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yobnoc

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(RNS) — It’s a rough time to be a pastor. An election year, national racial unrest and a global pandemic each challenged the usual methods of ministry. Taken together, many church leaders are facing the traditional post-vacation ingathering season with a serious case of burnout.

But there’s another challenge that pastors I spoke with say is on the rise in their flocks. It is taking on the power of a new religion that’s dividing churches and hurting Christian witness.

Mark Fugitt, senior pastor of Round Grove Baptist Church in Miller, Missouri, recently sat down to count the conspiracy theories that people in his church are sharing on Facebook. The list was long. It included claims that 5G radio waves are used for mind control; that George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; that Bill Gates is related to the devil; that masks can kill you; that the germ theory isn’t real; and that there might be something to Pizzagate after all.

“You don’t just see it once,” said Fugitt. “If there’s ever anything posted, you’ll see it five to 10 times. It’s escalating for sure.”


RELATED: Don't be fooled by QAnon’s post-apocalyptic fury. It’s really spiritual hunger.


Conspiracy theories — grand narratives that seek to prove that powerful actors are secretly controlling events and institutions for evil purposes — are nothing new in the U.S. But since 2017, a sort of ur-conspiracy theory, QAnon, has coalesced in online forums and created millions of believers. “To look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion,” wroteAdrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic in June.

Named after “Q,” who posts anonymously on the online bulletin board 4chan, QAnon alleges that President Donald Trump and military officials are working to expose a “deep state” pedophile ring with links to Hollywood, the media and the Democratic Party. Since its first mention some three years ago, the theory has drawn adherents looking for a clear way to explain recent disorienting global events.

Once the fascination of far-right commentators and their followers, QAnon is no longer fringe. With support from Trump and other elected officials, it has gained credibility both on the web and in the offline world: In Georgia, a candidate for Congress has praised Q as “a mythical hero,” and at least five other congressional hopefuls from Illinois to Oregon have voiced support.

One scholar found a 71% increase in QAnon content on Twitter and a 651% increase on Facebook since March. 

Jon Thorngate is the pastor at LifeBridge, a nondenominational church of about 300 in a Milwaukee suburb. In recent months, he said, his members have shared “Plandemic,” a half-hour film that presents COVID-19 as a moneymaking scheme by government officials and others, on Facebook. Members have also passed around a now-banned Breitbart video that promotes hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the virus.

Thorngate, one of the few pastors who would go on the record among those who called QAnon a real problem in their churches, said that only five to 10 members are actually posting the videos online. But in conversations with other members, he’s realized many more are open to conspiracy theories than those who post. 

Thorngate attributes the phenomenon in part to the “death of expertise” — a distrust of authority figures that leads some Americans to undervalue long-established measures of competency and wisdom. Among some church members, he said, the attitude is, “I’m going to use church for the things I like, ignore it for the things I don’t and find my own truth.

“That part for us is concerning, that nothing feels authoritative right now.”

webRNS-QAnon-Church2-081720.jpg

A DEMONSTRATOR HOLDS A QANON SIGN AS HE WALKS AT A PROTEST APRIL 19, 2020, IN OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON, OPPOSING THE STATE’S STAY-AT-HOME ORDER TO SLOW THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK. WASHINGTON GOV. JAY INSLEE HAS BLASTED PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S CALLS TO “LIBERATE” PARTS OF THE COUNTRY FROM STAY-AT-HOME AND OTHER ORDERS DESIGNED TO COMBAT THE SPREAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS. INSLEE SAID TRUMP IS FOMENTING A POTENTIALLY DEADLY INSUBORDINATION AMONG HIS FOLLOWERS BEFORE THE PANDEMIC IS CONTAINED. (AP PHOTO/ELAINE THOMPSON)

For years in the 1980s and ’90s, U.S. evangelicals, above nearly any other group, warned what will happen when people abandon absolute truth (which they located in the Bible), saying the idea of relative truth would lead to people believing whatever confirms their own inward hunches. But suspicion of big government, questioning of scientific consensus (on evolution, for example) and a rejection of the morals of Hollywood and liberal elites took hold among millennial Christians, many of whom feel politically alienated and beat up by mainstream media. They are natural targets for QAnon.

There’s no hard data on how many Christians espouse QAnon. But Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, noted that distrust of mainstream news sources “can feed a penchant for conspiracy theories.”

