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. San Antonio

    The prophet Muhammad, محمد بن عبد الله بن عبد المطلب ,peace be upon him, invented the double penetration dildo for his personal pleasure, his and Pope Gregory's (Gregory the Great). For that reason alone we should learn to love Muslims in the same way we love Catholics.

    August 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  2. JJ (Johnson and Johnson)

    I have no respect for islam since they want their women to wear hijab (head covering)...!! that is sick in the hot summer like this who needs head and face covering hijab...it is like ninja.

    August 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm |

    ^ ^

    Quran says to kill Muslims who leave Islam

    Quran says to kill those who don't believe in 'Allah' and Muhammad

    August 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  4. JJ (Johnson and Johnson)

    The US has to follow France! We have to ban hijab and here is the thing for your reading pleasure from Wiki: Many Muslims believe that the Qu'ran instructs women to keep their heads covered (outside of the immediate family) even though some others, including Leila Babes in her book "The Veil Demystified", believe that wearing the veil does not derive from a Muslim religious imperative.[32] Some Muslims argue that it is a form of religious discrimination not to allow head-coverings in school. They believe that the law is an attempt to impose secular values on them. The specific parts of the Qu'ran are interpreted differently by groups of more liberal Muslims; another source for the requirement to keep women's heads covered is in the Hadith.

    August 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  5. Jake

    To x 15 I don't deny that happened in Egypt. It has happened from handful of people , and was resented by millions. Those uncivilized protesters were removed by the police. Those who attacked the 2 journalists were arrested by the police.
    There are many verses in Quran that can be interpreted several ways. Verses should be interpreted in their context.
    Please make you judgements bases on normal people not extremitists who are resented even by their societies.

    August 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  6. ampatriot

    The problem is respect for other religions is a two way street. All I ever see is how everyone should respect Muslims but I never see anything about Muslims respecting Christianity, Judaism, etc. Do Muslim leaders in countries where they are in the majority talk about tolerance? Hardly. One of the basic tenets of Islam is that their belief system is superior, which is why the sacred duty of most Muslims is to spread Islam throughout the the world, even if is done so by force.

    August 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  7. OMG

    Islam = Cancer

    Sharia Law are worst rule in human history

    August 19, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Susan Trigo

    I wonder why my comments on separation of church and state (as not being present in Islamic, R.C or Plymouth colony ) aren't being posted?? Or am I missing some comments..

    August 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Timmy

      Watch out for horrible sinful 3 letter combonations such as "tit>" as in the word "constitution" and separate them like "t-it". These eveil hidden disgusting words can turn you into an axe murder so CNN censors them.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  9. Religion of peace?


    August 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  10. ted

    I used to call myself an evangelical and a christian, but that was before the Republican's hijacked the terminology and turned it into a nasty word to mean that everyone but them is unacceptable, before they started thinking they were better than everyone else. I say nothing today as my faith is mine and no one can take it over or change it.

    August 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  11. SitOn This

    Overcome your gay urges with Jesus like I did.

    August 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Judith

      Bigotry or prejudice in any form is more than a problem; it is a deep-seated evil within our society.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • SitOnThis

      Gays will soon be all aborted – before they are born. No worries!

      August 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • .

      This person is a TROLL on this site and suffers from low self esteem issues, keep that in mind when replying.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • tallulah13

      One can only hope that trolls will soon be aborted.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  12. Tucon

    70 million Christians have been killed by Muslims since past 1400 years. I wish the Islamic cult could be wiped away from this planet for freedom and peace

    August 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • JM

      And how many people have white "Christians" killed?

      Slavery, native Americans, colonialism, Amritsar, Vietnam, Haiti, the subjugation of Africa.


      August 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  13. SitOnThis

    Gay agenda motto: deceive, manipulate and brainwash!

    August 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Judith

      Bigotry or prejudice in any form is more than a problem; it is a deep–seated evil within our society.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • SitOn This

      That was the fake speaking above. I DO NOT hate gays. What they do is not write (I don't do it anymore) but we can love them all like I love Jesus.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Timmy

      You're probably sitting on your boyfriend's big 8 incher as you were typing your comment. You can only finally be happy once you have accepted yourself and quit going to that church of yours.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • SitOnThis

      Gays will be aborted in the near future, they already have their "signature".

      August 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • 2Cents

      The NAACP has passed a resolution endorsing same-sex marriage as a civil right, putting it stamp on an issue that has divided the black community.

      The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's board voted at a leadership retreat in Miami on Saturday to back a resolution supporting marriage equality, calling the position consistent with the equal protection provision of the US constitution.

      "The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure political, social and economic equality of all people," board chairwoman Roslyn M Brock said in a statement. "We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law."

      Same-sex marriage is legal in six states and the District of Columbia, but 31 states have passed amendments to ban it.

      The NAACP vote came about two weeks after President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage, setting off a flurry of political activity in a number of states. Obama's announcement followed vice-president Joe Biden's declaration in a television interview that he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay couples marrying.

      "Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP's support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the fourteenth amendment of the United States constitution and equal protection of all people" said NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous, a strong backer of gay rights.

