William Lane Craig recently devoted an episode of his Reasonable Faith Podcast to one of my videos in which he offered a critical response to some of my comments on his book Reasonable Faith and his ministry more generally. One of the points I raise is the way that his close alignment with the Republican Party and Donald Trump hurts his Christian apologetic. Here is what I said (and kudos to Reasonable Faith for transcribing my words):
“How do you think about a more adequate engagement of politics and Christianity? I think about someone like William Lane Craig in this respect. William Lane Craig has great arguments. Well, he has serious arguments, well-formed arguments for God’s existence. I think he’s an excellent apologist in many respects. And yet he has taken a view with respect to the alignment of Christianity with Republicanism and Donald Trump that I think for so many people just not only critically weakens but perhaps undermines his complete witness. We really need to think through carefully how to relate politics to Christianity.”
And here is how Craig responds in the podcast:
“And he’s also, I think, inaccurately characterizing me. I have never endorsed Donald Trump or Republicanism. I have tried to stay out of politics except when it concerns an issue of ethical importance. I am unabashedly pro-life, for example, and in favor of heterosexual marriage because I think those are biblical values and ethical issues that Christians need to stand for. But I stay out of politics and the sorts of things that Randal is talking about there. I don’t even regard those things that he had on his list there as being relevant to my task.”
I will now offer a two-point critique of that statement.
Issues of Ethical Importance?
Craig says that he only involves himself in politics when it concern issues of “ethical importance.” He then gives two examples: a pro-life stance and an, er, “pro heterosexual marriage” stance. While I’m admittedly not entirely sure what the latter is supposed to mean, I assume that is a roundabout way of saying that Craig doesn’t think same-sex marital unions should be recognized by the state. Those are the examples of issues that Craig thinks are of “ethical importance” such that they warrant a Christian apologist to speak out.
But what about public, not-for-profit healthcare that guarantees medical coverage to the least of these? Isn’t that an ethical issue? What about gun control? Surely that is an ethical issue, isn’t it? What about climate change and environmental laws to protect ecosystems including vulnerable animal and human populations? Isn’t that ethical? What about a program like DACA that would allow children of some illegal immigrants to have a path to citizenship? Isn’t that an ethical issue? What about a living wage and the growing chasm between the uber-rich and everyone else? Isn’t that an ethical issue? Why, of all the possible issues Craig could talk about, does he only opine on abortion and, um, “heterosexual marriage”?
This brings me back to my concern about Craig’s apologetic. When skeptics of Christianity rightly recognize the enormous ethical import of issues like gun control, climate change, wealth inequality, and refugees, and they see that none of these issues are of sufficient concern that they warrant a mention from Craig, when they see, rather, that the two issues he mentions here are abortion and “heterosexual marriage,” that speaks volumes. It speaks about an impoverished moral vision, one tied to partisan party politics. And that effectively weakens the force of Craig’s apologetic overall.
Consider one of the most wicked and vicious policies of the Trump era. Beginning in April 2018, the Trump administration instituted a new family separation policy to deter new refugee claimants. According to this policy, children (even infants) would be separated from their parents and placed in shelters while the parents waited in detention facilities for their claims to be processed. The purpose of this policy was to deter future refugee claimants with the threat that they would lose their children. The policy resulted in hundreds of children being separated from parents for months and even years. As of May 2021, the Biden administration was still working to reunite children that had been separated from their parents by the Trump administration.
Let’s be clear about something: torture is the punitive infliction of severe physical and/or psychological/emotional suffering. When the Trump administration separated parents from their children for crossing the border and claiming refugee status, they were engaged in a policy of psychological and emotional torture. When my daughter was four years old, she went missing for 45 minutes. I still tear up recalling the anguish I experienced at that time. Now try to imagine what it would be like to have your four-year-old taken away and you are not reunited for months or years. That was a policy of the Trump administration. It was a wicked, cruel policy that violated international law.
Why doesn’t Craig talk about the family separation policy? Is it less important than “heterosexual marriage”? Does it not count as an “ethical” issue at all?
