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Ergun Caner in Bristol

Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary professor Ergun Caner put in an appearance at a prayer breakfast in Bristol, VA on Friday morning, and managed to make the local paper [link]. Bristol straddles the Virginia/Tennessee line, and the combined city had about 40,000 people in the 2000 census. Perhaps the prayer breakfast scene there is livelier than it is here in Santa Fe, but 500 people turning out on a Friday morning in a town that size sounds huge to me; a proportional crowd would be about 900 here. The quantity of percolated coffee alone required to power a prayer breakfast that size boggles the mind.

The Bristol Herald Courier apparently sent reporter David McGee, who mostly covers motor sports [link]; I am not familiar with Mr McGee’s writing, so I can’t say for sure whether the article is a hash because of Caner or because of McGee, or even because of some uncredited stringer. I get the impression that Caner is casting the controversy surrounding him as honest mistakes that were blown out of proportion by malevolent third parties, for which he has apologized but not yet set the record straight.

“The school said, ‘What do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘Fine, investigate me.’ But the controversy alone, you pay the price for the controversy. You pay the price for the attention and the bad publicity,” Caner said. “Every pastor in America, ask them if you can go through 200-odd hours of your sermons. Would they find where you said your kids names wrong or dates wrong? Yeah of course. You just smile and move on.”

This is a great quote for several reasons: one because if I understand correctly Caner is saying he was given a choice as to whether they would investigate him or not. I wonder what his other choice was. Two, because 200 hours is a vast amount of pulpit time; if a pastor spends a half-hour speaking twice a week (Sunday morning and Sunday night, or Sunday morning and Wednesday night; churches where the pastor delivers three different full sermons a week are sadly rare these days), fifty weeks a year, that’s two full years of sermons. For most pastors that would be even more; for my current church that would be four years or more. At Thomas Road it would probably be three or four, given the number of men who man that pulpit in a typical week. Regardless, it’s an interesting number; I’d be interested to see if 200 hours of Caner’s talk s and sermons are available online, and whether his misstatements fit the example he’s suggesting here.

“You learn to live with adversity. You learn through adversity. And it takes more than edited videos to knock me down,” Caner said.

This is an interesting quote, too; I’d encourage anyone interested to be sure to track down the unedited versions of videos whenever possible. For example, when I first saw the YouTube video where Caner claims to have been born in Istanbul my first thought was that he must be the victim of a malevolent edit. So when a link to the unedited video [link] turned up I was surprised to find that he said the same thing there too. I will leave it as an exercise for the viewer to decide whether saying “Istanbul” instead of “Sweden” fits the pattern of getting kids’ names wrong.

Born in Sweden to Turkish parents and raised as a Sunni Muslim, Caner converted to Christianity after his family moved to Ohio.

This was the discrepancy that did it for me; this was the thing that convinced me Caner was actually deceiving his audience rather than just misspeaking in the heat of the moment. I’m still waiting to hear some clarification regarding his past in “Islamic youth jihad” and how that happened while he was growing up in Ohio. I haven’t yet seen any evidence that Caner spent any time in Turkey, much less any time in a Turkish militant Islamic youth organization.

I’d be inclined to drop the whole matter if Caner weren’t still doing pretty much the same thing he was doing before he was demoted; the rest of the article makes it clear he was invited to Bristol to talk about Islam, not about apologetics, or cults and sects, or the Crusades, or any of the other myriad things about which he is expert, and about which no questions have been raised regarding his qualifications.

The McGee article was syndicated in the Lynchburg paper [link] under a different title. I’d love to know the last time the Lynchburg paper carried an article on a prayer breakfast at another town in Virginia.

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  1. September 29, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Ergun did not have a choice on whether he was investigated or not. He was investigated due to information Liberty trustees received that showed Ergun to be faking his past and lying about it. This is why he was demoted.

    • October 1, 2010 at 9:56 am

      That’s what’s interesting about the quote above; I had understood that the investigation was something the administration decided to do unilaterally; if I understand the quote above Caner is saying he had a choice whether to be investigated. Which says to me he had some alternative, but he doesn’t say what it was.

      If I look back at the articles in the Lynchburg paper and Christianity Today I don’t see anything to suggest whether he had a choice or not.

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