This article was originally published on Advocates for Truth.
According to Google Trends, search terms related to QAnon have dramatically risen since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic but especially in this past month of August. Several articles in prominent news outlets have shown how QAnon uses Bible verses and Christian beliefs in end times to back up its claims. This has resulted in many Evangelical Christians being drawn into the QAnon fold, becoming avid advocates on social media for many ideas in the QAnon universe. QAnon has gained enough followers that it is even leading to division among churches and to churches incorporating QAnon material into their services. In light of this growing prominence, how should Christians think about QAnon?
What is QAnon?
It is difficult to give exact definitions to QAnon because it does not have any type of centralized organization. It does not have a website with an “About Us” page detailing what its beliefs are or what it stands for (although videos like this one do a good job explaining the basics). It began online as a loosely connected group of people dedicated to deciphering the messages of the mysterious figure “Q.” Today, you see dozens, if not hundreds, of QAnon supporters at Trump’s rallies, and other rallies dedicated to fighting child sex trafficking are becoming gateways into the QAnon universe.
On one hand, QAnon is a set of beliefs that several prominent politicians (such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain), business leaders (like Bill Gates and George Soros), celebrities (including Ellen, Oprah, and Tom Hanks), and even the Pope are secretly engaged in Satanism and child sex trafficking. In addition, this group of individuals (collectively called the “Deep State”) supposedly drink the blood of the children for adrenochrome to enhance their youth and longevity. Donald Trump is said to have been recruited by top military officials to run for president and fight this underground war against the secretive cabal.
On the other hand, QAnon is a movement of individuals (called “anons”) dedicated to exposing these evil plots. The letter “Q” refers to an individual who claims to have high-level security clearance (Q-Clearance). The identity of “Q” is unknown, hence the “Anon” or anonymous part of the name. Speculation as to his real identity ranges from one individual to groups of people, including the founders of 8chan and 8kun, Donald Trump himself, and even John F. Kennedy Jr. (who died in a plane crash in 1999).
It should be noted that QAnon can also incorporate a number of other conspiracy theories, including but not limited to the JFK assassination, the Moon Landing, 9/11, and even flat-earth theories. However, QAnon followers will disagree about which of these are in fact true. What remains most consistent is the belief that global elites are engaged in child sex-trafficking, Satanism, and drinking the children’s blood.
Two terms essential to understanding QAnon are “The Storm” and “The Great Awakening.” The Storm refers to an event led by President Trump where there will be a series of unsealed indictments and mass arrests of those connected with the Deep State and the sex trafficking. While the Storm has been predicted or hinted at several times and failed to come to pass, it nevertheless remains a hope for QAnon followers. Once the Storm occurs, this will eventually lead to the Great Awakening, where the majority of people will acknowledge and support the QAnon movement.
One other piece of information to know is what has become a catchphrase of sorts in the QAnon universe: “Where We Go One, We Go All,” or #WWG1WGA for short. It is meant to inspire a sense of community and solidarity among the followers of QAnon. As one QAnon blogger put it, the motto “is a desire for righteous intent and collective unity and to overcome shared foes.”
How Did QAnon Get Started?
“Q” first posted on October 28, 2017. However, many of the ideas which have come to define QAnon can be traced further back.
The idea of secret elites (particularly Hillary Clinton) illegally trafficking children can be traced back to the “Pizzagate” scandal in 2016. This conspiracy theory held that a child sex ring was operating in the basement of a pizzeria in Washington D.C. (Comet Ping Pong) and that Hillary Clinton was connected to it. The ideas became widespread during the 2016 campaign cycle and, in December 2016, even inspired one man to drive from North Carolina to the pizzeria in order to free the children. He searched the premises and fired a rifle inside, only to find no sex ring existed and that the pizzeria didn’t even have a basement. The indictment of Jeffrey Epstein in 2019 for the sex trafficking of minors has also brought attention back to this issue. His death in prison, though ruled a suicide, has led many to conclude that the dirt he had on many other elites made him a target and that his death was only made to look like suicide.
In addition, some have traced the Satanic element of QAnon back to the Satanic ritual abuse panic of the 1980s. Others have also connected the “drinking the blood of children” element to an antisemitic conspiracy theory called blood libel that has existed for hundreds of years. Despite the similarities, the degree to which the current QAnon movement relates to these older conspiracies can be debated.
Since his first post on October 28, 2017, “Q” has been leaking information (called “Q-drops” or “breadcrumbs”) to the public about this secret war against the Deep State. His first post, originally posted on the website 4chan, read as follows:
HRC extradition already in motion effective yesterday with several countries in case of cross border run. Passport approved to be flagged effective 10/30 @ 12:01am. Expect massive riots organized in defiance and others fleeing the US to occur. US M’s will conduct the operation while NG activated. Proof check: Locate a NG member and ask if activated for duty 10/30 across most major cities.
