We live in a changing world where there is much evil and darkness. Many levels of the United States government are corrupt or functioning in a way they were not meant to function. The education, health, military, economic, financial, and judicial systems aren’t exactly perfect. Some big businesses and corporations fund extremely liberal agendas. On top of this, extreme Christian groups are teaching some outrageous details about eschatology and the end times. For these reasons (and more!) many Christians today are anxious, frustrated, paranoid, cynical, and just plain angry at the systems of this world.
In Selling Fear, Camp (a historian who is also a Christian) talks about several of the prominent conspiracy theories in the last 300 years: The Illuminati, Money Trusts and the Federal Reserve, The Council on Foreign Relations, the Cold War conspiracies, the Age of Aquarius, and the New World Order (among several others). I appreciate how Camp gives the background of these conspiracies, pointing out that many of these types of theories come and go like the winter snow.
“What many of the rank and file holding these [conspiracy] beliefs do not realize is that these same ideas have been around for decades, indeed centuries, and have reaped a harvest of racism, mistrust, and intolerance. Sadly, the numbers of those holding these views are growing at an alarming rate. The huge market for prophecy-related publications, some of them drawing on secular conspiracy theories, bears this out” (p. 14).
I also agreed with Camp when he explained that Christians need to be level-headed historians instead of those who latch on to everything they hear.
“To suggest that secret societies [i.e. the Illuminati] alone were responsible for the collapse of the French monarchy defies historical fact. It does provide an easy, quick answer but it fails to take into account the magnitude of events beyond anyone’s ability to plan” (p. 29).
Here’s the main thesis of Camp’s book, in his own words (I’m not conspiring against him!):
“Conspiracy theories and talk of the end of the world have been going on for centuries and have been believed just as passionately as any held today. What therefore needs to be exercised is a good deal of caution when combining traditional eschatological beliefs with conspiracy theory. There is a very real danger that Christians could pick up some extra spiritual baggage in their understandable zeal to recognize the ‘signs of the times'” (p. 190).
There is also an appendix with conspiracy resources (including persons, names, books, and magazines that propagate conspiracy theories). Another appendix contains the bibliography; the last appendix is a topical index. I’ll blog more on this book later. For now, I highly recommend it for those of you who interact with conspiracy theorists, hold them, or need to learn more about them. Last I checked, a used copy on Amazon cost around $8 shipped. It’s worth the investment.