by Jeff Mossberg
What just happened?
Last week, an article from The Gospel Coalition joined the foray of liberal media regarding the phenomenon known simply as Q. The Gospel Coalition article begins by referencing an editorial piece titled The Prophecies of Q by Adrienne LaFrance, executive editor for The Atlantic. That article shamelessly tries to turn public opinion against this phenomenon through the appearance of objective reporting and editorializing with self–proclaimed expertise on the subject matter, and poisoning the well with the claim that “to look at QAnon is to see not just a conspiracy theory but the birth of a new religion.” Sadly, the article from The Gospel Coalition merely serves this poisoned water up to the thirsty.
In an attempt to quantify the present insignificance of this alleged “political cult”, The Gospel Coalition cites a Pew Research Center poll, which indicates that many more liberals than conservatives have actually heard of Q. Ironic, considering that Q is an alleged far-right conspiracy theory. Undoubtedly this is due to all the negative attention that the liberal media has given to it, with thousands of articles over the span of two years. But why has so much energy been expended on this movement when, according to the poll, less than 3% say they have “heard a lot about it”?
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Using this poll data, The Gospel Coalition concludes that Q is still “fringe”, but that Christians should be aware that this “political cult”, as they have
characterized it, poses a threat to the global Church. Perhaps The Gospel Coalition should invest more time elaborating on when the Church is not considered “global”. And perhaps The Gospel Coalition should spend less time on mischaracterizations of Q. They create confusion rather than clarity. In their article, there is not a single reference to Christ, nor the cross, nor regrettably even the gospel.
Cult is classically defined as “a religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader.” However, in contemporary usage, a cult is defined as “a social group that is identified by its unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or by its common interest in a particular personality, object or goal.”
The Gospel Coalition is obviously applying the classical definition while projecting the negative connotation associated with it. The Gospel Coalition is claiming that this is a false sect of extremists following a charismatic Q. To use the word cult in its second meaning, that Q is a social group with certain philosophical beliefs and with a common interest in a particular goal does not carry the emotionally charged connotation that The Gospel Coalition is projecting.
In these opening paragraphs, The Gospel Coalition naively accepts the mischaracterization of Q as a fringe far-right “political cult” that not only angers the liberal media, but threatens the global church. They promote this conclusion at the outset of the article, with their only substantiating source being an editorial piece attempting to discredit the entire phenomenon as a religion.
That’s something The Atlantic has an obvious disdain toward, publishing numerous articles about America losing its religion, with subtitles such as “how much of religious history was influenced by mind-altering substances?” Or the assertion that “it’s hard to understand faith without polling…”. What is hard to understand is why The Gospel Coalition would congregate with The Atlantic in an effort to legitimize and provide the impetus for addressing a topic that poses a threat to the Church. Shouldn’t they possess the needed credentials on their own merits?
Interestingly, there has been a flurry of news articles and social media posts relentlessly attacking Q as a religious cult in the weeks just preceding The Gospel Coalition article. Coincidence? I think not.
What is The Gospel Coalition’s understanding of QAnon?
The Gospel Coalition states that “it started on October 28, 2017, when a person identifying themselves as “Q Clearance Patriot” first appeared on a board of 4Chan (“Politically Incorrect” or /pol/) known for intentionally spreading fake news and propaganda for the “lulz” (i.e., amusement of internet trolls).” Now that’s fake news and propaganda.
This is false on several points.
Falsehood One: “Q Clearance Patriot” was the title for a post on November of 2017, after 33 previous posts, with no identity or signature associated with any of those posts, hence anonymous. The first post directly attributed to Q began after the 60th post on that board. As of the release of their article, there were over four thousand posts, and none of them had been attributed to a “Q Clearance Patriot”. It is unfortunate that The Gospel Coalition has not done their own research.
Falsehood Two: The Gospel Coalition states that the 4Chan board is “known for intentionally spreading fake news and propaganda for the ‘lulz’”. In truth, 4Chan hosted channels dedicated to a wide variety of topics including video games, music, literature, fitness, politics, and sports, among many others. 4Chan was established to provide anonymous users an ability to post and browse content online. This gross mischaracterization by The Gospel Coalition reveals that they were unwittingly influenced by the liberal media attacking the 4Chan board with the intent to get Q shut down. Despite the fact that the Q channel was unassociated with other channels on the board, the liberal media established guilt by association with channels containing inappropriate and often disturbing or even illegal content. This, sadly, is another example of the poisoned narrative served up by The Gospel Coalition article.
