Erick Erickson / Jan. 15, 2021

The Pope Was Arrested?

Over the past few years, QAnon's conspiracies have settled into the minds of middle-American churchgoers.

Theologian John Calvin once noted men’s hearts are “a perpetual factory of idols.” As people across the political spectrum move away from religion and fill the void with politics, idol worship runs rampant.

All of us have a voice within us that whispers there is more to life. Many people go in search of it. Atheists spend an inordinate amount of energy turning the voice off, often turning science into the religion of scientism. Others, on the left and right, turn from, “Love your neighbor” and, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and embrace, “Save the culture, and win at all costs.” This voice pulls them away from the Creator and toward creation.

Once a person has turned from Creator to creation and begins manufacturing idols, it is also necessary to turn from theology to mythology. The new mythology requires a new cosmogony, which is a theory of how the universe began.

The Greeks explained the sun’s apparent move across the sky as the sun god Apollo driving a chariot across the sky each day. The seasons were caused by Persephone — daughter of Demeter, the goddess of harvest — descending each autumn to be with her husband, Hades, only to rise in the spring to be with her mother.

In the United States currently, some on the right have substituted the Creator of all things as their savior for President Donald Trump as their savior. They have descended into idolatry, which requires a mythology, and that mythology has spun up a new cosmogony for the origins of Trump. Because many of them are from Christian backgrounds, they have latched on to Isaiah 45, in which Isaiah prophesied about “Cyrus,” and the Septuagint version called Cyrus “my anointed” or “messiah.” The Christians fed by conspiracists related to QAnon, which claims a military background, believe Trump is God’s anointed, a second Cyrus come to battle the deep state and a satanic global elite who traffic children.

Over the past few years, QAnon’s conspiracies have settled into the minds of middle-American churchgoers, mostly over 50. Younger Americans are so used to slickly packaged TikTok and Snapchat videos that they tend to be dismissive of most things they see circulate on the internet. But the 50-and-older crowd sees the same and connects high production quality with truth. Thus, through internet channels, “citizen journalists” and a deep skepticism of the mainstream media, QAnon mythology and Donald Trump’s cosmogony have taken parasitic root.

Many adherents of QAnon still believe Trump will be sworn in to a second term. Over the last week, on social media channels that promote Trump, wild claims circulated that banks will close on Jan. 18, which they will because it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But the conspiracists claim it will be to prevent the global child traffickers and traitors from fleeing. On the 19th, Trump will finally round up all the traitors in Washington, and he will be sworn in on the 20th. As proof of this scheme playing out, they claim the Pope was arrested the other night (do not ask which night) as part of the President’s global sting operation against elite child traffickers.

It is fantastical. It is not true. It is mythology. But it is amazingly difficult to tell those who believe this stuff that they are wrong. What had been fringe is seeping into the mainstream, sometimes even shared by pastors. Idolatry happens as people replace religion with other things and politics takes on a disproportionate role in one’s life. Mythologies then become easier, and they continue to grow thanks to a media that has traded fact for narrative and truth for tribalism.

A media that wants to tell stories instead of the truth, and relates less and less to one side in the political debate, has helped alienate many Americans, who turn to social networks for news. There, affirmation and confirmation bias reign supreme. There, QAnon, antifa and other radical elements await to reprogram minds. Myth becomes truth, and Americans turn against one another as new cosmogonies triumph over our shared national story.

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