From LARP to Qult
Many cults, particularly those emerging after the advent of Christianity- and it could be argued that all Christianity-related cults – begin with the emergence of a new revelation. A new vision, message, or a new understanding of something extant within a movement ushers in an offshoot of the movement and gives birth to what eventually becomes a standalone philosophy often unrecognizable to the original from which it branched. A new messiah-like figure may emerge to lead the new flock but not necessarily as a new incarnation of Christ.
Many experts who have researched the QAnon movement have labeled at least one offshoot of the original Q-related conspiracy theory as newly developed cults of their own. The -48 (Negative 48) group that spent weeks in Dallas, Texas, awaiting the return of John F. Kennedy and JFK, Jr. are certainly a prime example of this labeling.
Mike Rothschild, author of The Storm Is Upon Us, described the -48 group and its leader, Michael Protzman, as, “Undeniably a cult” in a recent Dallas Morning News article on the peculiar group occupying Dallas.
The “Q drops” and the original movement itself, in my view, represents the same theory, which is that QAnon, or Q and the Anons as they themselves choose to be labeled, was, in and of itself, nothing more than a modern offshoot Christianity cult. The language of the movement is unquestionably religious and specifically apocalyptic Christian in nature.
Although there are many references to the war between good and evil, God and Satan, the first Christian-specific Q-drop appears in drop #35, where Q quotes the Gospel of John, Chapter 3, verse 16, then added the first sentence of 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 4 at the end:
[ John 3:16] “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [1Cor 13:4] Love is patient, love is kind.” The passages are taken from the New International Version (NIV) of the New Testament. It should be noted that the two passages are entirely unrelated. John 3:16, perhaps the single most quoted or referenced scripture of all, is about salvation and the path to eternal life. 1 Corinthians 13 is furthering the discussion from 1 Corinthians 12 where the gifts of the spirit are explained. In the end, the author, Paul, (1 Cor is one of the undisputed Pauline letters) explains that love is the greatest of all gifts.
The “mashing up” of scripture is nothing new to modern Christianity. It is common during sermons when a minister or preacher is trying to make a point. They will reference several passages and have those read and implemented into the sermon. It isn’t uncommon for the passages to be entirely unrelated. It may even hint at the type of religious upbringing the original Q may have experienced. This sort of “scripture hopping” is popular with Baptist, Pentecostal, and related denominations
For QAnon, the Q drops themselves served as the “New Revelation.” Those who analyzed the Q drops in an attempt to decipher them, known as bakers, became the theologians of the movement, if you will. The drops were their scripture – an apocalyptic vision of the coming storm that would wash away the evil of the world and leave only the righteous standing.
Some researchers of the QAnon phenomenon eventually began referring to the original Q drops as “canon” and “canonical” as well as debating which drops were undisputed Q drops and which were suspect or could be argued to be from the original Q character.
Utilizing the very useful and expertly compiled Q Origins Project database, which can be accessed online at https://dchan.qorigins.org , the word “revelation” appears no fewer than 13,019 times when utilizing the database’s search function. Using the TimeSeries function on the Q Origins database, we get the following graph that covers the entirety of the Q posts and subsequent conversation threads. Of course there is no way to filter these results, as far as can easily be found, to distinguish which references are to the New Testament book and which are using the word in other ways.
As evidenced by the visualization produced by the search, the term “revelation” was in constant use, at times more so than others, for the duration of Q’s posts.
As the QAnon movement moved away from its original platforms and onto others, Telegram for instance, reference to the New Testament book, The Revelation of John, continued. Simple searches of Q-related Telegram chat rooms returns thousands of results. The book of Revelation continues to be a major influence within the movement and its constantly evolving ideology.
With the frequent use of religiosity in their language, Q and the anons attempted, with great success, to leverage an existing belief system as part of their new revelation. The greatest appeal to the movement seemed to be among fundamentalist christians who already possessed an apocalyptic worldview. If you believe the kingdom of heaven would arrive on earth, that the armies of God would do battle with the evil army of the devil, and, in the end, a new era of peace and righteousness would arrive to save the devoted, it is far more likely you would latch on to the plagiarized concepts provided by QAnon.
As is the case with the biblical revelation, the QAnon revelation ends with the declaration that God wins. In fact, “God Wins” is one of the most popular catchphrases of the movement. The phrase appears 14,546 times within the Q origins database and is widely used to this day.
COMPARISONS AND PARALLELS
New revelations; new understandings; and new interpretations of existing scripture have been a part of Christianity since its inception. In fact, even first century Christian scholars and theologians often made mention of various Christian sects or cults with which they needed to do battle in the arena of ideas.
