By Daniel Burke | CNN Religion Editor
Parker Neff was scrolling through conservative posts on Facebook when he saw an unfamiliar hashtag: #WWG1WGA.
Recently retired after serving as a Southern Baptist pastor for more than 20 years, his time was free and curiosity piqued.
“I started looking into it online,” Neff said. “Doing some research.”
And with that, the 66-year-old retiree, and soon his wife, Sharon, fell down one of the internet’s most dangerous rabbit holes.
It didn’t take long for Neff to find the hashtag’s meaning. “Where We Go One We Go All” is one of several mottoes of QAnon, a collective of online conspiracists.
The pastor and his wife, who live in Arcola, Mississippi, began watching the vast collection of QAnon videos posted online by “researchers” who decipher the cryptic messages of “Q,” an anonymous online persona who claims to have access to classified military and intelligence operations.
Since its inception in 2017 QAnon has quickly metastasized, infiltrating American politics, internet culture and now — religion.
According to QAnon, President Donald Trump is secretly working to stop a child sex cabal run by Hollywood and political elites who will one day be revealed during an apocalyptic event known as The Storm.
During the pandemic, QAnon-related content has exploded online, growing nearly 175% on Facebook and nearly 63% on Twitter, according a British think tank.
Although QAnon’s conspiracy theories are baseless — they allege that a famous actor is secret sex trafficker and a leading Democrat participated in Satanic rituals — the dangers the movement poses are very real.
The FBI has called QAnon a domestic terror threat and an internal FBI memo warned that “fringe conspiracy theories very likely motivate some domestic extremists, wholly or in part, to commit criminal and sometimes violent activity.” Facebook finally pledged to ban QAnon content earlier this month.
Still, some Christian conservatives are falling for QAnon’s unhinged conspiracies.
“Right now QAnon is still on the fringes of evangelicalism,” said Ed Stetzer, an evangelical pastor and dean at Wheaton College in Illinois who wrote a recent column warning Christians about QAnon. “But we have a pretty big fringe.
“Pastors need to be more aware of the danger and they need tools to address it,” he told CNN. “People are being misled by social media.”
Pastors who preach QAnon-aligned ideas
Some Christian pastors are actually leading their followers to QAnon, or at least introducing them to its dubious conspiracy theories.
To cite a few examples:
During services in July, Rock Urban Church in Grandville, Michigan, played a discredited video that supports QAnon conspiracy theories. “The country is being torn apart by the biggest political hoax and coordinated mass media disinformation campaign in living history — you may know it as COVID-19,” the video says. The church did not answer requests for comment and has removed the video from its YouTube channel.
Danny Silk, a leader at Bethel Church, a Pentecostal megachurch …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment