by ProfDave, ©2021
(Jul. 13, 2021) — Don’t you miss objectivity? We have been hearing about a Q-Anon conspiracy. I don’t know anything about it (don’t really want to) except the left narratives accuse the rest of us of believing in it. Allegedly we believe some secret order of shadowy powerbrokers is pulling all the strings behind the scenes. This is nothing new. It used to be the Templars. Why do we come up with conspiracy theories? Because current events are so perverse and malignant that they beg for an explanation.
Is there a dark force out there plotting destruction of all that is good and the right? The existence of evil, whatever it is, in our world is hardly controversial. Philosophers and theologians have been trying to explain it for centuries. Is it natural, human, or supernatural? Is it a law of nature (red in tooth and claw) that everything must run down hill into chaos in politics and society as well as physics? Is there a fatal flaw in human nature that must destroy harmony? Is there a real dark side in the spiritual realm? Yes. Probably all three.
There certainly are evil men and women out there desiring the downfall of America: dictators of rival nations, organized crime bosses perhaps. At the next level of malignancy are the Marxists who believe, with Lenin, that “you have to break eggs to make an omelet” – that capitalist America must be destroyed in order to create a socialist future. Parallel “justice” movements see the world in binary terms – victims and oppressors. They demand the destruction of their “oppressors:” masculinity, motherhood, monogamy, white people, babies, Republicans (or Democrats), parents, police, Christians, Jews and more. Less malignant but equally dangerous are powerful political leaders and agitators who frankly do not care what collateral damage their policies cause. There are certainly toxic voices, but collusion is unproven. Underneath are multitudes of disturbed and angry “victims” who are more than ready to form a mob or shoot up a church to take out their anger on the world.
Is there a comprehensive conspiracy behind all this malice? Let me introduce you to the R-Anon Conspiracy. The ‘R’ stands for real, for it has real consequences in the real world. It is “anonymous” in that we rarely recognize or admit the dark element in ourselves. It is a “conspiracy” because it is a secret cooperation between dark powers and human selves who think they are autonomous – their own gods – to tear down, rather than to build up America and mankind. It particularly corrupts the rich, the beautiful and the popular who think that it is they who are movers and shakers, shaping culture after their own ideals, when it is really the powers of the dark world deceiving them. And the rest of us so easily get caught in the current.
I found the R-Anon conspiracy in an ancient letter by the first century rabbi Saul of Tarsus (aka St Paul) to Ephesus. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:11-12. That explains a lot. The real conspirators are not human at all, but spiritual. The forces of evil are not Trump or Pelosi or Soros or Zuckerberg or whoever, but the darkness that has invaded their minds – and ours. Get your armor on!
Anyone who is not living under a rock knows that there is something wrong with the world. Anyone who is living under a rock – in Pandemic isolation and alone with their thoughts – knows that there is something wrong with themselves. We are broken people living in a broken world. Anyone who has read the Torah or the Bible knows why. In the first pages we are told that everything was originally good, but our first ancestors broke the link with their Creator that made everything work. How this poor choice was possible has engaged great minds for centuries, but the consequences are all around us and in us. Our nature is twisted towards selfishness and rebellion – conflict rather than harmony. At war with our Maker, we are at war with each other, with nature and with ourselves. There is darkness within.
In the first pages of the Torah/Bible we are also introduced to a dark spiritual being, appearing as a serpent, that acts as a catalyst in facilitating the first poor choice – call it the original sin. You may be skeptical of the biblical personification of evil, but its existence is hard to deny – there is something out there that is hostile and deceptive. By various names (serpent, great dragon, devil, Lucifer, Satan) the evil one appears throughout the holy book. We are told that he is a fallen angel who led a third of the heavenly hosts in rebellion against the Almighty and is destined, with all his followers, for the Lake of Fire. His nature is pure evil, deceit and rebellion. He is a created being, by no means equal to God – not omniscient, not omnipotent or not omnipresent – and can only operate by permission. He cannot win his war with the Almighty but derives pleasure out of making trouble for God’s favorite creatures – us – by deceit and provocation. He and his minions are not our friends. There is darkness out there.
