Everyone likes a good conspiracy. Conspiracies explain a complicated world. Probably the most infamous example of a manufactured conspiracy in order to explain the emergence of disorder in the world is The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion that circulated widely in the 1920s and 1930s. The documents that make up The Protocols are said to have been written by unnamed Jewish “elders” who attended the first Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. The Protocols are said to reveal the master plan of a Jewish hierarchy to take over the world. In reality, The Protocols are a forgery. Here’s how The Protocols supposedly came about:

At the meeting Jews and Freemasons (a secret fraternal society) collaborated on a plan to undermined Christian civilization and erect a world government under their direction. Liberalism and socialism were to be the means of subverting Christendom. If subversion failed or the plan was discovered beforehand, then all the capitols of Europe were to be blown up. . . . According to The Protocols, through their cabal of internationalist bankers, politicians, and media elite, the supporters of the conspiracy seek world domination. Through a worldwide network of camouflaged agencies and organizations, the secret Jewish government controls political parties and governments, the press and public opinion, banks and economic development.[1]

Don’t think that only the uneducated and poor latch on to conspiracy theories. Henry Ford (1863–1947) reprinted edited excerpts of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his weekly newspaper the Dearborn Independent under the title “The International Jew: The World’s Problem.” The paper had a circulation of nearly a million. Ford believed in a “Jewish conspiracy” that he attributed to “certain streams of influence which were causing a marked deterioration in our literature, amusements, and social conduct,” where “business was departing from its old-time substantial soundness,” and there was “a general letting-down of standards [that was being] felt everywhere.”[2] Ford had chosen Jews to explain a rapidly changing world, when in reality there was no single cause for America’s social transformation let alone a group of unnamed Jewish elders. “It’s hardly credible,” Umberto Eco points out, “that the ‘bad guys’ should express their evil plans in such a frank and unashamed manner, that they should declare, as the Elders of Zion do, that they have ‘boundless ambition, a ravenous greed, a merciless desire for revenge and an intense hatred.’”[3] Ford played on the fears of many Americans who were looking for a simple explanation for what was happening to their world.

The Protocols are an obvious forgery. “The fraudulent nature of The Protocols was first pointed out in 1921 by Philip Graves of the London Times. Graves demonstrated the obvious similarities between The Protocols and a satire by a French lawyer, Maurice Joly, on Napoleon III. Published in 1864, the satire was entitled Dialogue aux Enfers entre Mcahiavel et Montesquieu (Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu).  Later, Russian historian Vladimir Burtserve revealed that The Protocols were forgeries based on the Joly satire concocted by officials of the Russian secret police.”[4] Even though the documents have been scrutinized by scholars for decades, there are still those who cling to the claim that they are authentic. Every new study proving the documents are a forgery only lends credibility to those who claim the documents are authentic. Once a person gets in the conspiracy loop, it’s difficult to escape since even counter evidence is viewed as evidence that the theory is factual. And even when it is admitted that a document like The Protocols is a forgery, some will still claim that the essential argument is true.[5] Why do they do this? They need someone or some movement to blame for what’s going wrong with the world. It’s those politicians. It’s the IRS. It’s the educational system. It’s the Bilderbergers. The Council on Foreign Relations. The New World Order. Free Trade. A foreign substance introduced into our precious “bodily fluids.” You name it, and there’s some group out there ready to blame for all our troubles, and there’s nothing we can do about any of it! The world is not engaged because too many of us believe it’s controlled by outside forces beyond our control, and thus, beyond God’s control this side of an end-time rescue or catastrophe! So we blame shift, a common sin going back to our first parents (Gen. 3:12).

What’s the effect of conspiracy theories on a worldview that’s supposed to be culturally transformational? As I have mentioned, there are conspiracies and conspirators. The historical record is filled with them. Psalm 2 confirms this. But the modern-day Christian view of conspiracies is that the conspirators win because they are the ones who control history. Satan was the grand conspirator, and even he couldn’t pull it off. But there are millions of Christians today who believe he can and will pull it off. They live in fear of his conspiracy and wait in misguided hope that God will remove them before the conspiracy takes effect. God has His own conspiracy, and it’s time that we acknowledge and act on it.

Philip Lamy, Millennium Rage: Survivalists, White Supremacists, and the Doomsday Prophecy (New York: Plenum Press, 1996), 120–121. See the following sources on The Protocols: Hadassa Ben-Itto, The Lie That Wouldn’t Die: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2005); John S. Curtis, An Appraisal of the Protocols of Zion (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942); Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish (World-Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1966); Albert Lee, Henry Ford and the Jews (New York: Stein and Day, 1980); Neil Baldwin, Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate (New York: Public Affairs, 2001); Will Eisner, The Plot: The Secret History of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2005).
[2] Taken from Henry Ford’s My Life and Work published in 1922. http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/hnfrd10.txt**
[3]** Umberto Eco, “Introduction” to Eisner, The Plot, vi.**
[4]** Lamy, Millennium Rage, 122–123.**
[5]** For example, Nesta Webster, Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (London: Boswell, 1924), 408–409. See Eco’s “Introduction” to The Plot, vii.