"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Monday, March 29, 2010

Ergun Caner, 2001 FBC Jax Sermon: "I Was in Islamic Youth Jihad"

******* Update ********

Below is a site up that has documentation as to the timeline of Caner's arrival in the states. Indeed, according to this documentation, Caner did come here at age 4, not at age 15 as he told us...making it impossible to be "raised in Europe" as he told us, and very improbable that he was in the "Islamic Youth Jihad" or that he was "trained to do that which was done on 11 September". See for yourself:


Ergun, those of us at FBC Jax trusted you and believed you. Can you please clarify why it seems you lied to us on November 20, 2001?

One of the most disturbing events as a member at FBC Jax under Mac Brunson was when on a Sunday night in the summer of 2008 Brunson misrepresented the testimony of Sheri Klouda concerning her lawsuit against SWBTS and Paige Patterson. Never before had I heard a preacher in a pulpit in his sermon say something hurtful and untrue about a person - made all the worse in that Klouda was one of his sheep when he was pastor at FBC Dallas.

I blogged about Brunson's Klouda comments that month in 2008, in an attempt to hold him accountable and posted a response from Sheri Klouda herself, just a few days later. It was my hope that Mac Brunson would apologize to his congregation and to Klouda for saying what he did, misrepresenting her testimony about the scriptural validity of her lawsuit.

Unfortunately, this is something that we as Christians need to be on guard for in this day of celebrity preachers. That is preachers who might use the "sacred desk" to harm someone they don't like, to speak half-truths to defend their own actions, or to offer up a personal favor to a friend, to intimidate their critics, or to exaggerate claims about themselves to aid in the creation of their celebrity status - or maybe even to convince people to give money to a certain project. Mega church pastors have quite a bit at stake, and their word is golden amongst their followers, so the temptation is always there. We know that mega church pastors use marketers to help create their "brand", so its not beyond belief that a pastor will be tempted to exaggerate or even outright lie to exert their will. Sad, but true.

For example, I was present at FBC Jax when Darrel Gilyard was unveiled in the late 1980s as the new, great, young black preacher who grew up homeless under a bridge and that God miraculously called into ministry. It was a lie, he never was homeless and never lived under a bridge. But early on, why would Gilyard tell a lie like this to Christians he is preaching to?

The Brunson slap at Klouda, and the Gilyard lie about his background, caused me to be a bit concerned when earlier this year I learned that there was some controversy on the Internet brewing over some of Ergun Caner's stories about his background as a "former devout Muslim". A Muslim named "Mohammad" has a website and a series of YouTube videos where he presents evidence of Caner's contradictions - which include his place of birth, debates he has had, and even supposed "jibberish" Caner has uttered during sermons. Also, James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries has written about Caner's inconsistencies (including Caner's claims of debating Shabir Ally), as has Debbie Kaufman at her blog.

This had me intrigued. Being an FBC Jax member in 2001 when Caner first came to FBC Jax to preach, recently I decided to go back and listen again to the sermon delivered to FBC Jax by Ergun Caner on November 20, 2001. I was there for that service, with my family. This was the introduction of Caner to the SBC "big time" - it was after 9/11, and Jerry Vines brought Caner in as an expert of sorts, the former Muslim who could speak to us about Islam as we were still shell-shocked from the events of 9/11.

Sad to say, after listening to Caner's sermon, there are more contradictions. Caner has some explaining to do to the good people of FBC Jax.

Caner made this claim in the sermon that day:


"May I submit to you, until I was 15 years old, I was in the Islamic Youth Jihad. And so until I came to America, until I found Jesus Christ as Lord, I was trained to do that which was done on 11 September."

video


Wow. So Caner was "trained" to be a terrorist? He was in the youth jihadist movement? This is strange. Earlier in the sermon he said he was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and "raised in Europe". That, together with the above, would lead listeners to think the first fifteen years of his life he was training to be a terrorist overseas, in some sort of militant Islamic youth camp, until he came to America at age 15.

But there's a problem with that.

In Caner's book, "Unveiling Islam", co-authored with his brother Emir, they write, speaking of their parents:


"After falling in love, getting married, and having their first two sons, Ergun and Erdem, in Stockholm, Father and Mother moved to America, the land of opportunity. Emir was born after we arrived in Ohio."

Did you catch that? They moved to America, THEN Emir was born. But Emir was born in August 1970, so some time prior to that, was when Caner emigrated from Sweden.

As best I can tell, Ergun was born in 1966. That would mean Ergun was 4 years old when he came to America. But Ergun told FBC Jax members he was "raised in Europe" (while rolling his r's and sounding as though he has some middle eastern dialect).

