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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. Rawbird

    This is Muslim propaganda. I have nothing against good natured Muslims but you cannot compare protestants, catholics and Muslims.
    Protestants and Catholics are both Christians. Muslims.. whole other story, so, no... evangelist will not accept muslims as easily as protestants accept catholics or catholics accept protestants. Apples and oranges

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      As EASILY as Protestants accept Catholics? Wow! I really wish we did a better job teaching history, you sad, ignorant, backwater bigot.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • David

      Read the Bible and then read the Qu'ran. The similarities are very evident. Yes, there are differences, but Christianity sprang from Judaism, and Islam from Christianity. All three share the same God, the same prophets and many of the same basic tenents. All three books, are filled with strange, weird, and confusing passages, as well as beautiful, inspiring and insightful passages. All three all three talk of peace and love as well as war, violence and murder.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  2. expakistani

    The photograph for the article shows The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, MI. Is this some kind of joke? The Dearborn Muslim community has shown itself to be increasingly anti christian and pro sharia leaning. This is about as far as you can get from true interfaith understanding.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  3. Robert

    Anything is possible, however, they would have to leave their religion in their bedroom.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  4. Kmack

    Catholics do not hijack planes and fly them into buildings. The parallel drawn here in this article is just ridiculous. Islam is not a threat to the US? Look what it's done for us so far.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, if you want to play that game, Muslims do not hijack the US Supreme Court and use it to attack women's health. But Catholics do.
       
      See? I can take an isolated fact and blow it up into a conspiracy theory just like you can.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • David

      Violence has been committed in the name of God or the Gods since humans first contemplated the existence of a God or God's.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  5. Bibletruth

    By the way, dont worry about the Muslims...they will change on a dime when the miracles start happening, as they, along with so many others are conditioned to believe that miracles = truth. However, the bible warns against miracles in the end times (not that the miracles wont be real, but that many will come from Satan's side) who will be using them to establish falsehoods in peoples minds and they will believe they are on the right side of the final battle when they are fighting against Jesus. Why will they be so easily fooled? Because, as Jesus said "they do not have a love for the truth". They do not read, study, believe the bible and make it the rule of their life through the indwelling christ (via the Holy Spirit).

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Rawbird

      The final battle. The bible . Jesus said.
      I just can't stand blind faith from any religion. The final battle will be man against nature.
      Christians, Muslims, Hindous, Boudists should all fight side by side

      August 19, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Number4

      I think the Bible was originally written to create social order among primitive people who lived in a harsh, barbarous world. The ten commandments were simple laws that could be followed and would hopefully lead to a more peaceful existence. In modern times we have governments that enforce laws. We don't need to refer back to ancient texts in order to determine our behavior.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  6. g

    yes the muslims will make you support them by their terrorisim platform hahahahaha what a POS article

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  7. George

    See how minorities are treated in islamic countries. See

    http://www.faithfreedom.org/oped/sina50218.htm

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  8. RichardSRussell

    Rather than learn to love people with a DIFFERENT set of wacked-out superst¡tious beliefs based on ancient fables from ignorant bloodthirsty misogynists, maybe we can grow up intellectually and insist on people who are sp00k-free and instead base their decisions on evidence and reason.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Bibletruth

      Yes Richard, and when the Miracles come, it is persons as yourself who are too smart to believe "that stuff" , when wondrous things happen before your eyes, that you will know to the core of your being are supernatural, you will go with the accompanying message, never realizing it is the message of Satan.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      It's been 2000 years, dude. Face it: He's dead and ain't never coming back, no matter how hard you whistle Dixie. "When the miracles start to come"? When will that be, exactly? The original disciples said "any day now". Again, that was TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO!!

      August 19, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Rawbird

      It is too bad you have not evelve intellectuallu , calling me a bigot without even knowing me. All i said was protestants accept catholics more easily than muslims... and I have seen this reality all my life. They disagree but don't kill each other because they disagree. You also called me ignorant for again, no valid reason except that my point of view differs from yours. In your little closed world, I guess most people are not as intellectually advanced as you, therefore most of the world is inferior, sad, ignorant bigots... maybe you should look in the mirror before being an attacking condescendant ignorant, self proclaimed intellectual.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  9. steve

    Love the muslims? Nice try with a P/C story like this, if anything people in the US as the rest of the world had better wake up as to why they are migrating to every civilized country in the world.
    It wasn't until the 1970's that the muslims started coming to the US, legally yes, but why?
    They have infiltrated every city in the US, Why.
    They have infiltrated every occupation in the US, including working for the Federal Government. Why? Do you not remember the reports and stories that came out days after 9/11, about muslim federal employees standing and applauding when the towers fell?
    Wake up people, their religion is a religion of hate, and brutality. Their is absolutely no comparison between muslims and Catholics.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • tom

      steve, you are one sick and ignorant guy.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • jcvet33

      Religion will cause the end of mankind.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  10. charles griner

