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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. :)

    F-u-c-k Islam and its founder

    August 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • :(

      We've heard of ne'cr'ophilia, but that would take the cake.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  2. One one

    Islam, Christianity, which god and religion is real and true ?

    August 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • truth be told

      Christianity, allah is an idol (a false god)

      August 19, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Wohoo

      Allah means God in Arabic.

      Quran is dangerous and evil if you read it.
      New Testament is nothing but love.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Yahweh, the god of the armies

      They both claim me, the 70th son of El Elyon, as their god. So what's the diff ?

      August 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • paperjihad

      Correct Islamic belief doesn't affirm anthropomorphic attributes to God. Draw your conclusions from that.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • One one

      @tbt, the cross, an instrument of torture and death, is also an idol. You get no points for your answer, but nice try.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • truth be told

      It does not matter what allah means, allah as presented by islam is a false god.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • One one

      What makes a god false ? How do we know Jesus isn't a false god ?

      August 19, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • on judgement day

      Look for one one it will be one of those with the Oh sh it look on its face.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • One one

      @wohoo, the OT is full of violence and it's the same god as the NT. you fail.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • :(

      Every god is different in everyone's head. There are as many incarnations of "god" as there are brains who as'sert that there are gods. Neuroscientists know which part of everyone's brains light up on MRI scans, when they think about gods.
      Gods exist on in human's brain chemistries.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • :(

      how many hours will "judgement day" have ? 24 ? If the sun is no longer, how will you know it's not night time ?

      August 19, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • One one

      @ojd, the bottom line is all Christianity has to offer is believe or burn, your response is a perfect example.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • truth be told

      A treasury agent was once asked how they could know all the different counterfeit bills. The agent replied we do not study the counterfeit, we study the genuine. We know God is God by first having met God and second by study of the genuine.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If there were a God, TuBeTop, he wouldn't be much of one unless he walked up to you and kicked you in the crotch and then laid you out cold with a nice right uppercut.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • :(

      I know the Easter Bunny because I have met Easter Bunny. I study Easter Bunny.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • truth be told

      When judged and tossed into the lake of fire you will wish for as long a day as possible. Before the sun Jesus was the light, after the sun is gone Jesus will be the light again.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If anyone should be tossed into a 'lake of fire', TuBeTop, it's you.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • truth be told

      @:(
      You crossed the line between humor and stupidity some time ago.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Which side of that line are you on, TuBeTop?

      Never mind; everyone knows already.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • truth be told

      Should be but I am pardoned by the son of God, a pardon that is available to all who sincerely ask in prayer.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • truth be told

      Your infantile misspellings show you to be below par as well Tom.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • :(

      Which son of god ? There were many who were called sons of god. It was a common ti'tle. Jeebus was one of many.
      How do you know you're pardoned ? Did Jeebus tell you ? Me, I'll be evil until the last possible minute. He will forgive me later. Meanwhile, I'll have more fun than you. Ha ha.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • truth be told

      Your plan will not work. The most intelligent people who have ever lived if their intelligence was combined and compared to God would come in at a related percentage close to 0%. Your arrogance and hatred does not escape Gods notice. The spelling is Jesus. You will be called to account for that abuse as well. Keep it in mind as you are being tossed.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How would YOU know, you idiot? You make slugs look bright.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • :(

      Jeebus tol me you never crossed the line. You were always over the line, towards stupidity.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • :(

      And actually the spelling is Yeshua.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • JWT

      Gods and all that stuff do not apply to anyone that does not choose to believe in that particular version of a god. A god's words mean less than nothing otherwise.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  3. ....

    40% of the U.S. are evangelical, which is nearly 100 million.

    I cannot wait until they make up 80% of the population. They need more babies!

    August 19, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • One one

      Sorry, the fastest growing religious affiliation is no affiliation.

      Study finds that religion is heading toward extinction.

      Among other things it concludes:
      "religion may become extinct in Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Switzerland."

      "In 2008 those claiming no religion rose to 15 percent nationwide, with a maximum in Vermont at 34 percent,".

      "The study also found that "Americans without affiliation comprise the only religious group growing in all 50 states."

      Source: Foxnews.com, march 23, 2011

      http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/23/losing-religion-study-finds-religion-extinct-parts-world/

      August 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • Wohoo

      Still only 2-3% of the US are Atheists/Agnostics.

      I am not member of any religion but still believe in God. So I'm included in the 15%.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • :(

      WHo cares what the numbers are ?
      99.9 % of the population of the Earth once thought it was flat.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  4. Islam

    = Cult

    August 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  5. magnum12

    A few reasons why Catholics are easier to love then Islamists:

    They don't stone people
    They don't decapitate people
    They don't mutilate people
    No honor killings
    Little girls are not killed for going to school

    August 19, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • ....

      + Don't cut head off men who leave their faith
      + Don't blow themselves up

      August 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Archy the Ardvark is lookin' to hook up with Ethel the Ardvark

      The Catholics do, however, bugger little boys.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • truth be told

      Ho mo se xuals lied there way into the catholic clergy with intent to do evil and convince the gullible that the "church" itself was responsible. At this point only those that hated the church in the first place have bought into that lie.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • :(

      truth be told lied his way into 4th grade. Any Third Grader knows it's "their" way. Sister Mary Margaret is going to slap your fingers with her ruler.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • TR6

      Any more

      August 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  7. victror crocco

    per-Mohammad Muslims were Sodom and Gomorrah. At least Mohammad brought them wisdom. I am trying very hard to forgive them except the violent extremists. It is always the extremists who ruin things. Jesus said forgive the ones who hate you means the most to him.
    I will try and follow the wisdom of Jesus.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  8. paperjihad

    Reblogged this on Paper Jihad.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Achmed The Terrorist

      Jiiiiiihad! Jiiiiiiihad! I keeeell you!

