Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, Satanism was everywhere. Books, documentaries, newspapers, magazines, and sermons were filled with dire warnings about a world-wide conspiracy of well-organized Satanists were kidnapping children. Sometimes Satanists were even breeding them. After obtaining an innocent child, they would perform acts of sexual depravity, ritual sacrifice, and cannibalism on them.
Today, the QAnon conspiracy has recycled some of those same conspiracy plot points. QAnon adherents believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles run a global child sex-trafficking ring and plot against US President Donald Trump because he is fighting them.
I was recently involved in an online discussion in one of the many Christian forums I belong to. The question was raised, “Where did the QAnon conspiracy come from.” Several members were quick to point out that it was a rehash of the Pizzagate conspiracy. I suggested that it was a repurposing of the Satanic Panic. (For a brief history, watch the video below)
However, these same plot points can be traced back even further. It’s been suggested that QAnon, tied together with White Supremacists, has resurrected the old “Blood Libel” conspiracy aimed against Jewish people. “Blood Libel” was part of the Anti-Semite movement that accused Jews of killing children to use their blood for ritual purposes. Albert Ehrman, in his article, The Origins of the Ritual Murder and Blood Libel, traces the origins of this conspiracy theory to the writings of Josephus (Against Apion) around CE 94.
This same charge was leveled against early Christians. Marcus Minucius Felix, in his book Octavius, recounts the story of how Christians initiated new members.
Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily – O horror! they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness, they are covenanted to mutual silence.
Why is the age-old canard of conspiracy always about a secretive group killing babies? Richard Beck, author of We Believe The Children, points out that in times of social upheaval, these moral panics follow. In the first century, as the Roman Empire began to crumble, a scapegoat was needed. Jews and Christians became the minority singled out for blame. In the 1970s and 1980s, The United States was still reeling from the cultural upheavals of the 1960s. Stories of an organized Satanic conspiracy helped make sense of such disparate events such as the Mason family murders, Rock-N-Roll, and women entering the workforce. After all, the rise of daycares and pre-schools, necessitated by women’s abdication of their proper place as homemakers and mothers, must surely be hotbeds of evil. If women would just stay home then Satan couldn’t use pre-schools to attack our most vulnerable.
Children, of course, are the most vulnerable members of any society. To attack a child is to attack the society itself at its most vulnerable. If society is in chaos; then a convenient scapegoat must be found. Why not pick your political rival? If you need to discredit a rival, make them baby killers. If you want religious people to join in, make them Satanic baby killers!
QAnon has recycled this old conspiracy. Blood Libel and Pedophilia are now practiced by a supposed global cabal of “Deep State” operatives. For QAnon, it’s Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Bill Gates, or a long list of celebrities. Much like the fabled “Witchcraft trials,” all that is needed is an accusation. No evidence is required. No proof offered. Pick an enemy and point. Soon, others join in for a variety of reasons. The original QAnon post was picked up and distributed to help increase the number of followers for various 4Chan and 8Chan accounts. If you need followers and want to increase “Clicks” and “Likes” start selling QAnon. Social and mainstream media picked it up because it generated advertisement revenue and ratings. People chose to believe the stories because they wanted the accusations to be true. The conspiracy channeled their darkest nature; the conspiracy explained how the world was rigged against them; it gave them permission to hate and to act violently.
QAnon spread rapidly through the Evangelical church. My question is, how can people who proclaim they have THE TRUTH and are THE DEFENDERS of THE TRUTH fall for conspiracy?
I believe it is because Fundamentalist and Evangelicals (Fundagelicals) have been raised in an interpretive hermeneutic that sees reality as one cosmic conspiracy. Further, they have been raised to distrust the very tools needed to separate truth from fiction. (More on this topic in later posts) The Evangelicals have lost their way and have joined in a false conspiracy that discredits their supposed enemies. Worse yet, it encouraged them to hate rather than to love.
How do we fight off conspiracies? First, we have to be a people committed to truth. Conspiracy theorists believe they have uncovered the truth. They believe that they have uncovered a truth other people are blinded to. We need to join with them in the search for truth. The second step, is for non-adherents to admit that there are actual conspiracies in the world. Watergate, Operation Paperclip, and Operation Snow White were all real conspiracies. The third step is to understand the thinking patterns that lead to false conspiracy theories and the thinking patterns that uncover real conspiracies. Conspiracies are uncovered through specific methodologies. In their book, The Conspiracy Theory Handbook, Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook suggest the following differences in thinking patterns.
When we engage with conspiracy theorist, we must not be dismissive. We can find common ground in seeking truth and demonstrate healthy conventional thinking.
As Christians, if we are truly committed to the truth, then we must engage. We cannot afford to dismiss conspiracies as being on the fringe. More than 1 in 3 Americans have bought into the idea of a deep state working against Donald Trump. Conspiracy is now mainstream; it has invaded our churches. Christians, now is the time to examine ourselves first and then help others. January 6, 2020, has shown that leaving the smoldering flame of conspiracy unattended can lead to a conflagration.
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 Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought Vol. 15, No. 4 (SPRING 1976), pp. 83-90 (8 pages) Published By: Rabbinical Council of America (RCA)
 From Minucius Felix, Octavius, R. E. Wallis, trans. in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, N. Y.: The Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887), Vol. 4, pp. 177-178.