Hi! A while ago, I ran across a new name in apologetics: Natasha Crain. She specializes in a particularly sleazy and manipulative subtype within the genre. In just a few short years, she’s begun catching a lot of admiration and attention from the Christ-o-sphere. Today, I’ll introduce you to Natasha Crain and show you how she went from a rank-and-file pew-warmer to what sure looks like one of the foremost Christian experts in her field. It doesn’t sound like it was even all that hard to do!
How to Become a Christian Mommy Blogger.
According to Natasha Crain’s biography page, she started a Christian mommy blog in 2011, after she had children. It was supposed to help her explore ways to make her family life more Jesus-centric.
Now, Crain herself had not grown up in such a family. She’d grown up Christian, y’see, but not TRUE CHRISTIAN™.
But the vision of a fervent, joyous, productive, orderly, harmonious, nurturing, tightly-knit, ultra-super-Jesus-y family dances behind evangelical women’s eyes. They never realize that it’s just a marketing ploy. Like all the rest of Christian hucksters’ promises, this one not only won’t materialize but can’t. Their culture’s limitations make it impossible to achieve for all but a very lucky (?) few.
For people who fear change as much as evangelicals do and who value tradition as much as they say they do, evangelicals sure seem eager to trot out completely untested and unverified marketing ploys on their kids, churches, and communities.
The Duggar parents did exactly that, if I remember correctly. The zealous parents who go this route never even stop to think that maybe it’s a bad idea. Natasha Crain sure didn’t. She started her blog and awayyyyy she went!
There are probably many tens of thousands of women just like her trying to find an audience of gullible, desperate Christian parents, and such blogs run along very similar lines: equal parts judgmentalism, misogyny, shaming, quirky oh-so-relatable stuff, faux expertise, and religious exhortations. It’s hard to stand out from the pack.
Still, Crain managed to attract readers. I even briefly wrote about her around 2014, though the name didn’t stick in my memory.
Trouble On the Horizon.
As her audience grew, so did engagement. Very quickly, Crain realized she really had no idea how to answer some of the questions she received from readers. As her blog title (“Christian Mom Thoughts”) indicates, she identifies strongly as a “Christian mom,” after all! Unsurprisingly, the non-Christians who visited her blog posed the most difficult questions of all:
For the first time in my unexamined Christian life, I had a front row seat to experience every imaginable challenge to Christianity. I was regularly informed that Jesus never even existed, that I was intellectually inferior for being a Christian, that faith was opposed to reason, that we have no idea what the biblical writers actually said because the text has been tampered with so much, that evolution has put God out of a job, and so on.
I had no idea what to do with any of that.
And it bugged me. A lot.
I’m a very analytical person and I couldn’t believe I had gone on so long being a Christian without probing my faith more deeply.
Hm. Imagine that.
Obviously, it doesn’t do much good to insult someone for no reason. Aside from that, these are really good topics. And almost all of them have really good answers, too!
Swinging Into Action.
Crain wasn’t analytical enough to ask more questions about shoving religion onto her kids and forcing them into a lifestyle her own parents had apparently rejected for her. But she was analytical enough to recognize these atheists’ comments as a problem. Someone else was making her claims look nonsensical!
Something had to be done!
Did she consult real scientists?
Or visit with historians who could tell her all the fascinating things we’ve learned about the Bible’s history (which her own religious leaders absolutely won’t ever tell her), or for that matter her religion’s unrevised history?
Did she seek out, say, the full decision paper from the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover court case, which is freely available online in many places and could have told her exactly what the Theory of Evolution is and why it stomps all over the feeble efforts of Creationists?
Instead, she got herself a certificate in Christian apologetics from Biola University.
With it, Natasha Crain could now confidently regurgitate all the dishonest, manipulative, and fallacious arguments of her leaders in response to almost any challenging question. Hooray Team Jesus!
How to Get Qualified to be a Christian Apologist.
Biola University is a private evangelical university in California. William Lane Craig works there. It’s a spendy school, too; one student estimates that it costs some USD$40k/year to live on-campus and attend classes there. Because it’s an evangelical school, Biola enforces all the usual hypocritical behavioral rules that other such schools use.
