Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been on a relentless media tour since his pardon last year, sitting for interviews with even the most obscure right-wing media outlets to promote the MAGA agenda.
But on Tuesday, Flynn appeared on a little-known YouTube channel called Truth Unveiled TV for a very different reason: rebutting the idea that he led a church congregation in a Satanic ritual borrowed from a nuclear doomsday cult.
In a video entitled “Some Have Said That General Flynn Prayed to Satan in a Recent Prayer,” host Paul Oebel gave Flynn a chance to rebut the growing right-wing controversy alleging he’s signed on with Lucifer.
“I even saw a show the other day saying ‘Michael’s flipped on the side of the devil,’” Oebel said. “Can you please explain what happened there?”
“All of these people that talk about turning to whatever...” Flynn said. “People need to stop overthinking what everybody is saying.”
The bizarre YouTube interview marked Flynn’s latest attempt in a weeks-long campaign to convince his one-time fans in the QAnon conspiracy theory movement that he isn’t a Satanist.
Prior to the unusual controversy, Flynn had embraced his position as a hero to supporters of QAnon, taking a QAnon oath, raising money from QAnon believers, and selling QAnon T-shirts. In May, Flynn even appeared at a QAnon conference and endorsed the idea of a military coup.
But QAnon fame is a fickle thing. After promoting QAnon for more than a year, Flynn now finds himself on the business end of the conspiracy theory. Like QAnon targets before him, Flynn is now struggling to persuade angry QAnon believers that he isn’t a secret Satan-worshipper.
Flynn didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Flynn’s trouble started on Sept. 17, when he led a congregation at Nebraska pastor Hank Kunneman’s Lord of Hosts Church in prayer. Flynn’s prayer included invocations to “sevenfold rays” and “legions,” two phrases that struck some of Flynn’s followers as strange.
“We are your instrument of those sevenfold rays and all your archangels, all of them,” Flynn said, later adding, “We will be the instrument of your will, whatever it is. In your name, and in the name of your legions, we are freeborn, and we shall remain freeborn, and we shall not be enslaved by any foe.”
As video of the prayer circulated in online conspiracy theorist groups, the references to “legions” and “rays” soon sparked speculation among Flynn’s right-wing supporters that their hero had been lured to the dark side. Always on the lookout for the Satanic influence they imagine lurks at the heart of the world, they claimed that Flynn had secretly been worshiping the devil. Worse, since the congregation was repeating the prayer after Flynn, the rumor went, he had duped hundreds of Christians into joining the ritual.
“A lot of people in the Christian world believe that when you pray to rays of light and legions that you’re praying to the devil,” Oebel, the YouTube host, explained in his interview with Flynn.
Rick Wiles, an extremist antisemitic Florida pastor who runs a conspiracy theory outlet called TruNews, seized on Flynn’s prayer in a nearly hour-long TruNews broadcast last month blasting the retired lieutenant general. While Wiles’s cohost claimed that the mentions of “rays” and “legions” demonstrated Flynn was praying to the devil, Wiles said Flynn was threatening his followers’ souls.
“My advice to you is to separate from Gen. Michael Flynn,” Wiles told his audience. “I don’t care about politics, I care about your soul.”
The Satanic panic sparked by Flynn’s prayer bears more than a passing similarity to the Flynn-endorsed QAnon movement, in which figures like Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and Barack Obama have been accused of being cannibalistic Satanists—or, in QAnon parlance, ”Luciferians.” It also recalls Pizzagate, the baseless conspiracy theory once endorsed by Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., which holds that a Washington pizzeria doubles as a Satanic sex dungeon for pedophiles.
Lin Wood, a QAnon-endorsing pro-Trump lawyer who has appeared at some of the same right-wing conferences as Flynn, acknowledged the rumors in a Sept. 22 post on social media app Telegram. In his post, Wood seemed to defend Flynn while distancing himself from the prayer.
“I find nothing in the Bible about seven rays of light or legions,” Wood wrote.
On Sept. 25, Flynn acknowledged the growing controversy among his supporters. In a post on social media app Telegram, Flynn said the prayer was about his namesake, St. Michael, adding that it has “great meaning to me.”
Yet his post didn’t mollify many of his QAnon followers, who commented in anger under Flynn’s post.
“I’ve never heard anyone pray the 7 fold ray in a Christian prayer,” one confused Flynn supporter replied. “What am I missing?”
Flynn’s prayer bears a striking resemblance to a prayer by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the now-deceased leader of an anticommunist doomsday cult obsessed with nuclear war. Prophet’s group, the Church Universal and Triumphant, reached its peak in 1990, the year she predicted much of the world would be destroyed in a fiery nuclear exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States. Prophet’s followers flocked to her Montana ranch, building fallout shelters for an apocalypse that never arrived.
For example, in one address to her congregation, Prophet said, “In the name of Archangel Michael and his legions, I am freeborn, and I shall remain freeborn, and I shall not be enslaved by any foe within or without.”
By comparison, Flynn told the Nebraska church congregation, “In your name and the name of your legions, we are freeborn, and we shall remain freeborn, and we shall not be enslaved by any foe within or without.”
Hank Kunneman, the Nebraska pastor whose church played host to Flynn, eventually acknowledged the Satanic accusations himself. In a cryptic address to his congregation on Sept. 26, Kunneman avoided mentioning Flynn by name but said he had received messages claiming a speaker at his church had performed a Satanic prayer.
“Can you just give people a break?” Kunneman asked his congregation.
Wood addressed the Satanism allegations against his MAGA ally again on Wednesday, claiming his own supporters had been asking him about whether Flynn’s prayer meant he was a member of the occult.
“Occult prayer???” Wood wrote. “Are you kidding me???”
Flynn isn’t the first right-wing figure tied to QAnon to see its acolytes turn on him. Oklahoma Senate candidate Jackson Lahmeyer, whose challenge to Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has been endorsed by Flynn, appeared at an April pro-QAnon conference with Flynn in Tulsa.
A few months later, however, Lahmeyer posted a seemingly innocent picture of his daughter wearing red shoes—apparently unaware that QAnon followers consider red shoes to be yet another sign of their imagined Satanic sex-trafficking cabal. Lahmeyer was soon caught up in a QAnon controversy of his own.
"Unfortunately, I have to say it because people are asking me," Lahmeyer wrote in a Facebook post. "I’m in no way involved in Child Sex Trafficking, pedophilia or devil worship."