Christian Right's Favorite Muslim Convert Exposed as Jihadi Fraud
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But that question hasn't generated nearly as much interest among Christian bloggers as the easily verifiable discrepancies in Caner's personal story. It's especially troubling, they say, because that story is tied to the story he tells about the power of the gospel, the story that fueled his rise to a position of authority.
Here's how Oklahoma pastor and blogger Wade Burleson summarized it, disputing Caner's claims:
The myth Dr. Caner has created about himself seems now to be unraveling. He never came to America "via Beirut and Cairo." He has never been trained as a fundamentalist Muslim. He has never had been a jihadist. He has never debated top Muslim scholars, in Nebraska or anywhere else. It is impossible for any of us to understand why someone would fabricate or embellish his past, but there's a great deal of money to be made selling books and DVDs about Islam in post 9/11. Who's a better expert on the subject than a radical jihadist who has converted to faith in Jesus Christ, right?
Here's how Tom Chantry, pastor of Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Milwaukee puts it :
Preachers are witnesses to the gospel of Christ, and like all witnesses, when they are compromised they weaken the case. Furthermore, no witness can do more damage to his own case than an expert witness….When a preacher allows himself to deceive in any way he invites the sinner to pounce upon his error and heap scorn upon the gospel. Embellishment from the pulpit is therefore a deadly error which may do inestimable damage to the immortal souls of our fellow men. What are we to think of any preacher who regularly and repeatedly tells stories which are not true and publishes facts which are not facts?
Baptist blogger Tom Rich recalls being in the pews at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, when Caner came to speak just six weeks after the 9/11 attacks. When he started reading about the Caner controversy recently, he went back and listened to that sermon, and it confirmed what he remembered: With people still reeling from the terror attacks, Caner portrayed himself as someone who had been trained to carry out that kind of attack on America. It made for a powerful testimony.
Now, Rich says, he believes Caner was simply being opportunistic:
Unbelievable. Standing in front of shell-shocked Christians after 9/11, and Caner betrays their confidence by lying about where he was raised, where he learned English, and when he came to America. That is deception. A man that is misusing the pulpit to purposely mislead people about who he is and where he is from has no business being in the pulpit.
But several of Caner's most vocal critics have said they're not trying to get him fired -- they just want him to tell the truth and apologize to those he deceived. But Liberty University officials have apparently decided it's more important to protect the Ergun Caner brand. Southern Baptists and Liberty University have invested a lot in Caner's persona, and now, in the words of one blogger, he's "too big to fail."
Back in February, in an effort to brush the controversy aside, Caner put out a statement some of his defenders characterize as an admission or apology. Here's a portion of what it said:
I have never intentionally misled anyone. I am sure I have made many mistakes in the pulpit in the past 20-plus years, and I am sure I will make some in the future. For those times where I misspoke, said it wrong, scrambled words, or was just outright confusing, I apologize and will strive to do better.