I am never sure what to make of conspiracies. While no one doubts that there are occasions where people conspire to achieve goals, the greater temptation is to see plots everywhere. And the further one goes down the path of paranoia the more conspiracy one finds until, faced with evidence that refutes what you believed in, you conclude: the very absence of a conspiracy is proof of a super-conspiracy involving everyone! Many conspiracy theorists wonder if it is true that as a Jesuit I am part of the secret power behind governments, banking, the Freemasons and the Illuminati. They never believe me when I say that Jesuits would struggle to organise the transport to a booze-up in a brewery.
In South Africa we can all too easily use conspiracy to excuse our failings. We blame our economic woes on government policy, on the Apartheid past, on the unwillingness of white-dominated industries and businesses to ‘transform’, on affirmative action, on crime, on the police (for being inefficient or corrupt), on rival political parties, on foreigners and even on witchcraft. We never take responsibility for our actions, unless of course when they are successful; then we keep the credit for ourselves.
I empathise with poor Jeremiah, but I fear that if we take him too much to heart we will paralyse ourselves with paranoia.
As we move closer to Passion Sunday the mood of the readings gets progressively darker. We sense plots and schemes being hatched around Jesus. What is clear is that Jesus is uncompromising in his commitment to God’s work. His course is set and he will pursue it to the end. In doing that, he in effect splits up the opposition: while some want him dead, others come to believe in him.