The Apocalypse never dies, it just gets weirder


Over the weekend Madison Cawthorn, the young congressman for Trumpy’s first term, tweeted a video showing himself to misinterpret the Bible and pushing the theocracy. In the video, an excerpt from a speech he gave at a religious right-wing conference last month, Cawthorn appears to claim that David, Daniel and Esther “influenced the governments of their day to uphold the principles. Christians “- at best a shocking ahistorical claim; at worst, a disturbing anti-Semitic commentary. Yet what is most remarkable in Cawthorn’s video pushing Christianity into civic government and apocalyptically warning that “if we bow our knees to Democrats today our country will be lost forever and our children will never know. what freedom is “is how UNIt’s amazing. Cawthorn’s rant is, sadly, a far cry from the biggest problem with apocalyptic Christianity in America right now.

No, not only has the apocalyptism of the last few years not died down, but things are not improving.

Donald Trump may be off Twitter. Q may have gone silent. Yet the unrest, the conspiracy theories, the anti-democratic forces that launched a coup attempt on January 6 and that promote apocalyptic ideas around Trump’s reinstatement? These continue to grow and evolve. In 2019, I wrote about the theology of the ‘Last Emperor of the World’, a secular Messianic figure used in the Middle Ages as part of doomsday circles to push for an active quest for Armageddon, and how and why Trump was used as a a contemporary. example of movement. Now, in 2021, it feels like we’re somewhere between renewing that message and Trump as the true Messiah. Instead of apocalyptism calming down eleven months after the 2020 election and nine months after the January 6 uprising, it has spread, grown, and taken root. The apocalyptic has become mainstream among Trump supporters, and it has brought increasingly weird and dark elements from the margins to the core.

In Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, for example, someone paid for a billboard at 1827 Lafayette Street with a picture of Trump next to a Bible verse, “We are given a son and the government will be on his shoulders. (Isaiah 9: 6, but incorrectly attributed on the notice board to the Romans). The full passage, in the King James Version, is “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall rest upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace. The billboard blasphemously implies that Trump is the Messiah; if that’s not the intention, it’s at least a frightening and confusing exercise in Trumpian adulation.

The confusion between the Christian message in white evangelical churches and support for Trump is an ongoing crisis. The white evangelical demographics are growing, with an increase of nearly 4% nationwide from 2016 to 2020, fueled almost entirely by white Trump supporters. According to a March 2021 PRRI poll, some 61% of white evangelicals believe the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Many evangelical supporters, with “MyPillow” guy Mike Lindell being perhaps the most egregious example, have all embraced this idea. Belief in the big lie overlaps with a number of other plots: In a January 2021 poll, a majority of evangelical respondents said they believed in widespread electoral fraud in 2020, in a state war deep against the Trump administration and with Antifa being responsible for Jan.6. . QAnon, the apocalyptic partisan murder conspiracy network, is recognized by nearly a quarter of white Evangelical Protestants, about a quarter of Latter-day Saints, and about a quarter of Hispanic Protestants. Among white evangelicals and LDS, nearly a quarter say they are ready to “use violence to save our country.”

That in itself is cause for alarm enough – QAnon and DezNat, the LDS iteration (or even more alarmingly, the Doctrine of Christ, a Mormon offshoot that directly incorporates QAnon), seemed to be genuinely dangerous ideologies long before January 6. . Trump’s big lie and the events of January 6, the willingness to resort to violence takes on a broader meaning.

“Q” himself hasn’t posted since Dec. 8, but QAnon membership is moving forward without him – a QAnon conference in Dallas on Memorial Day weekend, the “For God & Country Patriot Roundup,” was a three day event featuring Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell, Michael Flynn and others. Trump was invoked throughout the event. Meanwhile, some 45 Congressional candidates in 2022 are QAnon supporters. Dave Hayes, one of QAnon’s main supporters, says Q will be back “when Trump returns to power. “And, of course, the usual internet conspirators are always following imaginary breadcrumbs to say that Trump is already back to power.

The interweaving of QAnon and evangelicals – especially in this context of Trump’s repeated insistence that he has not lost and his followers’ belief that violence may be necessary to restore real government – takes on dangerous themes. of holy war. Some of the Dallas speakers openly pushed for Christian Dominionist ideas. Edmée Chavannes called “those [Christian] disciples [to] have complete dominance over politics, entertainment, press, business, education, finance and, by God, restore the integrity of our voting system and get our hands on the global communist takeover. This rhetoric was echoed by Representative Lauren Boebert at another conference on the religious right on September 11:

Are we going to sit down and agree with the enemy? Are we going to agree with what the enemy is doing? Are we going to sit down and complain and whisper? Or are we going to talk about life in this nation? Are we going to talk about victory? Are we going to declare that God does away with these unjust politicians, these corrupt and crooked politicians, and install righteous men and women of God?

