sheep can so pine for the fjords
Reading Time: 6 minutes (Darya Tryfanava.) Sheep relax in Norway. Obviously pining for the fjords.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Hi and welcome back! Last week, Ed Litton won the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). He didn’t waste any time in denouncing the QAnon conspiracy theories as ‘fables.’ But he’s forgotten something important here: if people have accepted one set of false fables as true, then it’s really, really hard for them to avoid accepting another set that is equally false. Today, let’s explore Ed Litton and his strange opinion of QAnon, and then let’s see why he’s dead wrong.

sheep can so pine for the fjords
(Darya Tryfanava.) Sheep relax in Norway. Obviously pining for the fjords.

(The title “King of Baptist County” comes from LeekSoup — I love how it perfectly describes how SBC Presidents tend to see themselves.)

Ed Litton Thinks QAnon Consists of ‘Fables.’

A few days ago, Newsweek reported something Ed Litton said soon after his election:

Moderate Alabama pastor Ed Litton, who was recently elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), rejected the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory present among some white evangelicals, stating he taught his congregation to avoid listening to “fables.”

And be that as it may, evangelicals do love their QAnon conspiracy theories. A May 2021 survey by PRRI discovered that false QAnon-inspired beliefs run rampant among Republicans, with more than a quarter of them buying into the absolutely baseless, unverified claims made by the leaders of the Q movement. Similarly, about a quarter of evangelicals believe these false claims.

As well, it’s not hard at all to find blog and news posts everywhere that talk about how QAnon has divided churches. (Just a few examples: NPR; Medium; AxiosLA Times.) These posts describe QAnon as a sort of ‘infection’ that is seeping across American churches, with frustrated pastors as the quasi-doctors trying to heal their ailing patients before their illness destroys them utterly.

Ed Litton Thinks QAnon Ain’t No Big Thang.

But nope, here’s ol’ Ed Litton insisting that QAnon ain’t that bad. Newsweek again:

When asked by Burnett whether he has encountered the QAnon movement, Litton said he has not come across it in his church nor known many pastors who have.

“I think it’s a fringe problem,” he said. “Conspiracy theories are all across our culture, so I don’t think it’s just some churches doing this, I think there’s all kinds of fringe elements that will believe a lie rather than the truth.”

That assertion made my jaw drop. Seriously. This statement flies in the face of every other pastor I’ve ever heard talking about QAnon. I’ve been writing about evangelicals’ fascination with QAnon for a good while now, and I don’t think I’ve heard a single pastor say that QAnon is anything like a “fringe problem.” Evangelical leaders tend to be deeply worried about QAnon and its huge popularity with the flocks.

(See also: Evangelical Leaders Have Noticed QAnon; QAnon Gets Personal for Ed Stetzer; How the Satanic Panic Led Straight to QAnon; The REAL Cabal in QAnon.)

But don’t worry. The person interviewing Ed Litton asked if he felt any responsibility to curb this conspiracy theory. And our pal replied:

“Well, no, it is fringe, but I guess I have an obligation with my people, especially that I teach on a regular basis, to not listen to fables,” Litton replied. “And the scripture is very clear about that, but to build your life on the word of God.”

He guesses he has to say something, y’all. He guesses.

STOOPit QAnon. STOOPit conspiracy theories. Ugh. Are they not just the worst? Ed Litton wants to play at being the King of Baptist County, not deal with actual problems.

Why Ed Litton Isn’t Worried About QAnon.

Then, we learn why Ed Litton isn’t worried about the huge number of Southern Baptists who have bought into QAnon’s false claims:

“And so yeah, there are conspiracy theories, and there are people that follow those things, but our people, and I think our pastors throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, you will find are faithfully every week shepherding their flocks with the word of God.”

So QAnon believers aren’t TRUE CHRISTIANS™, see. So Ed Litton doesn’t need to worry about them. They aren’t interested in being TRUE CHRISTIANS™, so let them go on with their bad selves.

See, in his own church, he tells his congregation not to listen to “fables.” That’s really all anybody needs to do with TRUE CHRISTIANS™. His authority reigns supreme over his own church. Obviously, then, there are no QAnon nutbars in King Litton’s church.

