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. Meki60

    muslims are the garbage of all religions

    August 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      You should distinguish between Muslims and Islamic doctrine.

      We should reject the idiotic doctrines of Muhammad but love the Muslims, because they are human beings with full human dignity.

      Of course, Islamic leaders need a more harsh treatment.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Scientology and Mormonism are pretty ridiculous, too. Ah but wait, talking snakes and stopping the sun in the sky are absurd, too! All religions are stupid as $h|+!

      August 19, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  2. Nietodarwin

    ALL RELIGION IS POISON. How can people do basic math and not be able to see this? It's called brainwashing. Muslims, christians, jews, need to shut up, do their weird stuff behind closed doors, and leave government alone. Vomit vomit, if I believed in a god I would pray for him to take all religion away.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  3. BHS

    I'll say one thing for them, they have one heck of a PR campaign going. Buying into their lies will cost us in the end.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • P.E. Kearney

      I agree, Catholics, have not slaughtered innocent people wholesale. Islam is a way of life that has only one objective in their books, and yes it is in their scripture, either convert, kill, or subjugate making "infidels" pay a fee for their life. Every nation in the free world has felt this, and many who are not quite free have also.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Lol


      August 19, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  4. Kanageloa

    When muslim clerics and Imams become suicide bombers then maybe I'll take their religion at value. Who does their dirty work? Young and dumb muslims mostly. Fanatics that have been fed horse dung all their lives. NO, I doubt that I will ever trust a muslim fully. That's based on years of my life spent in the middle east.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Oshkosh

      That is a brainwash from liberal media, are the 9/11 perpetrator were dump Muslims? No they were not? So it doesn't hold any water in your logic. It is the religion of their made is such a way that you can't bring any question against it. So it made the open minded muslim( they may very few !) remain silent. There is no scope to amend this medieval scripture , since it is firmly believed sent by Allah to hallucinating man called Muhammed. Even the Muslim MD's and PhD's is no different!!

      August 20, 2012 at 1:46 am |
  5. Chuck Steak

    Not likely!

    August 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  6. datofa

    NO WAY !
    From all the bad experiences I got; without bias, I especially hate Muslim Iranian ! They are the worst sub-human !

    August 19, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • maryrm

      How is your ignorance and hatred any different than their's?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  7. Mariam

    LoOOol , Chriatians have a problem with Islam and 4 wives??? AND YOUR GOD IS MARRIED TO HOW MANY WOMEN???

    August 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • FluffyBunny

      Um, none at last count...

      August 19, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • William

      Jesus didn't marry. However, he clarified that marriage in God's eyes can only be between one man and one women. In contrast, the self-proclaimed 'prophet' muhammed took many wives from the societies he pillaged and destroyed.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Mariam

      Im taking about all those NUNs who do not marry men because they are " married to god"
      Look at the nuns and then the Muslim women. The cover the same parts of their body. But the Muslim women is portrayed as oppressed while the nuns are seen as humble

      August 19, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Chelle

      William – Jesus likely was married.

      August 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  8. joedog

    Dan586 It must be your friends. Change company after meeting every single Republican in the USA. Farcical!

    August 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  9. .

    Fing socialist liberal CNN. They report. And you decide not to watch.

    How pathetic.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  10. Rainer Braendlein

    "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 after 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.


    August 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • midwest rail

      How very unAmerican of you. Now YOU get to decide who runs for office ? YOU get to decide who the American public votes for ? Why do you hate America ?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      I decide nothing at all. I just want to caution America against the Catholic and Islamic beasts (I mean Catholic clery and Islamic leaders).

      Let us love ordinary Muslims and Catholics. Their leaders should not get too much influence.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • FluffyBunny

      Nice cut-and-paste. Got any thoughts of your own?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Did not

      your Lutheran based master race types, lose?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  11. joedog

    Hopefully, Muslims in the USA will act differently than they do in predominately Muslim countries, where other religions are harassed and made to feel subject to the religious whims and anti-democratic beliefs so prevalent in Islamic states. Believe me, I lived for 10 years in the "moderate" Muslim country of Malaysia, where it has become increasingly difficult to worship as a Christian, Hindu or Buddhist.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Nation of Islam. Home grown.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  12. Beast

    Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, Bill Keller, John Hagee. Is that significant enough for you?

    August 19, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  13. Mariam

    Seriously people, if you wanna learn more about Islam. Study the religion not those who practice it, not the media but sit down and read the Quran. Islam only has ONE book and it is the true revelation of GOD...ONE BOOK.

    I love Jesus but nowhere in the bible does Jesus say " I am god worship me" Paul came 300+ years after Jesus, and wrote the bible. Jesus does not say in his own words to worship him!!!!

