Sunday, April 15, 2007

On Conspiracies

Today, I spent some time watching a movie (posted here) that explains how 9/11 was not ultimately planned and executed by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists but by the lease holders of the WTC somehow sponsored by the U.S. Government. It is a wickedly interesting conspiracy theory that makes a haunting amount of sense.

Until, I think, one hears the 'other side' of the story as told by Popular Mechanics. I listened to their podcast that aired around the time their book Debunking 9/11 Myths hit the market. While there are always ways to wrap rebuttals back into the tight circle of the conspiracy (see the comments on the podcast), I feel they answer some of the biggest questions that the original movie raised.

That said, one thing struck me about the whole affair. At the end of a movie that implicates people in orchestrating a conspiracy to murder thousands in order to either make money or gain grounds for launching an attack on the Middle East, the question arises naturally, "Who would do such a thing?" I think that is one of the psychological effects of conspiracy theories, that we feel better about ourselves because we believe we could never do any such thing.

As Christians, however, we must stand back. One point of the Christian doctrine of sin is that, all other things being equal, every human being is capable, in and of themselves, of committing any sin. It is only by God's free grace that the majority of people in the world are born into circumstances in which they are not able to commit vast and damaging sins (only those petty sins that destroy the lives in their immediate vicinity). The result is that, if there really was a vast American conspiracy to destroy the WTC and attack the Pentagon, if you or I were put into the same situation as the conspirators, only the grace of God would keep us from making the same decisions they did.

St. Paul, talking to the first century conspiracy theorists who were concerned about the inclusion of the Gentiles, put it something like this: For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... (Ro 3:22-23). The Jews felt righteous because they kept the Torah better than the Gentiles. How sinful we must be to gravitate to gigantic theories that maximize others' sinfulness in order to minimize our own.

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