But if the SBC has just a hair over 14M members, and they follow the trends PRRI identified, then potentially 3.5M Southern Baptists buy into QAnon. I wouldn’t call that a “fringe” by any stretch. Me, I’d call it a disaster unfolding as we speak.

And the new King of Baptist County has no idea in the world just how bad the situation really is.

Whew. If anybody thought Ed Litton was going to be a real voice for reform, then I’m very sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, because he’ll be anything but that.

It’d be hard enough as it is to fix this QAnon wave in the SBC, but if their new Dear Leader can’t even accept that QAnon is in fact a big huge stinky problem, it’ll be all but impossible.

I Loved How Dismissive Ed Litton Is Here: ‘Fables.’

What really caught my eye about this story, though, was Ed Litton’s dismissive use of the term “fables” to describe QAnon conspiracy theories. He’s kinda misusing the term, yes, but that’s beside the point. Clearly, his implication is that QAnon’s conspiracy theories are silly stories that aren’t true. They’re like fairy tales. The people who believe in these stories believe things that are false.

And Ed Litton expects TRUE CHRISTIANS™ to be able to ascertain whether or not a given claim is true or false.

I mean, I can see why he’d think that. The New Testament is full to the brim with similar assertions. It condemns false stories and insists up and down that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ should be able to figure out the truth.

But again, here we are with a solid quarter of evangelicals buying into QAnon. There’s no reason whatsoever to imagine that Southern Baptists are bucking that trend.

So clearly the Bible is dead wrong about this matter. Why yes, conspiracy theories can and do ensnare Christians — even ones who think they’re TRUE CHRISTIANS™. Maybe those Christians especially are vulnerable to these well-tuned come-ons.

Moreover, I guarantee you that any QAnon-addled evangelical we talk to will decry Ed Litton as being a fake Christian for rejecting their cherished conspiracy theories.

Don’t Believe THOSE Fables. Believe THESE Fables!

What I’m talking about here really amounts to the problem with wingnuts:

Once someone accepts one belief that is completely divorced from reality, the door opens to that person accepting other beliefs under similar terms. The more of these beliefs the person adds to their faith package, the harder it is for them to critically analyze any of them. And the wingnut throttle only moves in one direction: further outward and upward into the wingnut sky.

Unfortunately, Christianity makes a great gateway drug to wingnuttery. A lot of Christians can keep their supernatural beliefs sequestered away from the rest of their lives, and thus apply that necessary critical thinking to stuff like conspiracy theories. But the more fervent a Christian gets, the more their beliefs bleed into the rest of their life, and the harder it is for them to examine and reject ludicrously-false claims.

All it takes for a false claim to be accepted, in wingnut-land, is that it kinda fits into the rest of their overall package of beliefs (whatever it is). The new belief will push those other beliefs outward a little, extending the wingnuttery just a little, bit by bit, till we end up with someone like the QAnon Shaman.

Belligerent, racist evangelicals in particular proved to be a fertile hunting-ground for QAnon.

Indeed, QAnon has always contained a lot of evangelical buzzwords and Christianese. In my opinion, the whole conspiracy theory seems to have been custom-designed to fit into and extend evangelicals’ existing beliefs.

What Ed Litton Doesn’t Realize.

And thus, evangelicals had and have no defense against QAnon. They’ve already accepted a whole slew of untrue claims as part of their package of Christian beliefs. QAnon uses the same roads and railways, so to speak, as the claims they’ve already accepted. And so QAnon barreled right into their minds.

So here’s what Ed Litton doesn’t realize:

If Southern Baptists could critically think about claims like QAnon in the first place, they wouldn’t be Southern Baptists in the first place. The same exact processes that could save them from QAnon would also save them from the blatant wingnuttery of evangelicalism.

He still thinks that obviously, the claims he and his SBC leadership peers make are true, gyaaah y’all. It wouldn’t occur to him that he also pushes “fables” onto his flocks.

It’d be funny as all get-out, though, if Ed Litton could convince Southern Baptists to learn to discern between true claims and false ones. If they ever did it, I wonder if they’d realize, as countless ex-Christians have, that their supernatural claims can’t withstand that same treatment.

NEXT UP: We check out Dante’s Circles of Hell! See you tomorrow.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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