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Southern Baptist Convention Leader Ed Litton Says QAnon Conspiracy Theories Are 'Fables'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 6/18/2021 Danya Hajjaji
A QAnon sticker is seen on the back of a car on November 6, 2020 in Los Angeles. A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found 26 percent of white evangelical Protestants adhere to a core belief of the QAnon conspiracy theory. © ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images A QAnon sticker is seen on the back of a car on November 6, 2020 in Los Angeles. A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found 26 percent of white evangelical Protestants adhere to a core belief of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Moderate Alabama pastor Ed Litton, who was recently elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), rejected the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory present among some white evangelicals, stating he taught his congregation to avoid listening to "fables."

Litton won leadership of the SBC—the largest Christian Protestant denomination in the U.S.—as it confronts allegations of sexual abuse and experiences infighting over critical race theory, an academic concept that revolves around critiques of systemic racism.

During an interview with Litton, CNN host Erin Burnett cited a recent poll that found 25 percent of white evangelical Christians adhered to the QAnon conspiracy theory. The poll is likely one released in May by the Public Religion Research Institute, which discovered 26 percent of white evangelical Protestants espoused the core QAnon belief of "a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders."

Among a myriad of unfounded conspiracy theories, QAnon believers remain convinced former President Donald Trump is waging a battle against Satanic Democrats engaged in child sex trafficking. "The storm" is in reference to an anticipated moment in which Trump will enact mass arrests of elites supposedly involved in the plot.

When asked by Burnett whether he has encountered the QAnon movement, Litton said he has not come across it in his church nor known many pastors who have.

"I think it's a fringe problem," he said. "Conspiracy theories are all across our culture, so I don't think it's just some churches doing this, I think there's all kinds of fringe elements that will believe a lie rather than the truth."

Burnett followed up by asking Litton whether he felt "any burden, obligation, responsibility to try to stop this, whether you define it as fringe or not?"

"Well, no, it is fringe, but I guess I have an obligation with my people, especially that I teach on a regular basis, to not listen to fables," Litton replied. "And the scripture is very clear about that, but to build your life on the word of God."

"And so yeah, there are conspiracy theories, and there are people that follow those things, but our people, and I think our pastors throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, you will find are faithfully every week shepherding their flocks with the word of God."

On critical race theory, Litton said that while the SBC has "never condoned" the concept, it may be taught in seminaries "only to help pastors understand that it's a mechanism used in our culture." Litton also reaffirmed the existence of systemic racism as being "obvious." His conservative election rival, Georgia pastor Mike Stone, supported a motion for the SBC to condemn critical race theory.

When Burnett inquired on evangelical pastors who reject critical race theory—including Stone, who said "Our Lord isn't woke"—Litton answered: "It's because there are people that are afraid of dealing with this issue and it's basically recognizing that people of color in our communities are created in the image of God."

"They have value because God not only loves them, he redeems them," he continued. "And God wants them in his family, and so it's our mission to help get that gospel message to everybody."

While less pointedly right-wing than his peers, Litton rejected the "moderate" label that has been attributed to him, saying he is "very conservative" in his faith and theology.

"There's really no moderate wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I am certainly not a moderate," he said.

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