The term useful idiots seems to have been used by both Lenin and Stalin to refer to people here in the West who were doing things unawares to promote Communism/Socialism. These “idiots” were “useful” to the people at the top, who actually understood what was happening and who sometimes were manipulating things.
A number of websites offer this definition: “Some say that today the term ‘useful idiots’ can be used to describe those who support a malignant cause which they naively believe to be a force for good.”
Several years ago a Buddhist reviewed Rob Bell’s popular book, saying: “Velvet Elvis contains enough inconsistencies of logic and violations of orthodox Christian theology to raise the hairs on the back of any well-read and deep-thinking Christian’s neck.” Why didn’t the Christians see what this man saw? Also several years ago, a Buddhist student was coached by his mentor on how to convert Christians to Buddhism. The mentor said that if future Christian ministers could be influenced toward Buddhism (specifically through the teachings of Thomas Merton), the Buddhists wouldn’t have to personally do anything to convert church members (whom he called “ignorant congregants”); Christian ministers would do the work for them. How come Buddhists see the meaning in Merton’s teachings that even Christian grad school profs don’t discern? (And as I always clarify, I’m not speaking of matters of opinion or “little differences” but of foundational teachings that can’t mesh with Christianity, such as a denial of the deity of Jesus.)
Scripture warns us that some believers will push aside “sound doctrine,” will turn “away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4; see also 1 Timothy 4:16). We all want to be considered savvy. But as I see it, though ministers and teachers have a broader influence, any of us can become useful idiots who blindly perpetuate a malignant cause.
In order not to promote a malignant cause, we in the church need to be careful about whom we’re quoting and steering people to follow. For example, what if I said: “I agree with Alice Bailey, who said, ‘The church has hindered . . . because of its fanatical zeal to make “Christians” of all peoples and not followers of Christ.’”
And then what if I elaborated, saying that we shouldn’t just rush people into making a decision for Jesus and then not help them along to become more knowledgeable and dedicated disciples.
Bailey’s statement seems like a good quote to illustrate my point. But 1) I’ve misrepresented her. By followers of “Christ” she actually means the coming cosmic Christ, Maitreya. She resents that the church helps people become true Christians for Jesus Christ instead of devotees of Maitreya. But I’ve given the impression that we mean the same thing. (In misrepresenting her theology, I’ve also committed an academic no-no. If I were writing a college term paper, the prof would scold me for taking Bailey’s words out of context.) And 2) I’ve misled whoever heard/read my words. People who view me as a sound Bible teacher will naturally conclude that Bailey must be a Christian. Some of my friends will run out and buy her books. Bailey—whose books were channeled through a demon—wanted the New Age “church” to rise out of the true one. And that could happen if New Age teaching infiltrated and church members then acted on behalf of the dark side.
Get it? Bailey expected Christians to be the New Age’s useful idiots.
It’s my opinion that the reason certain writers/books/teachings have become so popular and accepted in the church (even though they promote a malignant cause) is because ministers, teachers, book/magazine editors, and convention speakers steer others to follow false teachers by inadvertently misrepresenting what those teachers actually mean. (Sadly, in some cases it seems intentional, when leaders are aware but continue to do this anyway.)
It’s nice to have trustworthy mentors, but ultimately we are each responsible for searching the Scriptures and being careful about what we believe and promote. Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you. . . . False Christs and false prophets will appear. . . . See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matthew 24:4, 24, 25).