      August 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  9. Achmed The Terrorist

    I keeeell you!

    August 19, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  10. AnneSD

    "Evangelicals make up 40% of America..." Huh? I'm not sure where the author got that number but no, just no. Evangelicals don't make up anywhere near this percentage of Americans.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • garypsmith321

      I think evangelicals make up a little over a third of voters, roughly 100 million. According to The Economist, so 40% isn't as far off as some of the math being used in this election.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's certainly no more "off" than your cruddy attempts at writing, gary.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  11. Ramon F. Herrera

    I like tacos, senor. I also like to come to your country illegally, holmes. I am a drain on civilization, sa.

    August 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Homie

      Don't call me Holmes.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  12. I am Muslim

    Please tolerant Muslim views in Amrika.

    August 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • I am Muslim

      Islam mean submit. We submit. Not kill.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • :(

      It's Merica to you, boy.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  13. Hahaha

    My comments are truly insightful.

    August 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • KSpud

      As are mine.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  14. pete

    Garbage. Can Muslims learn to love Christians? Did you miss what's happening in Nigeria with Boko Haram Muslim group persecuting Christians? Or the fact that a christian can not have a bible in Saudi Arabia. name one country where Christians have barred Muslims? Spare me that boloney. You should be speaking to your Muslim brothers instead.

    August 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Muslim Brother

      This country was founded on Islam. Thomas Jefferson had a Koran.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Cite?

      August 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • maggotfist

      One can "love " Muslims all they want,...but those who think that will be reciprocated are delusional.

      It is amongst the most intolerant of all Religions. Someone prove that statement wrong with facts.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • maggotfist

      dis*

      August 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • pete

      Muslim Brother, Thomas Jefferson Was a Christian. Have you heard of Wikipedia? Learn to research before you write. Muslim religion encourages hate. Never have I heard of muslims denouncing other muslims. Where were you when Osama bombed WTC?

      August 19, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • Muslim Brother

      Obama did not bomb WTC. That is vicious lie. Jefferson had Koran. He cut up Bible but he leave Koran whole.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • :(

      Yeah petey. The US bans Muslims. They burn mosques in the US.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  15. garypsmith321

    I love that leftist are learning to spell and write well formed sentences. Perhaps those teacher lay-offs are a good thing after all. I miss the days of having a full time job, having money for things like, eating. I'll be voting for Romney and what he did with his pet carrier when he was younger, his decade old tax forms, and made up fears of war and religious persecution. Dosent phase me in the least. IT Will, no doubt, sinch the "special" vote, but you guys have that all the time anyway.

    August 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • KBud

      Dosent?? I am not familiar with that word. Perhaps you should learn how to read and write, you ballsucking fvcktard.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's "FAZE", dipwad.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • Hahaha

      That was eloquently put, KSpud. I like to see well reasoned responses from Democrats.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • garypsmith321

      Dosent and phase are correct, it's sinch that is spelled wrong. (Hint; shouldv'e been cinch). Thanks for playing, and proving my point.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      faze   [feyz] Show IPA
      verb (used with object), fazed, faz·ing.
      to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt: The worst insults cannot faze him.
      Relevant Questions
      How Do You Hook up a Air...
      What Is Faze?
      How to Install Faze Gaug...
      What Is The Definition O...
      Origin:
      1820–30, Americanism ; dial. form of feeze

      Can be confused:  faze, phase.

      Synonyms
      disconcert, discomfit, perturb, fluster, confound.
      ---

      You dumbazz.

      August 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And it's "DOESN'T" you sh!twit.

      NOT "DOSENT".

      How stupid are you?

      August 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Hahaha

      Tom, you spelled the sh word wrong. Can't you spell?

      August 19, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • :(

      It's spelled shit.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What's the "sh word", fvckwit?

      August 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      garypsmith, is that you? Have you figured out how "phase" differs from "faze"?

      Funny how you turned tail the minute you were outed as an idiot.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Athy

      "faze"' not "phase". Try English next time.

      August 22, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  16. Tim

    Ramon Herrera: And I suppose your being surveilled by Homeland Security as well.

    August 19, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  17. Tim

    K from AZ: " Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" "It is easier for a camel to pass thru needle than a rich m.f. to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." "Sell all you have and give it to the poor." is that enough??

    August 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  18. K from AZ

    I come from a proud republican state so evolved, we don't even honor Martin Luther King Day!! What great culture we have here in AZ!!

    August 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  19. Read Carefully AZ F Tard

    Matthew 19:24
    Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

    Matthew 25:40
    "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
    New Living

    August 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • K from AZ

      Thanks for clarifying that for me. Being from a red state, I did not receive a good public school education. Maybe repubs don't support public schools because they send their children to private schools. Maybe my ignorance helps them to win elections.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • allynom

      Newsflash: Obama is wealthy too. Went to exclusive private schools. So do his kids. Get over it. They are all politicians, and will say and do anything that will win an election.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      While both are certainly political animals, and both are wealthy, I doubt very much that Obama's wealth is anywhere close to Mitt's.

      I am not happy with Obama's views on public schools and I think his pal Arne ought to be tossed out, but even so, he's a better bet for education than Mitt would be.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • :(

      Put the camel in a blender. He will go through the needle very easily.

      August 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  20. Ramon F. Herrera

    DEAR READERS:

    Please notice that there is an individual (likely right winger) who is impersonating myself and "Zombie Democrats"

    August 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • Hahaha

      "Dear"!? I assume you're talking to Democrats.

      August 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
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