On Craig’s non-support Support for Donald Trump and the Republican Party
There’s an old saying: don’t spit on my boots and tell me it’s raining. I thought of that when I heard Craig say “I have never endorsed Donald Trump or Republicanism.” For Exhibit A, I would invite folks to listen to the May 31, 2020 episode of Reasonable Faith titled “Will there be a backlash against evangelicals?” in which Craig addresses the evangelical support for Trump and the Republican party. Keep in mind, this podcast was released during the election season and I think it can fairly be described as an extended apologetic for Donald Trump and the GOP.
To be sure, in that podcast episode, Craig makes a similar disclaimer that he does not support Trump or the GOP: “for my part, as a somewhat public figure, I have to remain a-political. I cannot be seen as endorsing a particular political candidate or party.” However, it is important to understand what is really going on here. According to ProPublica, Reasonable Faith is a non-profit with a 501(c)(3) designation. (Cf. Charity Navigator.) According to the Internal Revenue Service
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” (source)
In other words, the tax-exempt status of Reasonable Faith requires Craig to refrain from directly supporting Donald Trump and the Republican party.
Nonetheless, throughout the podcast episode, Craig provides a robust defense for Trump and his unflagging evangelical support. Craig says that Trump is pro-life, against gay marriage (our two big-ticket ethical topics) and he supports conservative Supreme Court justices and allegedly stands for religious freedom around the world.
Never mind his defense and praise of dictators (e.g. Putin, Duterte, Xi Jinping), his defense of his good friend MBS who ordered the killing and dismemberment of a US-based journalist, his determined attempts to subvert democratic elections, his demonization of Muslims and defense of white supremacists.
No wait, I’m going to stop myself. If I start enumerating all the examples of how horrible Donald Trump was and what an amoral decrepit shell the GOP that supports him has become, we’ll be here all day. (Side note: the GOP has a handful of morally courageous politicians like Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney: may their tribe increase.)
Instead, I’ll simply note that a recent C-Span survey of US historians ranks Trump as the fourth worst president in US history. And there are many reasons that Trump’s reputation is not likely to improve in the future including the following:
- the SDNY investigation of the Trump organization beginning with the tax fraud scheme involving CFO Allen Weisselberg;
- the multitude of lawsuits against Trump including the Summer Zervos and E. Jean Carroll defamation suits regarding Trump’s denial of sexual assault allegations;
- the investigation of the Capitol insurrection;
- Trump’s increasingly erratic, vile, and despicable comments, such as his recent statement that he is “the greatest star maker of all time” but that some of his stars “are actually made of garbage” (source);
- further shocking accounts of Trump’s utter ineptitude, ignorance, and volatility during his presidency such as the books published just this past week outlining such gems as his praise for Hitler, his desire that John Bolton would die of COVID, and the concern of General Mark Milley that Trump would attempt to use the military in a coup.
William Lane Craig may say that he doesn’t support Trump and the Republican Party. But that appears merely to be a perfunctory attempt to retain the tax-exempt status of his 501(c)(3) organization. Craig’s defense of Trump and the GOP in his May 31, 2020 podcast clearly illustrates practical support for Trump, even if it is technically not recognized as such by the IRS. With Trump already ranked the fourth worst president in US history by historians and with his horrid reputation all but certain to spiral further into the future, we can offer the following conclusion: Craig’s practical support for the man has greatly damaged his apologetic with a skeptical, and morally incensed generation who are appalled by the legacy of the narcissist-in-chief and the evangelical support he has received.
Oh, one more thing. At the bottom of the Reasonable Faith website, we read this: “Website design and development by Parscale Digital.“ In case you were wondering, that’s the same Brad Parscale that worked for the Trump campaign. The statement includes a link to the website for Parscale Strategy which features the following quote: “‘[Parscale] absolutely has the Trump campaign on a much more advanced digital footing than I think any other presidential campaign in history.’ Politico.” That aged well, didn’t it?
But more to the point: of all the possible web developers in the country that one could use, why would Reasonable Faith employ the services of Brad Parscale?