Alien Warning SignQAnon is a conspiracy theory group – some call it an emerging religion – started by a mysterious figure and it is blowing up on social media, even getting traction from elected officials.

Katelyn Beaty in an article titled “QAnon The Alternative Religion That’s Coming to Your Church,” says that QAnon “is taking on the power of a new religion that’s dividing churches and hurting Christian witness.”

Conspiracy theories have been around for a long time, thanks in part to actual covert government operations. MKULTRA, for example, or the NSA’s domestic surveillance program called Prism that scooped up phone conversations, Internet communications, etc. without warrants.

We’ve seen actual covert programs exposed, so how credible is QAnon’s expose of a supposedly left-wing deep-state satanic child-abuse ring? I’d sooner believe that Area 51 contains a flying saucer and pickled aliens than subscribe to the QAnon lunacy. So what to make of it?

We already know that Russia has been having fun messing with social media and pitting A against B against C, and this falls right into that category. Create more distrust, start sensational rumors, get people upset at one another, cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war — that’s stock in trade for intelligence agencies like the CIA, FBI, KGB, Stassi, SVR, FSB and on and on. Disrupt, distract, create chaos, sow mistrust.

Wikipedia alone lists some 70 different propaganda techniques and QAnon smacks of “Disinformation,” “Divide and Rule,” “Firehose of Falsehood,” Fear Uncertainty and Doubt,” just for openers.

So while there may be reason to distrust government, this QAnon hokum could do something a bit more sinister. With a whirlwind of ridiculous rumors and conspiracy theories flying around, who’s going to notice or believe actual conspiracies? Nobody. Who’s going to trust anything governmental? Nobody. Who’s going to believe what they hear in the media? Nobody. Deep state conspiracies make exciting movie plots, but a republic relies on trust between the representatives and the represented. We’ve certainly seen that trust eroded – today only about 15 percent of the public trusts the federal government – but when people of faith join the mixed-martial arts pie fight going on in social media, it creates division, distracts from the message of faith and hope, and raises suspicion and rancor.

We’ve somehow allowed the government of, by and for the people to become a mean-spirited game show, and like a car wreck on the freeway, it attracts huge amounts of attention, bottlenecks traffic but leads nowhere.

So don’t believe social media, don’t subscribe to QAnon hokum, and don’t listen to the current Republican and Democratic nastiness. We have enough real challenges — with a pandemic, economic troubles, an election year, racial unrest and attacks on religious liberty — without grabbing this new thing.

Find the voices that make sense, that speak reason and trust. Vote for candidates that act like grownups. And above all, ignore the distractions, and get on with the mission of your church, synagogue, temple or mosque. Distractions and elections will pass, but religion connects humanity to the eternal, the worthwhile, the best within ourselves. The rest is just a cheap game show.