Discovering my Family are Conspiracy Theorists

Hello BioLogos community!

I am really in need of some advice and am having the unique struggle of not knowing where to turn to find it.

My family raised me beautifully and led me to the Lord. I developed a love for the Bible largely because of their example.

In my later years living at home, one of my parents decided to stop vaccinating us kids. Apparently, this parent had discovered that vaccines were not safe. They believed one of my siblings got sick as a result of their vaccination.

This didn’t bother me too much. Even into my adult years, I had planned not to vaccinate my own children, just assuming this parent must have been correct because they had always proven trustworthy in everything. When it came time to take my first child in for their vaccinations, I expressed this concern with my husband. My husband did some research for about 10 minutes and came back very confident we needed to get our child vaccinated.

Over the years, I eventually became totally passionate about how amazing vaccinations are.

Then this pandemic happened. This parent and I began to discuss the possibility of a vaccination for COVID. It was a bit surprising to me to hear the hostility in this parents voice when they heard I was looking forward to when a vaccine was developed. This parent then came out with all this information on how vaccines have killed countless babies and it has all been covered up. I was shocked upon hearing this information, so started listening to all the resources my parent was sending me. It was all very believable for me. But because I am married to a man who is passionate about logic, philosophy and theology, he was able to carefully go over each of the concerns as they came up in our home. These days, the resources my parent sends me actually just work to further my belief that vaccines are good. The resources are just that bad.

It is now one year later, we have vaccines available, and I have come to the sad realization that my parents have always been susceptive to conspiracy theories. It was kind of nice to be in the dark on this topic. I have tried to talk to my parents about why they don’t need to be concerned about the COVID vaccines, but ultimately they claim they feel a conviction from God not to get them. I understand their desire to follow their convictions, as Paul the Apostle talks of the importance of this. The concern for me is that alongside this conviction, I have also heard them say the following:

  • I believe medicine is a gift from God. Bot not this one, it is not actually a vaccine.
  • Masks don’t work
  • Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine are wonderful cures, but the government has banned them.
  • The Vaccine companies are making a lot of money out of this and don’t actually care about our health.
  • The Great Reset seems to be happening.
  • Can you please check if a magnet sticks to your arm?

And this is just a small sample of the things I am hearing from them. I think you can see why I am not really convinced that the Lord is convicting them not to get the vaccine. It seems obvious the real reason they don’t feel comfortable about vaccines is because they are listening to stacks and stacks of misinformation.

I am absolutely heartbroken. My parents are not young and they have underlying health issues. They are at a fair risk of developing complications from COVID. They really need to get vaccinated. But every time I try to challenge their thinking, I come away feeling I’ve broken our relationship a little more. This whole vaccine thing feels like it has broken our relationship. I honestly never would have believed we could possibly have family discord, we were always so close.

It is such an awful thing to see how misinformation and rumors can have such real consequences - to the point of people putting their lives (and the lives of others) at risk.

I would love to know, if you have ever been in a similar situation, how have you dealt with it? I am desperate to talk to them more about it and give them more reasons why vaccines are not what they think they are, but it seems as though I’m hitting a wall every time. Should I just stop trying? How can I build my relationship with them again?

It’s likely that many of you are going through similar things. There are also friends from church and our homeschooling group who have fallen in the same trap, but it’s easier to let it go when they are not my parents. And I feel so alone because at this point, all of my siblings feel uncomfortable about the vaccines, too.

Thanks in advance!

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Dear DaughterofEve,

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

There is so much more to say about the topic you bring up, but first I want to assure you that you are not alone. Your experience is not unique. And you are not crazy.

You are describing experiences that I think most of us (depending on our ages) have been watching grow and bloom over actually many decades. As a group, we could put together a list of mile stones, where the noxious vine became more and more apparant. But now it’s in full bloom, a potent invasive species.

There will be a lot more discussion here, I am sure. There are many here, who share your experience and concern. You will probably also experience push-back, but I want you to know you are not alone. You are not crazy.

Kendel

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Just love them and leave them to it. Don’t disagree let alone confront. And do your own thing discretely.