Falsehood Three: In the 48th post on the Q channel was the following
message: “Anonymous 2 Nov 2017 – 10:44:30 AM
What is Q Clearance?
What hint does that explicitly refer to?
DOE? [Department of Energy]
Who would have the goods on U1? [Uranium One] Does stating Q refer that person works in DOE? No.
Does it refer that someone dropping such information has the highest level of security within all departments? Why is this relevant?
(May 2010) BO [Barrack Obama] “Russia should be viewed as a friendly partner under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954″ after agreeing to a new nuclear weapons reduction deal and helping US w/ Iran.
Who is the enemy?
What is being continually stated by all Democrats?
Russia is what?
What did the Russia reset really provide?
Clearance/pathway to complete the U1 deal?
Why is the Canadian PM so important?
They never thought they were going to lose.
The calm before the storm.”
Here we have the only other reference to “Q Clearance”. Q clearance is a security clearance required to access Top Secret Restricted Data, Formerly Restricted Data, as well as National Security Information. Restricted Data is defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and covers nuclear weapons and related materials. It follows then that Q is about information, not political theory. Incidentally, from this post, one can quite clearly see that most of the Q posts are presented as questions regarding world events.
Falsehood Four: “Q would later claim to be a government agent with access to top-secret information who was working to assist President Trump in a mission to take down the so-called “deep state” (i.e., a cabal of government leaders believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy).”
The Gospel Coalition substantiates this claim by referencing an article from The Heavy (heavy.com), which is now the third questionable source that The Gospel Coalition uses to legitimize their claims, a site that boasts it is “So Hip It Gets Laddies to Watch the Ads”… which “will be over faster than your last relationship.” Heavy is especially targeted at young men. It mixes animation, music, video games, low quality movies of crazy characters and supermodels in bikinis. This is the same site that made reference to sexual allegations regarding Ravi Zacharias in their eulogy.
For the record, Q has never claimed to be anyone. Q remains completely anonymous. And the assertion of Q claiming to be a government agent with access to top-secret information is incorrect.
So, The Gospel Coalition gets Q completely wrong. But recklessly so.
The Gospel Coalition article shifts to critiquing how Q should post information. “Rather than share this information publicly and in a verifiable form, Q chooses to share what the community calls “breadcrumbs”— vague, mostly incoherent posts that are only comprehensible to those who frequent internet message boards”.
This assertion alone fully reveals that The Gospel Coalition article has no clue who Q is, what Q is, or why Q is. They have lost all credibility, which simply highlights the fact that The Gospel Coalition does not even understand that their false narrative on Q is entirely irrelevant.
Q is game theory.
Game theory is a theoretical framework for conceiving social situations among competing players. Game theory is the science of strategy, or at least the optimal decision-making of independent and competing actors in a strategic setting.
Failing to understand that, you fail to understand Q.
Q is engaging in moves and countermoves. Not everything is intended to be understood by the public, nor is every statement intended to be an accurate statement of events. The primary purpose is to engage the opposition. The public is merely an observer.
And clearly The Gospel Coalition, by insisting that Q should “share this information publicly and in a verifiable form”, does not understand this.
Perhaps The Gospel Coalition should demand the same standard of truth regarding Christ’s use of parables. Perhaps they should demand that Jesus provide verifiable evidence for the scriptures. Perhaps they should demand the same from God.
Who at The Gospel Coalition actually knows anything about Q?
In their “Who is Q?” section, The Gospel Coalition stumbles all over the various claims of internet speculations on who Q might be. This section provides nothing of substance for the entire narrative of their article. In fact, it only diminishes their credibility. They just don’t get Q. At all.
What does The Gospel Coalition believe about Q followers?
The Gospel Coalition again demonstrates a complete lack of understanding by explaining “the core of the Qanon theory”. There is no stated theory. There are thousands of posts to a board that merely provides information and ask questions about current events. No core theory. No political affiliation. No race affiliation. No class affiliation. And no religious affiliation, despite the attempt to establish one.
The Gospel Coalition also wrongly characterizes Q as political. It does so because it has believed the narrative against the Q phenomenon, which deems it to be a far-right wing conspiracy. Actually, many of the posts call out Republicans and professed conservatives. So, it is not just a far-right political cult attacking the left as has been continuously claimed.
