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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. RomRom

    You MUST first learn to accept and respect people of other faith(who according to you are infidels), then rest of the world will reciprocate those same values.
    Until then, keep working on those skills.

    August 25, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  2. Islam-will-prevail

    God clearly tells us in the Holy Quran that "There is NO Compulsion in Religion"!! Guess, what if you go to any Muslim majority countries you will still find Jews and Christians living for centuries!!! We DO NOT seek to convert you to Islam by force or otherwise kill you!! We only seek to bring you the truth about Islam and God!! If you like it, fine, if not, still fine!! God will be the Judge of ALL OF US on the Day of Judgment!! So, who even is reading or listening to lies about Islam, please (for your own sake) be smart and seek the facts!! True Islamic Websites are all over the Internet. Do a little search, what are you afraid off? That you might convert to Islam??

    August 25, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • marvin

      Then what is the Pastor doing in jail in iran?!?!?! what is the girl and Bibi of pakistan doing in jail right now?
      Care to answer?

      August 25, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • hdh

      First of all, you dont even know if Bibi is still in jail. Pakistan's current Govt eventhough extremely corrupt is very secular, I have heard that he has gven Bibi's money a lot of money and hid them in a safe place in Pakistan. she may very well be somewhere safe but they are not going to admit it because they are scared of backlash from religous leaders.

      August 26, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  3. Jack

    Everyone is cordially invited to visit – thestarofkaduri.com

    August 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  4. brock spore

    Want to see religion and entertainment? Try "The Tiki Heads" where there is a "Heavenly conflagration" between rock 'n' roll, the internet and the Christian Right.

    August 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  5. sharat

    Islam says kill the non-believers
    then kill the infidels (who dont believe allah alone)
    then kill muzzies who dont practice islam
    then kill muzzies who reject or blaspheme islam
    then kill muzzies who are muzzie but interpret koran slightly different.
    then kill muzzies who fold hands in a different way while praying
    then kill muzzies who dont grow the beard to certain length
    list goes on....if evry1 is killed and none left...obviously peace prevails.
    yes, i agree "islam is a religion for p'ie'ce"?

    August 25, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Islam-will-prevail

      I feel sorry for you Sharat and for how miss-informed you are. I pray to God to guide to the truth and show you the beauty of Islam. Who is teaching these lies?? Go read the Holy Quran from a known Islamic website and don't rely on those who hate Islam to give you your information (IF YOU DO CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH).

      August 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  6. Arvoasitis

    The juxtaposition of the comments of Rehman and AlienShark are wonderfully fortuitous since each contains a partial aspect of the full truth.
    The loss of half of Christendom is owed not to Islam but to the appalling ignorance and stupidity of the Crusaders. after a brief attempt to convert Christians and Jews by force, the leaders of Islam revised their approach and accepted Christinas and Jews, like themselves, as "People of the Book" (the Old Testament). Henceforth, the persecution ended and harmony ensued (at least as much as can be expected in an imperfect world). Pagans, Zoroastrians and Hindus were not as fortunate and the treatment they received is a blot on Islam (just as the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Thirty Years War and numerous atrocities against various groups are a blot on the Christian record).

    August 25, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  7. AlienShark

    "History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated." –De Lacy O'Leary, ISLAM AT THE CROSSROADS, London, 1923, p. 8.

    “The Christian World came to wage crusades against Muslims but eventually knelt before them to gain knowledge. They were spellbound to see that Muslims were owners of a culture that was far superior to their own. The Dark Ages of Europe were illuminated by nothing but the beacon of Muslim Civilization.” (F.J.C Hearushaw, The Science of History.)

    “The Renaissance of Europe did not take place in the 15th century. Rather it began when Europe learned from the culture of the Arabs. The cradle of European awakening is not Italy. It is the Muslim Spain.” (Robert Briffault, The Making Of Mankind)

    “The lies which we [Christians] have heaped round this man (Mohammed), are disgraceful to ourselves only.” (Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero Worship)

    “Muhammed was the most successful of all religious personalities.” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 4th & 11th editions)

    “The greatest crimes, the greatest “sin” of Mohammed in the eyes of Christian West is that he did not allow himself to be slaughtered, to be “crucified” by his enemies. He only defended himself, his family and his followers; and finally vanquished his enemies. Mohammed’s success is the Christians’ gall of disappointment… He did not believe in any vicarious sacrifices for the sins of others.” (Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.)