If he was 4 years old when he moved to Columbus, Ohio, how was he in the "Islamic Youth Jihad"? Where was he receiving this "training" to do a 9/11 style attack? Is he claiming that the mosque his father took him to was training young boys to be terrorists? I don't get it. But I can tell you, I was there with my family that day, and hearing this sermon again reminded me that indeed - when Caner came, I thought we had just heard a former Islamic terrorist based on his story. That was the intended portrait that Caner painted of himself that day to a packed house at FBC Jacksonville.

Its interesting that even his bio at the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary Website says: "Ergun was born in Stockholm, Sweden to Turkish parents and in 1979 immigrated to the United States with his parents, grandmother, and two brothers."

So when did he come? I tend to believe the book that he coauthored with his brother would be the more reliable, truthful source. So why does his bio say he didn't arrive until 1979, but his book implies he came at age 4?

Another issue to be explained: in the FBC Jax sermon, he makes the following claim, speaking of the friend that led him to Christ:


"...He didn't care that I spoke a different language and that my English was poor. He didn't care the fact that I looked differently or sounded differently or ate different foods than him...they didn't look at me because I was different....they didn't call me 'towel head' or 'sand nigger'. That's what I got outside the church."

That's strange. Assuming his book is true and he came to the states when he was 4, how would his English be "poor", some 12 years after he came to the states? He says he spoke a "different language"? What different language did he speak, if he grew up in Ohio since the age of 4? I grew up in Indiana, just a few hours away from Columbus, and I'm pretty sure the primary language we spoke in the Midwest was English. And why would he be called a "sand nigger"? By his own admission he was born in Sweden and moved to Ohio. What sand did he come from?

Look, I like Ergun Caner. He is a gifted speaker and Christian apologist. I like to listen to his sermons. He no doubt has a great ministry at Liberty with youth, and I mean him no harm with this post. But he really needs to explain these contradictions, and stop with the exaggerations about his past. Those in authority over him need to hold him accountable in this regard. What a great example he would be to other preachers if he would be totally honest and transparent about these exaggerations.


James White says about Caner: "I believe Ergun Caner has a very bad habit of "padding the truth" as he speaks. He gets into the moment and, to add weight, or gravitas, to his presentation, makes claims that are simply untrue."

Let me close with a similar, secular example from my days in Gainesville, Florida:

This whole matter reminds me of a very talented police chief in Gainesville, Florida in the 1980's and 1990's. His name was Waylon Clifton, and he was very much loved my most of Gainesville. He was tough on crime in a very liberal-minded community and most people liked the job he did in protecting us. He was handsome, and had the "Sylvester Stallone" look about him. He was our police chief during the Gainesville murders in 1990, one of the most frightening periods in my life. Clifton was destined for greater things politically, perhaps as the sheriff of Alachua County, and he even toyed with the thought of running for an elected political office.

But Clifton had a serious character flaw that did him in. Most every time he spoke to groups, he talked about his days playing football at the University of Alabama under Bear Bryant. But when someone bothered to do a little bit of research, they found he never, ever played football for Bear Bryant. It was all made up. He spoke of it often, in great detail, but it was all a figment of his imagination - a story made up to embellish his past, to make him seem even more wonderful than he was.

When Clifton learned this was going to present a problem for him, instead of apologizing and coming clean, he doctored an old news article in an attempt to make up proof that he did play at Alabama. He resigned soon after, and I never heard what happened to him after he left Gainesville.


So I hope that Caner does explain these apparent contradictions about his past. They are not insurmountable. He just needs to explain them, apologize if he stretched the truth, and move on. He apologized recently for some hurtful words spoken about Jerry Rankin, so we know he has it in him.


And I hope his supporters don't come here to attack me like they have done to Mohammad and Debbie Kaufman. But I am expecting the worst in that regard.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have not followed this closely, and am no expert on the facts. But it appears to be a very sad situation.

I am sure that his coming to Christ and all that God has done in his life is exciting. It does not need embellishment.

Maybe, with time, this thing will all get settled out.

Louis

Anonymous said...

Louis, I could not agree more. He spoke in Dallas the Sunday Night after 9-11 I believe but we too were so shell shocked I did not listen for the details.

I heard Gillyard at a church in Dallas back in the mid 80's and spotted his crapolo right off. Within 5 minutes he went from honor student to barely graduating. As I often tell my kids, the hardest thing about lying is they grow and become difficult to keep up with, especially when they contradict the truth. No one has to keep up when they are just honest. Louis is right, his story would not need embellishment.

Anonymous said...

I remember this poem from my youth:
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
when first we practice to deceive."

Satan is the father of lies and he works to stumble God's own - especially those who have the speaking ministries. Integrity is of the utmost importance for these men/women because they have a strong influence on so many. Both arrogancy (pride) and insecurity
(fear) can cause one to embellish the facts. However, the fear of the Lord is a strong deterent to any sin. Once a person becomes popular and in-demand, the temptation is to rely more on one's on strengths and talents rather than on the Lord. And God will not allow another to steal His glory. He will eventually pull down their ministry if they don't repent and tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Anonymous said...