    Such a foolish premise. The extreme fundamentalists of ALL religions will never accept the others. Only time and the death of these zealots will change the world. The irony is that all extremists are essentially the same personality type, regardless of the religion they espouse.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • tom

      why is it foolish charles? The evangelicals love the jews. why? Judaism has zero to do with Christianity. Show me your brilliance and explain the connection because I certainly don't get it. If Evangelicals can love Jews then why can't they love muslims some day? Muslims believe in the same God that we do, the same prophets like Noah; they even believe in Jesus although they consider him another prophet and not a savior as christians do. The Muslims that commit the acts of violence are a tiny, tiny fraction of the muslims. Painting a billion people with the same brush based on the behavior of a few hundred extremists is what I would call foolish. Know them before you judge.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  11. Number4

    Hopefully someday the Evangelicals will come to their senses and abandon religion altogether. It is only used as a way for people to further divide and control other people.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  12. Chris

    I find it hard to believe that the overwhelming majority of the Earth that believes in a higher power are all wrong.
    The only reason why their aren't many credible Christians to argue with on CNN is because the fact is the internet has become a bastion for nonbelievers to share their thoughts and criticism. Nothing wrong with that. My advice is if you would like a credible fulfilling argument about whether Christianity or Islam or whatever is real or not, how about do so with a preacher or priest at a church? You don't have to be a believer to walk into a building. You won't burst into flames, I promise. xD

    August 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      2000 years ago, you would have said you couldn't believe that the overwhelming majority of people who believed the Earth was flat could possibly be wrong.
       
      Facts are stubborn things; they do not yield to majority votes. Or wishing.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • David

      You wrote that you find it hard to believe the majority of people on earth believe in a higher power are all wrong. Why is that so hard to believe?

      August 19, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Number4

      Just because a bunch of people believe in something that doesn't make it real. How about some facts that prove it is true? It is hard to believe something when there are no facts to back it up. I don't believe in bigfoot for example, but if someone captured one alive I would be proven wrong and would change my opinion.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  13. Dan586

    If American Muslims are so evil here in the U.S., why is it we only see a endless list of Christians posting comments of hate and not one from an American Muslim citizen ?

    August 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • SitOnThis

      Muslims don't speak English?

      August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • tom

      Our Christian history is no less dark than Muslim history. I think some of you must have not graduated 6th grade because I see a profound ignorance of history on these forums. Its as if some of you were born yesterday and know nothing!

      August 19, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  14. Chris

    I find it hard to believe that the overwhelming majority of the Earth that believes in a higher power are all wrong.
    The only reason why their aren't many credible Christians to argue with on CNN is because the fact is the internet has become a bastion for nonbelievers to share their thoughts and criticism. Nothing wrong with that. My advice is if you would like a credible fulfilling arguement about whether Christianity or Islam or whatever is real or not, how about do so with a preacher or priest at a church? You don't have to be a believer to walk into a building. You won't burst into flames, I promise. xD

    August 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • SitOnThis

      Majority doesn't make it right. Human nature is such that people want to "believe" if it suits them. Hitler had no problem convincing the majority of the Germans that his delusions were "right".

      August 19, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • tom

      People are like cattle Chris. Open your eyes and you'll see it everyday. They follow a leader or follow the crowd thinking exactly as you've written.....if everybody else is doing it, it must be correct. Like the fable of the lemmings following each other over the cliff....

      August 19, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  15. SitOnThis

    What I'm hoping for that one day soon the Atheist movement will finally reach the critical mass and the age of reason will prevail for the rest of the times.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Benny Blanco

      In order for humankind to survive, religion cannot.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  16. 21k

    ha! these are xtians we're talking about, right? don't hold your breath.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  17. Rainer Braendlein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

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

    August 19, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional idiocy.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • SitOnThis

      Reason is the only thing that can cure our soles. All the irrational religious delusions need to be dumped.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Number4

      I hate to break the news to you, but there is no eternal health that will be bestowed upon you. Everybody dies and people don't rise from the dead.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • mitch

      Solus Christus
      Sola Scriptura
      Sola Gratia
      Good for you, but I would think that living in a state of grace would include not demonizing the leaders of other religious cults, am I wrong?

      August 19, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @mitch

      Demonize?

      It is a historical fact that the evil popes and the evil successors of Muhammad have comitted infinitely many crimes. Islam and Catholicism are bad in itself.

      Protestantism is only bad when it is abused by wolves in sheep's clothing (false priests or pastors) but the Protestant doctrine is very could in itself because its main tenet is only the care for the souls of the human beings. Protestantism doesn't aspire after temporal rule, honor and wealth.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • mitch

      While I do not disagree with the evils of many religious leaders it goes far beyond just Catholics and Muslims. Why do you limit your criticism to those two, all religions have had their crimes against humanity?

      August 19, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  18. AJW3

    It doesn't matter now for any of you........I was just contacted by God and he has instructed me to build an Ark. I need one woman to go with me and I will be interviewing for the next two months.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  19. joe B

    We already have a Muslim president

    August 19, 2012 at 10:09 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Go back to Fox Views with your Rush Limbaugh lies. You know it was only his father who USED TO BE a Muslim, right? Obama was never really one himself.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • SitOnThis

      Obama is an atheist that was forced into appeasing the stupids by pretending he's "just like them".

      August 19, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • tom

      wow Joe, how come he attends a christian church then? Dazzle us with your brilliance and explain that FACT!

      August 19, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  20. zaglossus

    Someday hopefully mankind will grow up and become agnostics.

    August 19, 2012 at 10:09 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.