“”Right now QAnon is still on the fringes of evangelicalism,” said Ed Stetzer, an evangelical pastor and dean at Wheaton College in Illinois who wrote a recent column warning Christians about QAnon. “But we have a pretty big fringe.”
“Pastors need to be more aware of the danger and they need tools to address it,” he told CNN. “People are being misled by social media.”
Some Christian pastors are actually leading their followers to QAnon, or at least introducing them to its dubious conspiracy theories.
To cite a few examples:
During services in July, Rock Urban Church in Grandville, Michigan, played a discredited video that supports QAnon conspiracy theories. “The country is being torn apart by the biggest political hoax and coordinated mass media disinformation campaign in living history — you may know it as COVID-19,” the video says. The church did not answer requests for comment and has removed the video from its YouTube channel.
Danny Silk, a leader at Bethel Church, a Pentecostal megachurch in Redding, California, has posted QAnon-related ideas and hashtags on his Instagram account. Silk did not respond to requests for comment.
Pastor John MacArthur of California, an influential evangelical who is battling county officials over the right to continue indoor services at his Grace Community Church, espoused a theme popular in QAnon circles when he misinterpreted CDC data and informed his congregation that “there is no pandemic.” MacArthur declined CNN’s request for comment.
There’s even a movement, led by the Indiana-based Omega Kingdom Ministry, to merge QAnon and Christianity — with texts from both the Bible and Q read at church services.
“If you are just learning about QAnon and The Great Awakening, this is the right spot for you,” reads the ministry’s website. Representatives from the ministry did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Paul Anleitner, an evangelical pastor in Minneapolis, said he’s seen worrying examples of conservative Christians preaching from QAnon’s bible: Pastors warning about the “Deep State,” congregants trading conspiracy theories during Bible studies, and, most concerning to him, unsuspecting Christians lured to QAnon through respected church leaders.
“I see this circulating through conservative and Charismatic churches and it breaks my heart,” said Anleitner, who spent time in Pentecostal churches, where he says QAnon’s influence is distressingly pervasive.
“It’s pulling families apart, pulling people away from the gospel and creating distrust among people searching for the truth.”
Earlier this year a young Christian friend of his recirculated QAnon ideas posted online by a national Christian leader, Anleitner said. (He declined to name the pastor on the record). “I reached out to my friend and told him the stuff he posted came directly from QAnon,” said Anleitner. “He had no idea.”
And that, Christian leaders say, is a big part of the problem.
According to the religious view of QAnon, Q is a postmodern prophet, “Q drops” (aka his messages) are sacred texts and Trump is a messianic figure who will conjure “The Storm,” an apocalyptic revelation exposing evildoers.
“It’s kind of like checking Fox News or CNN,” — that is, a place to find the latest news, said Park Neff, who has a master’s in divinity and a doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Seminary. “It just seemed to be good, solid conservative thought.”
Like her husband, Sharon Neff said she saw no contradictions between QAnon and Christianity. Instead, she saw important connections, as did many of her friends and fellow church members.
“What resonated with me is the idea of moving toward a global government,” she said, “and that actually goes along with the Christian belief about the End Times.”
In some ways, QAnon echoes the concerns of politically engaged, ultra-conservative evangelicals.
It interprets world events through the lens of Scripture or Q posts. It’s obsessed with a grand, apocalyptic reckoning that will separate good from evil, deeply distrusts the media and finds an unlikely champion — and hero — in President Trump.
Neff also said she likes that Q quotes Christian scripture extensively and claims to be exposing child trafficking, a problem that she said she and other Southern Baptist women have been fighting for years. That’s no accident, say experts who have studied QAnon. The group intentionally uses emotionally fraught topics, like suffering children, to draw Christians to their movement.
“That’s a recruiting tactic,” said Travis View, a host of “QAnon Anonymous,” a podcast that seeks to explain the movement. “It’s their red pill.” (Travis View is a pseudonym he uses for safety. )
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