Telling Our Kids a Better Story | The News Coach | God's World News


Jonathan Boes • 05/10/2024
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(Pexels/Nathan J Hilton)

Last year, families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims won a $1.5 billion settlement against InfoWars host Alex Jones. Jones had convinced his followers that the government stages school shootings and hires “crisis actors” to play the part of grieving families. His followers went on to harass and threaten the families of shooting victims.

That gullibility and rage doesn’t sprout overnight. It results from a spiral—a spiral we can prevent by recognizing its true identity and turning to something better.


The Mind Spiral

We’re familiar with destructive patterns when it comes to things like food and sex. They begin simply—an unneeded stop at the drive-thru, a lingering glance at a suggestive advertisement. But unchecked, they can spiral into lifelong addictions. So what about conspiracy theories?

One study tracked the stages of escalation in conspiracy theory thinking. The spiral starts with simple identity confirmation—seeking out the news reports and Facebook memes that echo our biases. It continues on through identity affirmation into identity protection—actively trying to discredit and disparage those with whom we disagree. At last, it leads to identity enactment. In this stage, conspiracy theory thinking turns into action. Men burst into pizzerias with assault rifles. Mobs scale the walls of the U.S. Capitol. People harass the grieving families of shooting victims.

Such actions might also include someone deciding to leave the church community that raised one’s children. Another might hurl accusations at schoolteacher neighbors who are barely holding on. Tragically, those wrapped up in conspiracy theory thinking might become so convinced as to severs ties with friends and family.

This should humble us. It means any of us, if we flirt with our idols long enough, could end up like the disciples of Alex Jones—enraged wrecking balls swinging through our communities.


Conspiracy Theories as Idols

We have an innate longing to be part of a story. In fact, we are part of a bigger story. We populate the third act of a grand Redemptive Narrative. It stretches behind us and before us and centers on the coming of Christ.

This story demands our faith. Like the Israelites wandering the desert, we must trust. But also like those Israelites, we’re tempted by quicker, more tangible alternatives.

The Redemptive Narrative makes God the hero. It casts us as blinded, helpless apart from grace. But conspiracy theories cast us as heroes—the chosen few, discoverers of truth. The Redemptive Narrative asks us to embrace mystery; conspiracy theories tantalize us with the thrill of being “in the know.” The Redemptive Narrative commands slow, faithful work across millennia; conspiracy theories demand urgent action here and now.

We see the same pattern everywhere. God created a good desire for food, for the purpose of life and health. But we’re tempted by the quick, cheap alternatives of fast food and high fructose corn syrup. God gave us a good sexual desire, meant to produce in marriage intimacy and procreation. But we’re tempted by the quick, cheap alternatives of casual sex and pornography.

Likewise, God gave us a good desire to belong in a larger story, to point us toward His Redemptive Narrative. But we’re tempted by the quick, cheap alternative of conspiracy theories.

Like all idols, conspiracy theories don’t grant what they offer—at least, not for long. Like fast food and pornography, they leave you empty, exhausted, and still hungry.


We Have Stories at Home

There are evils in the world. Some of them are hidden. In the misinformation age, it’s easy to mix up conspiracy theory thinking with discernment.

So where do we find the balance conspiracy theory thinking lacks? We find it in the true story.

Author Andy Crouch talks about the difference between the bad-news-to-bad-news Bible and the good-news-to-good-news Bible. He says many Christians read a “functional Bible” that begins with the fall of man in Genesis 3 and ends at the judgment seat. In other words, it starts in bad news (we’re sinners) and ends in bad news (we’ll face punishment). Conspiracy theories slot neatly into this cynical narrative.

But we must have our thinking shaped by the whole story. Crouch reminds us that the Bible starts with a good creation and ends with everything made new. It’s good news to good news.

This truth gives us a framework to acknowledge evil. It tells of man’s fall and the insidious sprawl of the curse. But it won’t let us live there. It prevents our discernment from warping into cynicism. It lifts our eyes to the light ahead. And when we can’t see that light, it reminds us of God’s goodness before.

So maybe when we—or our kids—are drawn by the fast food alternative of conspiracy stories, we can offer something better. We don’t need the McTruth. We have stories at home.



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