his wife and three children.

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