“I don’t want to offer myself as any kind of an expert but a rather telling report came out this week,” a respected megachurch pastor, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church near Los Angeles, told his congregation last Sunday.
“And for the first time we heard the truth.
“The CDC, the Centre[s] for Disease Control, which is the national organisation that is to report to us the truth about disease, said that in truth six per cent of the deaths that have occurred can be directly attributable to COVID. 94 per cent can not. Of the 186 thousand people who have died, 9,210 actually died from COVID. There is no pandemic.”
MacArthur’s church is embroiled in a court fight with the local County authorities over whether the church should meet in person in their 3500 seat auditorium. Videos from earlier last month, after the court case began, showed the congregation seated close together and maskless.
“The good news is you’re here, you are not distancing, and you are not wearing masks,” MacArthur told a packed church in mid August.
This confrontation between a US church, however renowned – and Grace Community Church has a large international following for its Bible teaching – and local health authorities might be of limited interest were it not for the source of MacArthur’s COVID information.
Here is the CDC report that MacArthur refers to.
As Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor turned Christian Investigative Journalist, reports: “MacArthur may have gotten this news from his attorney Jenna Ellis, who in turn may have gotten it from Gateway Pundit.”
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) August 30, 2020
The “quietly updated” CDC report – or in MacArthur’s words, a “first” truth finally revealed – is actually the latest in a series of weekly, and in some cases daily, CDC reports released for months.
The majority of COVID-involved deaths have mostly involved people with co-morbidities (for example, diabetes) and the percentages of people with or without these co-morbidities has been high throughout. This is unsurprising, because those badly affected by COVID have mostly been older. This has been consistent in CDC reports for months.
The “news” that a CDC report had “revealed” a much lower number of “real” COVID deaths has been tweeted by supporters of a group called QAnon.
“President Trump over the weekend retweeted a conspiracy theory falsely claiming that only about 9,000 people had “actually” died from coronavirus, instead of about 150,000,” The Hill reported this week.
“Twitter later removed the tweet, written by a user named “Mel Q,” who is also a believer of the QAnon conspiracy theory, saying it violated its rules.
“The now-deleted tweet pointed to a post on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website saying that ‘for 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.’”
“QAnon is a far right-wing, loosely organized network and community of believers who embrace a range of unsubstantiated beliefs,” according to the conservative Wall Street Journal.
“These views centre around the idea that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles — mainly consisting of what they see as elitist Democrats, politicians, journalists, entertainment moguls and other institutional figures — have long controlled much of the so-called ‘deep state’ government, which they say seeks to undermine President Trump, mostly with aid of media and entertainment outlets.”
The 2016 ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory, which alleged that a Hilary Clinton-linked child sex ring was housed in a Washington Pizza shop, is being viewed as a precursor to the beginnings of QAnon.
“QAnon is 21st century Gnosticism …” – Erick Erickson
“QAnon rose out of the 2016 Pizzagate conspiracy theory and has grown into a decentralised network that analyzes cryptic prophecies dropped in remote online forums by ‘Q,’ who claims, without ever offering evidence, to be a Trump administration official with high-level clearance,” according to an Axios report.
“Q maintains President Trump is secretly fighting a child-selling cabal in the US, though the conspiracy has spiralled to cover a vast array of claims, from JFK Jr. having faked his death to help Trump behind the scenes, to the coronavirus being a hoax or a biological weapon engineered in either case by sinister elites.”
Christian journalist Katelyn Beaty surveyed the reach of QAnon into churches, for the Religion News service. “Mark Fugitt, senior pastor of Round Grove Baptist Church in Miller, Missouri, recently sat down to count the conspiracy theories that people in his church are sharing on Facebook. The list was long. It included claims that 5G radio waves are used for mind control; that George Floyd’s murder is a hoax; that Bill Gates is related to the devil; that masks can kill you; that the germ theory isn’t real; and that there might be something to Pizzagate after all.”
A long piece, The Prophecies of Q, in The Atlantic gives a detailed examination of QAnon’s theories, from Pizzagate to the idea of a “Great Awakening” that will see the truths laid bare to the public that has resisted hearing the QAnon message.
While QAnon is of the right, conspiracy theories are present on the left – the allegedly anti fascist movement Antifa will cause similar difficulty to the Democratic Party in the US as QAnon will to Republicans. QAnon, however, appears to have more appeal to Christians.
An insight into the appeal of QAnon is given by Christian conservative radio commentator Erick Erickson.
“QAnon is 21st century Gnosticism – a conspiracy that claims to open your eyes to greater truths about the way the universe works. It builds elaborate houses of lies on some basic truths and gives its adherents a level of pride that they, unlike those who do not partake of it, have hidden insight into what is going on around them.” Erickson warns his listeners that this is actually a heresy that will lead people away from Jesus.
The original gnostics (from the Greek word gnôsis, meaning “knowledge” or “insight”), including Christian Gnostics, believed they had special knowledge or insight into what was really going on.
The appeal of conspiracy theories appears to be built into American politics, emerging at each election.
But Australia, and Australian churches, are not safe from QAnon. “Analysis from misinformation tracking organisation First Draft suggests related Facebook groups, including one group with more than 12,000 members, have been active here since at least 2018,” the ABC reports.
“They referenced belonging to a chapter of QAnon in Australia.” – Murray Campbell
Melbourne Baptist Minister Murray Campbell conducted an experiment.
“At the time of reading The Atlantic’s exposé, I sent out this tweet.”
“In light of the growing proliferation of nutty conspiracy theories, I’m pleased that we’re currently studying Colossians at Church. Colossians presents a clear repudiation of gnosis. Christians are to be people of reason not speculation, love not fear.”
“In case I had doubt as to whether QAnon was a thing, within minutes I had people replying to the tweet, espousing QAnon ideas and carrying QAnon references on the Twitter bios. Somewhat ironically, they have since deleted their comments and disappeared in the dark web once more. What was interesting about the comments are these three points: 1. They referenced belonging to a chapter of QAnon in Australia, 2. They used Christian language/categories, 3. They obviously exist.
“The connection between QAnon and ‘Christianity’ (I stress the inverted commas here) became highly visible when Joe Carter wrote his article for [The Gospel Coalition]. Many comments were made by people who identify with QAnon. It is quite astonishing and concerning.”
QAnon is real. It appeals to Christians. It could be in your church.