Evangelical apologists have long been associated with right wing, Republican politics. This continued when Donald Trump ran for president in 2016. In this article, I want to consider what seems to me a disturbing and emerging trend of evangelical apologists moving closer to far right leaders and conspiracy theories. I don’t claim to offer anything like social scientific research to support my claim. I offer only some high profile anecdotes and ask you to consider for yourself whether evangelical apologists are becoming increasingly partisan and, in some cases at least, radicalized.
The Pragmatic Partnership
Despite Donald Trump’s overt racism, habitual lying, malignant narcissism, sexism and misogyny, amorality, and manifest unfitness for office, leading apologists like Norman Geisler developed a pragmatic rationale for voting for him. While William Lane Craig insists that he has stayed out of politics, as I document in this article he also has had what seems to me to be a problematic relationship with Trump and the Republican Party.
Platforming Conspiracy Theorists
The partisanship and pragmatic defense of far-right and manifestly unfit political candidates is one thing. More recently, I have noticed some evangelical apologists sidling up to far right conspiracy theorists. For one high profile case, consider the mutual admiration shared by apologist Frank Turek and conservative activist Charlie Kirk.
There is much we could say about Kirk’s crass partisanship and links to conspiracy theories, but one example should suffice. Shortly after Paul Pelosi was assaulted by an intruder wielding a hammer last October, Kirk was on his show suggesting that the assault was a sexual tryst gone wrong and calling for a “patriot” to bail the hammer-wielding intruder out of prison.
Charlie Kirk calls for his audience to post bail for Pelosi attacker: "If some amazing patriot out there in San Francisco or the Bay Area wants to really be a midterm hero, someone should go and bail this guy out…Bail him out and then go ask him some questions" pic.twitter.com/EkMqFIYUn1
— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) October 31, 2022
Today, the video of the assault on Pelosi was released and it is shockingly violent and deeply disturbing. Needless to say, it underscores just how deplorable is Kirk’s coy promotion of the despicable sexual tryst conspiracy theory.
Kirk has been active on Twitter today since the release of the Pelosi video: 19 tweets today and counting. But no mention of the raw footage, and certainly no public apology to the Pelosi family for promoting the sexual tryst conspiracy theory. And knowing Kirk, no apology is likely to come.
Needless to say, a person like Kirk is the last kind of person with which a Christian apologist interested in promoting Christianity to a skeptical world should be associating. Despite this fact, Christian apologist Frank Turek has appeared on Kirk’s program and Turek has likewise hosted Kirk on his podcast:
— Frank Turek (@DrFrankTurek) October 28, 2022
My issue isn’t that Turek appears on Kirk’s show. Rather, it is that Turek is helping to promote and platform Kirk among evangelicals. And the man he is advocating is a consistent purveyor of highly partisan misinformation which is deeply corrosive of the social fabric. Promoting a sexual tryst conspiracy theory when a man is violently assaulted in his own home is but one example.
Down the Rabbit Hole
For our final stop, we move from Christian apologists who platform far right partisans and conspiracy theorists to those who join them. The first example is philosopher Robert Koons. I first encountered Dr. Koons’ work 23 years ago in an excellent essay critiquing naturalism. Today, his Twitter feed has become a repository of MAGA and Trump-related conspiracy theories. For example,
For an even more high profile example, consider Dinesh D’Souza. The one-time author of the bestselling apologetics book What’s So Great About Christianity? and high-profile debater of Christopher Hitchens has in recent years become one of the most virulent right wing partisans and an enthusiastic purveyor of far right conspiracy theories. For example, D’Souza has been on the vanguard of promoting discredited conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
Is there a trend here? Is this a growing problem? As I said, I provide only selected anecdotes, but that is enough to concern me. With the pragmatic arguments of 2016 that rationalized supporting a man wholly unfit for office, we are now in a place where, so it seems to me, American evangelical apologetics is overwhelmingly Republican and, in some high profile cases, increasingly migrating to the far right and even into conspiracy theorization unmoored from reality. For those concerned with truth and the witness of Christianity in a skeptical world, this is a serious concern very much worth addressing.