QAnon, The Conjuring, and the devil

Talking about Satan in America

Giovanni Russonello covers in the New York Times the release of a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Interfaith Youth Core, according to which 15% of Americans agree with the statement, “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”

This is one of three pillars of the QAnon conspiracy theory, along with the idea that “there is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” and “because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” An even larger minority of Americans (and a majority of Republicans) claim to disagree with many details, without rejecting the propositions outright.

In the Week, Peter Weber leads with the point that this means that QAnon has more dedicated adherents in the United States than do the Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches combined. The same PRRI poll found that self-identification as a Protestant Christian is the most significant correlate of QAnon belief.

In separate news, the third entry in the Conjuring horror franchise, called The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, has just been released. The Conjuring movies, which make a straight-faced claim to be based on real events, are among the biggest-budget straight horror movies being made today.Benjamin Lee reviews the latest installment in the Guardian, noting how uncomfortable he is made by the fact that the series lionizes a real twentieth-century American couple, “either magical samaritans or publicity-hungry charlatans, depending on who you believe.” The series’ protagonists note in the new movie’s trailer that Americans have believed in the Christian God for long enough, and now it is time that they came to believe as well in an active and interventionist Lucifer who needs to be combated by people of good conscience. (The plot seems to have something to do with a murder, a trial, and cherubic little kid in really cute glasses being targeted by the Prince of Darkness).

So that’s the new Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson movie: a scary popcorn flick that encourages American Christians (who are spending ever-less of their time drawing meaning from actual church services while continuing to reject pure secularism) to believe that the devil is doing evil deeds in America, but that a dedicated minority can hold him at bay. Surely there’s no large ready-to-radicalize population in America that might take a laughable proposition from an unlikely source too literally.

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