Sunday, August 30, 2020

Evangelicals Denounce QAnon


The QAnon conspiracy cult of Jim Watkins has finally become prominent enough in the news that Evangelical leaders are starting to denounce it. Not all Evangelical leader, as one commenter defiantly pointed out, but it still is good to see some of them coming around. QAnon has seen its greatest popularity among Evangelical Christians, so this denunciation is a significant and hopeful new development. This article from Christian Post includes statements against the movement from several prominent Evangelical leaders.

The theory has garnered criticism from multiple Christian leaders, including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler Jr. On an episode of his podcast, “The Briefing,” posted online on Monday, Mohler compared QAnon and conspiracy theories in general to the early church heresy of Gnosticism. “Gnosticism is the belief that only a few, an elite, a privileged few are able to see, have inside information,” explained Mohler.

 

“The ancient Gnostics believed in one way or another that this particular secret knowledge was the key to salvation or illumination, or whatever would be the promise of this particular information. Christianity has nothing to do with the secret truth. It has everything to do with a public Gospel,” the theologian added. “Christians don't have secret beliefs we hide from the world. We're not saved because we have come to some secret knowledge.”

Since this is Augoeides, I do want to point out that "secret information" of the sort Mohler is talking about had little to do with the idea of gnosis. Sure, it means "knowing," but the "knowing" consisted of direct experience, the "baptism of fire" that conferred salvation according to the early Christian gnostics. This isn't "information" that you could read off a tablet or a scroll or in the modern era look up on the Internet. It consisted of spiritual practices that resulted in the gnostic experience. But that's a whole other conversation.

Tyler Huckabee, senior editor at Relevant Magazine, a Christian lifestyle bimonthly, wrote in a piece published earlier this month that QAnon’s claims are “farfetched” and fueled by “confirmation bias.” Huckabee also considered QAnon “a logical extension of the culture war, providing real plot and vocabulary to the ‘us vs. them’ model that became popular with the rise of the Moral Majority.”


“There are no easy answers about what can be done about QAnon,” he wrote. “But the fact that Christians seem extra open to conspiracies does reveal that something is deeply broken in how people of faith are spreading their worldview. When Christianity is set up as a cultural battle instead of an opportunity to serve, others are seen not as people in need of love but enemies who need to be feared and mistrusted,” Huckabee continued.

Author and pastor Joe Carter denounced QAnon in a column published by The Gospel Coalition in May. Carter, the executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington campus in Virginia, labeled QAnon a “political cult” and “satanic movement” that “poses [a threat] to the global church.”

 

“The QAnon movement frequently engages in slander, which James calls demonic behavior (James 3:15–16). The QAnon movement often traffics in lies, which Jesus says are associated with Satan. The QAnon movement repeatedly sides with demonically inspired falsehoods that divide professed Christians from faithful believers,” wrote Carter.

 

“And the QAnon movement has a tendency to call evil that which is good, and good that which is evil, and to put darkness for light, and light for darkness (Isa. 5:20). As movement of Satan, QAnon is incompatible with Christianity.”

Carter called on Christians to “work to guard those who would fall for such deceptions” and to “plead” with QAnon supporters within the church “to return to the faith.” “It is neither too early nor too late for Christians to launch a counterattack on the demonic influence of QAnon,” he concluded.

To be clear, I don't think there are any actual demons involved in the QAnon conspiracy. My opinion of the movement pretty much lines up with Huckabee's - this is an extension of the "culture wars" of the 1980s that builds on fear, mistrust, and a bunch of farfetched nonsense. The Poor Oppressed Christian on some level have to understand that they are never going to get away with eliminating people who believe differently than they do on purely religious grounds. It is an obvious, common-sense truth that somebody of a different religion than them living down the street poses them no real threat on that basis alone.

So with Islam, they contend that Muslims are terrorists who want to stage attacks against them and their families, ignoring the fact that if the billion or so Muslims in the world were all terrorists, we would all be dead. Or they talk about "sharia law" being imposed on them, which is profoundly ironic considering that the Poor Oppressed Christians have been trying to make everyone else follow their version of religious law for decades. This is basically little more than the fear that another religion could do to them what they have been working hard for a long time to do to everyone else in the United States.

QAnon feeds into this same idea, contending that people with different political beliefs can't just have different political beliefs. They have to be engaged in something unspeakably evil and harmful as well. because "different political beliefs" can't possibly be enough to truly demonize their enemies. It doesn't matter if what these enemies are supposed to be doing - mostly opposing politicians are just trying to enact their political agendas. But it's so much easier to hate them if they are all Satanic cultists molesting children and murdering them to drink their blood. And yeah, when you say it plainly like that it sounds almost as dumb as it is.

So I'm glad to hear that at least a few Evangelical leaders are waking up and figuring out that this conspiracy nonsense poses a real danger to legitimate Christianity. I only wish that more of them would do the same. Thinking that non-believers (or wrong-believers) will go to Hell when they die is one thing. There's no way to prove or disprove it without dying and coming back. But this QAnon stuff is easy to disprove with a little common sense - and it's disturbing that there are a lot of people out there who aren't even willing to try.

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