In a recent incident, a man who opened fire outside the Pentagon and was then shot by police had a computer that was filled with ideas that the US was coming into a new dark age, with details about numerous so-called conspiracies.
Conspiracy Theory is a serious academic subject regardless of whether conspiracies occur or not. Sometimes, of course, conspiracies do occur - from a simple act of two people in an office deciding to play a trick on a work mate, to the more bizarre political or international shenanigans (real or imagined) – and encompassing all interactions of families or groups in between these extremes.
The more rational (or perhaps cynical) however, will abide by the common phrase - If there is a choice between thinking it is a conspiracy or a 'stuff-up', then I choose to believe it is a stuff-up.
In other words, in the balance of probabilities, people are more likely to make a mistake that leads to a chain of events, rather than engage in the time-consuming and exhausting process of conspiring with others.
The Hon. Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes AC., recently explained the Jerusalem Syndrome, in which a handful of Christian tourists are suddenly transformed from seemingly healthy and normal people - to excitable street preachers, psalm singers and turn into Bible characters.
Those affected, vigorously bathe to purify themselves, dress in robes or sheets, and begin preaching in the streets believing they are Moses, John the Baptist, or Jesus Christ, among others, who believe they were sent on a 'divine mission'." This was first described in the 1930s by a Jerusalem psychiatrist, Heinz Herman – who had noticed that during visits to Jerusalem, some Christians and Jews developed very unusual behaviour patterns.
The syndrome is now claimed to afflict about 100 people a year. The Jerusalem Syndrome is simply one of many such religious 'way out there' situations with those who somehow go overboard with their convictions," wrote Dr Moyes.
Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson, has also noticed this same strange 'overboard enthusiasm' in relation to sports, hobbies and other interests. He thinks it is manifest in a milder form in those who need to purchase the very latest digital gadget or computer game or 'whatever'. It is a type of obsession.
Some inventors become similarly obsessed with their inventions – be it an IT idea, or some practical item – to the point that they cannot see or manage the next step to make their invention a reality. Because they are unable to market their invention or even get it to manufacturing stage, they become convinced that someone will steal their 'invention / idea' and as a result, what 'could have been', never was!
Churches too have such people who develop an obsession with a particular theological view, and the Minister / Pastor / Priest has his hands full trying to redirect such enthusiasm so as not to see anarchy in the congregation over such proclivities.
"What can we do about such situations?" asks M V Tronson; who continues: "Many years ago when I was a young industrial chaplain, one of my mentors explained that if you understand the pre-suppositions that someone brings with them, then you're well on your way to comprehend what they are getting at. It's an important clue in the process to encourage them back to earth."
Walking in someone else's shoes is a remarkable experience. Although it takes time, theologically at least, it provides remarkably helpful insights.