The Gospel Coalition attempts to contextualize their theory of the “theory known as #TheStorm”. Q has never used the hash tag for #TheStorm. The only truth here is that President Trump made a comment about “the calm before the storm” while surrounded by top military personnel in the Oval Office. And that expression has been echoed. That only serves to
support the validity of Q rather than the assertion that it calls it into question.
The Gospel Coalition then asserts that “since then the coming “storm” has been connected to everything… while tossing in “secret Democrat pedophilia rings”. Q never connected the rampant pedophilia of the elite to just the Democrats. The fact that these reprehensible rings exist is incontrovertible. Moreover, their Mueller investigation reference is a distraction I won’t waste time on.
It is important that we consider what The Gospel Coalition alleged by their use of the following quote:
“As Q Clearance Patriot wrote:
Even an Atheist knows and must be intelligent enough to know, that Satan worshipers are real, Cults are real and ‘True Evilʼ exists. Disinformation is also real. Itʼs the job of the media and the entertainment industry to keep the public saturated with stimulus designed to keep us blind and distracted. This is where most people ‘tune outʼ because itʼs too hard for them to swallow. They donʼt want to believe that there are people in this world buying children to rape and kill them as sacrifices. Itʼs tough to stomach but who are we if let this continue, who are we if we choose to turn a blind eye. Evil exists, and it exists at the highest level of the United States government. Donʼt be naive and think ‘it canʼt happen hereʼ because I assure you that it is. The level of importance of this operation equates to a ‘Good vs Evilʼ battle that transcends politics. This is a ‘Global Evilʼ that attempted to take over America. Many in our government actively worship Satan, Moloch/Molech and participate Pedophilia, Spirit Cooking, etc. Most Americans are afraid to look this Truth in the eye but True Evil does exist regardless of your religious views. This is not a joke and most definitely not a game. Thousands of Pedophiles and Child Traffickers have been arrested since Trump was sworn in. They are all under heavy investigation, including their funds and their affiliations.”
The Gospel Coalition again mistakenly associates “Q Clearance Patriot” with Q. Not only does The Gospel Coalition misattribute this quote to Q, they do so inexcusably, as the link that they provide for this alleged “Q Clearance Patriot” quote clearly has no connection to the Q posts. It was written by an individual providing commentary on the Q phenomenon back in November of 2017, with many repeating the quote since then. This is poor journalism at best. But it’s worse than that. It is an egregious mischaracterization. And they are without excuse as this was obviously obtained from the link that they provided.
In this section of “What do followers of QAnon believe?”, The Gospel Coalition calls out that these misattributed claims were never fulfilled, and uses that assertion to state that:
“as with most other conspiracy theories, Qanon predictions that fail to come true (and none of their predictions have come true) are not seen as disconfirming or even reason for skepticism. Instead, failed predictions are ignored or modified in favor of different, though equally absurd theories.”
I am absolutely stunned. And even more disappointed that a professing Christian organization would be this far off the rails. With over four thousand posts, many which have preceded unfolding events with confirmable details, The Gospel Coalition statement is patently false. The absurdity of claiming “none of their predictions have come true” is akin to saying that none of the prophesies of scripture have come true. Yet that is what is believed by the unbelieving.
Contrary to the false allegation that Q “predictions fail to come true”, they are unfolding before us with such accuracy that one cannot ignore the relevance, reliability and reasonableness of this information.
What is dangerous about The Gospel Coalition?
An important point to understand is that The Gospel Coalition is attempting to characterize Q followers as dangerous.
Consider the narrative if these same metrics were applied to those who believe the Bible. Does biblical prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled give justification to disconfirming the scriptures in general, and a reason for biblical skepticism? Are those believers simply ignoring failed predictions and just moving on to different though equally absurd scriptural and theological beliefs?
Even making such a naive statement that “none of their predictions have come true” is utter nonsense, and demonstrates The Gospel Coalition’s lack of research, understanding and intellectual integrity.
Let’s consider another assertion by this The Gospel Coalition article, where they state
“last year, for the first time, the FBI identified fringe conspiracy theories – and specifically Qanon – as a domestic terrorist threat.”
The source? Yahoo News contributor Jana Winter. Her source? A “leaked document” from a FBI Phoenix Field Office Intelligence Bulletin. Various rogue elements within the FBI have been thwarting Trump’s entire presidency and spying on him illegally through manufactured conspiracy theories that he’s a Russian agent, and that’s deemed legitimate? But now that they’ve been exposed, their response is to label everyone who is aware of their corruption as an anti-government conspiracy theorist. That’s rich.
