Cannibals and Montanists

by Mark Arey | български | ქართული | Ελληνικά | Русский | Српски

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The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

QAnon and “Trumplicals” (I just can’t use the lovely word “Evangel” to reference them anymore.) They both seem to have come out of nowhere, unleashed on the nation’s consciousness by the presidency of Donald Trump. But they were there all along, hiding in plain sight in the history of American Christianity.

I wish the “Qs” could find their way to the Second Apology of Justin Martyr or the Embassy for the Christians of Athenagoras of Athens. If they had any understanding of the past, they might see how charges of perversion and cannibalism were used against the early Christians. But, they’ve jumped right in, spurred on by their hatreds and fears, throwing in the “blood libel” against Jews for grotesque measure. All of this dread of being devoured from the new cult of “Q.” They still can’t figure out what to do with John 6. Don’t they get that Orthodox and Catholic are “munching” on the Body of God at every Eucharist? Should we be prepared for our churches and synagogues to be invaded like pizza parlors, by armed fanatics searching for an abattoir of horrors?

I have heard QAnon compared to the Gnostics, which is an insult to Valentinians and Basilidians alike. They call their movement the “Great Awakening” and wed it to the non-Q “Trumplicals” through an ever-morphing web of conspiracy theories that relieves them of any responsibility to the world. They do Millerites proud. The delusion deepens, and they beat plowshares into swords. Arming themselves to the hilt for the Apocalypse, they live a nightmare into which they sink with every “QDrop,” unaware of and unawake to the θρόμβοι αἵματος that fell from the Lord’s brow in Gethsemane, and from His side on the Cross.

At least their “Trumplical” confederates have the so-called “rapture”—their own escape pod from any responsibility for the Kingdom. They are the New Montanists, replete with ersatz “prophets” who speak—not with fiery tongues, but with a torrent of babel. Even Rod Dreher is horrified: “If radical Christians shoot people or commit some other violent act in defense of Trump, Eric Metaxas and those who talk like him will have blood on their hands.” Indeed, after January 6th, they do….

Metaxas and those like him are a merry band of hucksters who lend their pulpits and airwaves to the likes of Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, in order to culture the virus of fear in their followers. They are “Universalists” of the worst kind, believing every means justifies their ends. They have “no king but Caesar” and are happy to towel-dry Pilate’s hands. They claim their every burp to be the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and their rude “sounds going forth to the ends of earth” are funded by their sleep-walking disciples.

At the end of the Second Century CE, when Christian Apologists were defending the Faith against the charges of “Thyestean banquets and Oedipal unions,” Montanus was spreading his “New Prophecy” throughout the Mediterranean basin. He surged out of Phrygia in Asia Minor like a plague. He even rattled the Pope. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Montanus “being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, raved and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 5). Sound familiar? As the Preacher says… “nothing new under the sun.”

There are so many well-meaning Christians in the world, it is truly lamentable that good people are oppressed by these “clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withers, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame…” (Jude 12,13). Conspiracy, hypocrisy, and lust for power and riches have tilled the field and sown countless tares among the wheat. The ecstasies of the New Montanism have their own rewards, chiefly the dispersion of lies and the aspersion of truth. And now we have insurrection, sedition, and murder to boot.

We are witnessing the bitter harvest of “Awakenings” in America which, in their succession, have plunged Christians deeper into darkness and stupor. At the bottom of this labyrinth lie monsters who are spiritually devouring our children. So it seems QAnon was right after all. There are pedophile cannibals out there, but they happen to be the ones shouting a most ironic J’Accuse!

Together with their Montanist brethren, they are constructing idols and their worship at an alarming pace. Is there a chance the light will shine in this darkness, and rouse them from the sleep of abject ignorance? We have to believe in the possibility, but recognize that “faith without works is dead.”

If we are not our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, then we may guilty of their spiritual murders, or at least be complicit. Christians were never cannibals, but they have been deserters. And the Montanists eventually died out, but not before they inflicted centuries of damage.

Perhaps there is yet time to heed the plea of Justin Martyr: “Be ye converted; become wise!” Is Justin’s entreaty too much to hope for? I sincerely hope not.


Mark Arey was a clergyman of the GOAA for over thirty years. His latest book is “The Gospel of Love: A Meta-Translation.”

Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.