Faith & Conspiracy Theories
A short course on the relationship between faith and conspiracy theories, and the opportunity this creates for the Church.
This event will be held in person on the campus of Virginia Theological Seminary – click here for more information about visiting campus, including a campus map. This class will meet every Tuesday evening from November 15 – December 6 from 7:00 – 8:45 p.m. The Seminary’s current policy is that masks are optional, and we ask that all visitors to campus are fully vaccinated.
Conspiracy theories are one of the most destabilizing forces in America. From the conspiracies surrounding September 11 to QAnon, the DaVinci Code to The Big Lie, and beyond, conspiracy theories find fertile ground in people of faith. What is it in the DNA of religion that makes us open to conspiracy? What is the role of the church in responding to conspiracy? This short course will dive into several conspiracies, the theories in the literature about the power of conspiracy theories, and how conspiracy intersects with the church.
The Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D. serves as the Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary and professor of systematic theology. He is a respected authority in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in systematic theology, social ethics, and religious diversity.
- Session one: There is a conspiracy theory for everyone. In this opening session, we find conspiracy theories are found across the spectrum – liberal Roman Catholics quite like the idea that Jesus was married, some progressives found themselves sympathetic to the 9/11 Truthers, fundamentalists have some rapture theories, and some conservatives think QAnon has a point.
- Session two: The significance of conspiracy theories. This session focuses on the literature. Starting with the notorious Protocols of Zion and moving through the literature of the paranoid “right,” we explore trajectories and origins of conspiracy theories. Whose interests do such stories serve? And why are they attractive?
- Session three: America now and conspiracy theories. This session looks at conspiracy theories around the pandemic, the presidential election of 2020, and the role of the churches. It looks at the challenge of deciding precisely what the truth is.
- Session four: The responsibility of the Church. In this concluding session, we discuss the core commitments to resist “group thinking,” to search for the truth, to honor the Imago Dei, and to create space for thoughtful conversations.