Let’s not forget that anti-abortionists are on the domestic terrorist list, and those usually rise out of some vein of Christianity.
What is the FBI’s source for the brief mention of Qanon in the category of “Fringe”? Snopes! Seriously!?! Here’s the FBI’s supporting footnote:
“r (U) Online news article; Snopes; “‘The Roots of ‘Pedophile Ring’ Conspiracy Theories”; 2 Septernber 2018; https://www.snopcs.com/news/2018/09/02/roots-pedophile-ring-conspiracy-theorics/; accessed on 4 January 2019; Snopes is the oldest and largest fact-checking site on the Internet.”
And Snope’s source for the “fact checking” editorials regarding Q? Rationalwiki. Unbelievable, and yet not at all surprising. Nearly all of the online sources find a root in this infamous disinformation site masquerading as rational truth. Consider for a moment Rationalwiki’s representation of Jesus: (I caution following the links, although telling)
“Jesus is the son of God, born to the Virgin Mary (just take her word for it). His function in the divine plan was that of the scapegoat, the human sacrifice which allegedly atoned for the very same fall of man which his father had planned all along. Once that necessary step of the scheme had been completed, Jesus became the original zombie (or at least lich) in the process, after which he conjured up a zombie army (Matthew 27:52). The Quran views Jesus as a Muslim, the prophesied Messiah, and the predecessor of Muhammad. Oh, and listen — don’t mention the war! (We mentioned it once, but we think we got away with it all right…)
This disgusting site disguised as a curator of truth goes on to say:
“But fear not, good atheists, agnostics, and all those who routinely battle fundamentalist Christians or other pushy types. Just because a dude “likely existed” and if so, was seemingly observed roaming the countryside, preaching the splendor of faith in the great architect of the cosmos using vegetables as visual aids, this in no way validates anything that is in the Biblical accounts of the mythic Christ character. That is to say, even if we could prove the existence of Jesus of Nazareth beyond the shadow of a doubt, that would hardly prove that
he died. Well, he died (the scholarly consensus is that everyone dies). But it hardly proves his daddy brought him back to life, holes in his hands and all.”
This is the underlying root of The Gospel Coalition’s source for Q. Tragic.
The Gospel Coalition sounds the alarm that pondering the posts of Q could lead to deception and violence. This is the same assertion made about fundamental Christians. Just like Q followers, Christians have been accused of denying science, intolerance and acts of violence. Christians are accused of homophobia, xenophobia and even sexophobia. Sadly, innumerable people have murdered and committed acts of violence, even against their own children, in the name of Jesus. Does that justify the idea that the Bible is dangerous and those that read it should also be regarded as dangerous?
Why should Christians care about The Gospel Coalition’s story? Christians should care because The Gospel Coalition asserts that
“Christians should care about Qanon because it’s a satanic movement infiltrating our churches”. That is a very reckless and unsubstantiated assertion. The claim that “the QAnon movement frequently engages in slander”… and “often traffics in lies” is The Gospel Coalition’s flimsy basis for making the claim that Q is a satanic movement.
The “engages in slander” comment is a self-referential link to a previously written article by this author on the sin of slander, in which the author, Joe Carter, provides the following definition from Jon Bloom over at desiringGod:
“Slander occurs whenever someone says something untrue about someone else that results, intentionally or unintentionally, in damaging that someone else’s reputation.”
By this definition, and its application of it to Q in an effort to characterize it as a satanic movement, is the epitome of hypocrisy. Applying this same definition to the article from The Gospel Coalition exposes it as a satanic response to Q. Further, the people who believe The Gospel Coalition article would thereby be a participating member of a satanic movement. It cuts both ways.
Perhaps the author should reflect on the exhortation from Jon Bloom:
In an age of social media, that lacks the functional information-spreading restraints of past eras, let us be all the more slow to post (“slow to speak” — James 1:19) analysis, speculation, and commentary on information about another person or group, even if it has become public in our slander-saturated culture, that might eventually prove slanderous. All the serious biblical warnings about slander still apply, which should make us all, especially those of us with “platforms,” tremble.
Somehow The Gospel Coalition is exempt from the exhortation where the excerpt for their article was quoted.
The Gospel Coalition makes the case that “Although the movement is still fringe, it is likely that someone in your church or social media circles has either already bought into the conspiracy or thinks itʼs plausible and worth exploring. We should care because many believers will or are being swayed by the demonic influences of this movement.”
