Have you noticed specific phrases appearing regularly on Social Media feeds? You may have heard or seen friends, relations, or church members posting or saying things like “research it,” “deep state,” #savethechildren, “Follow the White Rabbit,” “The Storm,” or “which pill are you taking?” You may even know people who have been putting a “Q” in their online profile name or directly talking about QAnon. You would have heard that Facebook and Twitter have been banning accounts linked to this QAnon.
Today, I want to consider the cult of QAnon and what it means for those of us who follow Jesus.
How it all began
In October 2017, an anonymous user called “Q” began placing a series of cryptic posts on the extreme internet message board known as 4chan. The user claimed to have a level of US security approval known as “Q clearance.” The identity of the original poster hasn’t been found. There has been tracking to a family living in The Philippines, however.
The messages from Q are known as “Q drops” or “breadcrumbs.” Since 2017, these Q Drops have been magnified by three individuals across multiple media platforms. This has built large profitable followings for them.
What QAnon believes
QAnon followers believe that the world is getting more corrupt, more dangerous, and more untrustworthy. They believe that Mr. Trump has been placed in power (some say by God) to tackle a secret “deep state” made up of Academics, Politicians, Bureaucrats, and Celebrities. QAnon followers call out enemies of the movement and the world in their posts and discussions. Material attacking the financier George Soros, the British Royal Family, Bill Gates, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama; Jeffrey Epstein; Joe Biden; The Pope; Freemasons, and Jews have been accelerating from QAnon to mainstream spaces.
QAnon alleges that a cabal of Satan-worshiping paedophiles runs a global child sex-trafficking ring and is plotting against President Donald Trump. The cabal (deep state) exists to control the population, steal money from ordinary citizens, and facilitate the kidnapping and trafficking of children between the secret “elite.” They believe Democrats (and socialists) are behind international crime rings. They think that people can access knowledge to avoid the elite’s worst actions, including removing our power to vote and move freely and imposing a “mark of the beast” through microchips or 5G technology.
QAnon believes in the existence of tunnels under the world’s major cities. They say these tunnels are used by paedophile celebrities and politicians to traffic children and harvest organs and blood for the elites to drink.
Subterranean structures have long piqued people’s interest. Some of these were created in the wake of WW2. Air raid shelters, long abandoned, remain in the public memory as a myth. For example, the fabled “Northcote Tunnel” in Melbourne was the subject of decades of rumour. It was eventually found to be the result of a search for an underground stream, not the large-scale 1940s American construction it was said to be. Today, urban tunnels carry telecommunications, gas, electricity, water, and sewerage infrastructure.
QAnon also believes in reptilian personages. “They are among us. Blood-drinking, flesh-eating, shape-shifting extra-terrestrial reptilian humanoids with only one objective in their cold-blooded little heads: to enslave the human race. They are our leaders, our corporate executives, our beloved Oscar-winning actors, and Grammy-winning singers, and they’re responsible for the Holocaust, the Oklahoma City bombings, and the 9/11 attacks.”
The reptilians or “Annunaki” have controlled humankind since ancient times; they count among their number Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Bob Hope. The reptiles are behind secret societies like the Freemasons and the Illuminati.
The Storm is Coming!
QAnon asserts that Trump is planning a day of reckoning known as “The Storm” when thousands of cabal members will be arrested, overthrown, imprisoned, or more chillingly slaughtered in a mass uprising. On discussion boards, Q followers talk openly and comfortably about burning libraries, hanging Hollywood stars, and shutting down universities. The Storm will be followed by a Golden Age for the USA and the world. One of the beliefs held by some QAnon followers is that John F. Kennedy, Jr., who died in 1999, will come back as a messianic figure and as Mr. Trump’s running mate. You can immediately see elements of the Christian Futurist apocalyptic movement here and understand why so many Christians have been deceived by this cult.
But QAnon also combines elements of the New Age movement. Monitoring suggests that people involved in QAnon are coming from a Christian or a New Age background. They regularly share memes and posts that incorporate messages from the Bible and the best-selling motivational book “The Secret.” Using the Internet, through YouTube videos, Facebook groups, WhatsApp chats, and Reddit feeds, Q has grown fast. Pew Research found that a considerable percentage of Americans support the movement. Support for QAnon is growing in Australia too.
Twenty-four politicians who support QAnon are running in the US 2020 congressional elections. This support is echoed across the post-Christian West, including Germany, NZ, UK, and Canada. While not taking hold as deeply, elements of the beliefs are emerging across Asia and Africa.