A 2018 poll from BGC found that 46% of self-identified evangelicals and 52% of those whose beliefs tagged them as evangelical “strongly agreed that the mainstream media produced fake news.” It also found that regular church attendance (at least once a month) correlated to believing that mainstream media promulgates fake news (77% compared with 68% of those who attend less regularly).

Jared Stacy said the spread of conspiracy theories in his church is particularly affecting young members. The college and young adult pastor of Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Stacy said some older members are sharing Facebook content that links the coronavirus to Jeffrey Epstein and secret pedophile rings. He says his and other pastors’ job is to teach that conspiracy theories are not where Christians should find a basis for reality.

“My fear … is that Jesus would not be co-opted by conspiracy theories in a way that leads the next generation to throw Jesus out with the bathwater,” Stacy said, “that we’re not able to separate the narrative of taking back our country from Jesus’ kingdom narrative.”

Others are concerned the theories will become grounds for more mistrust. “Young people are exiting the church because they see their parents and mentors and pastors and Sunday school teachers spreading things that even at a young age they can see through,” said Jeb Barr, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Elm Mott outside Waco, Texas. He said conspiracy theories are “extremely widespread and getting worse” among his online church networks.

“Why would we listen to my friend Joe … who’s telling me about Jesus who also thinks that Communists are taking over America and operating a pedophile ring out of a pizza restaurant? … Why would we be believed?”

But Barr and other pastors I spoke with are reticent to police church members’ social media conduct. Instead, they try to teach broader principles. “Christians are meant to be agents of hope, to be peacemakers; the Bible says we’re not to be quarrelsome,” said Barr. “We’re not to be the ones spreading fear and division and anger.”

Barr also teaches critical thinking skills and encourages his members to read “boring news.” He will recommend news sources that are credible.

But teaching media literacy isn’t enough, precisely because QAnon thrives on a narrative of media cover-up.

Fugitt said it’s not effective to tell conspiracy spreaders that what they are sharing online is false. “Nobody joins a cult. I don’t think anybody shares a conspiracy theory either because they believe it’s truth.” Rather, he tries to address the dehumanizing language of QAnon theories that equate certain people with evil. History is replete with examples of where such language can lead.

“I can’t hate another person, but boy if I can make them less than human, that’s the Crusades, that’s Jewish persecution throughout history, that’s racial issues hand over fist there.”

In a fraught political moment, the pastors I spoke with worried that taking on QAnon, by addressing politics directly, would divide the church.

But QAnon is more than a political ideology. It’s a spiritual worldview that co-opts many Christian-sounding ideas to promote verifiably false claims about actual human beings.

QAnon has features akin to syncretism — the practice of blending traditional Christian beliefs with other spiritual systems, such as Santeria. Q explicitly uses Bible verses to urge adherents to stand firm against evil elites. One charismatic church based in Indiana hosts two-hour Sunday services showing how Bible prophecies confirm Q’s messages. Its leaders tell the congregation to stop watching mainstream media (even conservative media) in favor of QAnon YouTube channels and the Qmap website.

And it’s having life-and-death effects: It’s hampering the work of anti-sex trafficking organizations. The FBI has linked it to violence and threats of violence. And its adherents are downplaying the threat of COVID and thus putting others’ lives at risk.

The earliest Christians contended with syncretism in the form of Gnosticism, which blended elements of Greek philosophy and Zoroastrianism with Christianity, emphasizing the good-evil spirit-flesh divide as well as secret divine knowledge (Greek: gnosis is “knowledge”). Early church fathers such as Irenaeus and Tertullian battled Gnostic ideas, rejecting them as heresy.

At a time when church leaders are having to host digital church and try to meet members’ needs virtually, the idea of adding “fight heresy” to their to-do list might sound exhausting. But a core calling of church leaders is to speak the truth in love. It’s not loving to allow impressionable people to be taken in by falsehood. Nor is it loving to allow them to spread falsehood and slander to others.

“Conspiracy theories thrive on a sort of cynicism that says, ‘We see a different reality that no one else sees,’” said Stacy. “Paul says to take every thought captive — addressing conspiracy theories is part of that work.”

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Religion has always been a way for people to deal with reality. It provides a platform to allow followers to suspend the harshness of reality with a fable of their own imagination. Some quickly figured out that taking control of the fable was also a very effective way to control the masses and with it create wealth.

