White evangelicals and QAnon (cont’d.)

White evangelicals and QAnon (cont’d.) October 6, 2020

Here are a couple more recent items on the growing intersection between white evangelicalism and the vicious QAnon hoax. (See earlier: “If the Q fits.”)

Chris Joyner’s piece is from earlier in September, but filtered out from behind paywalls last week, “Cultlike conspiracy theory QAnon takes root in Georgia.” Joyner notes the explicit white evangelical trappings of the hoax, and how that helps to attract the attention of those churches and communities:

The evangelical Christian undercurrent that runs throughout the QAnon environment is also likely a draw in a state where church attendance is among the highest in the nation.

In preparing her group for the march, [Facebook activist/gossip Stephanie] Grohe warned, “We are in a war of sorts. It is a psychological war. A silent war. A spiritual war.”

… Grohe publicly denied her group espoused QAnon conspiracy theories. At the same time she suggested another conspiracy theory that “antifa groups” were infiltrating marches with outrageous signs to discredit the movement.

Why?

“To make us look like nuts,” a woman standing beside Grohe said. “Antifa works for George Soros.”

Soros figures into a lot of QAnon conspiracies, including that he is part of the secret cabal of elite pedophiles and that his son is married to the sister of Trump nemesis Rep. Adam Schiff. There is no basis for either claim. In fact, Schiff has no sister.

Joyner’s piece doesn’t explore or explain what “the [white] evangelical Christian undercurrent that runs throughout the QAnon environment” entails, but this is part of it: A Very Nice White Christian Lady is deeply offended that anyone thinks she might be a conspiracy-theory crackpot and, therefore, immediately assumes that she’s being attacked by a secretive internationalist cabal of The Jews.

I’m sure that Grohe and her friend would insist they’re “strongly pro-Israel,” and therefore immune to antisemitism. Such unexamined, reflexive antisemitism probably isn’t what Joyner meant by an “evangelical undercurrent,” but that’s exactly what it is. This is not a matter of innocent white evangelicals innocently being gulled into embracing a conspiracy theory despite its vicious antisemitism. The unpleasant reality is that antisemitism is part of the appeal for white evangelicals.

The other article gets at another key piece of the attraction QAnon has for white evangelicals. This is from Aida Chávez at the Intercept, who looks at how the hoax has saturated the place where she grew up, “How QAnon Conspiracy Theories Spread in My Colorado Hometown.”

That hometown — the exurb of Parker, near Denver — seems to be a hotbed of QAnon “believers.” Chávez interviews a host of them to explore how that has changed the place. Or, maybe, how it hasn’t changed it so much as brought its character to the surface. Two of those interview subjects — one a critic of the hoax, one a victim — provide a kind of mirror-image look at what I think may be the most vital aspect of QAnon’s appeal for white evangelicals.

Zoë Royer, a 23-year-old youth advocate based in Denver, said QAnon and Save the Children is everywhere. …

She agreed that the theories have captured moms especially, adding that most people have been bored and cooped up at home during the pandemic. “This all kind of popped up around the same time that the [Black Lives Matter] protests did as well,” Royer said. “I think that because it’s such a conservative area — and the fact that there was a popular movement and reaction to all the police brutality, that they couldn’t straight up say, ‘no, we’re anti-BLM’ — they kind of had to grasp onto this other basically fake story to make it seem like they are the ethical crusaders.”

There it is — the essential appeal of every variation of Satanic baby-killerism. It always spreads among people who dimly recognize, but resist admitting explicitly, that they’re on the wrong side of an important moral issue. If you think of yourself as a “moral leader,” as the repository and avatar of virtue, such a glimpse of your failure on a key moral test is unbearable. You will reach for, latch onto, or invent whatever you can “to make it seem like” you can still imagine yourself as having the moral and ethical high ground.

This need to imagine oneself as a moral superior in the midst of demonstrating one’s moral inferiority leads to bearing false witness against those who are not failing that same moral test. Such false witness is always unconvincing, even to oneself, so it turns into shouting and superlatives. One’s own moral failure can be expunged or excused, perhaps, if others stand accused of committing the worst imaginable sins (murder, cannibalism), in their worst forms (murdering sweet little innocent babies), for the worst possible reasons (service to Satan, to Ultimate Evil).

Royer’s insight is echoed, inadvertently, by “Campbell” — a QAnon victim, who describes the attraction the hoax had for her in this way:

“As a Trump supporter, I kinda feel like I’m alone most of the time in my beliefs,” Campbell said. “But this one I feel like I’m part of the majority because everyone is kind of thinking the same thing.”

Campbell’s community is overwhelmingly Republican, so why does she feel “alone most of the time in my beliefs”? Her support for Trump is shared by her family, her church, and by the news sources she turns to for affirmation of those beliefs. She’s far from “alone,” so why does she feel that way?

I think what Campbell is describing there as “alone” is really the sense of being unsupported and unsustained. That’s something that comes from holding beliefs that are, in fact, unsupportable and unsustainable. It’s the unavoidable consequence of trying to believe things that can’t be believed — things that are perpetually refuted and disproved multiple times a day, even to your own satisfaction, no matter how hard you work to avoid paying attention to such overwhelming evidence.

That brings with it a sense of being beleaguered and beset from every side. A devotion to unsustainable, unsupportable unreality makes reality itself a hostile presence. And that will make you kinda feel like you’re alone most of the time.

The hoax offers a sense of community to those like Campbell who are actively — and on some level knowingly — choosing to double-down on unreality. That community offers the affirmation that Royer describes, drowning out the dim sense of being indefensibly wrong with the mantra that, no, they’re wrong, those people over there — they are superlatively wrong and evil and Satanic and we are right and true and good, the defenders of babies from cannibals, the chosen ones who will Save the Children.

But no matter how big that community gets, it still cannot make this unreality convincing for its members. Joining a community of others who share your desperate denial doesn’t ultimately turn out to be any less lonely than doing it by yourself.

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