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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. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

    And is Eboo Patel working for a better world or just trying to get more money to invest? You decide.

    Eboo Patel pays himself well ($120,000/yr) from his Interfaith Youth Core "non-profit" group's receipts (donations etc.) which, based on the group's IRS Form 990, appears to be more of a stock holding company ($2,335,960 portfolio in 2008- guidestar.org) for Mr. Patel than it is a non-profit.

    Non-profits do not pay taxes on dividends, interest or capital gains.

    Did Eboo Patel's Interfaith Youth Core work for Obama's election campaign as we see Eboo is not only on a rather recent Chicago Council of Global Affairs' task force but also formerly on Obama's Faith advisory council?

    Did a Faith Initiative grant from the State Department help defray the cost of CCOGA's report and Mr. Patel's task force pay?

    Hmmmm?

    Regarding Patel and his fellow Muslims in the USA or anywhere else:

    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, Mohammed's book of death for all infidels and Muslim domination of the world by any means.

    Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the Gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

    Until then, no Muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere..................................

    August 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • David

      The bible is also full of violent passages that condemn infidels to death.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • max

      as ed mcmahon used to say, "you are correct sir"

      August 19, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Reality

      Actually, it is the Old Testament that lists the god-approved atrocities:

      To wit:

      •Exodus 32: 3,000 Israelites killed by Moses for worshipping the golden calf.

      •Numbers 31: After killing all men, boys and married women among the Midianites, 32,000 virgins remain as booty for the Israelites. (If unmarried girls are a quarter of the population, then 96,000 people were killed.)

      •Joshua: ◦Joshua 8: 12,000 men and women, all the people of Ai, killed.
      ◦Joshua 10: Joshua completely destroys Gibeon ("larger than Ai"), Makeddah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir. "He left no survivors."
      ◦Joshua 11: Hazor destroyed. [Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (1987), estimates the population of Hazor at ?> 50,000]
      ◦TOTAL: if Ai is average, 12,000 x 9 = 108,000 killed.

      •Judges 1: 10,000 Canaanites k. at Battle of Bezek. Jerusalem and Zephath destroyed.
      •Judges 3: ca. 10,000 Moabites k. at Jordan River.
      •Judges 8: 120,000 Midianite soldiers k. by Gideon
      •Judges 20: Benjamin attacked by other tribes. 25,000 killed.

      •1 Samuel 4: 4,000 Isrealites killed at 1st Battle of Ebenezer/Aphek. 30,000 Isr. k. at 2nd battle.
      •David: ◦2 Samuel 8: 22,000 Arameans of Damascus and 18,000 Edomites killed in 2 battles.

      ◦2 Samuel 10: 40,000 Aramean footsoldiers and 7,000 charioteers killed at Helam.
      ◦2 Samuel 18: 20,000 Israelites under Absalom killed at Ephraim.

      •1 Kings 20: 100,000 Arameans killed by Israelites at Battle of Aphek. Another 27,000 killed by collapsing wall.
      •2 Chron 13: Judah beat Israel and inflicted 500,000 casualties.
      •2 Chron 25: Amaziah, king of Judah, k. 10,000 from Seir in battle and executed 10,000 POWs. Discharged Judean soldiers pillaged and killed 3,000.
      •2 Chron 28: Pekah, king of Israel, slew 120,000 Judeans

      •TOTAL: That comes to about 1,283,000 mass killings specifically enumerated in the Old Testament/Torah.

      The New Testament has only one major atrocity, that of god committing filicide assuming you believe in this Christian mumbo jumbo. Said atrocity should be enough to vitiate all of Christianity.

      August 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  2. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    | /
    O-+–<
    | \

    Oooh, look it's an image of Moohammed lying sideways. OMG!

    August 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Ooops, the arms and legs did not get spaced out correctly.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Manda

      Kinda looks like Mohammed taking the form of a dragonfly...

      August 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  3. truth be told

    Even you aren't beyond the grace of God. You can cover yourself in filth all day long, but God still loves you and is calling you to him.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Which god? Zeus? Pan? Thor?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Jesus freaker

      You know who else is calling? Reality.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Dave's not here, man. (And neither is Jesus)

      August 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Manda

      When you're covered in filth, God may or may not call you, but meanwhile an atheist will offer you a washcloth.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • lll

      ...and i know someone who will take out a basin and a towel and wash your feet

      August 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      And if you're covered in the wrong version of filth, the religious may decide simply to p-iss on you because you're the wrong religion

      August 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      So do I. It's called a pedicure.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Or a shrimp-job TomTom.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  4. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Why do Muzlims get so uppity about "images of Moohammed" when no one even knows what he looked like?

    August 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Because the blindly follow a crazy book? And listen to crazy people?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Explain to me what is so 'uppity' about blasphemy?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Blasphemy? You mean make-believe? Like sin?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The previous post was from the false Tallulah13. I have never made it a secret that I am an atheist.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      @ tall; umm, because "blasphemy" is is an illogical, man-made construct designed to protect and defend a system of beliefs that are inherently indefensible. It's as logical as someone saying that you can't show pictures of Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster because to do so would be blasphemous.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      (The real) tallulah13: Excellent! I thought you were family!