This Q shit is no different than the walking on water shit, or the water into wine shit, or the parting of seas shit, or the heaven shit, or the virgin shit, or the hell shit, or etc. etc. etc.

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3 hours ago, yobnoc said:

(RNS) — It’s a rough time to be a pastor.... addressing conspiracy theories is part of that work.”

The title of this editorial is QAnon: The alternative religion that’s coming to your church its from the Religion News Service.

IMO the most appropriate parts are:

"Mark Fugitt, senior pastor of Round Grove Baptist Church in Miller, Missouri, recently sat down to count the conspiracy theories that people in his church are sharing on Facebook. The list was long. It included claims that 5G radio waves are used for mind control; that George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; that Bill Gates is related to the devil; that masks can kill you; that the germ theory isn’t real; and that there might be something to Pizzagate after all. ...

Thorngate attributes the phenomenon in part to the “death of expertise”(READ SCIENCE) — a distrust of authority figures that leads some Americans to undervalue long-established measures of competency and wisdom. Among some church members, he said, the attitude is, “I’m going to use church for the things I like, ignore it for the things I don’t and find my own truth.

“That part for us is concerning, that nothing feels authoritative right now.”

So religious followers seem to be prime believers for other conspiracy theories. That they don't trust science or expertise. The READ SCIENCE is mine. and “I’m going to use church for the things I like, ignore it for the things I don’t and find my own truth." hits the nail on the head.

No news here because staunch religious believers seem to be Qanon's best advocates.

The editorial makes a link to another story Don't be fooled by QAnon’s post-apocalyptic fury. It’s really spiritual hunger.. authored by Tara Isabella Burton is a contributing editor at the American Interest, a columnist at Religion News Service, and the former staff religion reporter at Vox.com. She has written on religion and secularism for National Geographic, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and more, and holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford. She is also the author of the novel Social Creature (Doubleday, 2018).

"We are living at the end of history, this aesthetic goes, and that’s fundamentally exciting. It is an aesthetic that celebrates chaos for its own sake, and celebrates those who recognize that they’re living on the edge. This apocalyptic fantasy has also become a recruitment tool for the far-right. 

Underpinning the logic of QAnon is a narrative of both heroism and destruction, in which intrepid keyboard warriors can uncover and overthrow a deep state committed to the status quo. That same narrative supports the fanatical and hysteric ideology of modern race war as concocted by the “far white”: America in 2020 as the last stand to defend the white race. 

It is necessary to understand and condemn the racism — structural as well as individual — and racial hatred encoded deep within these movements. But it is necessary, too, to understand that their pull is a promise of a role to play in history’s last battle. This vision of post-apocalyptic meaning-making — the end-of-history as a survivalist video game — is a symptom of our collective cultural alienation and the sense of meaninglessness wrought by life under late capitalism."

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14 hours ago, Phil1111 said:

The title of this editorial is QAnon: The alternative religion that’s coming to your church its from the Religion News Service.

IMO the most appropriate parts are:

"Mark Fugitt, senior pastor of Round Grove Baptist Church in Miller, Missouri, recently sat down to count the conspiracy theories that people in his church are sharing on Facebook. The list was long. It included claims that 5G radio waves are used for mind control; that George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; that Bill Gates is related to the devil; that masks can kill you; that the germ theory isn’t real; and that there might be something to Pizzagate after all. ...

Thorngate attributes the phenomenon in part to the “death of expertise”(READ SCIENCE) — a distrust of authority figures that leads some Americans to undervalue long-established measures of competency and wisdom. Among some church members, he said, the attitude is, “I’m going to use church for the things I like, ignore it for the things I don’t and find my own truth.

“That part for us is concerning, that nothing feels authoritative right now.”

So religious followers seem to be prime believers for other conspiracy theories. That they don't trust science or expertise. The READ SCIENCE is mine. and “I’m going to use church for the things I like, ignore it for the things I don’t and find my own truth." hits the nail on the head.

No news here because staunch religious believers seem to be Qanon's best advocates.

The editorial makes a link to another story Don't be fooled by QAnon’s post-apocalyptic fury. It’s really spiritual hunger.. authored by Tara Isabella Burton is a contributing editor at the American Interest, a columnist at Religion News Service, and the former staff religion reporter at Vox.com. She has written on religion and secularism for National Geographic, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and more, and holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford. She is also the author of the novel Social Creature (Doubleday, 2018).