A second post a few hours later read:
HRC detained, not arrested (yet).
Where is Huma? Follow Huma.
This has nothing to do w/ Russia (yet).
Why does Potus surround himself w/ generals?
What is military intelligence?
Why go around the 3 letter agencies?
What Supreme Court case allows for the use of MI v Congressional assembled and approved agencies?
Who has ultimate authority over our branches of military w\o approval conditions unless 90+ in wartime conditions?
What is the military code?
Where is AW being held? Why?
POTUS will not go on tv to address nation.
POTUS must isolate himself to prevent negative optics.
POTUS knew removing criminal rogue elements as a first step was essential to free and pass legislation.
Who has access to everything classified?
Do you believe HRC, Soros, Obama etc have more power than Trump? Fantasy.
Whoever controls the office of the Presidecy [sic] controls this great land.
They never believed for a moment they (Democrats and Republicans) would lose control.
This is not a R v D battle.
Why did Soros donate all his money recently?
Why would he place all his funds in a RC?
God bless fellow Patriots.
Confused? So are a lot of others. What can be readily discerned from Q’s message—the imminent detaining and arrest of Hillary Clinton (HRC) and the activation of the National Guard (NG)—obviously never happened. But the rest of the message (and all of his subsequent messages) have been the subject of intense scrutiny and “decoding” from his followers. Each message is said to have hidden layers of information and meaning waiting to be uncovered.
What Does the Bible Say About This?
Christians should never underestimate the wickedness that the human heart is capable of (Jeremiah 17:9). Pedophilia, sex trafficking, Satanism, and even cannibalism are well documented and observed throughout history and the present time. However, this does not mean that we should necessarily believe every accusation of such horrific things.
Whether we are talking about QAnon or other theories which seek to tie together disparate pieces of information to explain why the world is the way it is, Christians are called to honor God with our mind (Luke 10:27), and to be wise and discerning (Matthew 10:16, 1 John 4:1). Colossians 2:8 reminds us that we should “see to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” We should not entertain “foolish, ignorant controversies” (Titus 3:9-11, 2 Timothy 2:23) or “irreverent, silly myths,” (1 Timothy 4:7), particularly if they cause us to be divisive or quarrelsome (1 Timothy 6:4-5, 2 Timothy 2:14).
Scripture condemns slander, which means to make false or damaging statements about another individual (See Ephesians 4:31, Proverbs 6:16-19, 1 Peter 2:1, Colossians 3:8). Christians should not make such horrific accusations against individuals without evidence, regardless of how much we might disagree with them on important political issues or how corrupt their character might otherwise be. If there is good evidence to support your claims, then there is a proper procedure under our police and judicial system where such things can be investigated and evaluated.
Since we are called to honor God with our minds, Christians must “do their own research,” a popular phrase in QAnon circles and one which Christians should agree with. But Christians must also do good research, using credible sources from multiple points of view. Proverbs 14:15 says, “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” We should not automatically dismiss an opposing point of view either for sounding outlandish or because it comes from a source we dislike or distrust. By gathering evidence from multiple perspectives and from credible sources, you can make a much more informed decision in evaluating QAnon’s claims. Go where the evidence actually leads. And if the evidence doesn’t seem to give an indication one way or another, then this should lead us to not form any solid conclusions that we firmly hold to or try to promote.
Additionally, Christians must use sound principles of logic and reasoning. Christians aren’t immune from being deceived by false conspiracy theories simply because we are Christian. We must always test and weigh everything that comes before us (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1), not relying on our emotions and whether the theory “feels right” or not.
Lastly, Christians must be wary of conspiracy theories which provide an alternate metanarrative to the one provided for in the Bible. Google defines a metanarrative as “an overarching account or interpretation of events and circumstances that provides a pattern or structure for people’s beliefs and gives meaning to their experiences.” The Bible already reveals to us the metanarrative of our existence: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. QAnon, to various extents, can provide a competing metanarrative which tries to make sense of the world and provide meaning to our lives. This is why some Christians have tried to map the claims of QAnon onto end-times prophecies in the Bible. However, doing so can lead Christians into error by imposing events and ideas foreign to the Biblical text onto our interpretation of the Bible.
Should QAnon be believed? Ultimately, that is a decision for you to make. However, something to consider is that QAnon is often labeled as a conspiracy theory because it exhibits many of the classic signs of one. Based on some of these signs, ask yourselves the following questions:
- Is there any solid, concrete evidence that the claims it is making are actually true? Many conspiracy theories come from connecting seemingly unrelated events or facts or from appealing to emotion. No proof (or very little) is offered to try and connect these things when they could just as easily be unrelated. Don’t believe a theory simply because it “seems to make sense of things.” Many things could potentially be true but aren’t in reality. We need to shape our beliefs based on actual evidence, not potential evidence which may or may not exist.
