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. 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 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.


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

    August 19, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • G. Zeus Kreiszchte

      Jeezus, quit SPAMMING! You're as brainwashed as the brainwashed Muzzies!

      August 19, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Kip Thomas

      But you really need to look out for all those atheists who wan to rule and take over! Sheer chaos if they get their hands on things. Am I right?

      August 19, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Atheists act against their own reason which convinces them of God's existence. They commit intellectual suicide.

      A man who acts against his own reason is not very suitable for a public office (that is only my opinion).

      But according to the tenet of religious freedom some of them may be allowed to hold public offices.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Major Tom

      You sound like an apologetic pedophile priest. I sincerely hope the law catches up with you one of these days and you'll be locked up for good so you'll never have get the chance to touch another child, you filthy sc(_)mbag.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  2. JoJo

    "The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.”

    ― Mark Twain

    August 19, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  3. ed

    "Maybe in 50 years, there will be no surprise when the loudest cheerleaders for Muslim presidential candidates and Supreme Court justices are evangelical Christians."

    Not in my life time and hopefully not in my children's. The religion of HATE and VIOLENCE will NOT rule this country.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Rev. Mulcahey

      Islam is the religion of peace. And if you don't start believing that you will be stoned to death.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  4. Meki60

    muslims eat excrement from pig's butts

    August 19, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Your comment is disgusting. Are you not able to distinguish between Muslim and Islam.

      Yes, Islam is a crap, but this does not allow us to hate the ordinary Muslims.

      Let us love the Muslims but reject their lousy doctrine.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • Ehud B

      Ranier is a Neo-Nazi Christian, so I doubt we need to listen anything he will ever say....

      August 19, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  5. JoJo


    August 19, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  6. Rainer Braendlein

    “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.

    Well said, but the doctrine of the Anabaptists is even worse than the Catholic doctrine because they deny the one holy sacramental baptism.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  7. TheBob

    Muslims will never be liked by Americans in general. They may be tolerated, sometimes. But they'll never be liked. And that's because Muslims have earned the image and reputation they have. Every bit of it.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Meki60

      I agree

      August 19, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Prufert

      I also agree.
      There may be some nice Muslims who ignore everything about their religion in order to be nice to non-believers, but they are rare.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Huh

      I'm your Muslim here. I served in the military, am college educated, have never been arrested. I'm sure you wouldn't say such ridiculous hateful things to my face. I'm often the only Muslim most Americans get to know personally. They say "But YOU'RE Okay". ACTUALLY I am just like every other member of my family, and every other Muslim I know. No one in my family has been arrested, has a substance problem or even filed bankruptcy. Each one of us has a college degree at the appropriate age, we aren't even obese!
      Sadly that is all they ever see me as, the Muslim, like some exotic vase placed on display. It's as if Americans don't realize nor accept that someone doesn't share their precise ethnic and religious label.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Prufert

      I couldn't care less what you've done as an individual when your religion is one of hate and violence.
      Maybe you think that pretending to be nice and lying to people is okay because the Quran says to lie.
      But in the end you will find that Islam is a lie and you can only co-exist with non-Muslims as long as you ignore your religion.
      No Muslim should be allowed to serve in our military or even live here no matter how nice you might be at the moment, because all it takes for you to become a threat is for you to have a religious excuse to ignore our laws and do something bad that your religious leaders tell you to do.
      Islam is a lie. It is not a religion of peace, not a religion of tolerance, and not a religion that deserves any respect.

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

      @Huh: either you believe in Islam, the Quran and the Hadith, or you don't. If you don't make a concerted effort to convert people to Islam, peacefully or by force, and slaughter them if they refuse to convert, as you've been ordered by your prophet, then you CANNOT call yourself Muslim. If you don't consider a woman to have half the value of a man in every social situation, then you're not a Muslim. You're just auditing. You're picking and choosing and treating Islam not as a religion but as a tradition. If you don't practice Islam, you are NOT a Muslim. You're a wannabe, and that's even more disgusting and being an outright Muslim.

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

      American Muslims are justifiably quiet about Muslim torrorists. If they voice opposition they themselves can become targets from their fellow Muslims who are terorists. But I see no problem with Muslims being elected to Congress, oven the presidency, so long as they have not murdered their daughter or daughters because they became to Westernized.