Any dead fish can float downstream, but conscientious people and recovering addicts know the reality of the dark side very well. Doing the right thing may be rewarding, but it requires work – the input of energy. There is resistance. There is temptation – and sometimes it is devilishly clever. While it is true that we don’t need to be led into temptation – we can find it for ourselves – people who struggle against the darkness within find an intelligent outside something arrayed against them. Jesus-followers believe in a personal devil because Jesus did and learn to rely on divine assistance to resist his agency.
My conspiracy theory, founded on Judeo-Christian revelation, history and personal experience, holds that somehow this dark spirit, in rebellion against the Creator, has inserted a malignant gene into our DNA that sets us at odds with our Maker and Sustainer. Whatever it was, it has infected all mankind. Our health and wholeness depends on living in harmony with the Lord of the cosmos and the way the world and we are constructed. Instead, we inherit a tendency toward selfishness and rebellion. We have been coopted into the Dark Being’s hopeless rebellion against the Creator.
In our pride, we think people – especially ourselves – are basically good. Our self-righteousness makes us hypocrites. “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” because “good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my [corrupted] nature” (Romans 7:18). We seem to have a built-in reluctance to submit to God that sometimes breaks out in open rebellion. We rationalize our behavior, contort our consciences to conform to what we have done, and sometimes construct entire worldviews to justify ourselves. We are willingly deceived by the master of lies.
In reality, people are not really good. Our basic goodness, instilled by the Creator, has been corrupted – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. There are no good guys and bad guys. The line between good and evil does not run between nations, races, political parties or socio-economic classes but through the heart of each person. “The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), “there is none righteous, no not one” (Psalm 14:1, Romans 3:10).
The foundation of the R-Anon conspiracy, then, is basic rebellion against God. We are born into it – kicking and screaming in the delivery room. The harmony of the spheres is not for us. We want something different. To the extent that we realize that there is an authority ordering our world, we resist it. To the extent that we encounter a right way, we cast about for a different way – our way. We want to be the authority in our own existence. “I did it my way” is the national anthem of hell.
God has the monopoly on the good, the right and the beautiful. That is true in all religions. Our pride malware will not permit us to submit to Him, interpreting submission as a loss of autonomy – as if to say “yes” is less a free choice than to say “no.” So we go wandering off into the bushes, calling it freedom. This same tendency can be seen in groups, in society, in economics, in politics – even in science. The right way – simplest, most logical, most beneficial to all – is God’s way, but we cannot recognize that. So we go down one perverse path after another, wrecking ourselves, our families, our nation and nature itself. We must have our own way even when it is obviously wrong. Tell me it isn’t so. How do you explain our love of wrong answers without the dark force in rebellion against our Creator, infecting us and persuading us that wrong is better than right?
There is an old saying, “There’s so much bad in the best of us and so much good in the worst of us that it behooves the most of us to say nothing about the rest of us.” When you see someone doing something stupid (aka wrong) remember two things. First, you have the same broken nature. But for the grace of God, that could be you. Second, they are not just the perpetrator but also the victim of the R-Anon conspiracy. The enemy has deceived and corrupted them just like he is trying to corrupt and deceive you. “The problem is not that they are ignorant, but that so much of what they know is wrong” (Ronald Reagan).
Yes, there are those who have, knowingly or ignorantly, sold out to wrong activities, wrong attitudes and wrong ideas. They have given themselves up to selfishness and rebellion and their selfishness and rebellion has enslaved them. Perhaps they are addicted to money, sex, power, or fame? To satisfy self they exploit or abuse others. To express their rebellion they rage against others, “the system,” themselves and God. Jesus said the enemy’s purpose is to “kill, to hurt, and to destroy.” Some try to escape their pain through gambling, pornography and substance abuse. More destruction. “Hurt people hurt people,” we say in recovery circles. In every case, Satan rubs his hands in glee: they are his victims.