All men are liars according to the Bible. But, one of the biggest lies is when a man (any man) calls himself to a ministry instead of God calling him.

Former FBC Insider said...

I too was in this service when Ergun Caner spoke. I too came away with the same impression, that we just heard from a former Muslim who could speak to us about Islam. It was hair-raising to hear him say he was trained in the Islamic Youth Jihad until the age of 15, trained to do what was done on
9-11. His 'timeline' has always puzzled me. I guess that's because, like most people, I really wanted to believe him.

No doubt he is a great story-teller. He would also make a great stand-up comedian. He usually goes for a good laugh. He is very entertaining. But are these techniques working for him? Are they working for the kingdom? Does it matter if he is not completely honest or transparent? I think those are the questions we all need to ask ourselves. For me, it's just like the Brunson saga, the lack of honesty and lack of transparency wipes out all the rest of his story. It cancels whatever his main point might be, because if I can't trust what you're telling me, then I just can't trust what you're telling me.
Period.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Louis - I agree with you.

In all three cases I cited: Brunson's comments about Klouda, Gilyard's story about living under a bridge, and Caner's tale of being trained to be a terrorist - all gratuitous and unnecessary.

Brunson's comments about Klouda, EVEN IF TRUE (which they were not), would not have helped Brunson make his point that lawsuits between believers are wrong. Gilyard WAS a great orator and didn't need to embellish, and Caner's conversion is remarkable without adding anything to the true story.

Motives? We don't know motives. But Gilyard was able to turn his sensational story of living under a bridge into a scholarship to seminary and speaking gigs at Falwell's church and FBC Jax. Caner, after 9/11 went on to author many, many books about Islam, and has risen to the head of Liberty's seminary.

Perhaps we Christians who are looking for the next great story, the next "celebrity" who can spin a good yarn, are partially to blame, as we are obviously looking for these kinds of stories, and we reward these guys with the big book deals and the celebrity status.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when new pastors get started they exaggerate in order to give a false idea of who they are, where they came from, and how and what a great conversion they have made. They do this because they really are no different from the ordinary Christian who gets converted but they desire to have a "Damascus Road conversion". For some reason they believe their ordinary conversion will not be so extraordinary and therefore, the ideas that they want to portray themselves is "embellished". It eventually does come out that they have not had the Damascus Road conversion or that they were an Army Ranger, Navy Seal, world class boxer, or whatever. What good does it do to make up some of this mush especially when one is in a pulpit. Does their ego need stroking? Do they intend on impressing those ignorant of their real personality. Seems to be a real problem that will haunt them throughout their ministry if they fail to confess it and go forward. The real truth is, when anyone is saved it is the greatest miracle that can happen to mankind. God reaches down to man to save sinful man. What can be more of a miracle than that?

Debbie Kaufman said...

watchdog: Bingo. We shoot them to fame. We idolize them. We do. We look the other way when things don't look or sound right because of who a person is. But...we are to be different than the world. Forgiving yes. But is it forgiving someone when we allow them to continue in these lies. We hurt the very cause of Christ when we allow things like this to go on. It leads to corruption. It has here. I can't look the other way anymore. I won't. And I'm glad you aren't either.

Debbie Kaufman said...

All men are liars according to the Bible. But, one of the biggest lies is when a man (any man) calls himself to a ministry instead of God calling him.

Very good point. Very good.

Cheezewhizchurch said...

It reminds me of a story in the Wall Street Journal by Phil Kuntz called "Wipe Out: It seems everyone wants credit for the 1963 surf classic." Kuntz writes how a radio talk show host, a Nevada politician and a host of others all falsely claim that they were part of the original Surfaris, the band that did "Wipe Out," or how they did the laugh in the song. Fascinating phenomenon, but sad when Christian speakers do it. I think you're right, WD. Christian celebrity groupies share the blame.

Alan said...

Someone did some research that is very interesting.

http://blog.witnessesuntome.com/2010/03/ergun-caners-secret-biography.html

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of "fit in or stand out". A lot of ministers want to fit in. Some just stand out. Paul stood out and by telling the truth always, it cost him his life. Jesus who was TRUTH never veered from his objective and He too paid the price for our sin.

There are a lot of those who want to fit in. They really believe one way, but, compromise their convictions to "fit in". Some, that don't "fit in", especially with the preacher, get "thrown out".

I'm glad we had men like Patton, Mitchell and MacArthur who stood out.

Lydia said...

Why?

Because it sells. Books, conference gigs, promotions, etc.

That is why.

BTW: As it stands, the Liberty Board is standing behind Caner even though he has NOT addressed all the conflicting information HE has given out over the years.

Is anyone surprised? I would hurt recruitment.

