St. Justin Martyr

The Vortex of Conspiratorial Thought

For any child of Abraham, the idea that hell is in a conspiracy against heaven is a commonplace. It is in the category of “so what else is new?” Still, the privation of being that characterizes evil not only guarantees its ultimate defeat, it also makes serious study of its intrigues futile. Obeying the evangelical injunction to be “as wise as serpents” is dangerous unless paired with the accompanying command to be “as simple as doves.” I even suspect that the simplicity is the key to the wisdom.

Of course we must be alert to wickedness, and never naïve about how bad things are, or how much worse they can become. Expecting utopia is silly, and trying to bring it about is always destructive. But beyond being alert and realistic, if you are not an exorcist or involved in law enforcement or the armed forces, the less time you spend “studying the enemy,” the better.

People I’ve known well over the past 50 years who’ve been consumed with this or that form of conspiracy theory end up allowing their minds – especially if they are smart! – to be sucked into the vortex of a wide-eyed fascination with unveiling the works of darkness. They inevitably grow dizzied and disoriented, attributing far more coordination and efficacy to wickedness than it is even capable, in purely ontological terms, of bringing about.

The truly wicked will always be far more preoccupied with fighting among themselves than in mounting successful strategies against goodness. Evil will inevitably win some battles – led by a Judas, a Stalin, a Hitler or an al Bagdhadi – but it cannot even understand what final victory might mean or how it might look. Its eyes are averse to light. When, however, we attend steadfastly to the good and holy, rooted in Being in all its density and intensity, we mount the greatest defense possible. Faced with those whose acts are established in reality, the rootless antics of evil will finally vanish into the very nothingness they court.

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