What are the symptoms of the R-Anon Conspiracy? First is the denial of any real external God. God is not “out there,” but internal to our own minds and feelings. There is no God who rules over heaven and earth, but personal designer gods to fit our own desires and needs. The Creator made us in His image, as Feuerbach wrote in the 19th century, and we return the favor – making gods in our own image. We may not bow down to stone Buddhas, but we worship gods of our own making, when it is convenient, and use them as good-luck charms to supply our emotional needs. These tame gods reinforce our values, our rituals, and our rules. We shape god; God does not shape us. The rulers, the authorities, and the powers of the dark world much prefer it that way.
Because God is the ultimate authority, the spirit of rebellion and selfishness erodes all other legitimate authorities. True, in a democracy the people are sovereign over legislature, executive and judiciary. We elect those who make the laws, those who enforce them, and appoint the judges who adjudicate them. Have you noticed how the rich and powerful, not to mention our youth, choose to ignore and manipulate the law? We hire policemen, but have you noticed how we disrespect them and slow down when we see a police car? How about parents? There are consequences for our generalized disrespect for authority: political instability, unsafe cities and towns, rising outrage and hatred, chaos and anarchy. Might makes right. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes as society disintegrates. The rulers, the authorities, and the powers of the dark world much prefer it that way.
Who benefits from the 24/7/365 rat race that is modern life? What is the logic behind sacrificing everything – principles, health, sanity and family – to the almighty dollar, political power or sexual “fulfillment?” Why do we voluntarily chase the neurochemical rush that enslaves and ruins us? Why don’t we pause to rest, reflect, connect and worship? We all know we need daily solitude and reflection, time with our families and at least one day a week of respite. We accomplish more in an eight- than in a twelve-hour day, a six- than in a seven-day week, and probably in a 48 week rather than a 52 week working year, but we cannot stop! Why are the rats winning? The race is for the rats – “the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world.”
Who benefits from the disintegration of the family? What is the sense of it? Poverty has always been the estate of the mass of humanity. Social services and industrialization – particularly combined with free enterprise – has lifted even the poorest above the subsistence/starvation level and limited destitution to a minority. Even pandemic does not wipe out whole communities as plagues once did periodically. But family dysfunction has been making destitution permanent and generational. All sorts of social malignancy are associated with fatherlessness, marriage/cohabitation breakup and illegitimacy: gangs, crime, child abuse and abandonment, mental illness, addiction, violence and poverty. The science is clear: human flourishing demands stable families: biological parents in permanent married relationship, raising their young to adulthood. Nests before eggs. So why would anyone encourage sexual activity by children and transient relationships? Why would any healthy society attack the institution of heterosexual marriage? Why would influencers scoff at its boundaries and the altruism required to make marriage and parenthood work? Attack fatherhood? Motherhood? Only “the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world.”
Are envy, hatred and violence good ideas? Should might make right? Will racial harmony and urban prosperity be achieved by rioting and destruction? Can we do away with crime by doing away with law? Is insanity the way to peace and order? Have we lost our minds? Look at the Middle East. Centuries of teaching their children to hate their neighbors turns the rich cradle of civilization into a smoking bloody rubble over and over again. Will it work any better for black and white in the USA? Look at the Soviet Union. A century of envy and class warfare turned a whole family of nations into corrupt and hopeless gray. Venezuela has gone down even quicker. To whom do these things make sense? Who wins? Only “the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world.” We have been had!
Has the sexual revolution worked any better? We discussed family breakdown above. The primary cause has been the changing attitudes towards sexuality, divorcing sex from marriage and from procreation (its natural purpose). How is it working? Does pitting women against men increase the domestic tranquility or raise happier children? Are women happier being more like men? Men being more like women? Not according to the research. Are we better off without committed relationships? Do pornography and promiscuity enhance relationships or even yield intimacy? Then why are so many young men impotent? Can you make a baby without a sperm and an egg? Are they really interchangeable? Does it make any sense to abolish “motherhood?” Will society be better off without babies? Why are so many children confused about their gender? Who wins? Only “the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world.” We have been had!
