Sunday, December 18, 2016

Conspiracy Theories

“Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him…”  Matthew 2:16a

Someone gave me a new winter coat and gloves to pass on to some needy refugee. Arshad was very happy to receive them. But a few days later I received a phone call from the receptionist at the Islamic Social Services office. When Arshad made the gift known a lady, who works as an Islamic community worker, planted the thought in her head that it could be a set up to accuse her of stealing. I reassured the receptionist it was truly a gift and asked her if it was okay to show such kindness? She was embarrassed and said it was okay.

I have been amazed at the conspiracy theories that float around among a few of my Muslim friends. False ideas can be created about who I am, what I do, hidden agenda, why certain help or gifts are given, or why a Muslim converted to Christianity, etc. Frequently there are questions about my citizenship or what my parents were doing in Yemen or Somalia or Ed and I in Pakistan.  Beyond those kinds of things I often hear conspiracy theories about politics from my Muslim friends. An educated Pakistani friend had conspiracy theories about many political events in her home country. Her deep level of distrust and suspicion frustrated me.  Another wealthy and educated Pakistani woman devours all the news and documentaries because she is convinced “a game is going on.” Or, “There’s an outside force producing this.” Conspiracy theories abound.  People don’t know who the real enemy is. I just finished reading I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai.  She is the young Pashtun girl from Swat Valley who bravely fought for the right of girls to get an education and the Taliban shot her but miraculously she survived. In her book she often refers to conspiracy theories that people have made about her efforts.

To be honest, we also can have conspiracy theories about our Muslim friends; especially when suddenly we can't have contact with them or they don't respond to phone messages, or why they have immigrated to the West.  We can jump to false conclusions.  Human beings want to know the reason behind everything.

As one who ministers among Muslim women I hear their conspiracy theories and occasionally am also the brunt of it.  One time, many years, ago, a particular group of university students from an Islamic country, spread a powerful conspiracy theory among themselves about me.  It took four years for it to die down and for trust to be rebuilt. I learned quickly that with students from that particular country, one should not hold a pen and paper in hand when helping them individually with learning English because it produced a conspiracy theory that I was collecting information. Sometimes if a Christian appears very comfortable with an Islamic culture or can speak their language false ideas can sometimes arise about her.

None of this is new. When Jesus was born conspiracy ideas arose with King Herod. I’m sure there were conspiracy theories about Joseph and Mary, too. Perhaps there were conspiracy theories about where they disappeared to and why. Maybe the magnificent star became a conspiracy issue for some people in Bethlehem. For sure many conspiracy theories went around about Jesus’ teaching, miracles, identity, and death and resurrection. He just kept on doing good. He didn’t feel like He had to prove Himself with those who were stuck with conspiracy theories.

If your motives are questioned at Christmas just keep on doing good. Love never fails.

Dear heavenly Father, help me to press on if conspiracy theories spread. In Jesus’ name, Amen.