This I hope is the last word I will have on the Ergun Caner issue.
Below I have posted the entire sermon preached at FBC Jacksonville on November 20, 2001, just a few short months after 9/11 [update - sermon has been removed]. I am doing this so that people can hear his comments in their full context and judge for themselves the level of truthfulness Caner displayed in his first big SBC speaking gig. This was the coming out party of sorts for Caner. Preaching to 9000+ with Vines over his right shoulder amening and nodding - Caner painted a portrait of himself that was much less than truthful.
You will note the following in the sermon:
1. He claims to have been "born in Europe"...note the pronunciation with the rolling r, to make it sound as though he has a Middle Eastern dialect. Hear his pronunciation of "America" - again, a Middle Eastern dialect.
2. He claims that until the age of 15, he was in "Islamic Youth Jihad" - his explanation leads the listener to conclude that this was youth jihad movement was outside of the U.S., since he was "raised in Europe"...leading us to think he was in the Islamic youth training camps that we were only becoming aware of at that time after 9/11.
3. He claims to have been "..trained to do that which was done on 11 September". Again, the listener would conclude (I know, because I was an original listener, I was THERE when he preached it) that this was done in Europe, possibly in an Islamic youth terrorist training camp. Yes, we thought we were listening to an ex-Jihadist, terrorist-in-training.
4. These are not just minor mistatements or stumbles that Caner referred to in his apology issued a few weeks ago. This was, I believe, a deliberate attempt to make the folks at FBC Jax think Caner was something he was not.
Why would Caner do this? What did he stand to gain? Well, I don't know his motives, but he certainly had much to gain to paint himself as the ultimate expert on Islam right after 9/11. In so many words he led 9000 people that day to believe that he was a trained Jihadist terrorist.
But this is not what public documents show to be the truth. Caner was never trained in any Islamic Youth Jihad movement in Europe, trained to do terrorist activities. Public documents show he moved to Columbus, Ohio when he was 4, and never left the country. If he WAS trained as a Jihadist in Columbus, and received 9/11-style terrorst training, he should now explain it.
Now I submit to you:
- if this was Barrack Obama who was found to be fibbing about his past, the same guys defending Caner now would have been using that to discredit Obama as a serious politician, someone who can't be trusted if he would go so far as to grossly exaggerate and misrepresent his credentials. And if anybody needed to pad their resume, it was Obama for sure.
- if this were Wade Burleson, found to be fibbing about his educational credentials, or preaching that he was a youth missionary somewhere to boost his credentials to speak on IMB matters...the same cast of characters: Hobbs and Volfan and Guthrie and the SBC Today Bunch and many other Pattersonites - would use this to discredit Burleson. You know it, I know it, and the SBC lay people know it.
- if this was the Liberty University football coach, that lied on his resume about a degree he didn't earn, or that he held a job in the past that he didn't hold, I believe Liberty would fire him. George O'Leary was fired at the Notre Dame head coach before he ever coached his first game...because of one line on his resume that was not true. Catholic school...fired the football coach for not being totally truthful.
I know this will not in any way, shape or form sway Caner's defenders, especially those who have already defended him by attacking myself, James White, and Debbie Kaufman. But I don't write this blog for pastors. I write it for lay people who are wising up about what is going on in their churches, mostly mega churches. Lay people in growing numbers are getting tired of being used by their pastors. Yes, the people of FBC Jax were used that day. There was a day at FBC Jax when they could believe that a man standing in their pulpit would be totally honest and would not have one hint of deceit in his sermon but that day is long, long gone. Honesty was the norm and what we expected in Caner - after all, he was brought in by Vines himself. We never thought Darrel Gilyard would lie about living under a bridge when he was introduced to us, and we never thought that Ergun Caner would lie about being a jihadist trained in Europe.
Do I want Caner fired? No way. I have always liked Caner and his style of preaching. I have nothing either against Liberty University. But I would like for Caner to apologize publicly to FBC Jacksonville for misleading them about who he was in his important sermon right after 9/11. I know that will never happen, but it would be the right thing for Caner to do. But one thing I do think this will accomplish: perhaps he will stop these exaggerations about his past now that he knows people are listening. And I hope this sends an equally strong message to any other upcoming pastors who desire to hit it big and might be tempted to misrepresent or sensationalize their testimony or background or experience to an unsuspecting church.
I leave you with some advice that Mac Brunson, Caner's good friend and co-author, would likely give to Ergun Caner, staight out of Brunson's guidebook for pastors:
"In the Bible, people in leadership positions were called upon to have higher ethical standards than the other people of God. The pastor should never see how close he can come to the line between what is ethical and unethical, but he should stay as far away from it as possible."