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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. Kamar

    Islam the enemy of all mankind.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Realist

      as christianity.. Pull down the stupid disgusting crosses.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      and send Realist to Mars.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Realist

      yes, we will be on mars one day. In this vast universe we are finding out that religions are even more primitive thinking than we first thought.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  2. David Feaster

    I could love a muslim if I knew one, I could not marry one anymore than I would marry a christian.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Realist

      no difference, I'd agree

      August 19, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • JJ (Johnson and Johnson)

      David Feaster: would you marry an elementary girl (7 years old)?...well, mohammed their prophet did...here is for your reading pleasure: Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad.[11][15][16] Traditional sources state that she stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine when the marriage was consummated with Muhammad, then 53, in Medina,[16][17][18][19] with the single exception of al-Tabari, who records that she was ten.[15] Both Aisha and Sawda, his two wives, were given apartments adjoined to the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque

      August 19, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  3. Rainer Braendlein

    Ain't I right that the Wicked is at hand?

    I guess that the time of Islam and Catholicism concerning temporal rule is over long ago (since Enlightenment).

    Frederic the Great gave the pope such a terrible blow that he will never recover, and probably Islam will never play the same role like Catholicism in the West.

    The real issue of today in the West is the Wicked who seems to appear gradually.

    More and more everybody is required not to associate faith and virtue in daily life. How do I mean that?

    The current worldwide establishment tells you: "You can actually believe what you want as long as you don't practice your religion at the workplace or in business." At the workplace or in business you have to be an artful fellow denying your ridiculous religion. Of course, at Sunday you are allowed to practice your childish stupidity as long as you work as a perfect human robot during the workweek.

    I guess it is better to die in the wilderness than to submit to the Wicked or Antichrist.

    If you are a Christian, practice your faith in daily life at any rate even on the cost of your workplace or any friendship or any relationship. The most precious good of a true Christian is his faith in Jesus. What should a man give for his soul? Which benefit had a man, if he would gain the whole world? Remember Judgement Day!

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    August 19, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Realist

      if there were a god, he;d be laughing his azz off at christians too.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • mitch

      Fredrick was either gay or bise*xual, surprisind he is your hero!

      August 19, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  4. Nick

    The hate-filled and destructive ISLAM religion is so revered in our overly PC times. Why don't people take a look at what ISLAM is and stop defending it?

    August 19, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Timmy

      You can replace Islam with Christianity in your comment and it would also be true.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  5. Sanjay

    I'm not religious at all – but I'd like to ask Eboo Patel whether it's fair to arrest an 11-year old Christian girl for 'desecrating' the Koran?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19311098

    Muslims would gain more acceptance and appreciation if they were to be more vocal in opposing the oppression and discrimination that so often comes from their community when they are in the majority. You see, that 11-year old Christian girl wouldn't have been arrested if the Muslim majority around her were a little more tolerant. But for today's Left-leaning media, tolerance is only supposed to be a one-way street. Tolerance can never be a one-way street, because then it becomes masochism. Religions and cultures who are asking for tolerance have to be able to show some back. Otherwise, it's just not credible.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  6. Stephanie

    Do you know what my hope is? That some day there will be NO MORE RELIGION!! Then we can become just human beings instead of Evangelicals, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, etc. This constant warring over whose god is correct is very tiresome, worrisome and downright cancerous to our species.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • SitOnThis

      The Atheists are getting bigger in numbers all the time, it won't be long before they gain a critical mass. Reason has always won, but sometimes it takes time.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Sanjay

      I'm an atheist too, but Western society is clearly more tolerant than Islam. In Muslim-majority countries, non-Muslims are forced to suffer a lot. Promoting tolerance should not be an excuse to turn a blind eye to those who're suffering discrimination and oppression by the ones asking for tolerance over here.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  7. Lion

    When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion. – Robert Pirsig

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Dan

      But they will never accept a Jew.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  8. Joe R.

