Poisonous Fruit

Conspiracy theories, both on the left and right sides of the political spectrum, provide abundant evidence of the devil’s subtlety and deceitfulness. 

QAnon is an elusive, hard to define, impossible to pin down, widespread, and highly influential source of extensive conspiracy and misinformation. It lurks on the fringes of the Internet and is disseminated by people of all ages and from all walks of life. Most of them are decent, moral, well-meaning folks. Many are unaware they are spreading lies. People tweet and re-tweet, post and re-post, without checking for truthfulness. In the 1960s a mantra was “if it feels good, do it.” These days, the mantra is “if it fits my preconceived ideas, spread it.”

An anonymous person, who calls himself (or herself) Q, drops cryptic hints, which are then interpreted and circulated by others.  Those hints provoke speculation but cannot be verified. “Q” is an allusion to Q-level security clearance, given only to those with top-secret nuclear authorization. The assumption is that Q is a person (or persons) with inside information about deep corruption in the government.[1]No one knows who Q is. Speculation includes Donald Trump[2], a top-secret government agent, a small group of insiders with special clearance, a succession of such people, or an invention of Russian hackers.[3]

To generalize, QAnon asserts that a person known only as Q is a US military intelligence insider who has proof that corrupt world leaders are torturing children all over the world, plotting the destruction of America, and are embedded within the so-called “deep state” of professional bureaucrats. QAnon believes that Donald Trump has been appointed by God[4]to defeat those corrupt powers, which, according to one Q post, “must ALL be ELIMINATED.” These corrupt powers include Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, and are enabled by many Democrats, political liberals, and some progressive Christians and people of other faith traditions. QAnon asserts that there is a worldwide cabal that must be resisted. QAnon maintains that this collection of corrupt officials is plotting to form a New World Order, but will be defeated and replaced by a “Great Awakening.”[5][6]The allure of special insider knowledge attracts devoted followers.[7]

QAnon often makes prophetic predictions about the future.[8]QAnon insisted that COVID-19 was fake, then shifted and declared it was manufactured in a lab by Barak Obama and Dr. Anthony Fauci[9]. QAnon maintains that “liberals” to defeat Donald Trump at the polls are exaggerating the coronavirus pandemic. QAnon was behind the extensively debunked “pizzagate” conspiracy.[10]QAnon claims that the worldwide faction of corruption will inevitably be destroyed with the support of “true patriots” who search Q’s postings for clues. Q predicted the arrest of Hillary Clinton and said that she and Barak Obama had a 16-year plan to destroy America with drought, disease warfare, famine, and nuclear war. Q predicted that the Robert Mueller report would fully exonerate Trump. None of that happened. When prophesies don’t pan out, QAnon shifts and adjusts as did the Millerites (now the Seventh Day Adventist denomination) who predicted the return of Christ on October 22, 1844, and as did the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who predicted the second coming in 1874 and again in 1914.  

In order to believe QAnon’s assertions, a person must reject the Enlightenment ideal of rational logic, abhor mainstream news outlets, mistrust “liberals,” reject mainline institutions (including traditional seminaries, churches, and universities), dismiss inconvenient science, label as “fake news” anything that would contradict the conspiratorial narrative, be suspicious of career politicians and bureaucrats, and battle apostates. If they are Christian, Q followers must reject the nonviolent cruciform message of the Lamb of God and replace it with an American warrior god. The gods of QAnon are militarism and national exceptionalism. Mars and Caesar. Civil religion. 

But QAnon is not just a fringe group of crackpots. One of its most prolific promoters is David Hayes, a former paramedic and evangelical Christian in Arizona. Better known as PrayingMedic, the handle he uses when he posts, Hayes has over 300,000 followers on both Twitter and YouTube. One of his videos has been viewed over a million times, and his books are selling well. It is also a mistake to assume QAnon is aligned with the Republican Party. Some Republicans in office promote and follow Q; others do not. 

Adherents resist being pinned down. Some are armed militia “patriots,” others are Tea Party Libertarians, still others are white supremacists, aging proponents of the John Birch Society[11], struggling factory workers, Sunday School teachers, or ordinary grandmothers baking cookies. Some are members of evangelical churches; others are not. As near as anyone can tell, they appear to be predominantly white, suburban or rural, and strong supporters of Donald Trump.[12]

A few QAnon followers have turned to violence, which is why the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic terror-threat in 2019.[13]A white evangelical father of two named Edgar Welch gathered an arsenal of guns and drove from his home in North Carolina to a pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong in suburban Washington, DC where he blew the lock off a door expecting to find a basement (the pizzeria has no basement) where Hillary Clinton and company were trafficking in child pornography.[14]It was all lies. And it all came from QAnon. In 2018, a QAnon adherent in California who planned to attack the Illinois capitol was arrested with bomb-making materials. Another heavily armed man in Nevada blocked traffic to the Hoover Dam with an armored truck demanding the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails. On line messages posted by QAnon adherents are sometimes grotesquely violent. 