This is an odd admonition. The article earlier claimed that less than 3% of the public have even “heard a lot about Q”, but it’s likely that someone in your church has already bought into the conspiracy, or even thinks it is plausible. Further, believers are being swayed by the demonic influences of this movement, as if believers are not being continually swayed by
demonic influences that surround us in the media, entertainment, education, and even within the churches.
“Rather than scoff because itʼs on the fringe, we should work to guard those who would fall for such deceptions. And rather than disdain those who have become enamored with these lies, we should plead with them 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.
Scoff because it’s on the fringe? When has that ever been the metric for truth or falsehood. That implies that truth is simply consensus. Deceptions? The Gospel Coalition has not given one credible example. Enamored with lies? The Gospel Coalition has not verified a single lie. Not one. From the thousands of posts available to review, not a verifiable lie… And yet they go on at length with allegations of a political cult as a satanic movement driven by demonic influences that poses a danger to the global Church and that we should plead with those pondering these posts to return the the faith.
And what is the message of Q? Consider this consistent theme:
- EVIL SURROUNDS US.
- THEY WANT YOU DIVIDED.
- THEY WANT RACE WARS.
- THEY WANT CLASS WARS.
- THEY WANT POLITICAL WARS.
- FOR GOD AND COUNTRY – LEARN
- STAND STRONG.
- STAND TOGETHER.
- BE STRONG IN THE LORD.
- PRAY FOR STRENGTH.
- PRAY FOR GUIDANCE.
- PRAY FOR AMERICA.
- PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD, SO THAT YOU CAN TAKE YOUR STAND AGAINST THE DEVIL’S SCHEMES.
Is this the dangerous message that threatens the Church? Wake up!
Finally, The Gospel Coalition suggests Christians should “launch a counterattack on the demonic influence of QAnon”. Really? And how would that counterattack look? Who would organize the attack? Is it spiritual? Verbal? Physical? Doesn’t the use of the word counterattack run the risk of physical violence by followers of The Gospel Coalition? Couldn’t the claim that “it is neither too early nor too late for Christians to launch a counterattack on the demonic influence of QAnon” be considered in incitation leading to domestic terrorism by some of its followers? Poetic.
This is a pathetic end to a pathetic article.
Now, perhaps one might make the accusation that my response is equally as pathetic. But there is a significant difference. I am responding to an article that has been published by a religious organization that has mischaracterized a phenomenon and maligned those pondering it as being “swayed by the demonic influences of this movement”.
The world is swayed by demonic influences. The media is swayed by demonic influences. Politics are swayed by demonic influences. The Church is swayed by demonic influences. And so is the believer.
And what has Q repeatedly, in numerous posts, said regarding this?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore
put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:10-18
“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:3
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” – Psalm 46:1
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23
What other statements has Q made? Here are a few other examples:
“God bless America”
“Have faith in God”
“IN GOD WE TRUST.”
“God save America”
These are not statements of religious affiliations, religious imperatives, or religious injunctions. They are benevolent encouragements that a God fearing individual would make. They are the reasonable expressions of faith, consistent for a believer in every context of life.
Does the citation of scripture designate it as a religious movement? Are biblical references inappropriate in a non-religious post? Aside from a relatively benign list of biblical citations, there is no evidence that has been provided to support the claim that Q is a religious cult.
Mine is not a response to make a defense for the Q phenomenon. I am not proselytizing for a particular political perspective. I am simply writing to call out the irresponsible journalism of The Gospel Coalition. This poorly written article would concern me if it were written by the mainstream press. The fact that The Gospel Coalition is responsible for this egregious editorial transgression is appalling. It is wrong. And it should be called out.
This response to The Gospel Coalition is not “The Case for Q”. It is an admonition to anyone who would let The Gospel Coalition do their “fact checking”. Understanding Q requires diligence and intellectual engagement. Not everybody will be interested or willing to invest the time. But let it also be understood that tracking with Q does not imply a lack of discernment or a failure in one’s faith.
May The Gospel Coalition be not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but be utterly ashamed for their irresponsible misrepresentation of the phenomenon of Q.
“For, above all other spheres of human life, the Devil claims politics for his own, as almost the citadel of his power.” – C.S. Lewis
By this, I am certain, Lewis did not mean just far-right fringe conspiracists.
Disclaimer: Views presented here do not necessarily reflect the views of NC Daily Gazette or its authors.