Christian Right's Favorite Muslim Convert Exposed as Jihadi Fraud
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This statement satisfied some people who want the controversy to go away, but it only inflamed others. Trying to pass off his false claims as mistakes feels to some critics like compounding the original lies with equally and embarrassingly transparent new ones. Caner has since pulled that statement from his Web site, but it's still online at a Southern Baptist news site.
The Persecution of Ergun Caner
The current controversy about Caner's "embellishments" is not the first one the pugnacious Caner has found himself in. He's been part of sometimes heated debate over Calvinist theology within the Southern Baptist Convention. He's a critic of one evangelical strategy for proselytizing to Muslims, and in February he called the president of the denomination's International Mission Board a liar, for which he has since apologized. His word for fellow Baptists who might complain about Glenn Beck, a Mormon, being asked to speak at Liberty's graduation? "Haters."
Caner and his backers have energetically played the religious persecution card and attacked the motives and even faith of his critics. Caner wrote in a memo to Liberty faculty that "I never thought I would see the day when alleged 'Christians' join with Muslims to attack converts." Both Khan and Baptist bloggers who continue to call for Caner to come clean have been barraged with hostile commentary.
Pastor Wade Burleson says that when one of his congregants, blogger Debbie Kaufman, first asked him about the Caner controversy, he told her he wasn't interested. She poked around on her own and wrote a post asking questions about some of the discrepancies in Caner's record. The response from Caner and his supporters was swift.
Burleson says he got an urgent call from someone insisting he get Kaufman to take down her post, which the caller said was putting Caner's life and family in jeopardy. Startled, Burleson read the post and was astonished to discover that Kaufman was only asking questions about Caner's truthfulness. He said as much in a comment on her blog. But the pressure intensified; Burleson says Caner even called Burleson's father to put pressure on him.
Liberty University pulled Caner's disputed bio, and put up a stripped-down version that reportedly was personally approved by the chancellor. Other incriminating or embarrassing materials have been pulled offline after Caner critics called attention to them. Focus on the Family, for example, broadcast Caner's 2001 "From Jesus to Jihad" sermon on its April 26, 2010 program. In that sermon, Caner said he didn't know much about Christians the first 17 years of his life because "there's not that many of them in Turkey or in Sweden." But that broadcast has since disappeared from the online Focus archives.
Liberty University was silent until last week, when Elmer Towns, dean of the school of religion, told Christianity Today the university's board was satisfied that Caner has done nothing "theologically inappropriate." Said Towns, "It's not an ethical issue, it's not a moral issue. We give faculty a certain amount of theological leverage. The arguments of the bloggers would not stand up in court." The Christianity Today headline framed the story as an attack on Caner: "Bloggers Target Seminary President."
In response to the Christianity Today story, one of Caner's critics wrote on his blog:
So Caner's deception is not "ethical" or "moral." If I were a lost person, this would be a huge step forward in my belief that Christianity itself is a lie, and Christian leaders are mostly hypocritical charlatans selling their spiritual elixirs, whose "ethical" and "moral" standards are much lower than the average non-Christian.