Conspiracy theories are nothing new in America, but this one is exacerbated by the availably of technology that allows for the dissemination of unchecked assertions. Social media has handed a megaphone to everyone. It would be a mistake to simply call it a far-right conspiracy. It is more of a “don’t trust any political, academic, scientific, or media elitist” conspiracy. It sees Donald Trump as a messianic savior but goes beyond Trump. In 2016, Russian hackers, having spread disinformation to divide the electorate, assumed Hillary Clinton would be elected president and were ready to proclaim the results “rigged” and “fake.” Armed vigilantes stockpile ammunition and weapons in case Donald Trump loses the 2020 election. Regardless of who is in office, QAnon asserts that the downfall and violent destruction of this assumed worldwide collection of corrupt officials is certain. This is presented as prophecy.

What makes this movement different (and in my opinion, more dangerous) from past conspiracy factions is that it has strong elements of being a new religion. Once people accept something as religious truth, the game changes and violence often becomes inevitable. Misplaced religious fervor has caused some of the most horrific violence in history. The assertion that followers of Jesus were unpatriotic atheists led to crosses, stakes, and lions for the first three centuries of Christianity. Islamophobic conspiracy theory led to the crusades during a rash of millennial madness that interpreted biblical prophecy to conclude that the second coming would occur somewhere around 1000 A.D. The Black Death was interpreted as prophetic judgment in the 16thcentury and led to scapegoating and persecution. Antisemitic and end-times conspiracy theories were behind the rise of the Third Reich. 

According to historian Norman Cohn,[15]all end-time movements have in common the fact that they arise in places experiencing rapid social and economic change where there is highly visible spectacular wealth unavailable to most people. That defines American culture in the mid 21stcentury. Billionaires with more wealth than most nations are living lives of unimaginable opulence while millions have no health insurance, and 50% of citizens in the USA have no savings and are living from paycheck to paycheck. Wide acceptance of same sex marriage, large numbers of immigrants seeking refuge, the shifting abroad of low-skill jobs, mass exodus from traditional faith communities, demographic changes that assure that conservative white Christians will inevitably soon be a minority, and the insistence on the availability of abortion for anyone who wants it at any time during pregnancy – these things threaten the status quo and create fear in those who have traditionally held power. 

The language of white evangelical Christianity has come to define QAnon. Q fairly regularly quotes scripture. The QAnon narrative is woven into the kind of apocalyptic biblical interpretations I once taught. Couple a misreading of scripture with societal upheaval, shifting mores, wealth inequality, and perceived threat to those who thought themselves in the driver’s seat, and you have a culture ripe to latch on to the blatant lies and unverifiable assertions of QAnon. Add guns, armed “patriots” claiming to be Christians, and a toxic political environment that demonizes those with opposing views into the mix, and the situation becomes explosive. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16) The fruit of QAnon includes suspicion, anger, distrust, lies, scapegoating, violence, division, disunity, jingoism, and generalized paranoia. The fruit of following Jesus includes unconditional forgiveness, nonviolent resistance, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. 

[1]Corruption that goes beyond the United States and includes a worldwide faction of powerful politicians, financiers, academics, scientists and religious leaders united for the purpose of destroying American ideals.

[2]Trump has re-tweeted QAnon postings over 100 times and used language associated with Q. 

[3]See, The 2016 Election Was Just a Dry Runby Franklin Foer in The Atlantic, Vol. 325- No. 5, June 2020.

[4]Most of the white evangelical followers of Q who support Donald Trump are under no illusion that he is moral. They know his history of underhanded business deals and sexual immorality, but they claim God has put him in office to defeat this alleged worldwide consortium of corruption. Trump is likened to Cyrus the Great, the pagan king of Medo-Persia who protected the ancient Jews. 

[5]“Great Awakening” is a reference to two historic revivals in American history, one in the 18thand another in the 19thcentury. 

[6]Nothing Can Stop What is Coming, by executive editor Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic, Vol. 325- No. 5, June 2020

[7]Biblically, special insider knowledge known only to the enlightened is the stuff of Gnosticism. 

[8]The stuff of divination

[9]World-renowned immunologist and physician, and, since 1984, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases.



[12]But of course many supporters of Donald Trump are not QAnon devotees



[15]The Pursuit of the Millenniumby Norman Cohn is a classic book first published in 1957 by Oxford University Press.

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on May 21, 2020, in anabaptist, apologetics, Bible, Bible Teaching, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, Peace Shalom Hesed, Prophecy, Spirituality, The Cross, Theodicy, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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