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Christians and Osama (and Jesus) – Conspiracy

May 11, 2011

Wow. Osama bin Laden is dead. After 10 years, he’s finally dead. But there’s been such a swirl of media attention, conspiracy theories, and emotions surrounding his demise that it’s hard to know what to make of it all. But now that most of the emotions have died down a bit, it’s a good time to reflect on it.

Conspiracies and Osama (and Jesus)

Let’s start with some conspiracies surrounding Osama’s death. There is at least one major conspiracy theory, with plenty of ins-and-outs, explanations, and underlying emotion that I’ve heard about over the past few days:

“OBL’s been dead for 8 years and is frozen in a government lab. The government was saving this for when they needed to gain control in a hurry.”

At least a little ridiculous

Now, besides being a little ridiculous (implying that President Bush – 9/11’s sitting President and the one who sent us into two wars in the Middle East – actually found him, captured him, lied about it, froze him, and left him in Obama’s care until one day when he needed a big “poll booster”), it also makes no sense (Why would Republican President Bush leave office with such a huge loose-end to tie up? Why would he leave that loose-end to a Democratic – a very liberal Democratic – President? And why would all the men involved in the intelligence, military, and other branches of government that had knowledge of such a freezing plan, keep so quiet for so long, until the NEXT President who needed a political booster decided to use this “Ace in the hole”?).

Sounds like the whole Jesus conspiracy thing

But it really struck me how this whole Osama conspiracy thing has striking similarities to the whole Jesus conspiracy thing.

The fact that Jesus was crucified and DIED can be proven by multiple historical sources, both Christian and secular. It’s simply a historical fact. Likewise, the same eyewitness testimonies in the Bible that declare his death also assert his resurrection. And even secular writers like the Jewish Josephus agree that it happened:

Antiquities 18.3.3:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him many Jews, and also many of the Greeks. This man was the Christ. And when Pilate had condemned him to the cross, upon his impeachment by the principal man among us, those who had loved him from the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day, the divine prophets having spoken these and thousands of other wonderful things about him. And even now, the race of Christians, so named from him, has not died out.

Conspiracy Theory part 1 – the death (and eyewitness accounts)

Christians accept these truths at face value and base their entire religion off the eyewitness accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Too bad so many people just don’t trust eyewitness accounts. So many people think everyone else is lying to suit their own ends. A friend mentioned that the more you look into stuff, the harder it is to believe – true, because there are so many “ideas” about what “really” happened. That’s probably partly why religions like Mormonism and Islam have grown so large (both have radically different ideas about Jesus, even though both religions were formed centuries after the “prophet” Jesus lived and could not possibly be based on actual eyewitness testimonies). Sometimes people just find it so much easier to understand someone else’s logical and theoretical analysis of a situation rather than trusting the witness of those who said they were there.

The same is true of Osama’s death. For those who don’t trust the eyewitness accounts of the soldiers who raided the compound, or Obama and the other military and government officials who called the shots and positively ID-ed the body, don’t overlook the fact that these people had direct access to these events, and saw and experienced these things first hand. Don’t allow someone else – in any position of authority – to reanalyze and undermine the eyewitness testimonies of these men when they themselves were far removed from both this raid and the supposed “capture and freezing” of Osama years ago. People who don’t trust the government and yet are far removed from the actual events in question can do nothing but speculate about the “truth” (for they haven’t actually witnessed it themselves) and spread their own ideas, dissension, mistrust, and fears.

Conspiracy Theory part 2 – the body

There is also a second part to the conspiracy above that is worth mentioning:

“They froze him so they could produce him if they ever needed to. Now that he’s “buried at sea” they won’t need to produce his body.”

Amazingly, this is a very similar argument to Jesus’ disciples claims about his resurrection. There is one line of thinking that goes something like this: The disciples were clever enough to steal the body (this is the excuse the elders of Jewish religion came up with in Matthew 28:13-14, and they bribed the guards who were on duty to spread the “news” and keep their mouths shut about the reality of the situation), and then they hid it for 50 days (it was 50 days between the resurrection and the first sermon about it in Acts 2) before beginning to preach the resurrection of their dead Lord Jesus, whose body by that point would have rotted beyond the point of being recognizable. Thus, the disciples cleverly avoided any possibility of anyone producing Jesus’ actual body for a positive ID and thus killing the spread of their cultish religion. By waiting 50 days, the disciples knew that any body that was produced would be beyond recognition and would not hinder their claims of Jesus’ resurrection – and would in fact make the authorities look like the conspirators for producing a fake or unrecognizable body with the single intention of killing their cult. Clever Jewish conspirators they were.

