"It matters enormously if I alienate anyone from the truth". –CS Lewis
Yesterday, I read this comment on Tom Rich’s excellent blog -FBC Jax Watchdog.
“I am aware that Mr. Caner addressed some Marines of MAG 29, New River Air Station, North Carolina on the topic of Jihad back in April of 2005. It was part of their required monthly Professional Military Education. There were probably two or three hundred Marines present in the base theater for that class arranged by the unit chaplain. Please tell me we are not still kicking around that five-year old piece of history. If that is the event on the video, be aware that his style of racist and religious humor was not well received by many of those "War Eagles." They possessed way too much integrity to be sucked into his side-show. I am reasonably sure he has made similar appearances to other military units. Perhaps HQMC has given instruction that he is no longer welcome to give similar lectures on any Marine base.”
This comment started a process that I call the Wartburg Tingle and I suddenly remembered why. A couple of years ago, I remember Bill O’Reilly doing a story on Michael Weinstein. Weinsteiin graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1977. He later served 10 years as Judge Advocate General and then as legal counsel for the Reagan White House. In 2005 Weinstein brought suit against the United States Air Force alleging proselytizing by evangelical Christian officers. The case was dismissed.
During the interim, Weinstein formed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and continued to allege that blatant evangelization by evangelical officers was ongoing. He also implied that promotions were predicated on the evangelical faith of the officer. This story was picked up by many news services and there was a response on the part of the military to reassess the situation at the Air Force Academy. However, the story soon disappeared. But Weinstein did not.
According to Wikipedia “On September 17, 2007, Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a Federal lawsuit in Kansas City, KS against the United States Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Major Freddy J. Welborn, accusing the defendants of allowing a "pervasive and pernicious pattern and practice of unconstitutional religious rape of freedoms of our U.S. military. On March 5, 2008, the lawsuit was re-filed in Federal court to include allegations that co-plaintiff Army Specialist Jeremy Hall was denied a promotion due to the filing of the original lawsuit in September 2007".
Here is a link to a fascinating interview by Salon.com with Weinstein who is now alleging that he is receiving “death threats.”
This article also discusses a video allegedly shot by Christians in which officers ,inside the Pentagon, are seen discussing their faith. This video has since been removed from the net. (By the way- word to the wise. Never, ever remove awkward video from the net. It seems suspicious and will only attract more attention. Just ask Ergun Caner and John Ankerberg).
So what?, a reader might believe. He’s just got a thing against Christians. The reader may be right about the “thing” but he should be very cautious in saying, “So what?” Why? Weinstein reportedly has evidence that some of the “jihadists” turned Christian have been invited to “educate” the military on the issue of jihadism and other topics of radical Islam.
Here is another in a series of not-so-startling developments. There are two other supposed former jihadists that have supposedly become Christians like Ergun Caner. And yes, from this point forward, I am using the word “supposed.” I have been stung once too many times by cutesy conversion stories. On June 26, 2010 the following story by Sally Quinn and John Meacham appeared in The Washington Post: “Skeptics challenge life stories offered by high-profile Muslim converts to Christianity”
“Other avowed terrorists-turned-Christians have drawn scrutiny as well, including U.S. citizens Walid Shoebat, author of "Why We Want To Kill You," and Kamal Saleem, who has worked for Focus on the Family and recently wrote "The Blood of Lambs." Like Caner's book, their books purport to be insider explorations of radical Islam.”
In the article, it says that Shoebat claims he was recruited by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and threw a bomb into a bank in Bethlehem. However, there is no report of said bank being bombed. Sheobat has offered conflicting stories on the event. (Great Scott-where have we heard this before)?
Unfortunately, Saleem seems to be cut from a similar cloth. From the article we read “On his Web site, Saleem says he carried out terror missions in Israel, fought with Afghan mujaheddin against the Soviets, and came to the United States hoping to wage jihad against America. He also said once that he was descended from the "grand wazir of Islam," until skeptics pointed out that it was a nonsensical term, akin to calling someone the "governor of Christianity." Apparently his story is somewhat questionable. (Egads! Is there a book somewhere that teaches people how to pretend to be terrorists)?
So what’s the concern? According to the article: “Most worrisome, the critics say, is that the self-styled former terrorists have been welcomed as experts on Islam and terrorism by religious institutions, universities, media outlets, members of Congress and even the military”.
Weinstein has lost no time in jumping on the bandwagon. However, this time he is questioning the possibility of these questionable characters contributing to a national security threat.
"These guys are to real terrorists what a squirt gun is to an AK-47," said Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who brought claims of religious discrimination against the U.S. Air Force Academy. "But this is not a joke. This is a national security threat," he said.”
“Muslims and non-Muslims alike are troubled that these avowed former terrorists have been welcomed as experts. They have appeared on CNN and Fox News and spoken at Harvard Law School. In 2008, they were speakers at a terrorism conference sponsored by the Air Force Academy, the findings of which were to be distributed at the Pentagon and Capitol Hill.
With the United States engaged in combat in the heart of the Islamic world, Weinstein said, Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. military are promoting terrorists-turned-Christians, with potentially deadly consequences”.
Guess what? Mikey (as he is known) may be right. We know that Caner is a fraud. It appears there are serious questions about both Saleem and Shoebat. If they have been lecturing the military about jihadism, then they have been lecturing about a subject with which they may know very little. Caner grew up in Ohio, for goodness sake! And, if he and the others did lecture the military on this issue, they are guilty of deliberate misinformation. That could (or should) be a crime. If the military took them at face value, it may have been given erroneous information that could put our troops in harms way. It might also affect our military and political strategy for that region. However, one hopes that our military is smarter than the average pew sitter.
This scandal could have potential long-term consequences for evangelicals in the military as well. Read the following statement by Mikey. “These guys are spewing Islamophobic hatred, and the Pentagon laps it up. This is the kind of prejudice and bigotry that can lead to genocide," Weinstein said.
I adamantly disagree with his conclusion but many others will not. Given the current climate in Washington, this sort of deception might be just the excuse that anti-religionists are looking for in order to put further limits on freedom of religious expression within the military.
I hate to say this but we evangelicals deserve derision for our gullibility in believing any good “conversion” story that comes our way. Christians should be the first to understand that man is fallen and has great propensity to sin. It should not surprise any of the faithful that we have a few liars in the pulpit. Yet we excuse and excuse and sell our faith down the drain in the court of public opinion.
Now we are possibly endangering the military with our stupidity. There is no way under the sun that Caner and gang should be spreading their lies at the Pentagon. Christians should be the light on the hill but we are quickly turning into the joke on the Hill.
We are squandering our good relationships with those in the government. It used to be that a Christian could be trusted to tell the truth. It used to be that a man recommended by a well-known pastor could be believed. Yet even a few well-known pastors have been known to be in bed with some of these folks, enjoying book deals and conference engagements. All of us have taken far too many people at face value. Christians have an obligation to make sure that we are bearers of the Truth instead of perpetrators of the lie.
Finally, I believe that Christian leaders who have defended Caner should be ashamed of themselves. These lies may have some grave consequences and its time for the Christian population, as well as its leaders, to grow up and stop pursuing the next “big name.”