    Perhaps when muslim countries allow freedom of other religions instead of murdering their followers, then we can be more trusting. Evangelicals know what's really happening in muslim-dominant countries. The rest of the world live in denial, and live in a fairy tale land where everyone loves one another and everyone is purely good. www persecution com

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • packfill

      I have a hard time believing that evangelicals know the truth about much of anything.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  9. Ramon F. Herrera

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsHi6_l1XzA&w=640&h=360]

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  10. Ramon F. Herrera

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXaILy3GE7U&w=640&h=360]

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  11. Karloff

    The propaganda is in full swing.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  12. Mohamiss Shafik-Kaddir

    Islam is peace .
    Accept Islam and become a Muslim and know peace .
    Islam is the perfect way of life , the answer for the world .

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Joe R.

      Tell that to the many Christians living in muslim countries for fear of their lives or are already undergoing persecution and forced conversion back to Islam.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • JJ (Johnson and Johnson)

      Mohamiss: your prophet mohammed is pedophile !! he married elementary girl of 7 years old....here is for your reading pleasure: Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad.[11][15][16] Traditional sources state that she stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine when the marriage was consummated with Muhammad, then 53, in Medina,[16][17][18][19] with the single exception of al-Tabari, who records that she was ten.[15] Both Aisha and Sawda, his two wives, were given apartments adjoined to the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque

      August 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  13. DisugstedNY

    Do people bother reading half the stuff CNN publishes on the internet? I don't. I'm sure they're being paid to publish this stuff of thing by foreign interests.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    I guess that the time of Islam and Catholicism concerning temporal rule is over long ago (since Enlightenment).

    Frederic the Great gave the pope such a terrible blow that he will never recover, and probably Islam will never play the same role like Catholicism in the West.

    The real issue of today in the West is the Wicked who seems to appear gradually.

    More and more everybody is required not to associate faith and virtue in daily life. How do I mean that?

    The current worldwide establishment tells you: "You can actually believe what you want as long as you don't practice your religion at the workplace or in business." At the workplace or in business you have to be an artful fellow denying your ridiculous religion. Of course, at Sunday you are allowed to practice your childish stupidity as long as you work as a perfect human robot during the workweek.

    I guess it is better to die in the wilderness than to submit to the Wicked or Antichrist.

    If you are a Christian, practice your faith in daily life at any rate even on the cost of your workplace or any friendship or any relationship. The most precious good of a true Christian is his faith in Jesus. What should a man give for his soul? Which benefit had a man, if he would gain the whole world? Remember Judgement Day!

    August 19, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Jill

      Rainer, don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent. Triangulate! Save the best for the alligators. Ever the bastille notches the orchestra but Wendy is not green and horses will capitulate. Filter out the log from the turnstile and evacuate prevalently.

      So there brown stare. Feed your inner walnut and resolve. Subject your lemon to the ingenious door in the presence of snow and animals. Aisle 7 is for the monetary cheese whiz. Faced with the kitchen, you may wish to prolong the sailboat in the cliff. Otherwise, rabbits may descend on your left nostril. Think about how you can stripe the sea.

      Regale the storm to those who (6) would thump the parrot with the armband. Corner the market on vestiges of the apparent closure but seek not the evidential circumstance. Therein you can find indignant mountains of pigs and apples. Descend eloquently as you debate the ceiling of your warning fulcrum. Vacate the corncob profusely and and don’t dote on the pancreas.

      Next up, control your wood. Have at the cat with your watch on the fore. Aft! Smarties (12)! Rome wasn’t kevetched in an autumn nightie. (42) See yourself for the turntable on the escalator. Really peruse the garage spider definitely again again with brown. Now we have an apparent congestion, so be it here. Just a moment is not a pod of beef for the ink well nor can it be (4) said that Karen was there in the millpond.

      Garbage out just like the candle in the kitty so. Go, go, go until the vacuum meets the upward vacation. Sell the yellow. Then trim the bus before the ten cheese please Louise. Segregate from the koan and stew the ship vigorously.

      And remember, never pass up an opportunity to watch an elephant paint Mozart.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  15. Everett Wallace

    when will you mooooslims learn to love the AMERICAN way of life- honor-duty-commitment?

    August 19, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  16. Ramon F. Herrera

    One wonders: Which is the party where hatred is most concentrated and distilled?

    The only ones qualified to make a statement are the victims of prejudice, persecution and racism themselves. Let's ask them, shall we?

