Conspiracy is hardly restricted to evildoers or powermongers. Christians conspire together—at least, if they’re prudent and alert to the signs of the times. Calling to mind Psalm 2, the outnumbered group of disciples in Jerusalem appealed to God for help, knowing that he is the ultimate conspirator, that his hand and his plan are present in all things (Acts 4:28). After they prayed, “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (4:31).
Conspiracy theorists are lunatics. Such is the consensus among most people I meet. And yet, whenever the topic of conspiracy theories comes up, I think of Psalm 2:
Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us” (Ps. 2:1–2)
David claims that the nations conspire. The early church was convinced that Jesus’s death was the result of a Psalm 2 type of conspiracy set up by rulers and elders and scribes (Acts 4:5, 25–27).
The past few years have placed the positive use of the term “conspiracy” under a cloud. In some ways, this is understandable. Conspiracy theories that claim, for example, that the September 11 attacks were the result of controlled demolition or that Neil Armstrong never set foot on the moon are worthy of nothing but disdain.
Still, crazy conspiracy theories do not preclude actual conspiracies. And it may be worth asking whether David’s words rightly come to mind in connection with the sudden rush to enforce COVID vaccination through vaccine passports and even vaccine mandates.
David uses the term conspire (rāgash in Hebrew) again in the opening words of Psalm 64: “Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy, hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the scheming (rigshāh) of evildoers.” David appears convinced that a lot of folks fail to act with good intentions. The Greek translation uses the verb phylassō. It invites comparisons between conspiring nations and proud horses: Just as the latter neigh, whinny, and prance, so the former are unruly, wanton, and arrogant.
Along with the verb conspire, the psalmist suspects the elites of plotting and of taking counsel. The Book of Proverbs takes up the first of these two verbs, insisting that the minds of evil men “devise (hāgāh) violence,” while “their lips talk of mischief” (Prov. 24:2). It is David, again, who uses the second verb when he complains to God about his enemies: “They scheme (yāsad) together against me, as they plot to take my life” (Ps. 31:14). The language conjures up the picture of a group of people deliberately getting together so as to arrange a certain outcome.
Maybe David was a pessimist. For my part, I think he just had a keen sense of human sinfulness. Our society looks to technology as the solution to nearly every problem we face. Health—one of our culture’s ultimate concerns—is no exception. Our technological and political elites tap into widespread and deeply seated anxieties about health in our post-Christian society. Our anxieties have created conditions in which actual conspiracies might just take root.
This is not to pooh-pooh either health concerns or technology per se. But the myopic focus on health, along with the knee-jerk faith in technology, makes us susceptible to exploitation by elites whose primary objective may not be our well-being.