A new study by the Nashville-based Lifeway Research has found that nearly half of Protestant pastors in the United States say they’ve heard church members regurgitating conspiracy theories — a dangerous and “worrisome trend” that arguably threatens the reverence of Christianity in the U.S. and the country’s welfare as a whole.
In the aforementioned poll of 1,007 U.S. Protestant pastors, which was conducted from Sept. 2 through Oct. 1, 49% of the church leaders questioned concur with the phrase: “I frequently hear members of my congregation repeating conspiracy theories they have heard about why something is happening in our country.”
The sampling error is +/- 3.4 percentage points.
And unfortunately, the latest conspiracy theories are the topics of discussion, not decades old speculation about historical events such as the JFK assassination or the moon landing.
The executive director of Lifeway Research, Scott McConnell, insists we’re starting to see a “startling disconnect” between the mission of Christian churches, aimed at teaching principles of truth, and churchgoers who are allowing themselves to believe unfounded lies and reckless rhetoric.
“Before returning to Heaven, Jesus appealed to His followers to share what they had seen and heard,” said McConnell via Lifeway Research.
“Passing along these eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ teaching and His death, burial and resurrection is the mission of the church.”
“Instead, many church members are sharing things that might be, could happen or sound possible. One is a firm message of hope, and the other a shaky message of fear.”
Churches with members who believe and/or spread conspiracy theories usually have 250+ in attendance on Sundays (61 percent). And churches that are predominately White are seemingly more likely to be impacted more than those that are predominantly Black (50 to 36 percent).
“While a minority of churchgoers may embrace conspiracy theories, the larger the church the more minds and mouths exist to be misled,” added McConnell.
“At this time, it appears more of the theories are traveling in politically conservative circles which corresponds to the higher percentages in the churches led by White Protestant pastors.”
If conspiracy theories is the work of the devil, he seems to having an impact.
A lot of Americans, Christian churchgoers included, are getting access to all kinds of information and misinformation, and largely believe what they want to. And if the facts don’t fit their narrative, they simply cover their ears, walk away, stop consuming the information, or label the data as “fake.”
Christian apologist Mary Jo Sharp believes churchgoers’ acceptance of conspiracy theories can reinforce negative stereotypes about Christians and hinder efforts to spread the Gospel.
“Irresponsibility with information unravels the impact of a Christian’s witness to those in their community, and, with social media, to the broader world,” she said via Lifeway Research.
“The non-Christian may begin to believe or become further ingrained in the culturally popular belief that Christians are anti-intellectual, including anti-science.”
Every country probably has its share of conspiracy theorists, agitators, and nonconformists who revel in being different and America is certainly no stranger to them. But never before have they comprised such a considerable portion (estimated 25-35%) of the adult population.
And never before did they have a wide-reaching platform. And never before had their views been considered anything more than fringe, wacky and downright dangerous by a vast majority of Americans.Tags: conspiracy theories, Qanon