On Wednesday morning, before the sun came up in the city of Elberton, the Georgia Guidestones were destroyed in an act of vandalism that was immediately celebrated by fundamentalist Christians who felt a Satanic threat had been destroyed.
And if you have no idea what we’re talking about, strap in, because this story is wild.
The Guidestones, which were meant to invoke a spirit of Stonehenge, were erected in 1980 at the request of the mysterious “Robert C. Christian.” Over the next four decades, they became a tourist attraction for people fascinated by the message inscribed on one of the slabs of rock—and copied in seven additional languages on the rest of the monument. The message was a set of 10 principles a new civilization ought to adopt in the case of a nuclear war or some other apocalyptic event. An inscription in the capstone read, “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason.”
Among those principles?
“Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”
“Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity.”
“Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.”
They’re bizarre… but not obviously so.
Yet those principles I just mentioned were at the center of numerous right-wing conspiracy theories. The one about maintaining humanity at half a billion people—at a time when the world’s population is nearly 8 billion—suggests an act of genocide. The idea of “guid[ing] reproduction wisely” reeks of eugenics. And the idea of a “world court” is commonplace in the fantasies of End Times preachers who believe such a scenario would exist under the control of the Antichrist.
It’s no wonder that fundamentalist Christians like failed gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor vowed to destroy the Guidestones if she were elected.
Her obsession with the Guidestones was so outlandish that it inspired a fantastic online-only segment on Last Week Tonight at the end of May:
One thing John Oliver notes at the end of the segment is that, in researching this piece, his staff came across a documentary that hints at who “Robert C. Christian” actually was… and that person turns out to be a white supremacist and supporter of eugenics. If that suggestion is indeed correct, it paints the monument in a very different light. It’s no longer just a whimsical tourist draw… it’s a disturbing set of advice from someone who held awful beliefs.
Which is to say: There were arguably some big problems with the monument… but not for the reasons Kandiss Taylor and conspiracists Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Alex Jones were worried about.
And then, on Wednesday, the Guidestones were destroyed.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said “unknown individuals” detonated an explosive device around 4 a.m., destroying a large portion of the Georgia Guidestones… Video footage released by law enforcement shows a car leaving the scene shortly after the blast, although the GBI did not specify whether the driver was connected to the incident. Later in the day, authorities demolished the whole monument, citing safety reasons.
So much for the idea that the monument would be capable of “withstanding catastrophic events,” as its creator had specified.
Taylor, feeling her delusional Christian beliefs had been vindicated, celebrated the act of vandalism:
(It wasn’t God. It was an explosion.)
Taylor Greene also took a victory lap with fellow conspiracist Jones, telling him, “There is a war of good and evil going on, and people are done with globalism.”
Either way, if this is a victory, then who won? Who knows. If a Satanic monument was destroyed, it’s not like our lives are any better today. If it was just an expensive toy for a long-dead eugenicist, we still haven’t lost anything of value. But as with so many mindless things that eventually become traditions, we have lost something that was special to a lot of people. They put their own interpretations on the slabs of rock and a little piece of joy was taken from them. The city of Elberton has lost its most prized attraction. Ultimately, the monument was blown up by people whose motives remain unknown but who may have believed the lies they were fed by right-wing conspiracy theorists.
As local historian Raymond Wiley told Religion News Service, the Guidestones were meant to survive the apocalypse, but “they could not survive Southern culture.” A frivolous-yet-fun monument was likely shattered due to Christian superstition and a mindset that says anything some deem “un-Christian” must be destroyed at all costs.
No suspects have been named in the act of vandalism. It’ll be up to local leaders to decide if the monument goes back up—and who, if anyone, will pay for it if it does.