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My Take: How evangelicals could grow to love Muslims
The Islamic Center of America, a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan.
August 18th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: How evangelicals could grow to love Muslims

Editor's Note: Eboo Patel is founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core. His new book is called "Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America."

By Eboo Patel, Special to CNN

Paul Ryan has set off joyous cheers in the land of conservatives largely because of his fiscal views but also because of his Catholic faith.

He is just the most recent member of his church – think House Speaker John Boehner, Republican runner-ups Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, and Supreme Court justices Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia – to be viewed as a flag-bearer for the conservative cause, a movement whose foot soldiers are largely evangelical Protestants.

The dynamic of evangelicals cheering for Catholics is one of the most stunning shifts in American political history. Just 50 years ago, evangelicals were ringing the alarm about the rising prominence of Catholics in American politics, not falling in line behind them.

“Our freedom, our religious freedom, is at stake if we elect a member of the Roman Catholic order as president of the United States,” Norman Vincent Peale told a conference of evangelical leaders in September 1960.

Materials handed out at the Peale conference claimed ‘Universal Roman Catholicism’ was both a religion and a political force whose doctrines were ultimately incompatible with the American ideals of freedom, equality and democracy.

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And the conference's keynote address alleged that Catholics practiced “mental reservation,” which allowed them to lie about their intentions in order to gain power. And when they succeeded, they would make second-class citizens of everyone else.

Replace “Roman Catholic” with “Muslim” and “Church hierarchy” with “caliphate” in those pronouncements and today we are witnessing a similar energy directed against a different faith community using largely the same categories.

In today’s parlance, Kennedy was part of a stealth jihad meant to replace the U.S. Constitution with sharia law and practicing taqqiyya to mask this dawa offensive.

As they believed about Catholicism then, many evangelicals now view the very nature of Islam as incompatible with American values. Evangelicals rate Muslims lower on a "‘favoribility" scale than any other religious group, according to "American Grace," a book by scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell.

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Evangelical churches are favorite venues for Islamophobic speakers and prominent evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham regularly call Islam a threat to America.

It is easy to draw a straight line between the evangelical anti-Catholic prejudice of previous generations and the Islamophobia of today, essentially saying that “evangelicals have to hate someone.”

But that’s too cynical a take for me. The more interesting - and certainly more hopeful - storyline is the one about change.

Evangelical attitudes changed markedly towards Catholics in the past generation, and they are changing towards Muslims now.

Without doubt, the evangelical shift on Catholics can be partially explained by the two religion traditions finding common cause on political issues like abortion. But in "American Grace," Putnam and Campbell point to what they believe is a more important reason.

Over the course of the past fifty years, more evangelicals got to meet Catholics and the warmth in those personal relationships became generalized towards the larger community. If your Pal Al is Catholic and a good guy, then by extension Catholics as a group and Catholicism as a religion have some good qualities.

This is precisely the dynamic taking place between evangelicals and Muslims, a story for me best illustrated by a Dallas-based pastor named Bob Roberts. Bob grew up in the 1960s in East Texas and remembers the Pope regularly being referred to as “the Great Whore of Babylon” in his father’s Southern Baptist church.

He absorbed the anti-Catholic prejudice along with everyone else. But when he went on service trips to Southeast Asia as an adult, he discovered that the people doing the most intense, committed development work were inevitably Catholic. At first he admired them from afar. Then he got to know some up close, and they turned out to be not so bad.

After September 11, 2001, the anti-Muslim feeling was open and intense in Bob’s community. Truth be told, Bob felt it himself.

But he was self-aware enough to recognize the similarity between the irrational prejudice he absorbed about Catholics growing up and what he saw happening toward Muslims now.

So he did the same thing with Muslims that he’d done with Catholics: get to know them personally through common projects. Bob has traveled everywhere from Afghanistan to Gaza to do interfaith service projects with Muslims.

And now he is bringing fellow evangelicals along and involving the members of his Dallas mega-church in local interfaith projects. He’s speaking to young evangelical leaders about the importance of building relationships with Muslims as a Christian practice.

