“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
Over the last couple of years, a false conspiracy theory originating in an obscure corner of the worldwide web has grown to become a political phenomenon. The theory is known as QAnon.
Many Americans—including many followers of Jesus Christ—have subscribed to this theory. This commentary will educate believers about QAnon and its dangers. It will also exhort all believers—and all New Yorkers—to reject the QAnon theory and to detach themselves from the unhealthy subculture that it has created.
According to Baptist Press, “QAnon is a sprawling conspiracy theory centered on the idea that a global cabal of leftist elites – ‘the deep state’ – is secretly plotting against U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters.” Travis View, a writer for The Washington Post who has written extensively about QAnon, says: “‘QAnon is based upon the idea that there is a [group] of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who rule the world… [One] of the reasons that Donald Trump was elected was to put an end to them, basically.” Wear adds that “Q” claims to release secret information about the behind-the-scenes battle between President Trump and the cabal. According to Vox.com, some QAnon followers believe that members of the cabal kill children to obtain a chemical known as adrenochrome from the children’s pituitary glands; it is believed that this chemical is used to help members of the cabal to “maintain their youthful appearances.”
The QAnon conspiracy theory originated with anonymous posts by a user nicknamed “Q” on a fringe website known as 4chan. “Q” asserted that he or she was a government informant with access to secret information. On October 28, 2017, “Q” stated that the arrest and extradition of Hillary Clinton was imminent. A later post from “Q” was more specific: It claimed that Clinton would be arrested between 7:45 A.M. and 8:30 A.M. on October 30, 2017. As of September 3, 2020, that arrest has yet to occur.
At an October 5, 2017 photo opportunity before a military dinner, President Donald Trump stated that the dinner was “‘maybe the calm before the storm.’” A reporter asked the President what he meant by “the storm,” and President Trump answered, “‘You’ll find out.’” QAnon adherents have come to believe that an apocalyptic event known as “The Storm” is coming in which tens of thousands of members of the so-called “deep state” conspiracy will be arrested, tried, and potentially sent to Guantanamo Bay or executed.
NBC News has reported the QAnon theory was “championed by a handful of people who worked together to stir discussion of the ‘Q’ posts, eventually pushing the theory on to bigger platforms and gaining followers…” Over time, QAnon developed an international following. According to WORLD, QAnon adherents “who consider themselves ‘digital soldiers’ for the QAnon cause take the Q oath, a standard oath to defend the U.S. Constitution” that contains a concluding line added by “Q”: “‘Where we go one, we go all.’” “Where we go one, we go all” has become a popular QAnon slogan, and is referred to online with the hashtag #WWG1WGA. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has taken the Q oath.
The Hillary Clinton arrest prediction is not the only prediction made by “Q” that has turned out to be inaccurate. In a November 1, 2017 post, “Q” claimed that within days, Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, “‘would be arrested, military control would take hold, and “public riots would be organized in serious numbers to prevent the arrest and capture of more senior public officials.”’” None of this ever happened. Later, “Q” predicted a Republican wave election in 2018. Q also hypothesized that President Trump’s feud with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a ruse to conceal Sessions’s role in bringing the cabal to justice. On Election Day 2018, Republicans lost 41 seats in the House of Representatives that fall and gained a mere two seats in the U.S. Senate. The day after the 2018 elections, Sessions was fired by the President.
A variety of other misleading claims have been spread through QAnon-related channels. According to WORLD, “Q followers spread [claims] that John F. Kennedy Jr. is still alive or that Mother Teresa was a child trafficker and Dr. Anthony Fauci is her son.” The Gospel Coalition reports that some QAnon followers believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is caused by 5G cellular communication technology. Disturbingly, New York reports that some QAnon adherents believe that it is possible to avoid being infected with the coronavirus by drinking toxic MMS bleach. Despite the fact that many statements made by “Q” have lacked any factual basis, and despite the fact that many predictions made by “Q” have been inaccurate, the QAnon conspiracy theory has continued to grow and spread through social media.
Some QAnon adherents have allegedly engaged in criminal activity that has been driven by their unsupported beliefs. In 2018, a Nevada man, charged with terrorism-related crimes after he blocked traffic with an armored vehicle, wrote letters to President Trump using the QAnon motto. Another QAnon follower reportedly “occupied a cement plant…convinced it was involved in an international child sex-trafficking ring.” In April 2020, one QAnon adherent was caught with illegal knives after livestreaming her trip to New York to “take out” former Vice President Joe Biden. An FBI intelligence bulletin has identified QAnon and other conspiracies as potential domestic terrorism threats.
Unfortunately, the debunked QAnon conspiracy theory has gained attention and adherents in the U.S. and Europe over the past three years. This theory has been openly embraced by some Republican candidates for office, and its followers have been mentioned and acknowledged by the President of the United States. What’s even more disturbing, however, is that some evangelical Christians have jumped on board. Some Christian social media influencers are posting QAnon material, some pastors are weaving QAnon themes into video sermons, and other pastors are growing concerned about the influence of QAnon on members of their congregations.
Why are some Christians buying into QAnon? Probably for the same reasons others do. “Q” purports to offer secret knowledge that helps people feel that they can make sense of turbulent and confusing times. The QAnon subculture also provides a form of connection with like-minded people. Also, multiple writers have asserted that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven increased interest in QAnon, as Americans experience increased isolation and spend more time online. It doesn’t help that QAnon promoters invoke Scripture and speak of God in an effort to attract believers.
Why should Christians avoid buying into the QAnon conspiracy theory? The first reason is that it isn’t true. In Ephesians 4:25, the Lord commands His people as follows: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” Posting baseless QAnon information online is out of bounds for Christians, as is slandering others with baseless QAnon-created accusations.
Another problem with Christian involvement in QAnon is that it is a waste of time. Christians are called to pray, study the Bible, love our spouses and children, love the community of believers, share the Gospel, serve the poor, welcome the stranger, and act as salt and light in the world. Immersing ourselves in baseless political fantasies is, to put it mildly, a massive distraction.
New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation exhorts our fellow believers to steer clear of QAnon. If you subscribe to this conspiracy theory, we must ask you to re-examine it. Do you see a factual basis for the claims made by “Q?” If not, why do you believe it? The Gospel Coalition summarizes one major problem with QAnon and other conspiracy theories as follows: “The issue with conspiracy theories is not with the possibility that they could be true, but with the lack of supporting data.” Imagine that someone accused you of being a bank robber and you protested, claiming your innocence. Now imagine that the same person justified their accusation on the grounds that you “could” be a bank robber. Would you be satisfied? The same principle applies to the lurid accusations made by QAnon adherents. The burden is on them to demonstrate that their statements are true; if they cannot do so, we should not believe them. Christians are to be lovers of truth (I Corinthians 13:6), and are not to be taken in by falsehoods (I Timothy 4:7: “[Refuse] profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness”).