Another contributor to the spread of QAnon may be America’s deep political divisions and mistrust of leaders and fellow citizens. “When Christianity is set up as a cultural battle instead of an opportunity to serve,” says Relevant Magazine senior editor Tyler Huckabee, “others are seen not as people in need of love but enemies who need to be feared and mistrusted.”
Why QAnon Raises Alarms
Virginia pastor Jared Stacy tells Religion News he’s worried that millennials, in particular, are adversely affected by misinformation posted by older church members. He fears that Jesus is being “co-opted by conspiracy theories in a way that leads the next generation to throw Jesus out with the bathwater.” The kingdom narrative of Jesus, says Stacy, must remain separate from “the narrative of taking back our country.”
Likewise, Texas pastor Jeb Barr says evangelism becomes extra-challenging when the same person “who’s telling me about Jesus…also thinks that Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant.”
On The Gospel Coalition website, pastor Joe Carter says Christians should pay attention because a deceit-filled, satanic movement is “infiltrating our churches.” As a political cult, QAnon is “incompatible with Christianity,” says Carter. “Rather than scoff because it’s on the fringe, we should work to guard those who would fall for such deceptions. And rather than disdain those who have become enamored with these lies, we should plead with them to return to the faith.”
In addition to QAnon’s spiritual consequences, critics warn that it’s affecting public health (for example, when people call the coronavirus a hoax and refuse to wear masks). Legitimate anti-trafficking organizations also say the movement is hampering their important work.
How to Thwart Conspiracy Theories
Commenting on church members’ political views and online media habits gets tricky, say pastors. That’s why many recommend focusing on broader principles of biblical truth. “Christians are meant to be agents of hope, to be peacemakers,” says Barr, the Texas pastor. “The Bible says we’re not to be quarrelsome. We’re not to be the ones spreading fear and division and anger.”
Language usage also is key, says Missouri pastor Mark Fugitt. QAnon’s dehumanizing language associates certain individuals with evil, he says, and that has led to historical events such as the Crusades and the Holocaust.
Informing congregants about false beliefs throughout history also can provide helpful perspective. For example, the Rev. Al Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says QAnon is similar to Gnosticism, the early-church heresy that salvation is possible only through secret knowledge. Christians must resist the temptation of conspiracy theories, he says, because biblical faith has nothing to do with secret truth but “everything to do with a public Gospel.”
Mohler, who encourages Christians to maintain a worldview based on Scripture, also urges Trump to condemn QAnon outright. History, warns Mohler, shows “that if at some point this kind of conspiracy theory sees you as the hero, it can almost instantaneously see you as the enemy.”