More modern examples are easily observed, such as the Latter Day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others. Some are much more related to outright cults than organized Christianity. The Remnant, an obscure cult that emerged from a church in Brentwood, Tennessee, is a good example. But the emergence of a new revelation is generally the precipitating event that leads to these movements breaking away from their parent organizations.
The “New Revelation” provided by the person, or persons, known as Q, wove a tale of impending mass indictments, arrests, imprisonment, and even executions of the deep state operatives targeted by their new “Messiah” figure, President Donald Trump. As dates were predicted and then passed without incident, as with all apocalyptic cults, choices had to be made regarding messaging.
Often unrelated to any posts generated by Q, offshoots began telling stories of how the indictments and arrests had already occurred. If one of the subjects of the imaginary indictments and arrests, Hillary Clinton and John McCain for example, were seen or photographed wearing heavy boots, the explanation was that the boots were needed in order to conceal the presence of ankle monitoring devices worn by criminals on house arrest.
This divergence from canonical texts, or adding narrative unrelated to the Q drops, is also not uncommon to the Christian movement. Many modern beliefs found among christians today are not found in scripture at all and some, oddly enough, defy it. The same becomes true within QAnon as a variety of offshoots develop their own Q theologies.
Some went so far as to explain that even the executions had already occurred and that those main figures had been executed and then replaced by body doubles. Even farther down the rabbit hole, those stand-ins weren’t body doubles but were, in fact, clones.
The ideology, or theology if you will, had to change in order to fit the new reality. Some would explain that, since the deep state’s plan was now revealed to the patriots, it failed and that explains why the predictions didn’t happen as scripted.
It is the equivalent of a Christian sect, after the world doesn’t end on the announced date, stating that the Lord heard the congregation’s prayers and granted them an extension on the great extinction event due to their righteousness. They become the proverbial Noah’s Ark, spared from the destruction to come. For now. A new prediction is surely to follow.
QAnon has been no different. As dates came and went with no mass arrests or executions, the movement would simply “move the goal post” to yet another future date. And it was really coming this time. Nothing can stop what’s coming. It was a certainty. This time. It’s certain. If all else fails, they can claim their own actions, or those of President Trump, stopped the evil from succeeding.
Throughout its history, Christianity itself has dealt with just this dilemma. In fact, the very first Christians, the disciples of Jesus, believed the coming of the Lord and the creation of a new kingdom on earth would happen at any moment. Within the New Testament, the words of Jesus himself expressed that, “Verily I say unto you, there are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come in power.” (Mark 9:1 KJV)
Most of Jesus’ disciples believed the new kingdom would come before they died. It didn’t. What followed was nearly 2,000 years of goal post moving and explaining away. Even within the New Testament itself, the “adjustment” of belief and understanding can be seen. The farther removed from the crucifixion a book was written, the less likely it was to make a solid prediction of the time and day of the new kingdom.
The first canonical gospel, the gospel according to Mark, written some 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, continues to tell the story that at least some of the disciples will still be alive when Christ returns. By the time we get to the second gospel work, the Gospel according to Matthew, written approximately 15 years later, the new goal post standard is, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my father only.” (Matthew 24:36 KJV)”
PETER AND PAUL MOMENTS
Even the earliest Christian communities were not without controversy. The earliest extant New Testament writings were the letters written by Paul. In them, it is clear some of the communities he helped found had wandered from his prescribed theology and were forming their own beliefs and ideas about their faith. Paul sought to correct what he considered errors in the ways of these communities.
Q, at times, sought to do the same thing by bringing the community back on message. The cryptic nature of the Q drops allowed for many interpretations but when those interpretations strayed too far afield, Q would occasionally “correct” the error and more clearly describe the original meaning. There are several incidents of this, one of which is seen in Q drop #3929 where Q cautioned his followers about making up their own predictions and incorrectly interpreting his posts. You can view that post in the Q Origins Project database at the following address.
A wider issue with far greater implications was the historic rift between Peter (Simon Peter) and Paul concerning just what made someone a Christian in the first place. The rift was so serious that factions formed within the early Christian communities and ambassadors from the two sides attempted to remedy it. Peter, “the Rock” as Jesus described him, and upon whom the Christian church was to be built (Matthew 16:18), believed you should be a Jew in order to be a Christian. Jesus was a Jew after all, as were all of his disciples. Peter held the view that new Christians should follow the same path.
Paul, on the other hand, took an opposing view in that he believed the message of Christ was meant for all people, regardless of their previously held beliefs. Paul was the minister to the gentiles and spread his version to a much wider audience than Peter. Much of Christianity for the next 2,000 years would be based on the preaching of Paul, not Peter. Clearly, Paul won that argument, but the rift was such that attempts were made throughout history to gloss over it and show unity among the various sects.
