A stunning article appears in NPR and reveals how Q Anon is affecting a Southern Baptist congregation outside Washington, D.C. A youth pastor quits and leaves when his ministry is struggling with teaching faith as elders and church leaders allegedly instruct their children that Democrats practice pedophilia and other conspiracy theories. This post is about Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving.”
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
Proverbs 19:5 ESV
Is this the future of Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia? Is this the legacy that Senior Pastor Drew Landry wants for his congregation? Will he hear “Well done my good and faithful servant” if this is the direction of Spotswood Baptist Church? Who is the youth group going to follow? Q Anon Shaman or Jesus?
He was a Southern Baptist pastor at Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Fredericksburg is in Northern Virginia and many people who work in the Washington, D.C. area commute from this smaller city. Of course the pandemic here in Virginia changed many aspects of life. Jared Stacy as a pastor found himself dealing with a topic that bothered him and put him in a bind. That situation is many evangelicals in his congregation embracing Q Anon to the point that is interfered with the Gospel and teaching the youth of this Baptist church. .
A Biography of Jared Stacy
Jared Stacey attended Liberty University where he earned a B.S. in religion in 2011. Afterward he obtained a Masters of Theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2016 and today is a PhD candidate at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland where he expects to complete his work in 2024. While studying at Liberty he became affiliated with a church he would spend a lot of time serving, Spotswood Baptist Church. His first ministry assignment at this church was in 2011. He would also intern at Thomas Roads Baptist Church for a season and then would go back to Spotswood Baptist where he became the interim communications director. While in seminary at New Orleans he became a campus pastor at Metairie Church in Louisiana from 2013 until 2016. Upon graduation he returned to Fredericksburg to become the youth pastor at Spotswood which he held until 2020. Jared has been a faithful Southern Baptist pastor and has contributed to For The Church. On the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation Jared wrote an article that was pushed by Spotswood Baptist Church on social media that looked at the theological implications and legacy of Martin Luther’s revolutionary teaching. But while in Fredericksburg there was another issue that he had to deal with as a pastor. One he never expected. Its called Q Anon.
The great commission at Spotswood Baptist Church?
What is Q Anon?
This blog has written several articles about Q Anon already. It is a conspiracy theory that was born out of Pizzagate. Pizzagate resulted in a gunman storming a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor wanting to free children from a pedophilia ring that Hillary Clinton “ran.” Q Anon is a political cult that has grown in influence among evangelicals with over 27% believing in it. If you want to read more about that aspect you can read, “At Least a Quarter of White Evangelicals Believe in Q Anon According to the Religion News Service.” The Q Anon theory claims that Democrats are engaged in pedophilia and child sex trafficking and that they like to practice cannibalism on infants. Q is a member of the intelligence community leaking classified information and the hero is going to be Donald Trump who will destroy the pedophilia ring. The Atlantic magazine did an article giving a good overview of Q Anon which you can access in, “The Conspiracy That Some Evangelicals are Embracing: Q Anon and a Solid Read in The Atlantic Magazine About this Dangerous Belief System.” Another way of describing this conspiracy theory is to realize its the 21st century Satanic Panic. Q Anon is tearing apart and destroying families. Children are losing parents to conspiracy theories, and survivors communities are breaking out at Reddit. You can read that in, “Recommended Read in The Bulwark: This Cult is Ruining People’s Lives” and “Washington Post: QAnon Is Tearing Families Apart.” To their credit many in the Neo-Calvinist movement have taken on this conspiracy theory and that includes The Gospel Coalition, Joe Carter and Ed Stezter. You can read more about that in, “Joe Carter From The Gospel Coalition Explains the Problems for Christians Embracing the Q Anon Conspiracy Theory” and “Ed Stetzer in a USA Today Op-Ed Warns of Evangelicals Embracing Q Anon.” This blog will not use as a source someone steeped into Q Anon. The source from my view is suspect especially if they are peddling conspiracy theories. This blog even called this issue out while writing about the issues with James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel scandal. You can read that in, “Why I Have Pushed Back From the Former Harvest Bible Chapel Community and Rejected Evangelicalism. Julie Heflin, Q Anon and Conspiracy Theories” and “The Q Anon Conspiracy Theory is a Serious Threat to the Spiritual Blogging Community.” Those who are falling into Q Anon appear to be those most in Pentecostal, charismatic and traditional Baptist as well as non denominational evangelical churches. The Neo-Calvinist movement has not been sucked down the rabbit hole. In the view of this blog perhaps that is due to the Calvinists being more intellectual than other regular evangelicals.
