Half of U.S. Protestant Pastors Hear Conspiracy Theories in their Churches


New Lifeway research exposes the prevalence of conspiracy theories in U.S. congregations.

While Americans have been caught in a whirlwind of conspiracy theories the last several months, many pastors say they hear such unfounded claims from their church members.

A new study from Nashville-based Lifeway Research finds 49% of U.S. Protestant pastors say they frequently hear members of their congregation repeating conspiracy theories they have heard about why something is happening in our country. Around 1 in 8 (13%) strongly agree their congregants are sharing conspiracy theories, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”

Another 47% disagree, including 26% who strongly disagree, saying they do not often hear church members sharing such ideas. One in 20 (5%) are not sure.

“Christian churches resolve to be places focused on the truth,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “Yet, half of pastors hear the spread of assumptions about plots often. This is a startling disconnect.”

Pastors of churches with more than 250 in attendance are the most likely to agree (61%). White pastors are also more likely than African American pastors to say they frequently hear their church members repeating conspiracy theories (50% to 36%).

Pastors 65 and older are the most likely to disagree that they hear those ideas in their church (59%) and the least likely to agree (34%).

“While conspiracy theories may be embraced by a minority of churchgoers, the larger the church the more minds and mouths exist to be misled,” said McConnell. “At this time, it appears more of the theories are traveling in politically conservative circles which corresponds to the higher …

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