However, it is absolutely untrue that Jesus’ body would be unrecognizable for a positive ID after just 50 days in the grave (or in hiding). Although his features may have rotted, the size and shape of his body, his hair and facial hair, as well as the gaping crucifixion wounds would be more than enough to positively ID the corpse of Jesus. But no such body was ever produced, because no such body existed. Jesus was not dead, he was alive – risen to life on the third day in the ground!

Proofs of Jesus resurrection are the most meaningful

I’ve written extensively on proofs of Jesus resurrection here, hereherehereherehere, and here, so if you’re curious as to why I believe this historical fact, please check out those posts.

Proofs of Osama’s (recent) death are meaningless

Now, as far as Osama goes, there will also be no way to produce a body, because he’s been buried at sea. There will be no way to tell if the government is actually telling the truth about the raid and the “fresh kill” or if the conspiracy theorists are right and Osama was frozen for the past 8 years. There will be no CSI tests conducted on the body; there will be no extensive media analysis of the actual body, or even photos of the body as the White House declined to release any (so those other “Osama is dead!” photos you may have seen are all fakes: *Warning: Graphic Content* http://www.snopes.com/rumors/osamadead.asp).

But this is actually a good thing (and not a conspiratorial thing). As Obama himself said after conferring with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and intelligence teams: “It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool. We don’t need to spike the football and I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk. We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/04/osama-bin-laden-pictures_n_857568.html)

Blowing apart Conspiracy Theories

“We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.” Excellent line – and it will lead me to my next post. But the point for this post is: not every conspiracy theory has grounds in reality – in fact, most don’t – that’s why they’re called “theories.”

**The following is a recreation of this blog post but is included below as the conclusion of the above arguments**

Be careful what you believe in, Christian

Christians especially need to be careful about believing in conspiracy theories because Christianity itself is surrounded by tons of them. The life, death, resurrection, and claims of deity (“Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58)) of Jesus are the most controversial, widely debated and disbelieved, conspiracy-theory-forming teachings in the Bible. Besides, the Bible itself warns AGAINST conspiracy theories:

“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13)

More than simple belief, a belief system

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they are “more than just the belief in an occasional conspiracy. Simply put, [they are] a belief system that asserts that world events are being controlled in secret by a group of ultra-powerful puppeteers behind the scenes. While nothing much can be done about this overall conspiracy, at least we can have the satisfaction of being smart enough to have figured it all out.” (http://www.acts17-11.com/conspire.html)

Christians may be more susceptible

Additionally, Christians may be more susceptible to conspiracy theories because “Christianity itself is a religion predicated largely upon the belief in a cosmic struggle between the forces of Good (God, Jesus) and the forces of evil (Satan, demons). Conspiracies of world domination by sinister forces mesh quite nicely with the theology that Satan is trying to undermine goodness and Christianity. Thus, the conspiratorial powers – Jews, Masons, even Catholics – also end up as servants of Satan, thus allowing for even greater scapegoating and demonizing.” (http://atheism.about.com/library/weekly/aa092299.htm) And therefore, Christians must be all the more careful about listening to, giving credence to, or believing in conspiracy theories. Even the apostle Paul writes that we must be careful of our own thoughts: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

There’s just no arguing with it

Another major problem with conspiracy theories is that “the problem of testing the ‘theory’ at the level of information is stark. Conspiracy Theory is by its very nature impossible to disprove. The revisionist history of Conspiracy Theory is based on “special knowledge” that plays by different rules than normal history, since it is dealing with ‘secret’ history.” (http://www.acts17-11.com/conspire.html).