The economic right to enjoy and control the fruits of our own labor is fundamental to a healthy economy. If we are free to share and exchange our resources with our families and our neighbors we are encouraged to work harder, take initiative and even risks – resulting in a productive and prosperous society. If our work product is seized or destroyed by others (thieves, rioters or bureaucrats), we are discouraged from productivity, turning our energies instead to hoarding what we have, consuming it as quickly as we make it, preying on others or gaming the system. We seek to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labor, discouraging them while adding little or nothing to community prosperity ourselves. The result is a mixture of poverty and corruption – a robber society. Yet the myth abounds that the world owes me a living, the state is obligated to provide it, and anyone doing better than I is evil. How is this constructive? Who is spreading these lies? “The rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world.”
What is the alternative to “telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” Hmmm. That would be the lie, the whole lie and nothing but the lie. What if there is no such thing as truth? Then it is all lies – the R-Anon Conspiracy! There is an accident at the corner of Main and Middle. Witnesses on different corners have different perspectives on what happened – all four may be true. Both drivers have a bias, “I had the right of way!” – one of them might be true but expect them to put some spin on it. The judge is supposed to determine the truth on the basis of the evidence presented to him. But in our brave new world truth has been replaced by narratives. We will decide what happened on the basis of the year and make of the respective vehicles, their license plates or the color of the drivers’ skins. The judge will rule on the basis of the lawyers’ performances and the demonstrations outside the courthouse. Forget about justice. Might makes right. Who prefers lies to the truth? “The rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world.”
What is wrong with our world anyway? Why do we prefer wrong to right? False gods to the real One? Hatred to love? Resentment to forgiveness? Handouts to earnings? Pornography to intimacy? Promiscuity to marriage? Fantasy to reality? Destruction to construction? Winnings to achievements? Fabrication to truth? Darkness to light? Evil to good? Does any of this make sense? Then why do so many of us act the way we do? Why is civilization disintegrating around us? Why do we talk so much about progress and solutions while we are busily tearing things down?
Why indeed? Is it a conspiracy? Are there dark powers in rebellion against all that is good and right and constructive? Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians believe so. Is our world in rebellion against God? Is there a dark spirit in each of us that wants to dethrone the Almighty and be god? That would explain a lot. We have delusions of being in charge, of knowing better than God. We think He cannot take care of us, that He is not interested in our welfare, that He is not entirely good or wise. So we try to reorganize our world to our advantage – and we break it. Do we deceive ourselves or are we deceived by the dark powers? Yes. Although our own dark side is “deceitful and desperately wicked” external entrapment and encouragement cannot be ruled out. Do we combine with others in nefarious schemes and conspiracies? Of course.
Is there an R-Anon Conspiracy? Is there something within us that is fighting for independence against God and against the good and the right? Do we want to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because we don’t think the good is good enough for us? Is there something that blinds us to the obvious? Is the dark side all human or is there a tempter conspiring with humanity to sabotage the kingdom of God?
Dark impulses do arise in us, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes when we are hurt by life or by the sins of others. We lash out in pain, often not touching the cause of our pain, often causing more pain. We fall into destructive hang-ups and addictions: we do stupid things. Beyond stupid, we rebel against God and the rules He gave to keep us safe. While we are at it, we seek to justify ourselves by joining with other broken people and rationalizing our resentment and destructive behavior. Deceived ourselves, we deceive others. We seek to change the world to fit our dysfunction and to educate others to believe the lies we tell ourselves and to silence those who contradict them. Add power and prestige and there you have it: a movement or a whole family of movements or a whole society in conspiracy against the reality of the world as God intended it: the R-Anon Conspiracy.
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.