    August 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Dan586

      In the Bible Jesus never speaks or writes anything. Its all done by third person 100 years later after his death by white guys

      August 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      You're saying Paul of Tarsus came 300+ years after Jeebus? You are wrong there, however Constantine did.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • William

      You clearly haven't read the Bible, yet you urge us to read your hate-filled book.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Booperguy

      Stop pretending to know the Bible. You don't.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Mariam

      And yet your God was killed by a bunch of Jews on the cross. So now you cherish the cross and wear it around your neck. If Jesus died by electrical chair would you wear an electrical chair around your neck.
      If all the religious scriptures were all thrown into the ocean only the Quran would remain because it was memorized word for word by millions, it won't work for the bible cuz you can't even agree on a complete version.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Mariam, you think you're ONTO SOMETHING with your ONE BOOK, ONE LANGUAGE argument, but it's absurd! You do realize that Islam was just ripped off of Judaism and Christianity, right? And you do realize that Judaism itself was ripped off of pre-existing religions (like from Greece, Egypt, Persia). right? You do know what a TIMELINE is right?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Calm Analysis

      I don't think you know much about the bible. Paul of Tarsus was probably a contemporary of Jesus and wrote 20 or so years after Jesus was put to death. This is upheld by scholars of many stripes. Paul did not write the whole bible, but was the instrumental author of several writings (mainly epistles) in what has come to be known as the New Testament. All the writings of the scripture (inlcuding the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings) predate the Quran by anywhere from several hundred years to several thousand years. There is more manuscript evidence for the Scripture than any other ancient writing. Interestingly, when the so-called New Testament scriptures began to appear, they did not claim to invalidate the inspiration of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings; rather they claimed that these Scriptures were now being fulfilled. Please make sure your claims at least have some basis in fact.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Mariam

      Gospel of John chapter 16 verse 7:

      "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not
      come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you".

      "Ahmed" or "Muhammad" meaning "the one who praises" or "the praised one" is almost the translation of the
      Greek word Periclytos. In the Gospel of John 14:16, 15:26, and 16:7. The word 'Comforter' is used in the English      translation for the Greek word Paracletos which means advocate or a kind friend rather than a comforter.  
      Paracletos is the warped reading for Periclytos. Jesus (pbuh) actually prophesised Ahmed by name. Even the
      Greek word Paraclete refers to the Prophet (pbuh) who is a mercy for all creatures.

      Some Christians say that the Comforter mentioned in these prophecies refers to the Holy Sprit. They fail to realise
      that the prophecy clearly says that only if Jesus (pbuh) departs will the Comforter come. The Bible states that the
      Holy Spirit was already present on earth before and during the time of Jesus (pbuh), in the womb of Elizabeth, and    again when Jesus (pbuh) was being baptised, etc. Hence this prophecy refers to none other than Prophet    
      Muhammad (pbuh).

      August 19, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  14. Dan586

    All Republicans hate Obama because he is 50% black and republicans are very racist people. I have not met a republican voter who is not racist. Start up a conversation with any republican and if you use a few racist words, republican voters do no hesitate to show their true colors

    August 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • EdM

      What are you talking about? you mean like Romney telling Obama to take his angry campaign back to Chicago? .. you might be racist when you believe that was a racist comment.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Dan586

      I am also a complete idiot, which you probably already know.

      Ha ha ha. I'm Dan and I'm an idiot.

      Got a problem with that?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Booperguy

      Stupid, ignorant comment. There is a vast difference between racism and cultural objections. Could you get a highly paying job wearing your oversized jeans below your underwear at an interview?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  15. Lol

    "The dynamic of evangelicals cheering for Catholics is one of the most stunning shifts in American political history."
    Not really..........
    Their bigotry toward Catholics is simply less powerful than their bigotry toward a "colored" man.
    "hate thy neighbor"--the Christian way of life for 2,000 years and counting.
    Jesus sooooooooooo rocks!

    August 19, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  16. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    I am a Muzlim. I will force my women to cover their entire bodies except for a couple of eye slits (kinda like the KKK). I will r-ape these women and then blame it on them to preserve my manly honor. I will then tell others so the town can stone the victim of my lust to death.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  17. R Lanken


    August 19, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  18. R Lanken

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyWldmhg00I&feature=fvwrel This is why many Christians could never "love" muslims.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Dan586

      You're a Republican racist!

      Who cares if they cut people's heads off? Heck, it's not my kid and they're not building a mosque in my town.

      All I really care about is ending capitalism and forcing socialism down your greedy throats, because if that's what it takes for social justice, that's just what we're going to do.

      There. I'm a proud liberal and I said it.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  19. drumbeg

    islam is a gutter religion and a cancer in this country. muslims bring nothing to the table and the sooner the american public learns this, the better our country will be

    August 19, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  20. G. Zeus Kreiszchte

    I am a Muzlim. I take my religious opinions so seriously that I have no sense of humor and I will threaten any cartoonist who dares to draw even so much as a stick figure and call it Moohammed. PBUH! HA HA HA HA HA!

    August 19, 2012 at 9:11 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.