      Gay marriage has divided the black community, with many religious leaders opposing it. In California, exit polls showed about 70% of black people opposed same-sex marriage in 2008. In Maryland, black religious leaders helped derail a gay marriage bill last year. But state lawmakers passed a gay marriage bill this year.

      Pew Research Center polls have found that African Americans have become more supportive of same-sex marriage in recent years, but remain less supportive than other groups. A poll conducted in April showed 39% of African-Americans favor gay marriage, compared with 47% of white people. The poll showed 49% of black people and 43% of white people are opposed.

      The Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights advocacy group, applauded the NAACP's step.

      "We could not be more pleased with the NAACP's history-making vote – which is yet another example of the traction marriage equality continues to gain in every community," HRC president Joe Solmonese said in a statement.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • SitOnThis

      NAACP don't have any political clout. They certainly don't represent most blacks, who are vehemently against gay marriage.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • .

      "They certainly don't represent most blacks, who are vehemently against gay marriage."

      Cite your source. 😉

      August 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  14. Laval

    Muhammad was a ugly, hairy and retarded bigot

    August 19, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  15. Truth is good

    F-U-C-K Muhammad and Islam......

    Islam = VIOLENCE!!!!!! They just cut the head of a Muslim who converted to Christianity in Tunisia. Have video clip!

    August 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • The Guy

      Anders Brevik was a devout Christian who massacred 72 people in Norway. Does that mean that all Christians want to go on a shooting spree and kill innocent people?

      August 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • ISLAM IS S.H.I.T

      Anders was an atheist and so are majority of Americans your retarded bigot

      August 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • ISLAM IS S.H.I.T

      majority of Norwegians *

      August 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Louis

      Actually Breivik was a nonbeliever. Most Norwegians are Atheists/Agnostics.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • The Guy

      Brevik was an athiest? Then why did he write a 1500 page manifesto where he says he is (and I quote): "100% Christian" and a "Cultural Christian" and repeatedly compares himself to the crusaders and Knights Templar?

      And how am I the one that is being a bigot here?

      August 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Some christians will lie about anything that makes their religion look bad. Kind of pathetic, really.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  16. x15

    Muslim Brotherhood is now crucifying opposition to Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi.

    I guess they will not be voting next time huh?

    August 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  17. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    Could someone well-versed in the Muzlim mythology please explain about the 72 virgins? I mean, what happens when you get there and make them NOT virgins? Do they keep closing back up, cherry and all? Or do they just get cavernous and no more fun after a while so you have to start hitting that @nus?

    August 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I read somewhere that the "virgins" thing was a mistranslation and what they are really getting is 72 pearls of wisdom. Kind of funny to consider that their ultimate reward for unconscionable violence isn't chicks, but having to go back to school.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  18. tucsand

    I guess in the long run many people are so unhappy with their own lives that they will go to any extreme to ruin someone elses

    August 19, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • JJ (Johnson and Johnson)

      tucsand: nope, you are wrong..we just dont like islam..especially their woman suicide bombers..Here is a friendly reminder for you: Woman suicide bombers in the middle east, they are wearing Ninja outfit, covering head and face hijab...they cover themselves also hide the explosives in their bodies...So, if you see one of them, be very careful...

      August 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • .

      Another post from the uneducated American TROLL JJ.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  19. SitOn This

    Somebody has stolen my name and is bashing gays and Jesus. I am NOT gay anymore because Jesus helped me overcome it.

    August 19, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Timmy

      Lol...whatever you say....you little fudge packer.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • SitOnThis

      Duplicious gay idiot! But figures, that's what gays do. Their moto: deceive, manipulate and brainwash!

      August 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • YeahRight

      Being gay isn't a choice moron. Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      August 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • SitOnThis

      Yeah, right. sure, and SigmundFreud, after all, was never wrong either. You cna alwasy trust psychologiists because they are "sceintists" after all. What a joke!

      August 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Erik

      "You cna alwasy trust psychologiists because they are "sceintists" after all. What a joke!"

      All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.

      The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.

      On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"

      The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.

      Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).

      There are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • SitOnThis

      Eric, we have two headed snakes too. It happens in nature, doesn't mean it's all good. Every factory has their rejects.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Robert

      "Eric, we have two headed snakes too. It happens in nature, doesn't mean it's all good. Every factory has their rejects."

      You're a perfect example of a reject of our society.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  20. JJ (Johnson and Johnson)

    Islam is not only dangerous for killing gays but also is allowing pedophile being practiced. In fact mohammed their prophet also was pedophile since he has married 7 years old girl...YES, muhammed married the elementary girl...here is the proof from wiki: Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad.[11][15][16] Traditional sources state that she stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine when the marriage was consummated with Muhammad, then 53, in Medina,[16][17][18][19] with the single exception of al-Tabari, who records that she was ten.[15] Both Aisha and Sawda, his two wives, were given apartments adjoined to the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque

    August 19, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • tucsand

      Its not Islam itself that is dangerous it is the few radicals in it that are dangerous.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • The Guy

      600 AD in the Near East is a very different time and place than 2012 America. You can't retroactively apply the values of your day on to peoples from past times and civilizations; to do so is simply fallacious and shows a complete lack of understanding of human history. Mohammed's marriage practices were the norm for that day; they would look at the things you do and the way you live and consider them outrageous.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:08 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.