BEFORE 2020, REV. JOSH GELATT did not know much about QAnon. Gelatt had been lead pastor at Cascades Baptist Church in Jackson, Mich., since 2016. On occasion, he had heard congregants allege that “Democrats, liberals, and socialists are evil,” and that “they’re out to close churches and take away guns in the United States.” He had heard Christian nationalistic claims, such as “we are God’s chosen country.”
Gelatt, who does not identify as a Democrat or a Republican, was reasonably concerned. Then in spring 2020, Gelatt noticed what he called an “alarming twist” in his congregation.
After the murder of George Floyd in May, Cascades Baptist Church erupted with QAnon’s apocalyptic conspiracy theories, which the FBI has warned may lead some adherents to domestic terrorism. In the church and on social media, Gelatt witnessed members share false allegations that then-presidential candidate Joe Biden had “an island with an underground submarine where he receives his pedophile orders” and that there were “underground railroads between various cities run by Hollywood elites.” Congregants claimed that then-President Donald Trump was going to “seize power, execute the liberals, and expose pedophile rings.”