Before I get into this post I need to give you some background on QAnon which is something I really didn't know much about until recently. Like many I had never heard of, QAnon was when a guy by the name of Edgar Maddison Welch, shot up a Pizza restaurant in Washington, DC. Welch, a a deeply religious father of two, acted because of a conspiracy theory known, as Pizzagate, which claimed that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria. The genesis of the conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton and a child sex ring came from Internet postings of someone called Q and the conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
I didn't think about QAnon anymore until a QAnon and Donald Trump supporter won a Republican primary race in Georgia and when asked about it her QAnon support Trump said "“I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate,”
Once the fascination of far-right commentators and their followers, QAnon is no longer fringe. Not only did the Georgia Republican, who has praised Q as “a mythical hero,” but at least five other congressional hopefuls from Illinois to Oregon have voiced support. One scholar found a 71% increase in QAnon content on Twitter and a 651% increase on Facebook since March.
I've since learned that many pastors of Christian churches have become concerned that many in their congregations are becoming influenced by QAnon because they believe that QAnon's conspiratorial comments about Donald Trump being a warrior for good against Satan worshipers in the government and society. Understanding these things and an article that I read recently, I decided that I should be proactive and post some things that we as Christians should know about QAnon.
This is not about politics. It is not about whether you plan to vote for Trump or Biden. It is about the way a set of ideas and sentiments are infiltrating the minds of those who claim to follow Christ, even when those ideas do not reflect the mind of Christ.
5 Things Christians Should Know about QAnon
1. QAnon Started with a Post on 4chan
NOTE: 4chan is an anonymous English-language imageboard website launched in October 2003. 4chan hosts boards dedicated to a wide variety of topics, from anime and manga to video games, music, literature, fitness, politics, and sports, among others.
The first post from the internet user who is now called “Q” appeared on the message board 4chan on October 28, 2017. The user, calling himself “Clarence Q Patriot,” posted a cryptic message titled, “The Calm Before the Storm.” Referring to Hillary Clinton, the message said, “HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run. Passport approved to be flagged effective 10/30 @12:01 am. Expect massive riots organized in defiance and others fleeing the US to occur. US M’s will conduct the operation while NG activated. Proof check: Locate a NG member and ask if activated for duty 10/30 across most major cities.”
Q predicted an event which he called “The Storm,” which would unseat the deep state. Q called the event “The Storm” because of a comment the President made to reporters during a photo op with military generals. President Trump said, “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” Q believes the President was signaling his alliance to break up the deep state with the generals’ help.
Q has posted over 5,000 times and often uses cryptic messages which community members try to decipher. The “Q drops,” as QAnon followers call them, moved from 4chan to 8chan before finally using the message board 8kun.
NOTE: Founded in 2013, 8chan is a message board dedicated to extreme free speech and anonymity. Users set up discussion areas or "boards" and moderate the site. Although there are hundreds of topic areas, the site is most notorious for its "/pol/" board, short for "politically incorrect". The board consists of a constant barrage of virulently racist, anti-Semitic, and conspiracy theory-related content. Its reliance on users to moderate and pick topics led to it becoming a key organising platform for extremist campaigns. 8chan /pol/ was a crucial meeting ground for activists behind the anti-feminist campaign known as GamerGate, and more recently spawned QAnon - a conspiracy theory popular with some supporters of President Donald Trump. - Source BBC
When he posts, Q uses “tripcode,” which is a series of letters and numbers that show he is the one who is posting.
While many have sought the identity of Q and several theories have emerged, no one has been confirmed to be the author of Q’s posts
2. QAnon Believes a Satan-Worshipping Pedophile Ring Is Taking over the World
Q claims to be a government agent who has insider knowledge that the President is fighting against a shadowy group known as the “deep state.” They are made up of Democrats, government bureaucrats, Hollywood insiders, and the “liberal media” who are running an international pedophile ring. In addition, Q alleges that many of the global cabal worship Satan.
