What do you know? The QAnon nonsense is poaching the susceptible from Christian nonsense.
Before the pandemic, [Pastor] Frailey knew a little bit about QAnon, but he hadn’t given such an easily debunked fringe theory much of his time. The posts he started seeing felt familiar, though: they reminded him of the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s and 1990s, when rumors of secret occult rituals tormenting children in day-care centers spread quickly among conservative religious believers who were already anxious about changes in family structures. “The pedophile stuff, the Satanic stuff, the eating babies—that’s all from the 1980s,” he says.
That conspiracy-fueled frenzy was propelled in part by credulous mainstream news coverage, and by false accusations and even convictions of day-care owners. But evangelicals, in particular, embraced the claims, tuning in to a wave of televangelists who promised to help viewers spot secret satanic symbols and rituals in the secular world.
If the panic was back with fresh branding as QAnon, it had a new ally in Facebook. And Frailey wasn’t sure where to turn for help. He posted in a private Facebook group for Oklahoma Baptist pastors, asking if anyone else was seeing what he was. The answer, repeatedly, was yes.
The pastors traded links. Frailey read everything he could about QAnon. He listened to every episode of the New York Times podcast series Rabbit Hole, on “what happens when our lives move online,” and devoured a story in the Atlantic that framed QAnon as a new religion infused with the language of Christianity. To Frailey, it felt more like a cult.
QAnon, like Christianity, simplifies and explains the world, and appeals to the same sort of person — the person dizzied by change and the sense of inexplicable diminution, the sense that the world has undergone a malevolent shift.
QAnon and Christianity explain and answer the same need, the same sense of disorientation and loss.