To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY Mark Shea
A reader writes:
I just had a discussion with a friend of mine who is a very good Catholic and a very spiritual person. I know she loves to read and she loves to surf the internet too. She started talking to me about some conspiracy-type theories that sound so far-fetched to me, and I didn’t know how to respond. One is that breast cancer is cured, but that the pharmaceutical companies don’t let us know that so that they can keep making money: lots and lots of money. Also, that the CIA gives guns to some of our notorious killers (like those who walk into a theater, business, etc… and shoot innocent people). There’s something else about an “evil eye” perpetuated by Lady Gaga…. Anyway, I walked away feeling that this was crazy and feeling upset about it. I believe people are basically good, though I don’t think I’m a polyanna. Could you please point me to any resources I could find to dispute these claims? I don’t know know where to look or how to respond. Thank you for any help you could give.
I think that, rather than playing whack-a-mole and trying to shoot down each and every conspiracy theory your friend battens on, you should consider a different approach. The common denominator here is not the massive number of conspiracies. It is your friend and her need to populate the universe with malignant forces in league against her. In other words, it is her pathological fascination with fear. You could disprove every one of these these theories and she would simply find more, because there is something in her that is afraid and so feeds on fear as an attempt at control. The result, of course, is not control, but simply more fear (this is one of the corollaries of Jesus' warning that "He who saves his life shall lose it."). What is needed, therefore, is for her to lose her life for Christ's sake: to really internalize the truth that "greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world." Are there conspiracies? Sure. A conspiracy is what killed Jesus. The heathen rage and kings take counsel against the Lord and his Anointed. There are powers and principalities. There are real human conspiracies. There are a massive number of imaginary conspiracies. Due to original sin, we are all conspirators against God and his Church to some degree or other, usually unwittingly, but sometimes with a certain degree of knowledge.
And yet the apostles are happy men and the Church says to us "Lift up your hearts!" and Jesus says "Thanks" (Eucharist) on the very night he is betrayed by a conspirator in his own circle of friends. So the trick is to start thinking like a treasury agent. Treasury agents don't look at every possible permutation of a counterfeit bill in the feverish fear that some small slip will cause them to fail and destroy everything they know and love by lack of panicky vigilance. They look at real bills. They learn what the Real Thing looks like so well that they instantly know a fake. That is what Jesus means when he says, "My sheep hear my voice and will not follow another." So rather than listening for every creak on the floorboards that might be the approach of another conspiracy, we should instead listen for Jesus' voice and respond only to that with love that comes from faith, not fear that comes from the sin of despair. While we are not to be unaware of the evil one's schemes, neither are we to focus on or obsess over them. Hell is murky, says Lady Macbeth. You get lost in the fog if you chase the devil into his lair and try to figure out what all he may be doing in there. Jesus does not call us to fix our eyes on the devil. He calls us to fix our eyes on God and "be not afraid." Your friend needs to find the courage to hand over to Jesus all her fears and have confidence that he is bigger than whatever conspiracies, real or imagined, are out there. Mass is a good place to do it (and keep doing it till our grip on our fears really is relinquished and we really do lay hands on Christ in the Eucharist as our anchor instead). Confession is also good here, specifically confessing lack of faith and dalliance with despair and asking Jesus to supply us with courage and fortitude and prudence to attend to obedience to Jesus and not fear of this world or the devil.