What is a “Conspiracy Theory”?
A conspiracy is the act of two or more persons conspiring, which literally means “breathing together,” but has come to mean working together toward a common goal, especially an evil goal. A theory is a conceptual framework to explain something that is known to exist and/or to assist in a craft. For example, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is a conceptual framework to explain the creation of new species (i.e., the origin of species), while music theory is a conceptual framework that assists in the production of music. A conspiracy theory is a conceptual framework that attempts to explain how two or more persons worked together towards a common goal.
Police often formulate various conspiracy theories with the hope that at least one of these theories will result in convictions. Some conspiracy theories are invented with the specific purpose of concealing the truth, especially to cover up the involvement of particular perpetrators of certain acts or to create negative opinions of others. Still others develop conspiracy theories that are more plausible than the implausible conspiracy theories that have been approved by a consensus of alleged experts. Whether or not a conspiracy theory is good or evil depends on the motivation of the inventor(s) of such theories. However, many such theories are irrelevant to Orthodox Christians and are merely a distraction from what is most important.
A conspiracy theory that gained popularity in the first century and continues with some popularity today is that eleven or so conspirators stole the dead body of their religious leader and then proceeded to proclaim to everyone that their leader had come back to life after having been executed by the Roman government. To perpetrate this crime, they allegedly moved the large stone covering the entrance of the tomb, which had been sealed and guarded by a detachment of Roman soldiers under the command of Longinus the Centurion. The alleged reason they were successful in doing this is that Longinus and his men had fallen asleep on duty and slept so soundly that the stone was moved and the body stolen before any of them awoke. Such a grave failure in duty usually resulted in being sentenced to death, but these Roman soldiers went unpunished. Longinus and a couple of his men were eventually beheaded, but this was because they had forsaken military service and began to proclaim that they had witnessed the resurrection of the above mentioned dead religious leader. It was Longinus himself who confirmed that this religious leader was dead by piercing the crucified man with his spear before he was removed from the cross and sealed in the tomb.
There were conspiracy theories that became popular close to the beginning of the 20th century that German soldiers conspired to deliberately mutilate Belgian babies with their bayonets, possibly even eating them, crucify a Canadian soldier with bayonets on a barn door or a tree, cut off the breasts of nurses, and distilling glycerin from those they kill to use as lubricants. While later investigations concluded that German soldiers conspired and committed large-scale atrocities in Belgiam, these particular conspiracy theories were false. Nonetheless, they did contributed to the United States of America entering World War I.
At the beginning of the 21st century, a conspiracy theory became popular that suggested Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his government conspired to build and stockpile weapons of mass destruction. Acting on this conspiracy theory and the theory that Saddam Hussein conspired with terrorist organizations, particularly Al-Qaeda, the United States of America invaded Iraq and subsequently executed Saddam Hussein by hanging. It was discovered afterwards that the conspiracy theory regarding weapons of mass destruction was false. The instability of Iraqi society and government after the execution of their ruling dictator led to the near elimination of Christians in Iraq who either fled or were killed. Saddam Hussein had used Christians for political purposes, even pitting different Christian sects against one another, but he maintained relative peace among the different Christian and Muslim communities in Iraq by cowing his subjects into submission. Under his autocratic rule, a set number of Christians were represented in his government and there were ongoing negotiation to establish the Nineveh Plain as a Christian territory, all of which disintegrated after the United States invaded.
Despite any involvement with Al-Qaeda being portrayed as evil, nobody seems to deny that Al-Qaeda is a product of the United States of America funding, arming, and training Afghan jihadists to oppose Soviet forces. Afghanistan benefited from the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States by remaining neutral and receiving developmental aid from both. A bloodless coup abolished the Afghan monarchy in 1973 and the Saur Revolution in 1978 resulted in the Soviet backed People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan coming to power. This is why the United States of America funded, armed, and trained Afghan jihadists who opposed the reforms of this new Soviet backed government of Afghanistan, such as land redistribution and the modernization of civil laws, particularly marriage laws. Whether or not the United States conspiring with Afghan jihadists during the last decades before the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a good thing depends on one’s point of view. Nonetheless, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia entered what Russians consider the worse decade in Russian history and Soviet support of the Afghan government ended. Of course, any Ukrainian who fought against the United States backed Afghan jihadists, who came to be known as Al-Qaeda, due to compulsory military service under the Soviets will tell you that there were no Russians in Afghanistan, but rather: “They sent us! We were expendable!”
In addition to the theory that Saddam Hussein conspired with these Afghan jihadists that the United States had conspired with in fighting against Ukrainians sent under Soviet compulsion to assist the Afghan government, another conspiracy theory became popular at the beginning of the 21st century regarding Al-Qaeda. According to this conspiracy theory, a man on dialysis in a cave fortress halfway around the world used a satellite phone and a laptop to direct nineteen men to penetrate the most heavily defended airspace in the world. Armed only with box-cutters, these nineteen men overpowered the passengers and the military combat trained pilots of four commercial airliners before piloting these airplanes wildly off course for over an hour without being engaged by a single fighter interceptor. These nineteen hijackers eventually knocked down three buildings in New York with two 767s, while in Washington a pilot who couldn’t handle a single engine Cessna flew a 757 in an 8,000 foot descending 270 degree corkscrew turn to come exactly level with the ground, hitting the Pentagon in the budget analyst office where Department of Defense staff were working on the mystery of the 2.3 trillion dollars that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had announced “missing” during a press conference the day before. Several passengers and flight attendants of the remaining airliner learned from cellphone calls about the other three suicide attacks using hijacked airliners, but the attempt to regain control of the aircraft from the hijackers resulted in that 757 crashing into a field. It is assumed that the four hijackers on this airliner were planning to crash this plane into the United States Capitol Building. While the first conspiracy theory mentioned above involves a detachment of Roman soldiers falling asleep while a dead body was stolen, this conspiracy theory involves the United States Defense and Military Forces basically falling asleep while 2,977 unsuspecting victims were murdered.
Any truth or lack thereof in the above mentioned conspiracy theories is likely more of a distraction than anything else from what is most important to Orthodox Christians. Unless the above mentioned conspiracy theories directly involve you, what are they to you? The only conspiracy that concerns you is Satan conspiring with his minions to lead you away from the one important thing Christ tells you to do: “You follow Me.”
Commemorated on April 2: The Holy Martyr Polycarp.