- Is the conspiracy so monumental in scale that the conspirators would need superhuman levels of intelligence, power, and control of every major institution to pull it off? The grander and more complex the conspiracy, the more unlikely it is to be true. The finitude of man makes people more inept at accomplishing such tasks than you might think.
- When asked to offer proof of its truthfulness, what kinds of responses are given? Is it something like, “Do you have proof that it’s not true?” or “Couldn’t it possibly be true?” These responses are logical fallacies known as “shifting the burden of proof” or an argument from ignorance. They are used to avoid producing proof in favor of the conspiracy.
- When asked to produce evidence, do people respond, “Do your own research,” rather than offering support for their claim? This could be another warning sign. Have you ever been told by someone, “I don’t have time to do your research for you.”? This is the same type of tactic and reveals that the person probably hasn’t done the research themselves or is attached to a theory for emotional reasons rather than intellectual ones.
- Is evidence to the contrary dismissed or not taken seriously? Does the person react defensively if challenged? Again, these are emotional responses. Someone who feels secure in what they believe generally welcomes challenges because they know that the truth will win out.
- Are the claims being made able to be proven false? Or does it make generic claims that cannot be proven false or which could inevitably become true at some point? For example, “Q” could say something like, “Some big event will happen soon,” or, “Bad things are sure to come.” However, such claims are impossible to disprove, a tell-tale sign of a conspiracy theory. Conversely, such claims can inevitably be interpreted to be true at some point. As the saying goes, a broken clock is still right twice a day.
- Does it make excuses when its claims are proven false or reinvent new claims so that future predictions cannot be disproven? After several of his predictions did not come to pass, “Q” asserted that “disinformation is necessary.” This makes any future prediction impossible to disprove. If they do come to pass, “Q” is right. If they don’t come to pass, it is simply disinformation.
- Are followers challenged to exercise some kind of blind faith? When things don’t seem to be going as predicted, some anons are told to “Trust the Plan”—in essence, to operate on blind faith. This is something God never asks us to do. God has a perfect track record and has demonstrated himself and his character throughout history. He gives us good reasons to trust his plan.
While any one of these things doesn’t necessarily disprove the claims of QAnon, the weight of the evidence seems to indicate that many, if not most of the claims made by QAnon are false or inconclusive. While their beliefs may be a question that Christians can explore, the conclusions drawn should not be something which Christians put the weight of their character or integrity behind.
What Are the Consequences of Promoting False Conspiracy Theories?
Promoting baseless conspiracy theories is not a harmless endeavor. Not only do they usually end up consuming a large amount of your time and energy (which you could be putting elsewhere), but they can also hinder your witness to others or even thwart genuine efforts to fight real threats.
For example, child sex trafficking is a very real problem. Because QAnon’s ideas are deeply connected with fighting child sex trafficking, you may have seen people using the hashtags #SavetheChildren or #SaveOurChildren. NBC News reported that “QAnon groups make up only 18 percent of those posting about #SaveOurChildren. But they accounted for nearly 70 percent of the total interactions on the hashtag in August.” Because of this, Save The Children (a real organization dedicated to stopping child sex trafficking) received so many false leads and misinformation from believers in QAnon that it made their work much more difficult. Accusing people of such horrendous crimes without proof only serves to delegitimize and hinder real efforts to stop these trafficking rings.
Promoting conspiracy theories can also hinder your gospel witness. If your neighbor, family member, friend, or coworker sees you promoting conspiracy theories without evidence or that can easily be disproved, then why would they take you seriously when it comes to the most important issues like your claims about Jesus or the Bible?
We must keep in mind that we will be held accountable for all of our words. Matthew 12:36-37 tells us, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Simply being ignorant of the facts does not excuse us from careless words that we might speak.
Sin, evil, and confusion are a very real part of our world which Christians should not discount. QAnon is a vast system of beliefs which tries to tie together many different threads of information to make sense of the tumultuous events of the past several years. Many have turned to QAnon for answers during 2020. Christians must use wisdom, discernment, and good judgment to navigate through it. While not necessarily false in every single one of its claims, QAnon exhibits many of the characteristics of a conspiracy theory, and Christians should not promote it as a matter of integrity. Certain concerns or claims may have legitimacy, but as a greater network of theories, QAnon lacks evidence and has supported false claims. Buying into unverified assertions will inevitably result in making false claims and accusations, which will hinder our witness to a watching world and impede our ability to fight the real evil conspiracies.