Another quote from Q sets up Donald Trump as a warrior for good against a global cabal bent on evil. He said, “The level of importance of this operation equates to a ‘Good vs Evil’ battle that transcends politics. This is a ‘Global Evil’ that attempted to take over America. Many in our government actively worship Satan, Moloch/Molech and participate in Pedophilia, Spirit Cooking, etc. Most Americans are afraid to look this Truth in the eye but True Evil exist regardless of your religious views. This is not a joke and most definitely not a game. Thousands of Pedophiles and Child Traffickers have been arrested since Trump was sworn in. They are all under heavy investigation, including their funds and their affiliations.”
The belief that President Trump is uniquely able to stop “the deep state” runs deep. A popular QAnon belief is that top military generals were about to stage a coup to overthrow President Obama in 2015. Rather than carry out this plan, they met with Trump and recruited him to run for President so he could help them break up the deep state.
QAnon’s conspiracy theories are not limited to Satan-worshipping and pedophilia. The QAnon community has spread theories about COVID-19, the September 11th attacks, U.F.O.’s, and the use of 5G to exert control over people’s minds.
3. QAnon Has Received Increased Media Attention in Recent Weeks
A reporter asked President Trump for his thoughts on the QAnon conspiracy theory. The President responded that he did not know very much about it, but that he understands that many of its supporters “like me very much” and that they are people who love America. When pressed about the heart of the movement’s message, which is that a ring of Satan-worshipping pedophiles are secretly trying to run the country and that the President is the best hope of fighting them off, he said that he is always glad when he can help the country.
Also, a supporter of QAnon recently won the Republican nomination for a House seat in Georgia. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has also voiced doubts about whether a plane really hit the Pentagon on 9/11, will be on the ballot in November in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. The district is heavily Republican and Greene is heavily favored to win the seat. President Trump congratulated her on her primary victory in a tweet and said she is a “future Republican Star.”
4. A Growing Number Political Leaders Have Warned about the Influence of QAnon
Several Republican House and Senate leaders have recently expressed their discomfort with the growing popularity of QAnon in the GOP. After hearing the President’s remarks about QAnon during his press conference, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) said, “Q-Anon is nuts – and real leaders call conspiracy theories conspiracy theories. If the Democrats take the Senate, blow up the filibuster, and pack the Supreme Court – garbage like this will be a big part of why they won.”
Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) posted a video on YouTube last weekend to explain the conspiracy theory. He said that he ordinarily would not want to draw attention to such a theory, but that he wanted “to expose it and to speak out.” This was after he had previously said the President should come out and fully denounce QAnon.
5. Church Leaders Are Concerned QAnon Will Undermine the Church’s Witness
Katelyn Beaty wrote a lengthy piece on the influence of QAnon on churches for Religion News Service. She interviewed several pastors about the influence of QAnon and conspiracy theories in their churches. One Missouri pastor said that people in his church had shared a wave of conspiracy theory articles on Facebook, among them were, “claims that 5G radio waves are used for mind control; that George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; that Bill Gates is related to the devil; that masks can kill you; that the germ theory isn’t real; and that there might be something to Pizzagate after all.”
Jeb Barr, who is the pastor of a church outside Waco, TX, told Beaty that, “Young people are exiting the church because they see their parents and mentors and pastors and Sunday school teachers spreading things that even at a young age they can see through.” He expressed his concern that the propagation of unfounded conspiracy theories would undermine the church’s witness. He said, “Why would we listen to my friend Joe… who’s telling me about Jesus who also thinks Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant? Why would we be believed?”
In a lengthy post at The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter classified QAnon as a “political cult” and warned that it is “a satanic movement infiltrating our churches.” He said the movement “engages in slander, which James calls demonic behavior.” He also pointed out that QAnon “often traffics in lies, which Jesus says are associated with Satan.” Carter concluded, “As a movement of Satan, QAnon is incompatible with Christianity.”
