That strips my conscience bare — it’s witchcraft

That strips my conscience bare — it’s witchcraft November 7, 2023

Thought I was done with this, but then this headline pops up in my RSS feed: “MAGA Pastor Hank Kunneman Removes Sermon Accusing Taylor Swift of Practicing ‘Witchcraft’.”

MAGA pastor and self-proclaimed “prophet” Hank Kunneman took time out of his Sunday sermon this week to accuse musician Taylor Swift of engaging in “satanic rituals and witchcraft” while suggesting that there is some conspiracy behind her relationship with professional football player Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kunneman, who regularly uses his church services to spread conspiracy theoriesmisinformation, and lies about the 2020 election, seized on the ads Kelce has done to promote Pfizer’s COVID and flu vaccines, speculating that there must be some “connection” between Pfizer and the Kelce/Swift relationship.

Kunneman’s logic is this: A) Taylor Swift is not a Trump-worshipping MAGA cultist; therefore B) Taylor Swift is a witch.

Again, “witch” is just the word folks like Kunneman use for any woman who is not under their control. Swift is talented, famous, richer than even Kenneth Copeland, and doesn’t have to care what people like Hank Kunneman say about her. This terrifies them. If she scares them, and witches are scary, then she must be a witch. That’s just logic.

I suspect Taylor lives in their heads for another reason as well — for the same reason that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does. Because she’s pretty (which is the nice way of alluding to the frequent, obsessive, detailed fantasies they have about these women without having to get into the squickier aspects of just what kind of fantasies men like that have).

Witch-hunters and witch-sniffers play a big role in Amanda Marcotte’s Salon piece on “How evangelical delusions trained Republicans to love Trump’s lies.”

The key point there is that, as Marcotte, they love these lies — not that they “fall for” these lies and not that they believe them. They don’t believe them. No one does. No one could.

They don’t believe these lies, they choose to pretend to believe them. Up to a point. Specifically, up to the point at which it ceases to be fun and requires acting in a way commensurate with what such beliefs would require were they genuine.

Occasionally, and tragically, some unstable person will try to take this pretense of belief — this attempt at make believe — and try to coerce themselves into genuinely believing the fantasy by taking a drastic action based on the premise that this fantasy is real.

Consider the case of Joseph Angel Alvarez: “Murder suspect of prominent El Paso attorney shares beliefs of satanic rituals in testimony.” Alvarez is unwell and his defense attorneys can make a strong case that he is delusional. But he also seems to have struggled with wholly accepting the fantastic claims of his delusions. He wanted them to be true, but he wasn’t able to entirely convince himself that they were. So I don’t think it’s accurate to say that he shot his victims because he thought those delusions were true, but rather that he did so because that action would bind him to those delusions — would be a way of forcing himself to commit to believing them by acting as though they were real.

If those fantasies were real, then that would mean he was special and better-than. He wanted to be special and better-than, so he wanted the fantasies to be real.

So his own attorneys are playing up the kookier aspects of Alvarez’s Satanic baby-killer fantasy, but prosecutors are noting that his crime is almost indistinguishable from previous acts of anti-abortionist violence. Alvarez agrees with the prosecution on that point:

Alvarez’s attorneys are attempting an insanity defense by claiming he is mentally ill and delusional, while prosecutors claim he was a radicalized anti-abortionist.

Alvarez testified he believed babies were being sacrificed in satanic rituals by residents in the houses across the Central El Paso park. He added God gave him signs he needed to execute the satanists to stop the “gruesome satanic abortions.”

“I believe I was obeying God,” Alvarez testified. “Better to obey the laws of God than man. I was following divine law.”

Sounds exactly like Paul Hill. And like Eric Rudolph. And like Edgar Maddison Welch.

And like every Republican judge who’s gotten the Seal of Approval from the Federalist Society.


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