Biola offers the certificate that Crain got as a distance-learning program. It costs about $350 and consists of three courses, each of which contains eight audio
sermons lectures “by top apologists.”
(First thing that popped into my mind upon reading that bit:)
“We have top apologists working on it right now.”
“… TOP. APOLOGISTS.”
Sorry. I had to do it.
What You Get for That $350.
Anyway, the course includes notes and quizzes as well. To get the certificate, students complete all three courses. And these courses are a hoot-and-a-holler-and-a-half, y’all. Just laughing. They go through every single debunked, PIDOOMAd, PRATTled, and fallacious argument we’ve ever heard.
I’m laughing, too, to imagine someone taking these idiotic courses at this la-di-da evangelical college, and just breathlessly taking in their “Darwinism in crisis” lecture, or earnestly practicing “arguments for the existence of God,” or even nodding along raptly to “evidence for the resurrection,” and not even once looking up serious criticisms of those arguments.
OMG, she must have felt soooooo ready to take on those mean ole atheists when she had that certificate in her hands at last! But when I reviewed their sample thingie on their site and got a look at the topics planned for each course, my inner Good Will Hunting came out with claws unsheathed:
Hoping this clip works–I tried to skip some problematic language.
I don’t normally say this about real fields of study. I’d never say this to someone who wanted to become a real, credible expert at, say, Attic Greek or the history of the Royal Houses of Europe of the 17th century. Formal education brings with it so many incredible benefits that a solo reader/studier only rarely gets alone.
But seriously. This time, Crain could have saved her money and just watched YouTube videos. The demo lecture on Biola’s site sounds exactly like a sermon, and for a reason. There’s no critical thought behind it at all. Instead, students receive a wealth of misinformation given about evangelicals’ tribal enemies. The guy giving it even offers up an anecdote (around 1:20:00) about his unnamed friend who totally heard this super-popular but unnamed atheist lecturer at Oxford say that “fine-tuning” represents a big problem for atheists!
(No. No, it does not. At all. WTFever.)
Very quickly after getting her certificate, Natasha Crain carved out and then occupied a very distinct niche in the apologetics world.
She offers the usual awful apologetics dreck, yes, but she aims hers at evangelical parents who struggle to keep their kids indoctrinated all the way into adulthood. And parents receive this dreck from the hands of an extremely poorly-educated person with absolutely no critical thinking skills. However, she gets almost all of her ideas (and I’m being generous there) from other apologists, so she doesn’t offer readers anything they haven’t heard before.
But she identifies as “a Christian mom!”
ShE’s JuSt So ReLaTaBLe!
As such, Crain presents her readers a free-for-all of dissonant notes: scholarly but a “Christian mom’s thoughts.” Maternal but authoritarian. Above all, I’m fascinated by her complete and total lack of self-awareness even writing about topics she herself picked to examine, but at the same time she’s dead-certain that she’s totally correct and that everything she’s saying is not only Big-T Truthy but also little-f factual.
But that’s kinda all apologists anyway. In part, they’re selling certainty to the flocks, so of course they’re going to act very certain all the time.
She’s parlayed her Biola certificate and her blogging clout into published books advising parents how to indoctrinate their children like, presumably, she does her own.
Nothing that she offers, nothing whatsoever, is anything credible or reputable, or even really new. It just out-hardcores the rest of her tribe–and concerns a topic of immense interest to older evangelicals these days.
If she purposefully decided to exploit a gap in apologetics by beating fundagelicals at their own game, then I applaud her acumen. But I don’t think she did. I think she simply lucked into a target-rich field crying out for exploitation.
Why Natasha Crain Succeeds in Her Niche.
Christians still can’t engage with why their religion is in decline. So they definitely can’t come up with a plan to reverse that decline. Whatever they come up with, it’ll sorta-kinda address their imagined reasons for the decline.
The answers they’ll come up with will not relate to the problems at hand. Their response will be reactionary, delusional, knee-jerk, over-the-top nonsense. Sure, it’ll protect the egos of their leaders. But it won’t actually help with that decline.
Take, for example, their very favorite response tactic: blame.