Additionally, “these conspiracy theories are generally unfalsifiable. What this means is that there is no state of affairs, no fact which we might discover, that would serve to undermine or even refute the intricate structures build up around the idea of a conspiracy. Often, simple facts which should clearly show that the conspiracy idea is mistaken will only be interpreted as demonstrating just how powerful and clever the conspirators really are. If you, the skeptic, aren’t actually in on the conspiracy then you have merely been taken in by the very clever web of deceit which the True Believer just happens to be smart enough to see through. It never seems to occur to the believer that such an unfalsifiable belief is irrational and not worth believing in….Just as with a True Believer in religion, the True Believer in a conspiracy can be notoriously difficult to reason with and convince that there exists even the possibility that they might be mistaken.” (http://atheism.about.com/library/weekly/aa092299.htm)

The Worst Aspect

But possibly the worst aspect of belief in conspiracy theories, at least for the Christian, is this:

It is perhaps ironic that Christians who fervently believe in world-wide conspiracies are as a consequence giving a second-class status to the all-powerful God they are also supposed to believe just as fervently in. In their world, their God has apparently lost control of events on earth, or at the very least won’t act to stop Satan’s plans. If you read the writings of such people, you may find Satan mentioned at least as often, if not more so, then God. By all appearances, Satan is a more important cosmic player than God. (http://atheism.about.com/library/weekly/aa092299.htm)

and this:

This conspiracy business keeps people from living the really important eschatological aspects of biblical teaching, especially a critical truth like the already/not yet tension of the kingdom of Christ. And if we remain focused on all these conspiracies we will miss the present opportunity “to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). I am convinced that most Christians who are preoccupied with conspiracies, whether the secular or religious variety it does not matter, will be rendered fairly useless to the real work of the church in the world today. They have no deep and abiding interest in the missional mandate of Jesus. (http://stevebrownetc.com/2007/06/blogs/the-guest-room/why-some-christians-still-love-conspiracy-theories/)

So, what to do?

So there you have it, Christian. Do you give more credence to Satan, invisible puppeteers in the world, and conspiracy theories, than you do to God himself? Do you hide in the “fear of man” and paranoia of your fellow man, and ignore the multiple commands throughout the Bible to “fear God alone”? This is idolatry of the first degree. If you elevate anything above the place of God, you have created an idol for yourself. As Pastor Mark Driscoll (http://www.marshillchurch.org/) would say, “You have exchanged the truth of God for the lie of the world. You create a functional Savior – ‘this conspiracy theory is true’ – to take you to a heaven of your own choosing – ‘I am the only one not blinded to this “truth”‘ – and save you from your personal hell – ‘this country is is run by an ignorant fool!'” In such, you have allowed a conspiracy theory to become greater than your God. And no conspiracy theory is worthy to replace God in the throne of your life.

Read the last two sentences in that final quote above: “I am convinced that most Christians who are preoccupied with conspiracies, whether the secular or religious variety it does not matter, will be rendered fairly useless to the real work of the church in the world today. They have no deep and abiding interest in the missional mandate of Jesus.” Do you really want this to describe you? Repent of your idolatry; repent of your sin; repent of your “fear of man”; repent of your Conspiracy Theory God; and turn to your true Savior, Jesus Christ. Only he can save you. Conspiracy theories can never save you from anything.

More Great Resources

For more great reading about conspiracy theories as they relate to Christians, check out:
http://www.acts17-11.com/conspire.html
http://stevebrownetc.com/2007/06/blogs/the-guest-room/why-some-christians-still-love-conspiracy-theories/
http://atheism.about.com/library/weekly/aa092299.htm

For more about idolatry of all kinds, functional saviors that save you from personal hells, and “the truth of God and the lie of the world” check out:

http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/special/the-truth-and-the-lie-in-worship
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/special/the-truth-and-the-lie-in-marriage
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/continuous-worship/idolatry
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/1st-corinthians/resisting-idols-like-jesus
http://theresurgence.com/2009/06/17/advance-09-mark-driscoll-ministry-idolatry

The Fear of Man:
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/luke/the-parable-of-the-persistent-widow/the-fear-of-man

End Note

A friend wrote – and I have to agree – “Jay Leno is saying ‘the good news is that Osama Bin Laden is dead!’ I would argue that ‘the good news is that Jesus Christ is alive!'”

Ignore conspiracy theories for a moment, and accept the “good news.”

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