      August 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  8. One one

    Perhaps the Muslims and Christians should hold a summit meeting to sort out which is the one true religion and god.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • Major Tom

      Make it a cage match and I'll pay good money to see it.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • AGuest9

      Or, at least to give up the "Kill the invader"/"Kill the infidel" nonsense.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • ed

      WHY? It's a fact: islam came AFTER Christianity. islam condones and encourages violence, hate and abuse of women. NO other religion does that. Argument settled.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Prufert

      Judaism and Christianity are both women-hating religions you idiot.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • AGuest9

      Oh, wait. That's right. The Crusades never happened, including Bush's.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  9. Dan586

    QUESTION: Why do we never see Muslims one these kind of sites posting stupid comments like Christians ?

    100% of comments of hate come from White Christians, not one single comment from a single Muslim speaking of hate towards anyone on these sites. BUT all these sites have 1000 and 1000 and 1000 of Christians spewing hate non-stop

    August 19, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • AGuest9

      How many white christians walk into a supermarket with 15 pounds of C-4 strapped to them?

      August 19, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Meki60

      but the commentors are not beheading non-believers, muslims are garbage

      August 19, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • ed

      Maybe because after 100's of years Christians are FED UP with turning the other cheek. Maybe we aren't going to sit by quietly and be exterminated.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • TheBob

      They're not up yet. Give it a couple of hours and they'll be all over this blog like flies on crap.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  10. Kip Thomas

    I'm hoping one day that there will be no religion in politics and that being part of a religious denomination is the same as a being definitively biased. Does not each monotheistic religion hold that all others must be false by definition? There simply can be no philosophical resolution and logic must be suspended by such followers.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  11. Pete Clarke

    Religion is a business, the leaders get rich and they prey on the poor. Learn to rely on yourselves love your fellow man and show respect to those come in contact with. As for Muslims I wonder if there are true American Muslims or just Muslims living in America.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  12. littleshovel

    Conservatives and evangelicals just need an enemy. When you see the entire world through "black vs. white, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong," the equation doesn't make sense unless there's someone to aim your gun at.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  13. athiest

    In a few hundred years, all religions will fall by the waste side, belief – science and humanism will take over and the believers will be a lunatic fringe. The human race will progress faster than ever before. The sooner people realize that god does not exist the better off we will all be. Basing you life on a bunch of fair tales, for which there is not a single stand of evidence, is called ignorance.

    2 questions for my people of the book?
    1. How can the Devil be evil, if he is punishing sinners, wouldn't that make him good since he is doing gods work?
    2. If you are god, and can do anything. Who cares if you "sacrifice" you son, you know you can come back from the dead, it's not a sacrifice at all. lollolollolololol

    August 19, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Timetraveler

      Amen brother.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • ed

      3. If God put 2 of every living thing on the Ark, Where did Noah keep the whales?
      4. Why didn't Noah step on those 2 roaches when he had the chance?
      5. When Cain was force to leave Edan why did he tell God is was afraid other people would hurt him? What other people?
      6. Why do we never talk about the first woman, the one BEFORE Eve?

      The Bible was written by man and therefore is flawed.

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

      When Jesus was dying on the cross He could not see through the portals of the tomb...he died the second death. Before that, in Gethsemane, jesus got a good glimpse of what was before him, what sin (he never sinned, but He took on the sin of mankind) would finally cost every non-repentant individual, and it caused a sweat...of blood.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  14. zeigfeldf

    Evangelicals are ig nor ant big ots. The reason they didn't like Catholics wasn't so much the religion, but prejudice against the people who were Catholics, that is, not entirely white people like Irish, Italian, Polish...

    Today they have the same problem with Muslims. They think that all Muslims are alike, that there is one "Muslim religion," and know that Muslims aren't quite white and have foreign-sounding names.

    Evangelicals getting used to Muslims? Not going to happen anytime soon.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • AGuest9

      Eventually, evangelicals will only have other evangelicals to hate.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Bibletruth

      Nothing could be further from the truth. The antagonism between Catholics and protestants was not that "Luther, et al" were bulls in a china shop and just didnt get along with the Catholic hierarchy. It was this:

      Catholicism: you do such and such because we who are over you say so.
      Protestantism: you do such and such because the word of God (bible ) says so

      And the two are poles apart...bible religion and Roman Catholicism are two opposite things.