Forgeries, some of which eventually found their way into the New Testament itself, were created in Paul’s name partly in order to foster the belief that Peter and Paul had reconciled in time and were then in complete agreement. Of course, as the story was eventually written, they agreed to Paul’s version, not Peter’s. They also served to “correct” some of Paul’s previously taught beliefs that fell out of favor with some later church leaders. One of the major sticking points was Paul’s acceptance of women in leadership roles within the church. That didn’t go over well but that is a subject for a different article.
For further research into the forgeries that became canon, I recommend the works of Bart Ehrman, a distinguished scholar and the author of, Forgery and Counterforgery: The use of literary deceit in early Christian polemics – an excellent monograph on this subject. You can also search online for the disputed Pauline letters to get an idea of the dispute and discussion that has been ongoing since the first century.
In the oft referenced Book of Revelation, written around 95 CE, the disagreement is mentioned in an offhand comment from John of Patmos, the author to whom the work is attributed. It is revealed in Revelation chapter 2, verse 9, where it reads, “…and I know the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews and are not,…”
Among QAnon, two major figures, Mike Flynn and Lin Wood, both of whom enjoy large followings and whose followings were mingled for some time, had a very public falling out. Due to the black and white mentality of many in the movement, continuing to support both pseudo-leaders was not a viable option for most. They had to take sides. Now, two warring factions, the Flynn camp and the Wood camp, wage rhetorical battle against each other in online communities. Lin Wood went so far as to release an audio recording of Flynn telling Wood that QAnon was a bunch of nonsense, clearly showing that Flynn’s involvement in the movement was simply an income stream for the disgraced former National Security Advisor.
It was not the first time Flynn was outed as calling much of the QAnon belief system nonsense. In an interview with Doug Billings, Flynn clearly and vehemently refutes the QAnon theories that President Trump signed the insurrection act and that the U.S. Military was secretly in control. Flynn described both theories as “nonsense.” Flynn further explains that the much vaunted mantra of “Trust the plan” was also nonsense by saying, “There is no plan.”
In the same YouTube video, Kraken attorney Sidney Powell dismisses yet another QAnon theory, that secret military tribunals have taken place, will take place, or are ongoing. Despite these two leading figures debunking claims made by their own supporters, to this day, those leader-debunked claims persist within the movement.
In the realm of QAnon adherents, the grand dispute becomes not whether your version of Christianity is the correct one but your caliber of dedication and rightful label as patriot. The greatest insult is not based on your religious faith but whether you are a “true patriot” or a fake who has infiltrated in order to disrupt the movement. If you aren’t the “right kind of patriot” it is tantamount to being the wrong kind of christian. You become the enemy and an agent of Satan.
Similarly, figures considered Q-adjacent, but not directly linked to QAnon, such as Jovan Pulitzer and David Clements, two well-known election fraud conspiracy promoters, recently went to figurative war against each other. It devolved into childish prank phone calls by Pulitzer as he harassed people who contacted him after Clements leaked Pulitzers personal mobile number to his followers.
There are other rifts within QAnon but they are too numerous to discuss in detail here. The sometimes violent and dangerous rhetoric used between the factions as they attempt to denigrate each other has been a major concern for extremism researchers. The risk of conflict between factions advancing from heated rhetoric to kinetic action is very real. The entire movement makes no apologies for their proposed methods of dealing with those they label as traitors. Hangings, firing squads, or other deadly consequences enter the conversations continuously. Some factions have not only begun to describe rival factions as “wrong thinking” but have thrown around the traitor label as well.
A parallel can be drawn between modern Christian televangelists and QAnon influencers as well. Much has been written about the massive amounts of money to be made by a popular church leader in these days of megachurches and televised services. One need only look into the finances of a handful of megachurch leaders and QAnon influencers to see similarities.
As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the average working class person who deals with daily fears of business failures or simply not being allowed to work due to industry closures, leaders in both the church and the conspiracy world are living large and aren’t afraid to flaunt it.
Whether it is Joel Osteen with his multi-million dollar mansion, Kenneth Copeland’s fleet of private jets and personal airport, or Creflo Dollar’s bid to have his followers provide him with a multi-million dollar private jet, it is hard not to see that the average leader lives a much different lifestyle than the followers who support them.
The same is true within the conspiracy world in general and QAnon in particular. The millions Alex Jones and his InfoWars media organization has made over the years has been known for some time but recently fans and followers of Juan O’Savin seemed to be surprised by a video he posted of himself while driving a Bentley. Mike Flynn’s financial woes following his legal battle with the DOJ seem to have disappeared during the pandemic. His organizations have raised millions and have replenished his own coffers. He charges a very large speaking fee to attend QAnon and Q-adjacent events. Some are rumored to be upwards of $70,000.00, which is twice the amount he was paid by Russia for a speaking engagement in 2015.