A Southern Baptist Pastor Struggles With a Church Into Q Anon and Other Conspiracy Theories
As a pastor Jared Stacey was having problems as the Trump era moved on. But the tipping point seemed to happen after the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. He began to notice and see more evangelicals buy into conspiracy theories at Spotswood Baptist. Conspiracy theories that dealt with Q Anon, pedophilia, the deep state, the rigged election and a blind obedience to Donald Trump. It became harder and harder for Jared to do his job as more and more people checked out of reality and became wrapped up in conspiracies. When he saw Trump use the Bible to justify violence he was troubled by what he was seeing and the stain that was being done to evangelical witness. According to NPR, “I began to see on social media people ignoring or pushing away Black Lives Matter by saying, you know, oh, well, no one’s over here talking about trafficking.” Pedophilia became a code word for attacking Democrats. Sex trafficking is an issue in Virginia but members of his congregation were taking it to another level. In his youth group parents started to teach their kids that Democrats practiced pedophilia. Jared found himself wrestling with the parents teaching their children lies. And the problem extended to the church elders at Spotswood Baptist who also engaged in this behavior. It put Jared in a quandary as to how to respond. What can you do when the elder board is operating like that? As he described it there existed two information streams that developed in the church. Older people and parents teaching conspiracy theories and the children fighting back and rejecting it and trying to bring their parents back to reality. The church leadership refused to address the issue which was shared with NPR. Jared explained how Jesus was being co-opted. “The danger was of them being given a co-opted Jesus, a Jesus who believed in Q, a Jesus who believed in deep state, a Jesus who automatically voted Republican.” Due to the ongoing conflict and stress over conspiracy theories at Spotswood Baptist Church he decided to quit and moved to Scotland with his family to get away from the problem. And with that Spotswood lost a pastor who was committed for nearly a decade from his time at Liberty until graduation from a Baptist seminary in New Orleans. This Southern Baptist pastor is heartbroken over the conspiracy theories that have interfered in church ministry. He shared his story with NPR which you can read in, “Disinformation Fuels A White Evangelical Movement. It Led 1 Virginia Pastor To Quit.”
After the NPR story came out Jared Stacy discussed the issues with Q Anon on Twitter. This is what he said.
Closing Thoughts and Analysis
The writer of this blog has pushed back from evangelicalism but it also has deep respect for Jared Stacy for calling this issue out. The Neo-Calvinists are ahead of the curve and are rightfully addressing it. Conspiracy theories are not only a threat to democracy and the west but also to evangelicalism and their witness. Disinformation leads to hate and the question must be asked can it be used to provoke violence? I think January 6 tells us that is possible. When I was in evangelicalism I realized that many evangelicals never learned from Dietrich Bonhoeffer despite how popular he was. All you have to do is so how off the rails Eric Metaxas has gone. As conspiracy theories grew inside evangelicalism I also came to the conclusion that many white evangelicals never learned from the Christians and their mistakes within the Third Reich. The Third Reich used conspiracy theories to go after the Jews and a number of Christians went along. You can read more in, “How White Evangelical Christians of the United States Never Learned From the Christians of Nazi, Germany.” But in addition to sparking violence how can a church choking on conspiracy theories that says Joe Biden practices pedophilia engage in missions work? Serve its community? Reach its neighbor? When people are working at dividing other people intentionally how can God be glorified? How can they read or study their Bible if they are choosing to cut themselves off from reality? These are honest questions for the elder board at Spotswood Baptist Church. For me its deeply disturbing to see the proliferation of such conspiracy theories and then there is this also aspect of hypocrisy. Its considerably sick the same crowd that screams about divorce and family values has many people who support a movement that is tearing apart marriages and families. Every so often I go to the Q Anon survivor board at Reddit and I see a husband talk about how he lost his wife and their long marriage is ending in divorce. Children writing painful posts about parents losing their job because they are up all night looking for more information about Q and its affecting their work. The disinformation and panic with families liquidating their 501K to plan for the coming “war.” Its astounding that people can be that ignorant. Is this the collapse of evangelicalism that Michael Spencer talked about? Honestly if some of the people at Spotswood think that they are going to be persecuted by Joe Biden and the Democrats how would they have survived if they lived in Nero’s Rome? But this issue also tells Jared Stacy that at Spotswood Baptist the true pastor does not work in a youth ministry. Nor does this person stand behind the pulpit. The true “pastor” who is leading the congregation is Fox News and those networks that promote conspiracy theories all day long. This I would think would be idolatry but white evangelicals are never going to let go and will be stuck to this long term. For more thoughts on this you can read, “When Fox News Competes Against the Pastor in the COVID-19 Era. Also When the Coronavirus Epidemic is Over What Will the Death Toll Be for White Evangelicals Who Consume Fox?” I don’t see an easy solution to this issue. I lost my final evangelical church due to Christian nationalism and its quite clear that there are many people who are using the Gospel to advance political goals. Faith is not about following God or serving the least of these. Faith is a means to power. That is why many evangelicals cling to conspiracy theories. They can belittle their opponents and advance their political goals. Maybe when it comes to conspiracy theories we should also acknowledge the conspiracy theories that Jerry Falwell Sr promoted about the Clintons, Vince Foster and other individuals in the 1990s. Maybe that’s where this problem took off, or does it go back farther? These are just some ideas to consider. Either way this blog wishes Jared Stacy well. Maybe the IMB should send missionaries to Spotswood to preach the Gospel to them. Why go to Kenya when an elder at a Southern Baptist church is teaching one of his kids in youth group that Joe Biden is into cannibalism and his very life is as risk. So much for loving your neighbor.