No one expects to see a once-prominent actor, fallen from the limelight, delivering a crusade sermon in Las Vegas, yet these are the times we live in. Jim Caviezel is most famous for his portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ (a film and director both widely denounced as anti-Semitic). Last weekend, Caviezel was one of a long list of QAnon-affiliated speakers at the “For God and Country Patriot Double Down” conference at the Ahern Hotel in Las Vegas. And his speech was both the most dramatic—a performance that reminded the viewer that the man can in fact act—while also being the most militant and wild talk possible. In its content, and its speaker, the speech was a microcosm of Q: still a partisan murder fantasy, with all of the religious overtones of holy war, still seeking to shepherd delusions into reality. And who could be better suited to be the shepherd of Q than the actor known for playing the shepherd of man?
Caviezel’s eighteen-minute talk, entitled “The Storm is Upon Us,” was a full-blown QAnon performance. The “Storm” in question is QAnon’s eschatological end point, an Armageddon in which the deep state will be uncovered and political rivals will be arrested and then executed en masse. Caviezel was introduced as the lead actor in Sound of Freedom, a film about Operation Underground Railroad in which he plays that organization’s founder, Tim Ballard. The group focuses on an issue near and dear to the QAnon heart: child trafficking. Caviezel did not mention, naturally, that Ballard has been accused of lying about his work and that the organization is under criminal investigation.
Caviezel referenced child sex trafficking, specifically in the QAnon context, several times throughout the speech. It is also the theoretical reason he was here, to be honored as a QAnon devotee—one who has previously referenced the widely refuted “adrenochroming” child murder/blood-libel fantasy, the rebirth of a medieval anti Semitic conspiracy into the modern internet.
Caviezel opens his talk with a vivid description of what went into his most famous film role—the physicality, the brutality of the work, the weight of the cross and the injuries received—in terms that very quickly move to identifying himself with Christ, not as a reincarnated Messiah but as an avatar of that suffering. “That is me up there,” he said, “but it is actually me as an instrument. Anything good you saw there was the fasting, was the prayer, the daily Masses. The performance was truly birthed in pain and through the pain—isn’t that odd? The pain is at times a blessing.” Caviezel then recounted the injuries he sustained during filming before going on to say that playing the role could be described in two words: “unquenchable fire,” a reference to the description of the judgment of Jerusalem if the Sabbath is not kept holy in Jeremiah 17:27 and a description of hell in Mark 9:43. The actor, emotional while talking, described the role as his destiny—from feeling that acting was his vocation, to getting the call from Mel Gibson: “Mel Gibson wants me to play Jesus Christ. He wants the guy with the initials of JC who just happens to be 33 to play Jesus Christ. Do you think that’s a coincidence?”
This part of the talk ends with Caviezel saying “But I didn’t play him, he played me,” to great applause. And one has to ask—the crowd is applauding an actor, who played Jesus Christ, for saying Jesus Christ moved through him, to make a film about the Passion, while they are here to see him speak because he is making a film about an organization that claims to be fighting child sex trafficking, at a QAnon conference that believes the world is run by a cabal of secret Satanic pedophiles in the most aggressively anti-Semitic terms available.
Where is reality here, and where is fiction?
The rest of his talk certainly does not help you find the line. He quotes Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, before giving an extended paraphrased version of Reagan’s famous 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech—Caviezel said “I’ve made a few amendments of my own, I think it’s pretty current now, but I don’t think you’ll mind”—to turn it from a Cold War speech into a QAnon one. He comments on “the iron curtain of sex trafficking and abortion,” references the idea of a conspiracy of “slave masters” that our society is appeasing, and accuses priests, pastors, and “now, sadly, even our pope” of appeasement—putting the conflict in terms of Satanic influence, a holy war. Here is Caviezel inserting “Satan” where Reagan’s original speech had “Khrushchev”:
Eventually we will have to face the final demand, the final ultimatum, and what then? When Satan has told his own, he knows what our answer is going to be. He has told them that we’re retreating under the pressure of his cold war, and someday when the time is right, to deliver his final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary. Because, you see, by then we will have been so weakened from within—spiritually, morally, economically. He believes this because from our side he’s heard voices pleading for peace at any price.
Part of the holy war Caviezel envisions, apparently, is the fight over COVID masking—“one commentator said he’d rather live on his knees with his mask on than die on his feet.”
Reagan’s original 1964 speech had references to the Founding: a quote from Patrick Henry’s most famous speech and a mention of “the shot heard ’round the world.” Caviezel’s bizarre channeling of Reagan includes both those passages. In the setting of a QAnon conference, those references take on new meaning—they’re contextualized into the Black-Robed Regiment leanings of QAnon-affiliated pastors and insurrectionists. Caviezel changes some of Reagan’s individual words to emphasize this. Instead of Reagan’s “there is a point beyond which they must not advance,” Caviezel says “there is a point beyond which evil must not advance,” because the stakes are eschatological, not just Cold War geopolitics and ideology but the war of heaven and hell on earth. Reagan’s speech is chopped up, moved around, modified, and manipulated—and the crowd eats it up.
With three minutes left, Caviezel leaves Reagan behind. He says:
My fellow Christian warriors, set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation. Be saints. We weren’t made to fit in. We were born to stand out. And that is the freedom that I wish for you. Freedom from sin. Freedom from our weakness. Freedom from the slavery that sin makes out of all of us. That is the freedom that is worth dying for.
And then Caviezel does the bit that all the commentators have latched onto, performing Mel Gibson’s speech from Braveheart. And we can laugh, but this is just yet another pulling of other words into a hodgepodge of pro-violence, pro-martyrdom, full-QAnon expression. And once again, he moves out of the script into his own words, saying,
We must fight for that authentic freedom and live, my friends. By God, we must live and with the Holy Spirit as your shield and Christ as your sword may you join Saint Michael and all the other angels in defending God and sending Lucifer and his henchmen straight right back to hell where they belong.
The audience cheers and applauds this call to holy war. And right before Caviezel ends, he says, “We are headed into the storm of all storms. Yes. This storm is upon us. But not without Jesus our rudder. And in the words of Reagan, evil is powerless if the good are unafraid. God Bless you.”
Again, we can laugh about the Braveheart. We can wonder what an actor is doing at a QAnon conference. But that ending? That ending is a crusade. That ending is the sacral blessing of the enterprise—fight for freedom, fight alongside God against your demonic foes, fight into the apocalypse QAnon believes in, an apocalypse that ends with the mass murder of your political and cultural opponents. And Jim Caviezel, JC, the actor who played Jesus Christ and whose speech blurs the lines between sacred and secular, acting and preaching, reality and fiction, walks off stage to applause, having called down the apocalypse upon their foes.
These talks are not harmless. These speeches are widely watched and listened to and disseminated. (Caviezel’s speech has already been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube.) QAnon may have diminished as a distinct movement in the months since Q has fallen silent—despite the presence at the conference of both Ron and Jim Watkins, the people most likely responsible for creating the movement’s mysterious pseudonymous central figure. But the spread of QAnon’s message, especially in religious spaces, makes calls for sacred violence, for holy war, ever more dangerous. Especially if the messenger keeps promoting the possibility that he will once again take on the role of Christ.