Sidney Powell, the leading attorney for, and the face of, post-2020-election lawsuits has reportedly made millions through her fundraising organizations. The DOJ officially began an investigation into her fundraising but she is estimated to have raised over $14,000,000.00.
As is the case with wealthy televangelists, the followers of these leaders live a much different lifestyle than the one provided the leaders by those very followers.
WHERE DOES IT GO FROM HERE?
The most troubling aspect of this mirroring of cults is the inevitable crashing of the philosophy. As external pressure grows and tries to force an end to the movement; and as internal pressure mounts demanding the promised culminating event occur; cult movements tend to either dissolve, splinter, or force their own end in some violent fashion. How many more times can the goal post be moved before adherents decide they will bring about the end themselves? The rhetoric among QAnon adherents is growing increasingly violent as their frustrations at the lack of action grow.
As for the JFK / negative 48 group, I view them as a splinter cult from the main cult of QAnon. In much the same way numerous schisms impacted Christianity, and similar schisms affected cults such as Aum Shinrikyo which splintered into multiple factions following the main group’s sarin gas attacks in Japan in 1994 and 1995, QAnon seems to be branching off into numerous sub-movements that will make it more difficult to track effectively. Extremism researchers and conspiracy watchers now have to monitor multiple organizations that are no longer directly affiliated and are not coordinating their activities.
An unknown number has walked away from the movement once they realized the storm was not, in fact, coming. It would be impossible to estimate the number or percentage based on the limited data available. Similarly, groups have splintered and followed their chosen QAnon figure on a different path. This number is also impossible to estimate. Within what remains, there is a group of extremists and die-hards who are in it to the bitter end. What that bitter end may be is anyone’s guess but based on historical examples, one can only assume the end will be tragic. Whether that tragedy is contained within the movement itself or affects those outside of it will be the unanswerable question.
RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM AND VIOLENCE
Historically, violence and religion have never been too far removed from each other. Countless times in human history, religious beliefs have been used to justify the oppression, enslavement, or slaughter of others. Very few religions can make the claim that their movement has never used violence as a means to either control, convert, subvert, or destroy opponents or those they deemed to be heretics.
In modern history, the relationship remains. From attacks on abortion clinics and abortion providers to massive suicide bombings against those considered infidels, modern religious violence is just as bloody as in centuries past. The exception only being that armies of fanatics aren’t meeting their opponents on the battlefield on horseback wielding swords and lances.
Committed conspiracy theorist, too, have resorted to violence in recent years.
December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, N.C., committed an armed assault on the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant in Washington, DC., inspired by the oft-mentioned “PizzaGate” conspiracy theory in which powerful elites were abusing children in the basement of the restaurant. His actions predate the QAnon phenomenon but PizzaGate was a directly-linked precursor to Q.
On June 15, 2018, Matthew Wright, 33, of Henderson, NV., blocked the Hoover Dam with his truck which led to a standoff with police before he attempted to flee. His truck got stuck in the desert during his attempted escape. He was arrested and charged with terrorism. Wright was a QAnon follower who, in a letter to then President Trump, written from his jail cell, Wright ended his missive with, “Where we go one, we go all,” one of QAnon’s signature slogans.
On January 23, 2019, Ryan Rimas Jaselskis, 22, started a fire at Comet Ping Pong in an attempt to burn it down over the PizzaGate conspiracy theory. He was arrested in February of that year after climbing over the fence around the Washington Monument and fighting with police.
In the early morning hours of December 25, 2020, Anthony Quinn Warner used his RV as a vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in downtown Nashville, TN. FBI investigators later revealed that Warner held a variety of conspiracy theory beliefs, including that reptilian beings secretly control the global elites.
In August, 2021, Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, took his two small children, a son, aged 2, and a daughter, aged 10 months, to Mexico where he murdered them because he believed his children were infected with reptilian DNA. During his interviews with authorities after his arrest, Coleman admitted learning about the DNA conspiracy through QAnon.
The January 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, while not specifically a QAnon event, included a large contingent of Q followers among those who assaulted police and broke into the building. Q flags, signs, and clothing were prevalent in virtually all of the photos taken that day.
Frustrations will continue to grow within the QAnon community as their expected outcomes fail to come to pass. Their propensity for violence has already been demonstrated and the threats grow more and more brazen as months pass. Contrary to some opinions that expressed an expectation that QAnon would fade following President Biden’s election, it appears QAnon, and the wild assortment of groups and theories it includes, is here to stay.