Tom Hanks, who plays Mr. Rogers on film and seemingly in real life, is secretly part of a cabal of people who kill and eat their victims to extract a life-extending chemical from their blood. Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama are part of this group as well. Its members are engaged in child sex trafficking but will eventually be sent to Guantanámo Bay.
Or so a growing conspiracy group claims.
Why are such horrifically absurd lies spreading in Christian communities? This is part of the mystery that is the QAnon movement.
I am an evangelical pastor and a cultural philosopher. Over four decades of serving and teaching, I have seen the rise of cults and the occult, the growth of secularism and the demise of denominations. But I've seen nothing like this.
QAnon is the name of a family of conspiracy theories. They are posted online by Q, an anonymous figure (supposedly a military official) and studied and popularized by his followers. Churches and pastors are spreading these theories; Christians are sharing them through social media.
And some are taking action, with tragic results.
In response to a QAnon claim that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the basement of a pizzeria in Washington, DC, a devout Christian named Edgar Maddison Welch stormed the building with a rifle, a revolver, and a shotgun. When he discovered that the restaurant has no basement, he surrendered to police and was sentenced to four years in prison.
His story points to three reasons QAnon is gaining popularity among some Christians.
One: Distrust of government leaders and the media is stronger than ever.
On every moral issue that matters to evangelicals, it seems we are on the losing side. Not only has the government legalized abortion and same-sex marriage, but the mainstream media regularly demonizes those who disagree. The idea that a cabal of elites is secretly running our country and victimizing our children is increasingly believable to some.
Two: There is a deep hunger for community.
Postmodern relativism denies the existence of objective truth. The sexual revolution is redefining sexual morality, marriage, and gender. The coronavirus pandemic has isolated many from in-person church services and community. The rancor and divisiveness of our politics has left many without hope for our future. A movement whose mantra is "Where We Go One, We Go All" offers a sense of inclusion and solidarity that is deeply appealing to some.
Three: Many Christians cannot discern spiritual truth from lies.
QAnon has a prophet (Q) and prophecies (called "drops"). It quotes 2 Chronicles 7:14, a verse that is popular among evangelicals seeking spiritual awakening. It promises a "Great Awakening," a future event in which everyone will attain the epiphany that QAnon was accurate the entire time. This realization will allow society to enter a utopian age.
The growth of this deceptive and deceitful movement is not a speculative issue.
According to reports, a QAnon follower murdered his brother with a sword; an Oregon man threatened to kill YouTube employees over alleged censorship; an armed Nevada man used an armored vehicle to block the Hoover Dam; and an Oklahoma man threatened to assassinate the president.
The FBI considers QAnon and similar conspiracy theories to be domestic terrorist threats. The US House of Representatives recently voted 371 to 18 to condemn the movement.
Believing and spreading fallacious conspiracy theories is not only dangerous to society— it is damaging to our Christian witness. As the number of unchurched Americans continues to escalate while the percentage of self-identified Christians continues to decline, it is more urgent than ever that followers of Christ engage our culture in redemptive, hopeful ways.
We can share such hope because the historic truths of biblical Christianity offer real answers to the problems fueling QAnon's growth.
Christians long for acceptance and community because humans were made for each other and can join a family in Christ that welcomes all by grace through faith.
And Christians can discern truth from lies because we have the Bible, which J. I. Packer described as "God preaching" and St. Augustine called "love letters from home."
The rising popularity of QAnon among Christians is an indictment of feel-good, fear-driven, consumeristic religion that fails to teach critical thinking and biblical analysis. This needs to stop. It's making a mockery of our faith in the fast-darkening public square.
Here's the good news: the darker the room, the more urgent — and powerful — the light.
Adapted from Dr. Jim Denison’s daily cultural commentary at www.denisonforum.org. Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith and culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture in February 2009 and is the author of seven books, including “Radical Islam: What You Need to Know.” For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum. Original source: www.denisonforum.org.