QAnon feels, for many, like a perfect movement for our time. It taps into the deep suspicion of institutions around the globe that appear to be failing. Parliaments seem deadlocked, divided, and ineffectual. Churches are perceived to have betrayed children; health systems have been unable to protect against COVID; conventional media outlets are seen as sources of “fake news,” academics are self-interested, and the rich are only in it themselves. In a time of uncertainty, having access to a secret knowledge connected to fixing a myriad of wrongs, particularly those done to kids, is very appealing.
The New Gnostics
The Bible says that “there is nothing new under the sun.” There are many parallels between QAnon and a religious and philosophical movement called the Gnostics. The Gnostics were active between 200 BCE and 400 CE. Gnosis means knowledge, and its followers believed they had access to secrets not known by the Church. They had very different views about the World, God, and the future to the Biblical writers. Like QAnon, they emerged in turbulent times and believed they were involved in a secret battle.
This is my first challenge. Just as Gnosticism was weighed and found incompatible with Christian faith, I argue that QAnon beliefs follow a similar pattern and are also not compatible, despite their use of Christian language.
We look to God and the Bible for guidance, not a secretive human (Q). When something happens that we don’t understand, we know that God has a more profound plan. We do not attempt to find a secret way forward. We know Jesus is our Messiah and not Q. Jesus revealed God by walking and talking amongst us and not hiding behind a secrecy shield. The Bible declares again and again that we need to be involved in openness with our message, patiently explaining the hope we have without resorting to cryptic hashtag hints.
QAnon also includes people who deny climate change, vaccination science, and the coronavirus pandemic. COVID19 is viewed as an excuse for these secretive world leaders to bring in a control mechanism, through 5G networks, and microchips hidden in the COVID19 vaccine.
In the US, 44% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats now believe Bill Gates is linked to a plot to use vaccinations as a pretext to implant microchips into people. 20% of young Australians believe that Bill Gates played a role in creating and spreading the coronavirus. Conspiracy theories about vaccines being the Mark of the Beast date back centuries. (When smallpox vaccines were introduced, they left a physical mark on the body).
Science, logic, & racism
As I have argued previously, science and logic are gifts from God that help us understand God’s creation. Science is not to be worshipped or feared or cast aside by Christians but used for good from eliminating disease and to increase food production. QAnon asks us to suspend belief in science and ignore Scientists as part of the evil elite.
Alongside the spiritual dangers is the reality that QAnon is recycling old racist myths. Some in QAnon have suggested that kidnapped children are being used in blood ceremonies ~ a false belief about Jews, which can be traced from the Middle Ages and was openly discussed under Nazism. There are numerous hints that the elite are heavily skewed to Jewish involvement echoing long-held anti-Semitic notions. To QAnon, the Black Lives Matters protests (racism) are financed by a Jewish/Freemason cabal to destroy Mr. Trump.
The mainstreaming of QAnon means that we see people we know and love held under a spell of misinformation. This is causing deep divisions across families, churches, communities, and political parties. We need to respond.
How to respond
We need to acknowledge that friends and loved ones are caught in a cultish mind-set. Many of us have been polite in the Church with how we think about QAnon and avoided labelling it for what it is.
- Pray: We need to surround those involved in QAnon with prayer across the Christian community. Instead of arguing with QAnon devotees, tell them you are praying for them. It is imperative we love people no matter how wacky they sound. It is tempting to laugh at people’s weird beliefs, but what these people are looking for are hope, love, and safety. Not giving them a safe space by mocking and debating them is actually unhelpful.
- Love: Engage with the person lovingly. Fact-checking is not a solution for them. Remember, they don’t trust the media. Fact-checkers are seen as the police of our online world in this New World Order! The fact-checking approach actually makes the QAnon followers more entrenched in their beliefs. QAnon followers are not operating according to logic or reason.
- Question: New conspiracies dramatically boost existing conspiratorial narratives across the community. Ask polite questions to challenge their beliefs. For example, “Can you share some more about how every government can introduce COVID into every country in the world? I struggle with seeing how any government could organise anything that big.”
As Christians, we need to give hope to people without hope, knowledge to people who hunger after new knowledge and point to Jesus and share an inspiring story of what God is doing in people’s lives. Churches need to pivot to a point where we are offering hope, not control. Followers of Jesus need to be humble and prayerful in this space.