"We are living at the end of history, this aesthetic goes, and that’s fundamentally exciting. It is an aesthetic that celebrates chaos for its own sake, and celebrates those who recognize that they’re living on the edge. This apocalyptic fantasy has also become a recruitment tool for the far-right. 

Underpinning the logic of QAnon is a narrative of both heroism and destruction, in which intrepid keyboard warriors can uncover and overthrow a deep state committed to the status quo. That same narrative supports the fanatical and hysteric ideology of modern race war as concocted by the “far white”: America in 2020 as the last stand to defend the white race. 

It is necessary to understand and condemn the racism — structural as well as individual — and racial hatred encoded deep within these movements. But it is necessary, too, to understand that their pull is a promise of a role to play in history’s last battle. This vision of post-apocalyptic meaning-making — the end-of-history as a survivalist video game — is a symptom of our collective cultural alienation and the sense of meaninglessness wrought by life under late capitalism."

Thanks to yobnoc and you for sharing. I liked the article.

Q and QAnon; good, bad, or ugly; it is a voting force to be reckoned with. And that has been my point all along. We don't accept the MSM and the Q posts provide a positive outlook not found elsewhere.

WWG1WGA & WE VOTE

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8 minutes ago, RonD1120 said:

Thanks to yobnoc and you for sharing. I liked the article.

Q and QAnon; good, bad, or ugly; it is a voting force to be reckoned with. And that has been my point all along. We don't accept the MSM and the Q posts provide a positive outlook not found elsewhere.

WWG1WGA & WE VOTE

Hey glad to help! I hope the end of world, SHTF, seize control from the liberals, Bill Gates, Soros, etc. works out for you.

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(edited)
13 minutes ago, RonD1120 said:

Thanks to yobnoc and you for sharing. I liked the article.

Q and QAnon; good, bad, or ugly; it is a voting force to be reckoned with. And that has been my point all along. We don't accept the MSM and the Q posts provide a positive outlook not found elsewhere.

WWG1WGA & WE VOTE

I love how you always talk about it being “positive” but never talk about it being “truthful” or “accurate”.  
 

Of course, that’s because it’s not, but at least now you’re basically being honest with us and acknowledging that Q really just a manipulation campaign to get gullible people to vote for Trump. 

Edited by Skwrl

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(edited)
3 hours ago, RonD1120 said:

Q and QAnon; good, bad, or ugly;

What about adding right or wrong, true or intentionally manipulative of the gullible? I've got a 2020 news flash for you parson, just increasing the number of voters who believe horse shit for a couple of years or even a couple of thousand years does not make it true.

Edited by JoeWeber

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Qanon in now going to rely upon the pony express and messages under rocks to spread the word. Hillary. Soros and Gates are safe for another week. But trump is likely to sign another executive order to save Qanon.

"Facebook said on Wednesday that it had removed 790 QAnon groups from its site and was restricting another 1,950 groups, 440 pages and more than 10,000 Instagram accounts related to the right-wing conspiracy theory, in the social network’s most sweeping action against the fast-growing movement."

Clearly Facebook is now a part of the deep state MSM.

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10 minutes ago, Phil1111 said:

Clearly Facebook is now a part of the deep state MSM.

Everyone except Trump is, really.

Personally I love the Facebook posts that go something like "The MEDIA DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE this story I saw on the news!  It has been 100% CENSORED!"

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9 minutes ago, billvon said:

Everyone except Trump is, really.

Personally I love the Facebook posts that go something like "The MEDIA DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE this story I saw on the news!  It has been 100% CENSORED!"

What are the GOP House and Senate Qanon candidates going to do now? Its undemocratic counter-revolutionary.

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1 hour ago, billvon said:

Everyone except Trump is, really.

Personally I love the Facebook posts that go something like "The MEDIA DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE this story I saw on the news!  It has been 100% CENSORED!"

Hi Bill,

I think the word is:  Dichotomy

Jerry Baumchen

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trump's full endorsement of Qanon.

"President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed he didn't know much about the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon but offered praise for its believers, adding that he heard they "like me very much" and "love our country." 