Jon Thorngate is the pastor at LifeBridge, a nondenominational church of about 300 in a Milwaukee suburb. In recent months, he said, his members have shared “Plandemic,” a half-hour film that presents COVID-19 as a moneymaking scheme by government officials and others, on Facebook. Members have also passed around a now-banned Breitbart video that promotes hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the virus.
Thorngate, one of the few pastors who would go on the record among those who called QAnon a real problem in their churches, said that only five to 10 members are actually posting the videos online. But in conversations with other members, he’s realized many more are open to conspiracy theories than those who post.
Thorngate attributes the phenomenon in part to the “death of expertise”—a distrust of authority figures that leads some Americans to undervalue long-established measures of competency and wisdom. Among some church members, he said, the attitude is, “I’m going to use church for the things I like, ignore it for the things I don’t and find my own truth.
“That part for us is concerning, that nothing feels authoritative right now.”
So why would Christians, of all people, fall prey to subjective truth in place of authoritative truth? Particularly when the Christian faith is rooted in the belief in authoritative truth and the wholesale rejection of subjective truth? Beaty observes that “suspicion of big government, questioning of scientific consensus (on evolution, for example) and a rejection of the morals of Hollywood and liberal elites took hold among millennial Christians, many of whom feel politically alienated and beat up by mainstream media. They are natural targets for QAnon.”
Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, has noted that distrust of mainstream news sources “can feed a penchant for conspiracy theories.” The distrust of mainstream news, and the rejection of science, has become so acute among some Christians that it has led to a plea from prominent Christian thinkers titled “A Christian Statement on Science for Pandemic Times.”
Of even deeper concern is how this is harming the witness of the church.
Jared Stacy said the spread of conspiracy theories in his church is particularly affecting young members. The college and young adult pastor of Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Stacy said some older members are sharing Facebook content that links the coronavirus to Jeffrey Epstein and secret pedophile rings.
He says his and other pastors’ job is to teach that conspiracy theories are not where Christians should find a basis for reality.
“My fear… is that Jesus would not be co-opted by conspiracy theories in a way that leads the next generation to throw Jesus out with the bathwater,” Stacy said, “that we’re not able to separate the narrative of taking back our country from Jesus’ kingdom narrative.”
Others are concerned the theories will become grounds for more mistrust. “Young people are exiting the church because they see their parents and mentors and pastors and Sunday school teachers spreading things that even at a young age they can see through,” said Jeb Barr, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Elm Mott outside Waco, Texas. He said conspiracy theories are “extremely widespread and getting worse” among his online church networks.
“Why would we listen to my friend Joe… who’s telling me about Jesus who also thinks that Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant? … Why would we be believed?”
We all know that nobody shares a conspiracy theory. They only share what they believe to be the “truth.” Even further, when confronted, the “media cover-up” is used to dismiss anything that would discount the real “truth.”
QAnon is more than a political ideology. It’s a spiritual worldview that co-opts many Christian-sounding ideas to promote verifiably false claims…
QAnon has features akin to syncretism—the practice of blending traditional Christian beliefs with other spiritual systems…. Q explicitly uses Bible verses to urge adherents to stand firm against evil elites. One charismatic church based in Indiana hosts two-hour Sunday services showing how Bible prophecies confirm Q’s messages. Its leaders tell the congregation to stop watching mainstream media (even conservative media) in favor of QAnon YouTube channels and the Qmap website.
And it’s having life-and-death effects: It’s hampering the work of anti-sex trafficking organizations. The FBI has linked it to violence and threats of violence. And its adherents are downplaying the threat of COVID and thus putting others’ lives at risk….
At a time when church leaders are having to host digital church and try to meet members’ needs virtually, the idea of adding “fight heresy” to their to-do list might sound exhausting. But a core calling of church leaders is to speak the truth in love. It’s not loving to allow impressionable people to be taken in by falsehood. Nor is it loving to allow them to spread falsehood and slander to others.
“Conspiracy theories thrive on a sort of cynicism that says, ‘We see a different reality that no one else sees,’” said Stacy. “Paul says to take every thought captive—addressing conspiracy theories is part of that work.”