Conspiracy Theorists

And now a word from a mental health expert (me!) about conspiracy theorists.

If you’ve ever met a paranoid schizophrenic, what stands out most about them is how sickly rational they are. They can tell you exactly why they believe someone is poisoning their food, listening to their phone calls, following them around, trying to have them sterilized, recruiting them into the CIA, or whatever they believe. They can give you times and dates, lists of names, locations, every detail you could ever imagine. They can and do provide contradictory evidence to everything you suggest that might refute their beliefs.

The problem with their story is not lack of detail and information. It is that their thought processes are in the service of their delusions. They interpret everything as evidence that they are uncovering something dark and sinister. If you disagree or give counter-evidence, they will merely assume you are part of the conspiracy, or that you are the one deluded, and summarily dismiss you. They are indefatigable in their assertions and beliefs. It just so happens that what they believe is happening, what they can actually prove is happening, is in fact not happening.

People with schizophrenia often have what we call delusions of “reference.” Delusions or ideas of reference are when one assumes ordinary events in the world are related directly to one’s self and one’s destiny. Such as, for example, “Sandy Hook was a government conspiracy with the ultimate aim of taking away my guns.” I am certainly not claiming that conspiracy theorists are paranoid schizophrenics. I am saying that there is less difference between them and schizophrenics than most Americans, or they themselves, realize. Many conspiracy theorists are pretty bright people. Then again, many paranoid schizophrenics are bright people as well. Both conspiracy theorists and schizophrenics are people whose thought processes are in the service of their delusions.

“They want to take away my guns.”
“They want to take away my rights and freedoms.”
“They want to make my religion illegal.”
“They want to make me a slave.”
“They want to raise my taxes and take all my money.”

Though they exist, you will find very few highly educated conspiracy theorists, especially highly educated conspiracy theorists who have spent substantial time in leadership. In my next post, I will explain why that is. And no, it is not because education and leadership are part of the conspiracy.

Conspiracy theorists of all kinds, we hear your “evidence,” and the comparisons to Hitler and the Third Reich. We see the memes you post on Facebook, the seemingly irrefutable “logic” you weave together, Glenn Beck’s charts. We see one of your spokespeople, Wayne LaPierre, spouting his zany ideas. But it just so happens that what you believe is happening, what you think you can actually prove is happening, is in fact not happening.

Theological musings, mostly about love

A new guy visited my church this past Sunday and emailed me from our website asking me to clarify some theological positions. I’ll be very honest — I hate doing that. It’s like arguing over the color of the wallpaper in heaven. It begins and ends with opinion. It’s based on nothing. Even the Bible is interpreted so differently by individuals and churches that you end up quibbling over the meaning/interpretation of it once someone brings it in to “clear things up.” It’s just not a useful thing to do. At the same time, I’m a Christian pastor and I feel like people do have a right to at least basically know what I believe. What follows is my response to this nice man’s email, unedited.

Hi [name snipped].  I’ll answer your questions concisely.

No, I do not believe all will be saved. But I think many Christians will be extremely surprised at who, and how many, are ultimately saved.

I do not believe hatred has any place in our lives, any more than we can bomb our way to peace or screw our way to chastity. Therefore I reject love the sinner but hate the sin. The dualism it presents is a big part of the problem with spiritual life. We can’t separate people from their sins, loving one part and hating the other (parable of wheat and tares). Sin isn’t just a list of bad behaviors that we can easily call out and hate. People are whole beings, and love sinner/hate sin is an abstraction that has nothing to do with human beings. I think Christians use this to shrug off our responsibility to love and that it has been responsible for a lot of evil done in the name of God.

I don’t distinguish between Christian love and any other kind of love. All real love is from God.

I do not really accept the striving to eliminate sin. As we increasingly connect to God, sin becomes less attractive and eventually repulsive. Freedom is not in striving against sin, but in no longer finding it appealing.

Should contemplation be supplemented with other disciplines? Absolutely. But we need to do a much better job with the contemplation. It can’t be taught as something just for monks and hyperspiritual people. It’s foundational and without it we will likely remain immature and neurotic all our lives, trusting only in ourselves.

I do not agree that homosexuality is fundamentally evil, nor do I agree that it is not inborn. I do concede that greater social acceptance of it has probably led more people who were sexually on the fence to claim gay identities than they otherwise would, but I am deeply convinced there are major genetic determinants for most people.  I don’t pretend to understand everything about it, and I’d be the last to deny the brokenness of human sexuality, and we see its effects everywhere. But Jesus never spoke of it so it obviously wasn’t on his agenda. That says a lot. I’m not claiming it’s all just perfect and there is no issue, only that, in any case, love is the best response.

I hear what you’re saying about Sodom and Gomorrah and I understand that sentiment (note from me to readers — this was a response to his assertion that America is a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah). My focus, however, is on the church, and on the miserable failure of God’s people to even pretend to really love others. We will never be able to beat the hell out of people, but we certainly can love them into the Kingdom.

Peace to you,


Twitter problems

Update [12/28/2012, 1:46 pm]: That was fast. All my followers, lists, and followings have been restored.

As of yesterday afternoon, all my Twitter followers (and followings, for that matter), are gone. I don’t know what happened, but I’m hoping everything will be restored in the next few hours. I will keep posting updates to this page. Sorry, and thank you. For now, you can try re-following me @_davidkflowers.

To my dear Facebook friends

My dear Facebook friends:

What I am about to say will not be easy to hear. But I am saying it because I l care about you and want what’s best for you. After all, if you had a booger on your lip, I’d tell you. If you had toilet paper sticking out of your pants, I’d tell you. If you had bad breath, I’d give you a mint.

In the name of all that’s holy, as a creature created by a loving God who wants good things for you, please, please, please consider checking out Google+. There is so much better out there for you than Facebook. It’s hidden in plain sight. There are hundreds of millions of people right now with boogers on their lips and most of us are doing almost nothing. It’s a crisis, and I have to speak out.

Please remove that booger. One day you’ll be so embarrassed! (Remember MySpace?) I know it’s hard to hear, but I had to tell you this. Friends don’t let friends wallow in Facebook’s mud when there’s a crystal clear pool within reach. But in order for the transition to work, a lot of people need to move over there at once. So get ready.

1…2…3…JUMP! Enjoy your new found freedom!