    August 25, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  8. Rehman

    Islam is the greatest killer of all time, worse than Christianity, fascism or communism.
    Islamic jihad destroyed a Christian Middle East and a Christian North Africa. Soon it was the fate of the Persian Zoroastrian and the Hindu to be the victims of jihad. The history of political Islam is the destruction of Christianity in the Middle East, Egypt, Turkey and North Africa. Half of Christianity was lost. Before Islam, North Africa was the southern part of Europe (part of the Roman Empire). Around 60 million Christians were slaughtered during the jihadic conquest. Half of the glorious Hindu civilization was annihilated and 80 million Hindus killed. The first Western Buddhists were the Greeks descended from Alexander the Great's army in what is now Afghanistan. Jihad destroyed all of Buddhism along the silk route. About 10 million Buddhists died. The conquest of Buddhism is the practical result of pacifism. Zoroastrianism was eliminated from Persia. The Jews became permanent dhimmis throughout Islam. In Africa over 120 million Christians and animists have died over the last 1400 years of jihad. Approximately 270 million nonbelievers died over the last 1400 years for the glory of political Islam. These are the Tears of Jihad which are not taught in any school.

    August 24, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Islam-will-prevail

      Where did you get all those lies??? Muslims never killed innocent people!! Only people that they fught were those in the armies (who were along with their rulers already humiliating their people and making them live in utter shame and poverty). Muslim armies killed armies who fought them, and once they ruled the land, people converted to Islam after they witnessed the beauty of how they are treated by the concurring armies!! That is the TRUTH!!! By the way, not a single Muslim army ever reached Indonesia, yet, it is today the Most populus Islamic country in the World. Can you explain how that happened??

      August 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • toad

      Yes, yes. Fine. Everyone knows, or should know by now, that no one is innocent. But I was hoping to hear more about Americans.

      August 25, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  9. TomPaine

    Islam would gain more acceptance in America if those in leadership positions would openly and strongly condemn the violent actions of the Islamic radicals. For some reason they remain silent (or they don't get any press coverage).

    August 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Samuel

      Or maybe you idiots should acutally pay attention to those who condemn the violence.

      August 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      hinduism, terrorism of hindu Jew's, criminal secular s and their follower of hindu Mithraic gentile , pagan savior ism slave Christian's deserve nothing less than their own hinduism, terrorism, No one is above the La, truth absolute, if hindu Jew's and Christian's do not like their own medicine, they need not to play. If a hindu, criminal play's, he will have to pay, no exceptions.

      August 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Islam-will-prevail

      They don't get any media coverage is the correct choice!! It seems that American need to have someone to fear and hate. Once it was American Indians, then blacks, then, it became the Jews, then, the Russians, now, the Muslims!! So, as Muslims we will simply have to be patient and help American see the truth about our beautfil religion! The national media will not help us, but, the Net is there for anyone who truly seeks the truth!!

      August 25, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  10. Steve Schoner

    Christianity merged with Islam "Chrislam" is an abomination. The two are diametrically opposed. Christian belief states clearly that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that no man can come to God except by him. The Koran on the other hand denies this, along with the entire notion of God as named in the the Bible. The Islamic god and the Christian God are not the same. Read the Koran; then read the Bible, and at the very least what Jesus said of himself as written in the New Testament. You will then understand that the two faiths are contrary to each other, and that merging them into "Chrislam" is an abomination to any that believe one or the other.

    August 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Islam condemns divide of truth absolute, sovereign, and hindu pagan Christianity an off shoot of hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism divides it in to two according to hindu Pagan fundamental of trinity, Their is no room for hinduism illegality in Domain of La, legality, as water and oil never mix nor truth and hinduism, denial of truth do not mix.

      August 24, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  11. jknbt

    Hey CNN, this article seems be be an effort to counter the lib eral-at heist-hum anist pre djidi ced bi got ed opinion that conservative christians hate everybody.....why not address the problem of this sort of closed minded bi got ry in an article sometime?

    I am about as conservative, evangelical, charismatiic, pentecostal, and right wing as they come. I don't hate anybody. I practice the scriptural ethic of Jesus who said to love your neighbor as yourself. I have worked with muslims, gone to school with muslims, taught muslim students, and had muslim friends along the way. I like them because practicing muslims are always spiri tually minded, mo ral, het eros exu al, and consistently gentle polite people. They don't abuse drugs or alcohol, and they have a great family values belief system. Who can hate that? These are the kind of people who are like me, and who I have the a lot of interest in being some sort of friends with. I have a lot more in common with a practicing muslim than an at heist who is living an im mo ral lifestyle.

    I do have a problem with ter rorists who have gone insane because of their religion. These people are not true muslims. They are practicing murder in the name of All ah, which is the worst sort of blas phemy. Hel lfi re is waiting for them, not 72 vir gins in heaven when they die.

    August 24, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  12. PAUL

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqTiAMFqz7g&w=640&h=360]

    August 24, 2012 at 5:31 am |
  13. James

    Christ died for all men, everywhere, for all time. This includes Muslims. The heart of Christianity is love in the face of hate. This is the distinction. Can we love our enemies? Do good to those who hate us?

    August 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • James

      When I say men I include men AND WOMEN. Sorry if there was any confusion here.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      It is not crucifixion but cruci-fiction of hindu pagan god Mithra, savior labeled on son of blessed Mary to promote hindu Judaism, filthy secular ism, way of hindu Magi's, criminal secular's to hind, fool humanity , book of hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism labeled as Christianity , bible bares witness to it.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • PAUL

      WHERE IS JINDAL WHEN YOU NEED HIM???
      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySvdfIhhWCc&w=640&h=360]

      August 24, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Jay

      Thank you, James. There is only one true religion, and that is the religion of love.