Christian leaders never have any shortage of blame when it comes to their hemorrhaging numbers. And the people they blame the most, bar none, are the parents of the young adults leaving their ranks.
After blaming them, apologists then offer parents yet more idiotic busy-work to do to try to get those kids back, yet more fallacious arguments since all the other ones didn’t “take,” and–of course–yet more stuff to buy, buy, buy. They tell these parents that yep, for sure, their approach will work to re-persuade their precious offspring to return to the sheepfold. Or it will ensure that already-indoctrinated children remain so forever.
They’re wrong on both counts. As we’ll see next time we look at this form of apologetics, all this frantic scrambling will accomplish is keeping parents fixed firmly in the sheepfold.
Having read way more of Crain’s writing than anybody ever should, I can say that I think she’s sincere. I think she really does think that the apologetics sermons she paid $350 to memorize actually constitute real live PROOF YES PROOF of her religion’s claims.
Natasha Crain operates off of rock-solid convictions like these:
- Anything an apologist says must be true as long as it fits in with her existing beliefs.
- All doubts that a Christian might experience can be handled adequately by apologetics.
- Everything Christians believe can be supported by real live evidence from the real world.
- When the real world provides nothing but contradictions, that’s still okay.
- People only doubt Christianity’s claims because a secular culture has led them astray.
- Secular culture is totally mean to Christians.
- Christian beliefs aren’t based on feelings, which can lead people astray. Hey! Quit smirking!
- Atheism represents a destination that people can “walk toward,” and she’s deeply distressed that the many Christians leaving her religion don’t wonder more about the reasons they’re totally joining atheism. (Nobody told this oh-so-analytical “Christian mom” with her official certificate that atheism isn’t a religion.)
- IT’S ALL TOTES FOR REALIOS. ALL OF IT. NO EXCEPSHAROONIES, NAY-DIDDLY-AYBOR!
I realize some of these items sound provocative, but I got them all right from one blog entry of hers.
The State of Apologetics in Right-Wing Christianity, 2019.
So there we go. The more I find out about Natasha Crain and the more of her work I read, the less impressed I get with her as a thinker and leader. Imagine my surprise, then, when I kept running across her name in comment sections on Christian blogs!
These days, if a parent laments that their kid doesn’t want to go to church anymore, it’s like they looked in a mirror and chanted “logical fallacy” three times. Someone inevitably pops up right away to suggest that parent buy Natasha Crain books cuz that’ll set things to right!
Either she’s building a bot army of extraordinary magnitude, forging her tradition in the spirit of her ancestors, and we have their gratitude, or else a whole heckuva lot of fundagelicals are mega-impressed with her, or maybe there simply aren’t a lot of apologists doing exactly what she’s doing in ways that resonate enough with fundagelicals like she can.
They’ll Hire Anyone.
It really says something about evangelicals that so many of them consider themselves experts in doctrine and theology, yet are happy to recommend the work of someone who’s little more than an amateur to parents desperate to avoid seeing their kids reject their religion.
This expert they’ve taken to their hearts just happens to be deeply willfully ignorant and worse, utterly incurious. When she needed PROOF YES PROOF that the gadget she wanted to purchase really worked, she went to the product’s sales managers instead of third-party review sites, and that is where her investigation ended, for the most part. She bought the gadget right on the spot!
Over time, those same sales managers taught her that all that black wheezing smoke coming out of the back of the gadget was just its way of greeting her in the morning, that the sparks flying off it meant it was infatuated with her, and that if it just collapsed into a heap of melting metal one fine day, it could only happen because of user error and that would mean her warranty was invalidated and how dare she want a working gadget at all?
She absorbed all that nonsense from them like a Swiftie absorbs her idol’s song lyrics. Then she nodded and strode forth to educate the masses.
And since she began her quest to educate the masses in 2011, it sure seems like evangelicals’ losses in the under-30 demographic have only increased dramatically.
I reckon it’s all part of that wacky theme-park ride that modern Christianity has become these days.
NEXT UP: That one weird thing that happened once (TOWTTHO). Next week: Natasha Crain’s horrifying instructions to parents; the Pew report; Christians in denial about their decline. Whew! What can I say? I like to keep busy. See you soon!
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