Thursday morning, January 7. Last night (Dutch time) I watched for several hours, in horror, the siege of the Capitol complex by a mob of thousands of Trump-supporters. It was more than disconcerting to see how a US president incited his followers to take their protest to a level of vandalism and of utter disregard for the norms of decency and for the laws of the land. The conduct of the mob was a sad result of what their leader had taught them over the past four years.
At the very root of what we saw transpire in the American capital is the willingness of so many people to believe in conspiracy theories. The American president, and those around him, have been feeding the people a constant diet of lies and fabrications. Among the supporters of the outgoing American president are, sadly, millions of men and women who have come to believe that sinister powers are at work that will bring ruin to the kind of America that they want to defend, and that during the recent presidential elections a system of widespread fraud did indeed “steal” the victory from their hero. But, really, if there had been such a widespread fraud, it must have involved many thousands (or even more) people all around the country, secretly plotting their malicious plan, and executing it right under the noses of tens of thousands of observers. Regrettably, for those who passionately believe in these conspiracy theories, there are always new developments that will confirm their misgivings.
As the drama around the transition from one US presidency to the next is further unfolding, other conspiracy theories have gained the support of millions of people worldwide. The current pandemic has given rise to numerous far-fetched myths about its origin. Even in a country that prides itself with having a population of mostly very level-headed people, it seems (according to a recent report) that some ten percent of the population believes that the Covid-19 pandemic has been purposely engineered by pharmaceutical companies, in pursuit of ever more profits. (https://nltimes.nl/2020/08/17/10-percent-dutch-believe-covid-19-conspiracy-theories.) I would be the last person to defend the conduct of many of these companies, but such a theory clearly has no ground whatsoever in reality.
One of the most popular, widespread theories, which has in many respects been amalgamated with conspiracy theories concerning the dangers of vaccines and of the 5G network, is the ID2020 theory. Bill Gates, and the Microsoft company that he founded, are at the center of this wildly speculative theory. It claims that the pandemic will be used by powers which aim at creating a world government. They plan to control the people through chips with a minuscule tracking device, that will be implanted through the mass-vaccination. As could be expected, lots of conservative Christians in the USA are convinced that this is the satanic “mark of the beast” that the apostle John has written about in his Apocalypse.
I do not know how many Adventists have bought into this weird, and totally baseless, ID2020 myth. But I do know that at the fringe of the Adventist Church are a number of independent ministries and popular speakers, who have embraced (and are constantly promoting) all kinds of conspiracy theories. Of course, these theories more often than not include mischievous plans of the pope and dangerous machinations by the Jesuits. The Amazing Discoveries organization of Walter Veith has been, since a few decades, at the forefront on propagating the wildest theories about the past and present role of numerous secret societies. The problem with conspiracy theories is that there may well be some aspects that could actually be true, but these are then spun out into wild, baseless, speculations and accusations.
Lately, David Gates, an independent SDA preacher, has been travelling the world informing his Adventist audiences about the evil things that are behind the current pandemic and behind the global vaccination plans, and about how these fit into a wildly alarmist version of Adventist views of last-day events. These and similar activities on the right-wing fringe of the church have prompted the leadership of the church to issue a stern warning to the church members to reject these totally irresponsible ideas that cause widespread unrest. (“Covid-19 Vaccines: Addressing Concerns, Offering Counsel”, in Adventist Review on-line: https://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story15816-covid-19-vaccines-addressing-concerns,-offering-counsel).
What we need in society as well in the church is capable, level-headed leadership, which will provide intelligent and transparent information about the reality of current events, and which can inspire the vast majority of the people into rejecting the populist and alarmist notions of the prophets of doom and disarray who cause so much chaos.