I know because in the midst of the opposition to the so-called Ground Zero mosque a couple years ago, a young pastor came to my office and asked me to guest preach about Islam at his evangelical church. He told me that Bob had sent him.

This is how communities change. Evangelicals make up 40% of America – when they change, America changes.

Maybe in 50 years, there will be no surprise when the loudest cheerleaders for Muslim presidential candidates and Supreme Court justices are evangelical Christians.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eboo Patel.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (2,441 Responses)
  1. Rainer Braendlein

    Go to hell, pope and Muhammad!

    Middle ages are over, we live after Enlightenment. Don't allow the Islamic and Catholic beast to take over rule again. We need politicians like Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia, who was a lover of virtue, grace and righteousness.

    "The dynamic of evangelicals cheering for Catholics is one of the most stunning shifts in American political history. Just 50 years ago, evangelicals were ringing the alarm about the rising prominence of Catholics in American politics, not falling in line behind them.", Mr. Patel said.

    This is a real problem. The Catholic Church is not only a church, but also a state which wants to increase its influence. If too many members of the administration of a secular country are Catholic, there is high danger that the pope gets too much influence. The pope and his clergy was never in history concerned about the soul's health of the Catholics or anybody else, but only about increasing their temporal power, honor and riches. In fact, the pope is the most cunning criminal which lives on earth. He uses religion as a smokescreen for his malice.

    One of the greatest leaders of Enlightenment was Frederic the Great, King of Pruzzia (peace be upon him). He himself was a Protestant, but kept it somewhat secret. In Pruzzia there was religious freedom, although Frederic was convinced of the progressiveness of Protestantism. Frederic knew exactly that wolves in sheep's clothing could even affect Protestant Churches, and abuse them, in order to reach their selfish aims. Frederic did not want to promote any religious group, because he did not want to promote any wolves in sheep's clothing, nevertheless Frederic was a lover of genuine Christianity according to Jesus Christ's intentions.

    Yet, basically true (ideal) Protestantism doesn't aspire for temporal rule, power, honor and wealth, and is thus the most advanced religion. True Protestantism according to Jesus intentions, is merely concerned about the soul's health of the Christians or all human beings.

    Islam and Catholicism always aspire for temporal rule, honor and riches. This belongs to their core tenets, and in so far they are dangerous. The dark age was dark simply because the evil popes and the evil successors of Muhammad ruled the world. In Europe Frederic the Great finished the rule of the pope, and thus the dark age around 1742 a. D. (peace and honor to Frederic).

    Let us love our ordinary Muslim and Catholic neighbours, but let us be on the alert when they want to take over rule. Only a few Muslims and Catholics should be allowed to hold public offices.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    Jesus is the only one who can cure our souls. Ask him, and he will give you eternal health.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • mitch

      Your great hero Fredrick the Great was very tolerant to the religions of his time and Is said to have been a Calvinist, although his father apparently tempered his early religious education. Of course the great schism in the RCC took place in Germany in 1521 led by Martin Luther and followed in 1534 in England with Henry VIII for different reasons. It is a bit surprising that Fred would be one of your heros as he was thought to be, if not gay, at least a bise*xual. That kind of goes agsinst the dogma of your church, ,right?

      August 19, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  2. Timmy

    Evangelicals will jump in bed with anyone who hates all the same people they do. The enemy of their enemy is their friend. Is Satan himself said he hated gays, equal rights for others and was pro choice evangelicals would choose him over a hated liberal.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Ahmad

      Yup cause Christians burn and hanng gays too right skippy?

      August 19, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  3. walternowotny

    I can't wait for next article about Muslims who love Christians....