      August 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Zeus Crotch there is no sin it is about the blasphemy laws, do you get it?Read the article about how Mohammad is one of the top names for babies. Two of my grandbabies are called Mohammad.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Thanks, Zeus. It's annoying, but what are you going to do? Kids will be kids.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      (the fake) tallulah13: That's a shame that your grandbabies are named so poorly. Stupid is as stupid does.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  5. truth be told

    During my formative years my se*xual education came bent over an altar. No one even told me that I wasn't supposed to enjoy it, I still send Xmas cards to Father---.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  6. tallulah13

    Allah, all praise be unto him, is really a Nancy-poodle. I keep pictures of him giving rim-jobs to Greek statues in my Qur'an.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Now you're just being silly.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  7. mark

    Oh, and all religious people should just die.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  8. David

    There seems to be so many crazy comments about Atheism. I'm not sure why believers cant understand that Atheism is simply non-beleife in any God. It is not an ideology or set of beliefs.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  9. mark

    Sorry, but anyone named Eboo I just can't take seriously on any subject, let alone religion.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  10. truth be told

    Nothing is more ignorant than atheism. For example, believing the entire human race started with two people, the woman, of course, being constructed from the man's rib bones. Also a talking snake was involved. Nothing ignorant about an adult believing in talking snakes.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • truth be told

      All creation has a language, too bad we lost the ability to comprehend and understand. Sin set science back thousands of years. You cannot compromise with sin.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Well of course it was a TALKING snake. Look – snakes don't have hands, right? So it clearly couldn't use Sign Language, right? And it wasn't able to make signs, or write letters, correct? So it HAD to be a talking snake. Logic demands it. Which proves, since it it logical, that it is true. And that is also how we know the world is banana-shaped.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Archy the Ardvark is lookin' to hook up with Ethel the Ardvark

      Hey, eth, wanna go out for a drink ? What do Ardvarks drink, anyhow ?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  11. truth be told

    I collect and bottle my menstrual juices for fututre consumption, just like Mary did in the bible.

    August 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  12. Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

    So the Republican Presidential nominee (a Mormon) wears magic underwear to protect against evil and temptation, and his running mate (a Catholic) believes he is eating the actual blood and flesh of a 2000 year old zombie every Sunday. And they want to have control of the largest nuclear ars-enal on Earth. Hmmm. Strange little world, isn't it?

    August 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Archy the Ardvark is lookin' to hook up with Ethel the Ardvark

      Hey Eth. Archy the Ardvark is a Quantum Physics person. There is no use surveying quianti-ties. The more you measure a ti-ty, the less you know about them. Just admire them from a distance.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      I think they need to run a Scientologist.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  13. barbara

    We'll talk when YOUR PEOPLE stop cruxicifying Christians in Egypt!

    August 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • toad

      My people don't cruxicify anyone, barbara. Can we talk?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Manda

      Fair enough, and you can talk when YOUR PEOPLE stop burning mosques, shooting sikhs, and bombing abortion clinics. Those are your people, right?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  14. truth be told

    I love Jesus so much I want to bend him over and penetrate his holiest of holes. Thank you.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • truth be told

      Poor attention starved self deceived atheist wanna be. Someone take away your firecr ackers little fella? Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

      August 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Lameness Spotter

      tbt,

      The same trolling against atheists has been going on all day here. Some dork is just on a tear...

      August 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • truth be told

      Too bad it doesn't have a life.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • David

      Ignorance is unhealthy as well.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • truth be told

      Nothing is more ignorant than atheism

      August 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      @ truth: Oh, Snap! Wow – what a comeback. Captain of the Debate Team, were you?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • David

      What is your justification for belief in God?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • David

      why should anyone believe in God. Make your case. I'm open minded. Show me evidence. What evidence do you have that your god or any god exists?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  16. Sherpa Dancing

    Ramadan is the Muslim celebration of Lady Ga Ga fellating the New Orlean Saints secondary.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  17. Chadwatch, a public service

    I am clearly the wittiest person on this blog. I also enjoy coprophagia.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      tastes like chicken

      August 19, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Manda

      Oh look! You stole someone's handle and learned a grown-up sounding dirty word. Aren't you clever!

      August 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  18. tallulah13

    Have always admired Eboo Patel. What a courageous young man. Happy Ramadan dear muslim brothers and sisters!Ullah Akbar!

    August 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Big Bob

      What about the rest of us?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      tallulah13: From seeing some other of your posts, I thought you were more open-minded....like an atheist, or at least agnostic. What gives?

      August 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Zeus, any poster using my name to post pro-religion comments is just that ridiculous troll again. I have never made it a secret that I am an atheist.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  19. ja-coffalotte

    Deport all muzzies now before it's too late.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • David

      And dismiss the first amendment too?

      August 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • JM

      Clean up America. Deport all ignorant white jerks.

      August 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  20. truth be told

    I put heavy amounts of glitter on my genitals.

    August 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • truth be told

      Names stolen by atheist types quickly degenerate into filth . Thank God its on the atheist side it reveals the deep Truth that atheism is not healthy for children and other living things better than any Christian could.

      August 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Oh, do get over yourself. If you read any post but your own, you'd easily see that this troll is stealing EVERYONE'S names. It's not about atheism or religion. It's about an annoying child entertaining his/her self.

      August 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
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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.