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How Disinformation Targets Christians

Scrabble Pieces Saying Fake and Fact in a Cross Shape

Religious groups in the United States, notably Evangelical Christians and other Christian groups, have been one of the main targets of and have been largely impacted by disinformation.

A 2018 poll conducted by the University of California Institute for Prediction Technology and the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center Research Institute found that 46% of self-identified evangelicals and 52% of those whose beliefs tag them as evangelical “strongly believes the mainstream media produces fake news.”

Those who distrust mainstream media tend to turn to non-traditional media sources, often online, and are likely to fall into disinformation traps.

Many sources of disinformation online use tactics such as creating emotionally-charged and relevant-seeming headlines to target specific audiences.

How QAnon Targets Christians

QAnon, one of the most popular conspiracy theories online and a large source of disinformation, specifically targets Christians by catering their content towards Christian ideals.

QAnon’s ideology is based on the untrue concept that Donald Trump is secretly working to save children from being trafficked by Hollywood and political elites who will one day be revealed during an apocalyptic event known as “The Storm.”

The beliefs at the core of QAnon target Christians with apocalyptic ideas and the desire to protect children, inherently Christian ideas, with Trump as a savior figure. They also claim that leading Democrats participate in Satanic rituals. By commandeering sacred biblical language and values, QAnon and others have been able to target Christians nationwide.

While many Christian leaders have been outspoken against disinformation, some are also leading their followers to follow QAnon and other conspiracy theories. Christians generally have trust in their pastors and other religious figures, who have been some of the major players spreading disinformation within Christian communities.

What to Look Out For

Stopping the spread of disinformation comes from individuals. Here are some important things to look out for that can help guide you to avoid religious disinformation.

First, avoid news sources that use religiously-based language. When looking for news surrounding politics, current events, etc., most major and trusted news sources will separate religion from their reporting of unrelated topics. Disinformation targets Christians by using religious language and manipulating it away from its true meaning.

Second, be wary of highly emotional stories. While many news articles report on potentially emotional events, disinformation often uses emotional language to elicit a reaction and a desire to read. Slogans such as QAnon’s call to “save the children” are highly effective at attracting Christians.

Third, do not trust a source or claim just because a Christian said it. According to the MIT Technology Review, 19 of the top 20 Christian Facebook pages are run by foriegn troll farms. These pages use innocent Christian content to lure readers and gain trust so that then they can also post disinformation.

Fourth, read more than just headlines. As previously mentioned, disinformation authors often curate headlines with charged language and bold claims to draw in readers and get you to click. Do not believe a headline’s claims are true until you have read the source and learned more about its claims and purpose.

Visit Our Toolkit to learn more ways that you can fight disinformation and identify truth.



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