But you know what? The reformed guys are no better. Are they seriously putting CJ Mahaney forward as a credible person? The guy is a long time cult leader looking for doctrinal acceptance from the big reformed guys.

Is anyone surprised

Lydia said...

http://blog.witnessesuntome.com/2010/03/ergun-caners-secret-biography.html

March 30, 2010 11:41 AM

Great link. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Like the Pope and the Catholic church; and like Tom Messer and Trinity; these men and their ministries continue to be hurt, not by what priests or Bob Gray did years ago (molest innocent children in their care), but by their own continuing to this day to refuse to admit their cover-up and their own refusal to apologize to the community. So too is Liberty University hurt by their silence on this Caner embellishment.

I don't care so much about the Pope, Caner or Gray. I DO care about Messer and Falwell.

When will they step up? Or are they afraid business will be hurt if they show integrity? Let's watch and see. I am guessing Jonathan Falwell will clean this up.

Anonymous said...

WD - you need to lighten up. Remember, Mac is a pick-up driving, Krispy Kreme eating, good old boy from Texas. Yee haw!

Anonymous said...

Just read the article linked to and its links to documents. So Ergun Michael is carrying a concealed weapon while he is up there telling us how God protects him and how we must trust in God?

Trust in God for protection you gullible sheep. But I will be packing loaded heat just in case.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. :)

Anonymous said...

"I am guessing Jonathan Falwell will clean this up."

Guess again. More like clean it up with spin.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

I would hope he carries some "heat"...these days any man with a wife and kids should be packing, in my humble opinion...but that is another topic.

Yes, Ergun Michael Caner.

Also:

Geraldo Rivera = Jerry Rivers.

Geraldo Rivera sounds much better.

Anonymous said...

And Al Gore invented the Internet!....sheesh

Anonymous said...

In this Internet age, it's easy enough to fact check any speaker's remarks for accuracy.

I just never thought we would see the day when we would have to check what our "Pastors" said !

Drs. Lindsay and Vines always said we should read the Bible for ourselves, although as Watchdog has mentioned, we always trusted what they said. Unfortunately this is no longer the case with our paid, professional, Christian speakers.

I love what so many have said on this blog....

The Internet....The Great Equalizer

Mohammad said...

Hi,

good post:)

If you have any questions you want to ask regarding certain Islamic issues, feel free to contact me via the contact page on fakeexmuslims.com :)

Mohammad said...

that's certain Islamic issues/lies expressed by Ergun Caner by the way ;)

Anonymous said...

So, he told us at church one Wednesday night in Dallas that he is always checked out carefully at the airport because of the way he looks and the name on his passport....a name he repeated to us, multi-syllables, Arab sounding. If the name on his passport is really Ergan Michael Caner, then that's another lie. But since it was on a Wednesday night, and those were not being taped, there is no proof.

Anonymous said...

BUSTED!!! There are "embellishments" and then there is flat-out lying.

Anonymous said...

BUSTED!!! There are "embellishments" and then there is flat-out lying.

debbiekaufman said...

Lydia: In answer to your comment on CJ Mahaney. Personally I do not read him nor know about him. But if he is doing what I believe is obvious by now what Ergun has done, the same result should happen with him too. We as Christians need to demand honesty and integrity. We need to put Christ as the focus and not celebrity anybody. There should be no celebrities in the body of Christ. In Christ we are all equal. It should be that way in our denomination and including among the Reformed.

Anonymous said...

I knew it was a matter of time.

Harvester said...

I am an SBC pastor. I have read some of your work as well as the Bellview Watchdog, and I just want to say that I am truly sorry that you have been treated as badly as you have. The arrogance that I am seeing more and more in the pulpit is not only disgraceful; it is wholly ungodly. I know of Brunson. I know Gaines a little better. If Brunson is anything like Gaines, just find another church. Find a pastor that will love you. Find one that isn't angry, arrogant, and feels that his church is blessed that he is there. Again, I don't know you, I just know that I truly hurt for those who have been run over by the bully pastors that are numerous today.

God bless you my friend, and I truly pray that He will.

Also, I have no desire to be a part of your blog or my words be seen by any other. I just wanted you to know that you are valuable and loved and that there are pastors who would love to have you as a part of the church they pastor. Again, God bless you.

Anonymous said...

The Liberty U site has his bio up. According to that bio Ergun came to America in 1979. That would make him 13 years old. So was he 1) less than 4, 2) 13, or 3) 15.

Scott Coleson said...

Lydia, Dr. Caner has addressed this whole issue back in February and it was recorded in the SBC Daily. Here is the link:

http://sbctoday.com/2010/02/25/statement-from-dr-ergun-caner/

mathew said...

The only part of your post that you have to realize that if he grew up in Europe he could have grown up on the European side of Turkey.

Thanks,

Mathew