"Well I don't know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," Trump told reporters during a White House briefing. "These are people that don't like seeing what's going on in places like Portland, Chicago and New York and other cities and states. ... I've heard these are people that love our country and they just don't like seeing it."

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(edited)
10 hours ago, Phil1111 said:

trump's full endorsement of Qanon.

"President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed he didn't know much about the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon but offered praise for its believers, adding that he heard they "like me very much" and "love our country." 

"Well I don't know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," Trump told reporters during a White House briefing. "These are people that don't like seeing what's going on in places like Portland, Chicago and New York and other cities and states. ... I've heard these are people that love our country and they just don't like seeing it."

I find it interesting what you chose to bold, Phil. My take away was earlier in his response. “I don’t know much about that movement other than they like me” was the actually important part here.  Qcumbers have been dying for a reporter to ask Trump “the question” as they call it; and now that they have, Trump - the supposed leader of the “white hats” - has said he didn’t know much about it.  Trump’s support for it has been revealed - it’s not about a secret baby saving movement, it’s about a group that likes him a lot, so he likes them. 
 

Somebody play the “sad trombone” sound for Ron. 

 

It also reminds me of a joke I heard:

A Qultist dies and goes to heaven...  Upon meeting Jesus, he asks with glee who Q really was.

Jesus takes a deep breath and says, "I've been expecting you to ask, but I'm only going to answer you once and then we move on... Q started as a random bunch of people pranking you online, which then was used by people in power for their own political purposes.... It's OK though, your life still had meaning..."

The Qultist starts shaking his head and says, "I can't believe it... The Deep State really does go all the way to the top..."

Edited by Skwrl
  • Like 3

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3 hours ago, Skwrl said:

I find it interesting what you chose to bold, Phil.

The Qultist starts shaking his head and says, "I can't believe it... The Deep State really does go all the way to the top..."

I don't disagree with you. The first notes in any foreign service briefing on trump is flattery and tell trump you like him. The "love our country" of course is his lack of understanding of facts. He says he knows little about them(lie) but yet came to the conclusion that(he heard) they love America.

The term "he heard" or "someone told me" are his catchall phrases to deny his personal knowledge of the facts. In any event Qanon now has the tie to the president that the GOP has tried to disavow. Yet at the same time Qanon supporters are running for election. trump included.

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11 hours ago, Phil1111 said:

trump's full endorsement of Qanon.

"President Donald Trump on Wednesday claimed he didn't know much about the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon but offered praise for its believers, adding that he heard they "like me very much" and "love our country." 

"Well I don't know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," Trump told reporters during a White House briefing. "These are people that don't like seeing what's going on in places like Portland, Chicago and New York and other cities and states. ... I've heard these are people that love our country and they just don't like seeing it."

Sounds good to me.

3 hours ago, Skwrl said:

Somebody play the “sad trombone” sound for Ron. 

Nay, nay! "Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion."

Lyrics
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
The Lord utters His voice before His army
The Lord utters His voice before His army
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
The Lord utters His voice before His army
The Lord utters His voice before His army
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm in My Holy mountain!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm in my Holy mountain!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm in my Holy mountain!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm!
Sound the alarm!
Sound the alarm!

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3 minutes ago, RonD1120 said:

Sounds good to me.

Nay, nay! "Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion."

Lyrics
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
The Lord utters His voice before His army
The Lord utters His voice before His army
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
They rush on the city, they run on the wall
Great is the army that carries out His word
The Lord utters His voice before His army
The Lord utters His voice before His army
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm in My Holy mountain!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm in my Holy mountain!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm in my Holy mountain!
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion
Sound the alarm!
Sound the alarm!
Sound the alarm!

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion."

You can read the words while you listen to the band and understand what goes on in Ron's church on Sundays.

Sunday mass has sure changed since the days of compassion, kindness and love for all men(women too).

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3 minutes ago, Phil1111 said:

Sunday mass

Phil if you're going to go on and on about evangelicals, then it might help to know about what they believe.  Evangelicals are diametrically opposed to the idea of a mass.

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6 minutes ago, Coreece said:

Phil if you're going to go on and on about evangelicals, then it might help to know about what they believe.  Evangelicals are diametrically opposed to the idea of a mass.

Well you're possibly right. What I meant was the war music of Ron's aforementioned song and subsequent sermon obviously delivering the message as to how to think.

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