      August 19, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  15. steve

    the muslim dont love anny one grow up the quran and ahadish say that

    August 19, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  16. Adam

    Catholics are misguided and splintered.
    Muslims are dangerous and ruthless and need to be contained.
    We will NEVER have a believer of a pig faced allah at the helm of the U.S.A

    August 19, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • mike g

      Where does that leave you. If you are very religious, I'll tell you where it leaves you...IN THE SAME BOAT.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • VJ CHak

      NO WAYYYY..Muslim VP here in US.....What are you thinking Ms. Patel. We are not sit here and watch some muslim win a VP election and turn this nation into a Saudi Arabia or a Pakistan. Just for example, Look at England. Pakis (Musims) got the opportunity to take over government jobs and they in turn end up treating that country with a sharia law. Only muslims are real people and other religions are Infidels...SO AGAIN NO WAYYYY>>>>...In fact, push them out all from this country.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  17. panorain

    Think there is a good chance that over the next fifty years or so that a good portion of Muslims in both Europe and America will become more tolerant of infidels and less desirous of imposing Sharia law on both their own and on the Kaffir. In addition we may see less murder for the sake of imposing terror-based will. Hopefully that will happen in many of our lifetimes and the current pervasive pattern of ongoing jihad against infidels will become a distant memory.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Prufert

      Not gonna happen.
      Muslims are told to lie about anything if it will serve the cause...and they do.
      Catholics do the same thing, but using different methods.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • VJ CHak

      There is no way, these fundamental brain washed Muslims will ever change. If history taught us some thing, then it is that Muslims are guided by their holy quran which propagates that their religion is better than others. So no they are not going to change unless someone burns their quran and re-writes it to be more tolerable. Untull these fascists will remain the same.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  18. mike g

    What a load! This CNN religion blog (and all others) makes me sick. Whole lotta fake things being talked about here.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:47 am |
  19. Lobelia

    "Just 50 years ago, evangelicals were ringing the alarm about the rising prominence of Catholics in American politics, not falling in line behind them."

    Sorry, but I don't buy the parallel between the last 50 years of evangelical-Catholic relations and a next 50 of evangelical-Muslim relations. Evangelicals may have observed Catholics rising in politics 50 years ago, but they did not observe Catholics committing acts of mass murder (or attempted mass murder in some instances).

    August 19, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Mei

      I agree. You can not compare society outlook on Catholics and the history of Islam in the world. Islam is particularly known NOT to separate government from its strict religious views. This would be completely contrary to America which values freedom of religion.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Prufert

      I agree. The author is deliberately using false equivalencies to try and make it look like Muslims are just like Catholics and should be treated the same.
      Mr. Patel should give up his delusional religion of hate and try to join the rest of the human race instead of trying to convince us that the most hateful and violent religion is one of peace and love. Islam is a lie and is filled with hate and violence...but then so is Christianity, Judaism, and any other religion predicated upon falsehoods and supernatural nonsense.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • DiedrichKyrian

      Lobelia. I will disagree. Northern Ireland with the IRA. It was VERY much Protestants vs Catholics and there was a *lot* of killing on both sides. Please remember our history.

      August 19, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  20. leannegoff611

    Over the past year I have been blessed to have crossed paths with a Muslim family from Kuwait. I am a single mother who goes to a Christian church (Flatirons in Lafayette CO). My family lives in another state. The Muslim family moved to our area for the year. Both of us opened our hearts and our minds to one another. My understanding of the culture has blossomed and I hope that I have helped them feel more established in our community, too. The Kuwaiti's have become an extended family for my daughter and in a way that has changed our lives and hearts forever. They are incredibly kind. Every interaction is an opportunity to share kindness and joy. I have also enjoyed exploring the similarities and differences of our religions, learning about their customs and holidays and sharing in their meals.

    Remarkably, around the same time I met a soldier who has been stationed in Afghanistan for the past 7 years. He has told me what he has seen, and it is terrifying. Through the stories from the soldier I have seen a glimpse into the lives of the Afghan people, and it seems terrible. Their culture has been degraded by war (starting with the Russians). Poverty has made people desperate and lives are falling apart. If there is anything we can do to help them re-establish the civility of their culture, I support it. I support the efforts of our government to help them establish a peaceful, prosperous culture. In fact, my church has a mission in Afghanistan where we give homes, water and education to the most desperate people, mostly women or orphans. It warms my heart to see photos of their smiling faces when I go to church.

    Now the time has come where my friends from Kuwait will move to California. I had hoped they would stay for another few years in our community, but life evolves and they must move on with it. My daughter and I are already looking forward to visiting them, but my heart also feels heavy knowing they will not be a part of our daily lives. I was never a prejudice person before – but I was ignorant to the lives of Muslim people. I feel like I now have a deeper understanding of Muslim culture and family values. I am sorry that I will not have more time to explore the lives and hearts of my Muslim friends as we have done in the past year.

    August 19, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Mei

      That is all wonderful but has no relation to the story–except to show that yes, some Muslims are nice people. IT does not mean they would want to enforce their beliefs on the rest of America if they ever came into political power. Not that "they" would but there are many Muslims who will not separate American ideals from their Islamic ideals–which does not recognize other religions.

      August 19, 2012 at 9:55 am |
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