"QAnon in a Red Shirt" by Marc Nozell / CC BY 2.0

Why American evangelicals are so tempted by the easy assurance of conspiracy theories

Jun 5, 2020

By D.L. Mayfield

When I was in grade school, I wrote a report on the Loch Ness Monster. My take: Nessie was actually a dinosaur, a plesiosaurus, proof of a young Earth creationist viewpoint that the Earth was merely 6,000 years old. I made a model plesiosaurus out of wood and proudly presented it to my homeschool group.

Growing up, I enjoyed engaging in stories like this. I also believed in UFOs and Sasquatch, and conspiracy theories mostly seemed fun and harmless.

Looking back, I realize I was exposed to a lot of conspiratorial thinking in my white evangelical world, even if we didn’t call it that. Climate change — a hoax perpetrated by liberals hell-bent on curbing economic progress. Vaccines — not to be trusted. However, the end of the world and the return of Jesus would be ushered in by a one-world government after Democrats elected the antichrist as president.

Do these stories sound strange? Smart, thoughtful, faith-filled people I knew talked about them constantly. It was exciting to think that every decision we made was important in the cosmic scheme of the world. We were among the few who knew the truth. Yet if I peel back these narratives now, I see the widespread damage that has come from perpetuating them.

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