On Christmas Eve I received a padded manila envelope in the mail. It was addressed to me in careful script. The return address listed a PO box in North Carolina and a name I’ve never heard of (if you’re reading this, hello!). In tiny letters on the lower right corner of the envelope was written “JFK”.
Despite warnings from my wife about anthrax and letter bombs, I tore it open and discovered a CD-R inside, labeled “Kennedy 2hrs”. Again throwing caution to the wind, I popped it into my computer and was treated to a montage of video clips documenting the “truth” about the Kennedy assassination.
Part of me thinks this is fascinating stuff. I want to believe. What if it’s true? Just look at all the evidence of a massive conspiracy and cover-up! But the best response to this sort of balderdash is from Mark Noll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. He writes:
Modern difficulties created by speculating on prophecy resemble the problems created by the penchant for conspiratorial thinking, which also has a long history among evangelicals. Both prophetic speculation and conspiracy thinking depend primarily on the mind of the observer for their understanding of the world. Prophecy buffs apply a grid from Scripture to their understanding of the world; conspiracy theorists bring a similar grid from what they know to be true in general to what they are experiencing about the world. Neither takes seriously the information presented from the world itself. Both have much more confidence in their minds than in the evidence of their senses. This situation, however, reverses the scale of confidence communicated by Scripture, where we are taught, first, to respect God and what he has done (including his creation of the world, his guidance of all human affairs, and his preservation of the human ability to learn something about the world) and, second, to mistrust our own deceiving hearts.
I’ve been to Dallas. I’ve seen the grassy knoll and the bookstore depository window. I’ve watched the Zapruder film. I’ve seen JFK and read 11/23/63. Maybe there’s more to the story than the official version. Or maybe not. But I do know that every minute spent chasing down wild speculations, improbable scenarios and fanciful “theories” is time spent not engaging with the world around us, not growing closer to God and not loving our neighbors. Conspiratorial thinking (as with prophetic speculation) is an ego-driven succubus that promises gnostic enlightenment but delivers only paranoia.
So, to the kind gentleman who sent me the mysterious package, I thank you, but I will have to kindly decline to join in on the fun. But I do wonder how you found me — was it this blog? My New Yorker letter? Or by some other, more nefarious means? And remember, the truth is out there…