Ergun Caner’s Hullabaloo: Why the Church Is Like Rod Blagojevich


Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.

 Vincent de Paul


This is the second part of our series on what we can learn from the Ergun Caner dust-up. The take away lesson from yesterday is this. The biggest mistake, made by those involved in this debacle, was not to address concerns that had been raised for some time regarding Caner. The world is watching for hypocrisy and we, the evangelical church in America, are providing it on a regular basis.

The average American citizen can spot prevarication quite readily. Who can forget Bill Clinton’s answer to a question about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky? The one in which he said, “It depends on what your definition of the word is, is.” I am sure some of the folks at Liberty University had a good laugh over that one. So let’s take a look at their statement about the investigation findings on Caner.


Caner has made “factual statements that are self-contradictory” concerning “dates, names and places of residence.“

This statement has that aroma which reminds one of “Eau de Lawyer.” Instead of saying, “Caner lied,” it appears, at first blush, as if they are saying that he told various versions of the truth. But, tricky, tricky, they are not saying this at all. Let me elaborate.

Have any of you ever helped your kids with their English grammar homework when the task was to define various sentences in the following fashion: statement or fact, question or exclamation? In this instance a fact does not need to be true. So, someone could say, as one Milwaukee county board member, Peggy West, said last week, “Arizona is not a border state like Texas.” On her Facebook page she states she is a student of Mexican history. Arrrghhhhhh!!!!!!! How embarrassing for that city to have such an uneducated person serving in that role! You can listen to that statement at this link.


So, although she is dead wrong, she still made a fact-based statement. Peggy will never live down that assertion but, at the least, we can say that she was poorly educated about geography. One would presume that Caner knows where he grew up. So why would he make self-contradictory “factual” statements? My son knows he was born in Texas and moved to North Carolina when he was 10 years old. If he ever told people that he went to high school in Texas, I would take him to the doctor's office to check his mental status. Unless, of course, he was lying. Then I would need to find out why.

One would think that Liberty would want to find out why Caner lied. Was it for notoriety? Then he was serving himself rather than Jesus. Was it for the money received in speaking engagements? Then, is he in financial trouble or does he just want to live well? Or, perhaps he does he not know why he is lying? Then Liberty University, which supposedly has a great counseling program, should get the man some help.

So, the Liberty University statement is just another ho-hum distortion that one hears day in and day out in our society. Aren’t Christians supposed to live counter culturally? However, Liberty appears to be no different than any other organization that does not adhere to absolute truth. Therefore, it is the opinion of this Christian that Liberty is not acting like a Christian college and students, looking for a cutting edge, sold out Christian university, should look elsewhere.

Now some might say that Liberty is just trying to “protect” its ministry. I often have heard this excuse given by Christian churches and groups when some uncomfortable truth, which was hidden, becomes exposed. This shows an appalling lack of faith in the Lord. Jesus is quite able to protect His church, thank you very much. But, it would appear that Liberty lacks this confidence and that is concerning.


-Christians need to be cognizant that other Christians, even those trained for the ministry, are fallen in nature.

I am amazed at the number of Christians who come to the defense of pastors and church leaders who lie, make way too much money, have affairs, use drugs, etc. I have pondered this phenomenon for some time. Why is it that some Christians cannot accept that their leader has made serious mistakes?


One thought is that this sort of Christian’s identity is tied up in the personality of the preacher instead of being fully absorbed in the personality of Jesus. I believe that many people fear their ability to maintain their faith if their chosen leader falls. So, they can’t let him fall. They then expend untold amounts of energy trying to reconcile their leader du jour’s actions with his stated belief.

This sort of thinking was exemplified recently by Washington Post commentator, Sally Quinn, who made the following statement about the pending divorce of Al and Tipper Gore“…everyone feels as though somehow their own marriages have split up. You know watching the Gores is sort of looking at the possibilities of what a good marriage could be and when it doesn’t work for them you sort of think "oh my God, maybe it’s not possible."


But Sally does not understand the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. God calls ordinary men and women to extraordinary lives and He is the divine Equipper. Do we really believe that we will fail if our leaders fall? Or do we think that our leaders are somehow specially gifted above and beyond the “ordinary” Christian?


Christians, by nature, tend to be trusting. We are commanded to test what is being taught us. We are reminded that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing taking advantage of our kindness and willingness to believe the best.

There is an amusing anecdote about the embattled governor, Rod Blagojevich, in today’s Raleigh News and Observer. Apparently Blogo (as he is known) considered Oprah Winfrey for the vacated Senate seat in Illinois. His chief of staff, John Harris, told him that he thought such a choice would be a big mistake. Harris commented that he was “not sure what she stands for.” Blogo apparently brushed his concern aside and said that she was “obviously a Democrat” and that she had “made Obama.”

How often are we like Blogo when it comes to our leaders? Do we trust and not verify? If a story seems out of the ordinary, do we check it? How many remember the ex-Satanist, Mike Warnke, who regaled Christians with wild stories of his days as the Head Warlock of some nefarious coven? I do and I, like many others, fell for it. He was a liar but made a successful career out of conning the gullible.