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Thank you Kendel, I appreciate that! I am sure in my mind that I must not be alone, but as it is such a polarizing topic, there aren’t many in my circles talking about it freely. I am one of the only ones of my friends sharing vaccine positive resources such as Dr. Collins’ Q&A videos. So it is certainly reassuring to hear it said that I am not alone.

My husband picked up on a distrust of intellectualism in our church circles a few years back. We have been in ministry for about 10 years, and in that time many people have come up to him after he has preached and told him it is dangerous to think too much. As a result, he is currently studying a Masters in Philosophy, in order to be better equipped to help the church learn the importance of good thinking. I can see now how incredibly important this work is and will definitely be encouraging his continuous study.

Thanks again!

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Klax, as much as the junk “knowledge” bugs me and even affects my life and decisions, I think you are right about this. I have not successfully changed anyone’s minds with the facts so far. My family members and friends who indoctrinate themselves take in a steady diet of this stuff, and have created a shell of resistance to actual information. It is reinforced by a distrust of trustworthy sources as well.

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Kendel, I have two stepsons whom I owe, love too much to alienate and they both have extremist views. I never knowingly confront them.

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I get people telling me that from time to time as well.

I generally respond to them by telling them that what they are in effect doing is demanding sloppiness and a lowering of standards. I further press the point by saying that if they took that approach in the workplace, they would end up driving their employers out of business and quite possibly killing people in the process. If, that is, they weren’t fired for gross professional misconduct and sued out of their insurances first.

This is something that every conspiracy theorist, science denier, young earther, you name it, needs to realise. If you are encouraging people to view science with an attitude of suspicion or distrust, or if you are demanding that they lower their standards of intellectual rigour, you are potentially putting people’s lives in danger.

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I am just nodding at everything you just said.
Yep. Yep. Yep.
Our dear pastor assures people in the congregation that one doesn’t need to be well-educated to have a deep knowledge of scripture or a deep relationship with the Lord. Yes, that’s true. But he also is disappointed at the lack of intellectual curiosity and study that the elders and deacons exhibit. Well……
You are also in a realm (home-schooling) that, at least in my region, has historicallly been populated by people who thrive on conspiricies and modern “christian” gnosticism (equating that with intellectualism), and who feared allowing their children to be tainted by the
“worldly” or “anti-christian” public schools. Obviously, I think very differently.

I know that statement will be seen as provocative and stereotyping. I’m reporting on what I see among the people I know where I live. I also see new homeschool movements starting among family members and young friends, who are being absorbed into the same kind of thing, but many of them have a more robust academic background, at least I thought.

I wonder a lot about what pressures many church people are feeling to conform their thinking to the conspiracies and “christian gnosticism” I hear touted by those in influential positions. (Yeah. I am deliberately leaving those catagories loose, and I know they will not be loved by some.) So many things are called “biblical” these days that I find questionable at best: world view, manhood and womanhood, etc, etc. I am too old, inflexible, suspicious, and academic to accept those categories simply as presented. I’ve seen too many “christian” fads. I think there are a lot of younger, impressionable hearts, that are trying to please God, and have been sucked in to this, because they are told it’s “biblical” and therefore right and good. They want to please God, and they are being told by people they trust that this is right.

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Arguably, it is archetyping, rather than stereotyping.

Our area has a mixture, ranging from us (being the ones I know most about with comparable views, though there are definitely others who think similarly) to the “big government is out to get me, with its co-conspirators big pharma and evil secular education” type of view.

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I have heard all of those (secondhand, some of them) except

What precisely is meant by that?

Fortunately, I have not had to deal with this sort of thing from relations, just other members of our church, and contacts through homeschooling (myself being the student in question). My standard response is to mostly ignore it, unless I am directly asked something.

