While it’s a phenomenon that began online, the QAnon movement has found its way into the discourse and lives of ordinary Americans. With its conspiracy-laden messages, Q taps into Americans’ deep-seated angst about their government, cultural forces they can’t comprehend, and societal trends they find disturbing. Where will all this lead, exactly? Is it possible to know? The signs, if you can see them, reveal the truth.
As fantastical as QAnon-related conspiracies are, what is striking is how banal they are at their roots. They tell the stories of evil people doing evil things. In fact, many believe they are true precisely because we can clearly see that people are sinful. We lie and cheat. We are selfish. We hurt each other. We are greedy and vengeful. We see and commit evil at home, in the office, on the street. We can callously inflict the most gruesome and terrible evils on others. Evil is everywhere and it is common. It is so pervasive that it becomes oppressively chaotic.
In response, QAnon offers an explanation for evil in the world under the guise of providing a semblance of order and structure, but by stoking distrust, it only exacerbates our fear. QAnon conspiracy theories drive us further apart—especially from those unlike ourselves, and foment anxiety by positing further evidence (some real and some not) of humanity’s sinfulness. Consequently, the world appears more chaotic and the fearful are ripened for exploitation and manipulation by yet another conspiracy theory.
While evil is easy to believe, it is much harder to believe in goodness. Goodness is often hidden and humble. We can find it anywhere, but it is quiet and often imperceptible. No one gossips about goodness and there are no conspiracy theories built on the premise that people are good. Nothing in our limited human experience would lead us to believe that goodness is attainable for everyone or even something worthwhile to pursue. To be good often means suffering for others without any tangible benefit for ourselves. By worldly standards, it is foolishness. To see one person doing a good thing is a strange, if pleasant, sight. To imagine a whole group of people doing good things together often requires us to suspend belief beyond our limits.
To understand human goodness, our perspective cannot be, strictly speaking, human. Faith, given to us from outside ourselves, reveals the truth that underpins our collective humanity. With faith, we come to see that through God’s great gift of mercy, we were not made to suffer or sin. Rather, we were created in Love to love. This is no conspiracy theory, but it is a truth much harder to accept than the pernicious lie that we are evil and irredeemable. By loving without expectation of being loved in return, we exercise our true humanity.
What faith reveals liberates man from the realm of opinion and sentiment (Deus Caritas Est 17). Faith—unlike QAnon—frees us from our prejudices and our angst. St. John Paul II wrote, “It is faith that allows individuals to give consummate expression to their own freedom” (Fides et Ratio 13) Faith makes it possible to look upon the world with God’s eyes, to overcome our suspicions about other people, and to see through the pervasive evil that exists in our society.
QAnon’s adherents and acolytes are, tragically, enslaved to their own fears. QAnon traps them and constrains their actions and beliefs to the limits of their frail imaginations. QAnon’s popularity is indicative of a large number of people who continue to see the world with the prejudice of a prisoner, enclosed in a cell of one’s own making. Faith, on the other hand, sets us free. Faith reveals the world for what it truly is and gives us the ability to take actions that are efficacious and impactful.
The only true antidote to the QAnon craze is faith. Even after QAnon’s popularity wanes (and it will), something else will take its place, preying on our human weakness and providing another way to systematize fears and negative emotions about the culture and country. Faith, however, assuages our fears and gives birth to profound trust in God’s providence. It is only in faith that we come to see that goodness exists, not as an aberration but as the truth of what we were made to be.
Faith leads to true understanding. It illuminates and reveals the dignity of every person, the meaning of sacrifice, and the glory of creation. Faith delivers us from fear and frees us from closed-in ideologies that make us self-absorbed. Pope Francis wrote in Lumen Fidei,
At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without insight into these realities, there is no criterion for discerning what makes human life precious and unique. Man loses his place in the universe, he is cast adrift in nature, either renouncing his proper moral responsibility or else presuming to be a sort of absolute judge, endowed with an unlimited power to manipulate the world around him. (54)
There is only one Truth, one love. When Christians cooperate with the plan of God in faith and love, we “conspire” to make God’s kingdom manifest here on earth. Doing so, we all breathe with the breath of God. All love, rooted in one Truth, is ordered to the salvation of all. Consequently, when Christians around the world love, we effect God’s singular plan of salvation for each of us, whether we are aware of it or not. By confirming the inherent goodness of creation and acting in accord with God’s design, faith empowers us to be agents of God’s love.
Without the gift of faith, QAnon will continue to drive division and hate. It will create more chaos and make inroads into the hearts and minds of the fearful and anxious. This chaos is not of God, who created our world and will bring it to completion in himself. Faith burns away the dark shadows of sin and points the way forward amid the concrete demands and challenges of life. Only in the light of faith can we love deeply and personally as God commands. This is the only path to order in our chaotic, sinful world.