Seriously, didn’t Caner’s story about being raised as a jihadist seem a little over the top? Didn’t it seem a little too coincidental that his story about being a former jihadist seemed timed to come to light with the 9/11 attacks? Were we all afraid and looking for reassurance that Jesus would intervene and convert the jihadists? Were we just like the Jews of Jesus’ day, hoping for a miraculous intervention to stop the rise of militant Islam and save us from doom? Do we actually think that Christian leaders are above the fray and will not seek fame and money over truth?


Christians must become less naïve by radically understanding the Bible. We should always be cognizant that men will use the church for their own selfish ambitions. This last decade has seen reports of pastors who are sexual predators, pastors who live in mansions and fly around on private jets and pastors who behave like admirals in rowboats by forcing their “authority” and “special anointing” on an unsuspecting and compliant church. The people of God need to grow up fast and quit mollycoddling men and women who use the church as a self-indulgent playground. We need to follow Christ, not men.


Ergun Caner’s Hullabaloo: Why the Church Is Like Rod Blagojevich — 8 Comments

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    “This statement has that aroma which reminds one of “Eau de Lawyer.”. Instead of saying, “Caner lied,” it appears, at first blush, as if they are saying that he told various versions of the truth. But, tricky, tricky, they are not saying this at all. Let me elaborate”

    I think there IS a legal side to this. Think of it…if they admitted he lied or even kept him in his job as President, could there be some legal liability considering all his speaking engagements, speaking to the military and book contracts?

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    “I am amazed at the number of Christians who come to the defense of pastors and church leaders who lie, make way too much money, have affairs, use drugs, etc. I have pondered this phenomenon for some time. Why is it that some Christians cannot accept that their leader has made serious mistakes?”

    Also note how many PASTORS come to the defense of other pastors/leaders who are in blatent public sin. It reminds me of doctors who refuse to speak against another doctor. It is as if they admit something is wrong, they are next. I think the defense is out of fear and also the hope that the coattails will bring speaking engagements and book contracts.

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    You may be right. But their fear of this is greater than their “fear of the Lord.” Do they not believe that , if they do the right thing, God will see them through? In fact, this may be part of the plan that God would have for them.

    I was out in the excessive heat today tending to my garden which needed some water and weeding. I notice that my huge tomato plants do better when I get rid of the stems and leaves that are low to the ground. Liberty must prune the vine in order to get healthy growth. Right now, due to my obsessive pruning, I have over 150 tomatoes growing! I am not sure what I am going to do with all of them but I may need to take up canning this year.

    Perhaps if Liberty really believed that God wants them to prune away the things that are sucking the life out of their ministry, God would bless them with a real faith instead of an empty shell with lots of leaves sucking life out of the fruit.

    Hmmm, I think the sun got to me out there today.

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    Once again, they are employing the methods of man. I still remember the pastor from a church that I was trying to join who took the word of our former pastor over our word. He was told we were under discipline which we most definitely were not. We tried to explain the situation to him. he even got a glowing recommendation from another former pastor. He ignored it to side with a pastor who fed him a bunch of hogwash.Yet, this pastor was a member of the AMIA denomination which got its start by standing up against a denomination filled with “leaders gone wrong.”

    The Bible is explicit about not showing favoritism to certain groups of people. Yet pastors do it all the time with one another. The AMIA pastor made a mistake because he is “pastor” biased. I am so grateful that this happened, however. It helps me to understand the nonsense that masquerades as Christianity today and also gives me great empathy for others who have had something similar happen. You could say that this incident provided the passion for this blog. I wonder if they know what role they played in all of this?

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    I do not think that LU would have had liability for lies told by Caner as long as, once they found out, they did not promote him or help him to secure speaking engagements. Until the point they discovered it, they could be considered as having been duped as well, therefore as victims. Of course, if they had done the proper vetting prior to his hiring or advancement, they would have known of the error, and then could be liable.

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    Thanks for your expert input. I would definitely agree with you about the “proper vetting” part. We seem to do more vetting of the volunteers at my kid’s high school than LU did with Caner.

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    You are exactly right! Liberty, as far as we know, had no idea when they hired Caner that he fabricated his background. We believe he did so for notoriety and selfish gain – see

    FINALLY, after being challenged by the mainstream media (and bloggers), they decided to conduct an investigation. Liberty University had the chance to do the right thing before a watching world, and THEY BLEW IT (as far as I’m concerned)!

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    I think this is one reason why they demoted him. It was protection. I cannot say they did NOT know he was embellishing for 9 years. I think his peers in leadership DID know. We know some trustees who knew Caner years before had to know. Maybe not all the details but they know that Butch Caner became Ergun Caner who trained in Jihad.

    Remember, Caner was mentored by Paige Patterson. And kept those relationships. Patterson most likely got him his job at Liberty. Plenty of SBC leaders have been trustees of Liberty in the past.

    I think he was even encouraged in this after 9/11 by certain the ‘baptists’ token Muslim. And I think he was marketed like soap and went right along with it.

    Someone will need to tell me how the president of a seminary who is known very well by many leaders can get by with these lies for 9 years without support considering how many churches/stages he spoke on and books he wrote.

    Caner had support, folks. But even still, he has to take full responsibility for his actions.