      August 25, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Uncle Bernie

      Dimwit, you love your enemy and forgive those who are beheading you. The rest of us will shoot them down like the dogs they are.

      August 25, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  14. popseal

    With our house being so divided and turning more venomous every day, it is hard to see how this will end well for any of us.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  15. Madeline M. P.

    They may fight each other, but Christian Evangelicals and Muslims have one huge thing in common – the oppression of women. It sounds like a great foundation on which to start building a beautiful inter-faith friendship.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • popseal

      My wife (a registered nurse) and daughter are very succesful women, educated, and growing personally. I'm a retired, Biblically conservative Christian pastor and have encouraged them every step of their way (daughter now in med' school). It is a common misrepresentation of the Bible and Christianity that both oppress women. Nothing could be further from the truth than such an unstudied accusation. St. Paul's warnings against women were directed against immoral ones that were destroying the church families. Jesus had women disciples as St. Paul did on his missionary journeys. "In Christ, there is neither male nor female...."he taught they are equal in God's sight. We are obviously built for different roles in life, but equal in value to God and to each other. My 17 months in Pakistan and Afghanistan taught me that Islam, on the other hand, holds women above a dog in value but less important than a camel. Do a search on in Herat, Afghanistan.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • popseal

      ...SELF IMMOLATION, Herat, Afghanistan was left out of my reply.....

      August 23, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Arvoasitis

      @popseal
      Is there a Quranic reference that places a woman between a dog and a camel?
      Let's not forget that a Jewish marriage involves essentially the sale of the bride to the groom. A Christian marriage, doesn't even bother with the sale; the father simply gives the bride away.

      August 24, 2012 at 7:28 am |
  16. Hipochracy_at_its_best.

    But can muslims learn to love anybody else? That's the question!

    August 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Love means submission, one in love with hinduism, illegality can never be truthful but a partner in hinduism, illegality and a hindu, criminal, How about not to divide truth absolute or make human the truth absolute and LOVE, submit to TRUTH ABSOLUTE to love summit to each other without hindu Judaism, criminal secularism, denial of truth absolute.

      August 23, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Mohamed

      Yes,in spite of the truthfulness and high values of Islam’s teachings, Muslims should not look down upon none Muslims who believe differently than they do or view this life other than they do. They should instead be very tolerant towards people from different religious background, refrain from being judgmental towards them for to Allah belongs the final judgments. In this respect, Allah (SWT) says: “Verily, those who believe in Allah (SWT) and his messenger Muhammad (PBUH) and those who are Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians and the Majus, and those who worship others besides Allah, truly, Allah will judge between them on the day of resurrection. Verily, Allah is over all things a witness.”(Quran: S 22/ V17).

      This verse we just mentioned reminds us of Shaykh Ahmadou Bamba’s teachings regarding how to shun arguments about faith from ignorant people. He said to just remember or mention this verse.

      It would not be a utopia to see our relationship with people from other faith improved forever, but if conflicts of interest occur in the process and impact negatively such relationship, Islam, has put into place guidelines to avoid such conflicts and, if so has provided equitable solutions to solve any given conflict.

      As a religion of justice, Islam has given the right to retaliate to the limit of the prejudice caused upon oneself, but do not transgress such limit. The following Quran verse highlights such right: “And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limit.” (Quran: S2/ V190)

      August 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Jewel of Allah

      All religion owes all to Allah, all praise be unto him, by whose will his Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, brought the double penetration dildo into the world. Romney/Ryan, Mormon and Catholic but joined by a dildo, will climb to the heights of world power and show all that all praise should be unto Allah.

      August 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  17. Jimy

    No, Never happen, it's not Biblical to accept the Mormon LDS as a Brother-In-Christ. Just theologically and biblically impossible. The Mormon church is of the devil.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  18. Jesus Chirst

    You see, this is why I stay out of politics.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  19. Jeremy from London

    Exactly the same argument applies between religious people and humanists/atheists. What matters isn't what people believe – we all think the other guy's misguided, otherwise we'd believe the same as they do – it's what sort of person they are and how they act towards other people. This isn't moral relativism, it's the common ground of the Golden Rule "do unto others.." and its various formulations across the world, which has been a bedrock of moral thinking for at least 3000 years.

    Those of us who are not religious should welcome the fact that those who are religious find ways to select and emphasis/de-emphasise the elements of their scripture and find interpretations that enable them to adjust as we gain more insight into how to prevent suffering and maximise well-being of others.

    August 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  20. Chris Hogan

    I'm not sure christian conservatives will win many new friends supporting a religion that calls for the death penalty for being gay or worshipping another God. Oh, wait.......The bible says that too.

    August 23, 2012 at 3:01 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.