These politicians are not the worst, even if they have the biggest spokespersons. ViceThe recent article on the fight against QAnon within Protestant churches, offering examples of Christian nationalism and worshipers stockpiling weapons and joining militias, highlights the danger. There’s the problem of pastors using YouTube to spread QAnon sayings, and pastors like Greg Locke mixing anti-vaccine rhetoric with calls for violence. QAnon’s connection to religion has never been secret, but when it filters beyond the internet, beyond churches, spreads among their adherents, including some who are mentally unbalanced, you get stories. horror like that of Matthew Coleman, who murdered his children. because of his QAnon beliefs.

It is not an apocalyptic movement that adheres to a central purpose or a theology. This is the one where very personal apocalyptisms, very personal conspiracy theories, lead to the murder of children.

While the PRRI survey found that these are the Protestant denominations most likely to have incorporated QAnon beliefs, some branches of radical traditionalist Catholics hold similar beliefs. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who had been apostolic nuncio to the United States and now writes conspiratorial leaflets for the Rest, an apocalyptic hate site that regularly attacks Pope Francis, gave a speech in July in which he called the modern world “the realm of Antichrist where transhumanism defies heaven and nature, in the eternal cry of the ‘enemy,’ Non serviam ‘(I will not serve.) Archbishop Viganò added that “this rebellious world, slave of the devil – especially in those who rule it with power and money – makes war on us and prepares for a fierce and ruthless battle, as he intends to gather around him as many allies as possible, even among those who prefer not to fight, out of fear or out of self-interest. The doomsday battles over QAnon and Trump have begun to unfold spill over into other intra-Catholic conflicts, such as the fight over the Latin Mass. Readers of Viganò will have heard of his QAnon-style conspiracy theory, “the great reset.” And MAGA / Q Catholics have certainly made it known their presence on the 6th January.

In the middle of it all, where is Trump? He sought increasingly radical ground, spending part of the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks giving a virtual speech at the “Rally of Hope” event hosted by the Unification Church, the commonly held cult. called “Moonies”. He’s not the only senior member of his administration attending their events – Mike Pence, Michael Pompeo and Mark Esper were featured at a virtual Unification Church gathering last May. And the Unification Church had returned the favor: Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, the son of the late founder of the sect, had campaigned for Trump and organized a march on the Capitol on January 6.

Sean Moon runs Rod of Iron Ministries, a canon church that uses AR-15s in its liturgy and ritual and recently purchased a 40-acre resort he dubbed “Liberty Rock” in central Texas, about 80 years old. kilometers from Waco. The church’s Twitch stream often uses hashtags like #MAGA, #Trump, and of course #QAnon, while Sean Moon plans to take on his own Messianic royalty when America falls. This wildly radical group, technically separate from the Moonies although there is considerable overlap, seems like they should be too far away even for Trump. in 2016, Eric Trump attended the opening of the group’s Tommy Gun Warehouse (owned by Sean’s brother, Justin Moon). Teddy Daniels, a pro-Trump congressional candidate from Pennsylvania, asked Sean to bless his campaign when he announced his candidacy. Far from being marginalized, Rod of Iron has managed to be a part of Trump’s world.

Tthere is no way to know if Trump knew or cared about any of this when he agreed to speak at the Moonie rally on September 11, but if he did, it means he intentionally chose to speak during a fringe movement that straddles one of the country’s most militant and apocalyptic movements. And as Trump continues his new ‘Save America’ tour – with a name deliberately chosen to provoke fear and anger and incite action – and presumably to run for re-election for President (he will be in Des Moines, Iowa next Saturday), this combination of guns and God, by whatever means, will only further radicalize its adherents.

As time goes on and the doomsday prophecies about Trump’s occupation of the White House fail, the strength of the doomsday impulses around Trump does not appear to be waning. If anything, the reverse is true: it seems to be increasing. The more fringe groups are courted and integrated into the body of true believers, the stranger, more dangerous, and more convinced Trump’s followers seem to become that their apocalypse is approaching. We can only hope that de-radicalization efforts will be sustained and successful, but until then the messianic fervor around Trump remains and remains a threat.


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