Dispelling the Smog of Falsehood and ‘Fake News’

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Old-fashioned preaching and discipleship can confront the conspiracies that threaten how we know truth.

Some of the rioters who stormed the US Capitol in early January chanted their demand to “hang Mike Pence.” But some likely thought the former vice president was already dead.

In fringier corners of former President Donald Trump’s base, particularly those influenced by the QAnon conspiracy theory, there’s a rumor that Pence was executed by a Trump-run military tribunal last year. So were the Obamas, the Clintons, President Joe Biden, and Chief Justice John Roberts. News reports showing them apparently reacting to current events, the story goes, are simply computer-generated. Or maybe holograms. Or actors? Or clones!

This is, of course, absurd. It’s also utterly unassailable: We can’t take Biden around for a doubting Thomas routine with every conspiracy theorist. Even if we could, there’s no external proof this sort of theory cannot account for and dismiss.

But most remarkable about this belief is that some significant portion of the people who hold it would describe themselves as evangelicals. Their social media bios are festooned with phrases like “conservative Christian,” “Bible-believing Christian,” “fighting for faith,” “John 3:16,” “God-fearing,” “Christian, wife, and mother.” They share Bible verses, sometimes in the same post as their conspiracy theorizing. They express faith that God will accomplish the overhaul of American governance of which the imagined executions are just one part. They might go to church—maybe your church.

Most politically engaged Americans generally, and Christians specifically, don’t believe anything quite so wild. But this theory about high profile executions is not quite …

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