    August 19, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      No, they don't have that quote from christ about loving your enemies and doing good to those that spitefully use you. How stupid was that dipsh!t to say something like that?? lol

      August 19, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  4. Shashi

    This article is a deliberate and clever attempt to misguide the society at large about two religions that have committed horrible crimes against humanity. If 1000 years of history is any indication then the logic would show that these 'apparent' religions are disguised political powers. Capturing the wealth and lands by any means is what is at the heart of these 'religions'. Catholicism and Islam were spread by butchering anyone who challenges the word of 'their' God (thus failure of their own definition of One God) and do no accept their beliefs. Of course they have clashed against each other in their quest for power (as in Spain). Now the freedom and Western democracy are convenient tools to spread the message of love and peace. The time will come demanding share of political power (with large population), imposing their beliefs on others, defaming, ridiculing other religions. North America was isolated from happenings on other continents until September 11 attacks, nor did it think about sufferings of those in other parts of the world. Now the message of 'love and peace' is at their door step. Love, peace, tolerance MUST be two-way streets. Violence MUST be denounced by Religious authorities and 'believers'. Believers MUST learn that theirs is not the ONLY way to reach divinity. If you truly believe in God then do not destroy HIS creation, the human beings. HE did NOT grant you special rights to impose HIS will. HE is noting your atrocities on humans and with all love in HIS heart will NOT forgive you! Humanity is nature-made all religions are man-made excuses to gain power.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • jbrl

      "Capturing the wealth and lands by any means is what is at the heart of these 'religions'."

      Just curious, how then would you classify the caste system in Hindusim?

      August 19, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  5. Paul from NJ

    With the recent spate of Christian beheadings in Tunisia and crucifixions in Egypt, I find it very difficult to love these folks.
    Perhaps they need to clean up their religious practices if they want any respect.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  6. Clara Haines

    No, they won't. Freedom and Islam are incompatible. As a woman I will NEVER be subservient to anyone, especially some man that is NOT my husband (and even He has better sense than to expect a quiet, meek obedient little woman).

    August 19, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  7. Mark Yelka

    Islamic holy writ, keeping in mind their principle of abrogation in which newer writings replace older writings (Surah 2:106), the non-peaceful Medinan period writings replace the earlier more tolerant writings. So, while some people may quote the earlier Meccan writings as evidence that Islam is peaceful, don't be fooled; those writings are essentially cancelled in favor of the grossly-intolerant writings of the Medinan period. One can only be conquered by Islam... one cannot be friends of Islam.

    This being said, it is possible to form friendships with those Muslims that don't follow Islam strictly.

    Note: I"m an atheist and am merely trying to be honest about all of this. In my opinion, most religions harbor intolerance to one degree or another. It is just that Islam is terribly intolerant and espouses violence as a legitimate way to enforce its teachings.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Pat

    I hope youre aware that its unchristian-like to sleep with your sister or your mama.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  9. jorge washinsen

    American soldiers in Afghanistan should treat every gathering as lunch at a fire ant convention and consider themselves as the main meal. Get out of the Muslim hell and let them kill each other.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  10. Rainer Braendlein

    It is true that even Protestants have done wrong but the Protestant doctrine is good in itself.

    The issue is that Catholicism and Islam are yet bad in itself. An individual which would be called wolf in sheep's clothing in the Protestant Church, would be a usual leader in the Catholic Church or the Umma (Islamic community).

    So to speak, Islam and Catholicism have legalized the wrongdoing. For them it is usual to aspire after honor, power and riches using war, violence, suppression, etc..

    August 19, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  11. J

    Ha .. ha .. ha ... ... ugh .... no.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  12. Tariq

    Read Luke 19:27 looks like Jesus is about to kill some people

    August 19, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Ahmad

      Yup, sure... Hey isn't Jesus a prophet in the Muslim faith too??

      August 19, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • jbrl

      That is Issa telling a parable about a king – it is the king speaking those words.
      But then you probably already knew that

      Taqqiyya?

      August 19, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  13. Ronnie

    I do have a question: How did this 'love-fest' for these people turn out in Europe, India, South-East Asia etc?

    August 19, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  14. Ed M.