    Here's their response:

    – Black folks voted for Obama, by a 96% margin.
    – Jewish folks voted for Obama, by a 75% margin.
    – Hispanic folks voted for Obama, by a 66% margin.
    – Asian folks voted for Obama, by a 63% margin.
    – Gay folks voted for Obama, by an unknown margin.

    ps: Oh, I almost forgot the largest minority of all:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/story/2012-04-01/swing-states-poll/53930684/1

    August 19, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      MUSLIM DIOR FASHION WEEK SHOW:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSixNyQFhpM&w=640&h=360]

      August 19, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • x15

      A Sky News Arabic correspondent in Cairo confirmed that protestors belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood
      crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential
      palace while abusing others. Likewise, Muslim Brotherhood supporters locked the doors of the media
      production facilities of 6-October [a major media region in Cairo], where they proceeded to attack
      several popular journalists.

      According to Koran, crucifixion is proper punishment for anyone who “makes mischief in the land.”
      “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in
      the land is only this: that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should
      be cut off…” (Koran 5:33).

      August 19, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Joe R.

      That's probably because they just wanted to be part of voting for the 1st black President in the U.S. Ask these same people again, and many regret their decision. As Republican Filipino in the Chicago area, here's why I don't vote as a democrat:

      Chicago: voted most corrupt city in America. Which party has and continues to control Chicago?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/15/chicago-most-corrupt-city_n_1278988.html

      August 19, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • x15

      I am sure that conservatives not voting for a far left wing ideologue does not pass for hatred. I did not vote against Obama because of the color of his skin, I voted against "spreading the wealth around" and Obamacare.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  17. Jake

    Dear friends:
    I see lots of criticism to Muslims, most of this creticism is based on stereotypes. Blowing up, women abuse is odd among Muslims. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, as just normal people who live on the planet. Wearing Hejab, and going to Masjed is not a sign of extremity. People in the world need religion for psychological backing, if you were born Christian you will believe in Christianity, if you were born Jew you will practice Judaism , if you family are Buddist you will be Buddist. You have to accept your religion even if something does not make sense.
    Don't make all your ideas about Islam because some Muslim extremists blew themselves, or some had practiced polygamy. Do look to the majority of the Muslim people and judge Muslims.
    Accusation of the Moslems and making them feel estranged and marginalized in your societies will not help either parties. You have to include them and make them your channels to their countries.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • SitOnThis

      Jake, you need a spell checker!

      August 19, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • x15

      Christians are criticized and so will Muslims be criticized and so will anyone. We will not cower to Islam like other countries. We will strive to see people accurately and not believe every lie told by anyone who comes along.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Joe R.

      In addition to the acts of terrorism, including 9-11, people of other faith ARE being persecuted, including murder, if they live in a Muslim country.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • JJ (Johnson and Johnson)

      Jake: you need also to know and be informed that in muslim countries are ok to marry any elementary girls of 7 years old since their prophet mohammed did it...here is for your info from wiki: Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad.[11][15][16] Traditional sources state that she stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine when the marriage was consummated with Muhammad, then 53, in Medina,[16][17][18][19] with the single exception of al-Tabari, who records that she was ten.[15] Both Aisha and Sawda, his two wives, were given apartments adjoined to the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque

      August 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  18. SitOnThis

    God has a place for believers – it's called hell. You will be kept in a warm place!

    August 19, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  19. Oliver

    I will never ever, ever trust a muslim. My kids will never, ever ever marry one. They are not to be trusted nor should they be allowed to build mosques and worship in them. They should have their immigration status restricted. They do not stand up for other religions but want everyone to stand up for them. Immigrants who come to America should follow our laws and not expect special treatment.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • SitOnThis

      Guess what the most popular name in England is ? Mohammad. The Muslims are coming, like it or not.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  20. x15

    What a repulsive false narrative. Islam is not about love.

    A Sky News Arabic correspondent in Cairo confirmed that protestors belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood
    crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential
    palace while abusing others. Likewise, Muslim Brotherhood supporters locked the doors of the media
    production facilities of 6-October [a major media region in Cairo], where they proceeded to attack
    several popular journalists.

    According to Koran, crucifixion is proper punishment for anyone who “makes mischief in the land.”
    “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in
    the land is only this: that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should
    be cut off…” (Koran 5:33).

    August 19, 2012 at 11:36 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.