“This ministry is the purest ministry I’ve ever witnessed and I have learned more about the love of Jesus in the past few years than I did in my entire life. I accredit Johnny and Hepzibah’s prayers and friendship for helping me through many tough battles – both personally and politically. God has used them in my family and I’s life mightily and I am thankful for that.”
So says the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Or at least that’s what Hepzibah Nanna and Johnny Matthes say he said, on the website of their ministry, The Lion Triumphs.
“I’ve been around ministries in my life,” says Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, Senator from New York, and First Lady of the United States, “but very few have impacted me as greatly as the Lion Triumphs has.”
The main driving force behind The Lion Triumphs ministry, Hepzibah Nanna, lists this claim on her LinkedIn page as well:
Her partner Johnny, who appears to be on LinkedIn as Scott Jackson, also claims to be a spiritual advisor to Obama and Clinton, and that he received a Master’s degree in counseling psychology from Oxford, attending from 2009-2015. As near as this reporter can tell, there is no such program there, but we have requested clarification from the registrar. Perhaps they have cut back on their six-year master’s programs in this difficult economic climate. Perhaps Johnny or Scott meant psychology at Oxford Brookes.
After what Hepzibah Nanna claims were several years of dispensing spiritual wisdom to the nation’s two leading Democrats, and alarmed at the rise of Trumpism, she joined the #Resistance. In late 2016, she was interviewed by the Epoch Times, the Chinese newspaper closely aligned with the Falun Gong, and was identified as one of the major forces behind the anti-Trump #notmypresident movement.
She is one of the owners of the @officialnmp Twitter account, a major node of #Resistance Twitter networks with more than 50,000 followers.
What is #TeamAvocado, you might ask? It’s the QAnon of the left.
The story of QAnon is too long to tell here, but the gist is that it’s a conspiracy theory, possibly a prank, that holds President Trump is working with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to take down an international network of paedophiles. It was born on message boards like 4Chan, but has taken on a life of its own. People now show up at Trump rallies in QAnon gear. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House Press Secretary, was even asked a question about it. It has become enough of an embarrassment that several pro-Trump figures have condemned the theory.
But Trumpism has no monopoly on conspiracy craziness. Both QAnon and large parts of the #Resistance are populated by baby boomers who are perhaps a little more credulous toward things said online than their children who are natives of the internet. Writers have pointed out that QAnon may even be pitched to these people specifically, a brain-worm targeted at everyone’s crazy uncle.
Like a QAnon inversion, Team Avocado holds that Trump is not taking down the network of satanist paedophiles, but that he is one of their number. Here is a video posted to the official account in May, in which Hepzibah addresses her followers:
Another one of Hepzibah’s enterprises is something called the Supernatural Justice League Councils, one of which is a major tweeter on the #TeamAvocado hashtag. The blog attached to this website makes for entertaining reading. Posts claim that Mike Pompeo has hacked her phone, the Archbishop of Washington infiltrated her group chat, that “Benghazi was an inside job meant to smear Hillary.” That Robert Rothschild – those Rothschilds are always involved somehow — has come to them in an effort to expose how he was “sexually, physically, and ritualistically abused by Donald Trump in childhood and as recent as summer 2016.” They have created Twitter accounts in an effort to bolster the credibility of that last story:
A common theme of these posts is somebody “hacking” into their group chat and telling them a lot of supposedly sensitive information. Another notable feature of these posts is that Nanna is always a very important figure in them. She claims to be a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse, which most people remember from the mostly groundless panic that gripped the nation in the early 1990s:
After reading on the Not My President blog that Stephen Miller is “Q” of QAnon, and has a crush on Jackie, one of their admins, it occurred to me that Hepzibah is creating her own fanfiction, but with real-life political figures instead of the student body of Hogwarts. And what’s more, she gets to be the Mary Sue in her own story. One of her featured photos on Facebook shows her face superimposed by the phrase, “She is the Symbol of the Rebellion.” She is the Katniss Everdeen in her own Hunger Games.
The website for the Supernatural Justice League lists a phone number, and after leaving a brief message, I soon found myself texting with someone who claimed to be Hepzibah.
When asked about the endorsements from Clinton and Obama, she replied, “I’ve known them for several years” via a “mutual friend who worked for Bill in the 1990s.”
I said that that’s quite a vote of confidence in your skills as a spiritual adviser, and she replied: “It’s not a paid job or anything. They have other advisers too,” and that she speaks to them “Sometimes once a week, sometimes several times a week. Sometimes once a month sometimes several times a month. Just depends.”
I asked her why she decided to start talking about Trump, and as an evangelical Christian, whether it concerned her that so many of her brethren had sold out to him.
“As far as the evangelicals, they took money to Support Trump. And Mueller knows ;-). I was offered $300,000.00 to support him and I turned it [down].” She also claims to know “several people I’m very close to” who were personally abused by Trump.
She claimed this offer of money came “a billionaire friend” of Trump’s. When I asked for this billionaire’s name, she stopped replying to my questions and I have not heard from her since.
Early last year, other quarters of the #Resistance — primed for conspiracy theories about Russians hiding under the bed — began to question aspects of the alleged Obama spiritual advisor’s story. An expose was posted purporting to reveal her as a fraud, and Louise Mensch called their @officialnmp account “Russian directed” and Johnny and Hepzibah “conspiracy nuts and frauds.” Another Twitter user pointed out that they were soliciting money for Hepzibah’s pain medication — which she allegedly needed to cope with the far more expensive conditions of cancer and AIDS, which she also claimed to have.
It is probably fair to say they have not taken this criticism well, and they have responded by attacking their attackers with bizarre claims. They have published several blog posts about the author of the blog expose on their group, claiming she’s being paid by Steve Bannon and that she’s in league with the paedophiles. This is classic cult behaviour.
But this back-and-forth has unearthed evidence pointing to Hepzibah’s first brush with Internet notoriety. Long before she enlisted in the #Resistance, she posted videos to YouTube under the username AuroraInTheDesert, in which she would claim to get “drunk on the spirit,” appearing to be intoxicated and speaking in tongues. FunnyOrDie posted about these videos years ago. Unfortunately, the originals have been scrubbed from the Internet, but a flatulent remix remains, which is funnier but less disturbing:
Apologies to readers. But, I’m showing you this for a reason.
The farting preacher is actually a reference to one of the great pieces of American samizdat of the 1980s. In 1985, videocassettes began to circulate that featured Robert Tipton, a televangelist straight from central casting, dubbed over with strategically-placed toots.
Nanna’s evolution from charismatic evangelicalism — where speaking in tongues is common — to a #Resistance cult leader who blasts Islamophobia and refers to herself as “ace,” or asexual, is a good cautionary tale, a reminder that conspiratorial insanity is bipartisan. That Alex Jones was only banned from various platforms after he became a Trump-defender, and not when he was an omnidirectional conspiracy-monger who appealed to the civil libertarian left, tells you a lot about what rules he actually broke. As Jesse Walker describes in United States of Paranoia, such ways of thinking are deeply ingrained in American culture, at least as far back as the Anti-Masonic Party. Conspiratorial thinking isn’t exclusive to the right or the left. Everyone is paranoid these days.