    Until Islam gives up the Koranically-sanctified Sword to spread their faith, no one will trust Islam to be anything but a cruel imperialistic creed.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Sounds exactly like a muslim might say of christian america and its miltaristic arm that kills far, far more muslims than muslims kill christians. "Love your enemies?" nah, that's just what christ wanted, fvck that azzhole, let's bomb the sh!t out of those ragheads while claiming that THEY are the one with the "sword." LOL!

      August 19, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Tariq

      Jesus is asking Christians to kill all who do not believe in him. Luke 19: 27

      August 19, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Ahmad

      Jesus is a Muslim prophet....

      August 19, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      No, that was jesus telling a story. Just because a character in a story wants something does not mean that the narrator agrees. But to be fair, jesus wants his daddy to torture almost everyone with fire forever and ever and ever

      August 19, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Koran hater

      Most Muslims actually believe that the koran teaches only peaceful interactions are what god wants. It is a small sect that believes the opposite.. much like any other religion. I personally believe we should learn to love anyone that doesnt need a damn 500+ page book to tell you to be nice to people..

      August 19, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  15. Davidw0909

    I find many comments here to be quite warped and mis-guided. Sure religious people have done and will again do horrible things but most are just regular people . The truth is there are good and bad Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Athiests, Republicans, Democrats, and every other race, religion, and politics that you can imagine. All are capable of doing great things and all are capable of doing horrible things. There is one word missing from most of the comments here: RESPECT for your fellow human.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Bibletruth

      The biggest problem in the world IS that almost everyone is "regular people".

      August 19, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  16. Grant Fuhr

    Islam is supremacist and expansionist by nature and all of its adherents are mandated to conquer and subjugate non-Islamists, non-believers, who are universally seen as inferior beings. That is part and parcel of Islam and anyone who believes in Islam in any way, shape or form is required by it to conquer and subjugate non-Islamists, non-believers in general.

    As for Christians and Jews, especially Jews, Islamists are required to do much more than that. Islamists are required to kill and destroy non-Muslims. At the current rate, most countries will be overwhelmed with Muslims and unable to defend their own freedoms. When sharia law becomes the way, you either convert or die.

    I am not an alarmist. I am a former Muslim, current Catholic. If we don't open our eyes, we will wake up to a blood-filled and evil world.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Carrie

      Greetings,

      You are incorrect in your interpetation of Islam. It is interesting that many bible carrying Christians, including you, fail to recognize the violence and oppresive text that appear in the bible. Moreover, history demonstrates that Christianity spread by the sword, not by storming the hearts of mankind. So, before you point your finger at a religion that you clearly do not understand, though you purport to have once been a Muslim, I suggest you know your own religion and read your own religious books.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Grant Fuhr

      Oh, that's a nice story. Not only did I study the Qu'ran in Arabic (in the original text), but I lived my whole life in a Muslim country. The word is clear. Mohammed has one message: Destruction of non-believers. The more I analyzed Islam, the more I realized that we are NOT talking about a spiritual faith but a cult created by one mad illiterate man who also happened to be a pedophile, a murderer, a robber, a husband to 13 women (including his daughter-in-law) and a mentally deranged person.

      For example, in Paradise a man will have seventy hoor ‘iyn. In the saheeh Sunnah tbe martyr (shaheed) will have seventy-two hoor ‘iyn. The least of the people of Paradise will have two wives, and some will have more than that. Furthermore, "when one of us completes the task of intercourse with his wife, she will once again become a virgin and a pure woman." [Ibn Hibban]

      Is this ridiculous or what? Jesus does not preach such nonsense. Read the New Testament and the words of our Lord, Jesus Christ before you spew your garbage about Islam. Read and study the Qu'ran before you lose yourself. There is still time.

      August 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  17. Rahn Emanuel

    Never gonna happen!

    August 19, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  18. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @Pat

    The last time your mama opened her mout, you happened.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  19. jorge washinsen

    Conquer and divide,and sell ads.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  20. jorge washinsen

    Where does CNN come up with these stories?Are they that desperate?

    August 19, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Rahn Emanuel

      CNN is hoping the sandcooons will be their salvation.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:49 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.