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Extremism is a very dangerous thing, on BOTH sides of the argument.
It is (mostly) due to the extremists on BOTH sides of this that this pandemic has dragged on for as long as it has. As a fully vaccinated and retired virologist I am 100% against vaccine mandates for Covid-19.
The accomplish very little, if anything, of benefit. They do not convince the most hesitant and create division and distrust at a time when we need trust the most. Things like this feed into conspiracy theories.
I too have had to deal with family members that are more interested in being right about a conspiracy then being right about, well, anything else. It’s a painful thing to be going through and my heart aches for you.
Wish there was an answer but alas, there isn’t.

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I’m very sorry you have to go through this but also glad that through your relationship with your husband you’ve been able to gain a perspective on how this “conviction from God” can go wrong. As an outsider I can understand how one gains a conviction in God, but I have no clue why anyone feels that conviction transfers to any other belief they feel strongly about. It raises for me an important question about how those with true faith somehow come to feel all their hunches are golden. Somehow they seem to be transferring the specialness they sense in God to themselves. I would have thought a relationship with God would make one more humble just by recognizing the gulf between our selves and Him. This is why I doubt that idea that the word of God is easily and plainly knowable to the educated and uneducated alike. Far from being worldly and suspect, the educated should be valued and everyone should want that for their children.

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Good question! I am not entirely sure, myself. “The Great Reset” was the name of the World Economic Forum’s initiative in 2020. They had a trailer for their conference, which got posted around the internet by conspiracy theorists who claimed this was evidence there was a one world government trying to come into power. ‘They’ (whoever ‘they’ are) plan to use the chaos of the pandemic to put their plans into action. I think something to do with the origins of the virus is in there, too. At least, my parents seem to believe all the world leaders have come together to plan this virus. These world leaders are also the ones who apparently came up with a vaccine. It’s just a bunch of absolute nonsense, really.

I think the reason they even consider it is because they think it is going to set us up for the antichrist. It breaks my heart to hear my family considering this sort of theory. It’s hard even to have an average conversation with them at the moment without sharply disagreeing with at least something they say and having to work out how to respond graciously (or whether to respond at all).

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Mark, as an insider, I frequently ask the very same questions you express here.

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My parents were both feeding into the anti-vaccine conservative rhetoric and when I shared with them what I knew they both went out and got vaccinated!

So I do believe it is important to at least try. But if they are set in their ways, at a certain point they have made a choice of free will.

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I’m glad they had not bought in to conspiracism too heavily yet! And @DaughterOfEve, you can be thankful for your husband (and I’m thankful for you both :slightly_smiling_face:)!

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I have faced similar things. I’m in the Bible Belt of alabama. Many in my family tend to lean towards whatever Fox News says. Though they don’t really have deep convictions on anything and most of the time a simple counter argument will stop a specific argument.

What I try to do is practice one of the lessons shared by these verses and that is that sometimes it’s better to drop something and move along. In these verses it’s about something different. But I use the same wisdom. I stop trying to debate with loved ones, or really anyone , after we discuss it a few times. If they are not going to get it then they are not going to get it. If wisdom is rejected repeatedly then it’s just a emotional thing and all it will do is cause more resent. With my family I Judy stop bringing up certain issues and won’t be baited until something and will actively change a subject.

Matthew 10:14
New American Standard Bible
14 And whoever does not receive you nor listen to your words, as you leave that house or city, shake the dust off your feet.

Titus 3:9-10
New American Standard Bible
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are useless and worthless. 10 Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning,

But if they like to argue about it , and you still want to be I their life I just diffuse the situation something so absurd no way it could be true and it will often take the momentum out of them wanting to argue.

“ o gosh have you heard about this boy at band camp that was looking at a cheerleader instead of paying attention to where he was going and so he tripped and face planted so hard that the trumpet got stuck in his mouth and when he was screaming for help everyone could understand it but it came out sounding like musical notes!!!”

Stuff like that resents many argumentative people who are gullible and fall into conspiracy theories. Then I take that pause of emotion to try to change the subject. It sounds stupid but it works for me. I never technically lie and say I read it or anything. I just ask a random question in a way it sounds like it’s something I saw.

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This is so great!! What a blessing.

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Great thoughts that sometimes it’s okay and even necessary to move on when you’ve done all you can.

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I appreciate your sanity!!

I am disgusted with insanity!

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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