Ergun Caner and Wannabes: How Christian Gullibility Might Be Impacting America’s Military

"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[4] 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.[1] 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 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.”


Ergun Caner and Wannabes: How Christian Gullibility Might Be Impacting America’s Military — 23 Comments

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    Here in Southern California which can be argued is the Bible belt West, we have right-wing Christian radio stations galore. These guys (religious right radio jocks) have trotted out all these so-called ex jihadists and their audiences believe them without question. Try calling in with an opposing view to their talk radio format and see what happens to ya, especially if you’ve done your homework and have facts that don’t support their brand of “radio journalism”.

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    Dee, thanks for your good work. I read your blog daily and am always grateful for your courage and honesty. I wrote to response in the FBCJAX Watchdog blog concerning Ergun Caner having taught a class to a group of Marines at New River Air Station, North Carolina five years ago. The point of my statement was to address Tim Guthrie’s attempt to “fan the flame” by invoking military participation in the Caner saga. I acknowledged that Caner taught a class and that the Marines were not particularly impressed…especially with his tasteless humor. Caner was invited to teach a class to help those Marines better understand the concept of Jihad in Islam. The group was a few hundred Marines out of the several thousands in that part of North Carolina. Remember, back in 2005 no one knew he was a fraud; he was considered a reputable authority. His presence did not, in my opinion, do anything to negatively “impact America’s military.” His presence was basically inconsequential. As I said, those men and women who attended his class in the base theater that day “possessed way too much integrity to be sucked into his side-show.” He has spoken, and we cannot unring that bell. However, we (the military) will only have a problem with Mr. Caner if he is permitted to speak on any military base in the future as an expert on Islam. If that happens, sound the alarm; otherwise, our people in uniform do not have a “dog” in this fight.

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    “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.

    We don’t need frauds to perpetuate fear since we had an officer in the Military like the Muslim Ft Hood killer…the REAL thing.

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    Thank you for your kind comments.

    I hope that you understand that I was not blaming the military for this. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the church.
    Why didn’t the church know anything in 2005? The reasons are varied. We wanted to believe his story, too many leaders were vested in his success, and nobody bothered to check a rather fantastical story. We need to impose the Reagan Doctrine on the church-Trust but verify.”

    Unfortunately, there are others besides Caner and they have been talking to the military as well.And the world is watching, looking for any excuse to get rid of the influence of Christians. May God forgive us for our refusal to do our job and protect the church from charlatans.

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    Lydia, to “the military,” at least to the Marine Corps, Caner is a no-body. I don’t know how I can say that more strongly. He is not, never has been, the military’s “go-to” guy regarding Islamic issues. The only scandal there is the one we create by trying to tie him to the military services. By the way, I support Mickey’s efforts; Caner’s message is/was not what Mr. Weinstein is referencing. Please do not connect the two. Mickey is largely concerned about the unbridled efforts of evangelicals led by Campus Crusade for Christ Military Ministry and similar groups, with the assistance military chaplains who act as though they are representatives of those organization and not professionals serving in a complex, multi-faith environment. That is an all together different issue from the lying, dog-and-pony shows, Mr. Caner has been doing ever since he decided to exploit the tragedy of 9/11 to his own professional and economic advantage. He is just a con-man with some theological credentials.

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    I think Mikey is using this to further his efforts. Did you read the and Washington Post articles?

    Please be sure that you understand. I do not believe that Caner was or is the “go to guy” regarding Islamic issues.

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    I saw the June 26 story in the Washington Post, but not the article. Mr. Weinstein may be “using this to further his efforts,” but his concerns go far beyond Caner’s con job.

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    Of course they do. My focus is not specifically on Caner in this situation but on the complex set of problems that have arisen due to his, along with some others, duplicity. It is unconscionable that some supposedly Christian men would use the military to continue their pattern of distortion.

    I respect. love and pray for those in the military. Both of our fathers served-one during WW2 and the other during Korean. Our dear friends have boys in Afghanistan. It is my sincerest wish that Christians be a real support instead of allowing a few dubious fellows give dubious advice.

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    Jim: I would like to know who you are and what capacity you serve in. Military? Non-military? I know nothing of what video is about to be put on the internet, but it doesn’t matter if it was 5 years ago or April of 2010 where he spoke as an expert on jihadist. The fact is that he is still touting himself in this area, and he did speak to the military. It doesn’t matter if they took him seriously or not, someone did or he wouldn’t have been invited. That needs to be addressed in my opinion. I do blame the military in that they should have checked his credentials to make sure that he was who he said he was, just as they should have checked out the the other two persons stories whose background is in question yet have talked to the military, and other organizations, tv etc.

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    Debbie, I am a recently retired active duty officer.

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    “Lydia, to “the military,” at least to the Marine Corps, Caner is a no-body. I don’t know how I can say that more strongly.”

    Oh, I agree with you on that. What concerns me is that him being asked to speak to the military as an expert on Jihad gave him gravitas within the church community and furthered his lying career in churches. I am not blaming the military at all. He was invited and it sounds as if most were not real impressed. My impression of Caner’s “sermons”, what little I heard before this scandal, was that he is a typical shock jock preacher-entertainer. We have so much of that these days. It seems to sell well.

    the response of the military and it’s commander in chief over the Ft Hood massacre of innocent people in a military hospital worries me much more than Caner speaking to the military.

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    “Jim: I would like to know who you are and what capacity you serve in. Military? Non-military?”

    Jim, I do not think you need to give your personal information out as to who you are. I am saddened you were asked in such a manner.

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    Lydia:I thought I asked very politely and I thank Jim for answering. It helps me in knowing the credibility of the information given.

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    It’s the not asking any questions of anyone that got us into this mess to begin with remember?

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    “Jim: I would like to know who you are and what capacity you serve in.”

    I think we just have different views of what is polite or necessary. I do not see how Jim’s personal information could prove the overall military response to Caner. I doubt if there is an offical report on the matter. I chose to believe his view based upon the details he shared over at FBCJax. I am not sure how his personal information, believing him or not believing him, changes the facts of Caner’s lies to many groups, including the military.

    “It’s the not asking any questions of anyone that got us into this mess to begin with remember?”

    Jim is sharing anecdotal information based upon his experience. Which I think is fine and relative to the issue. To my knowledge, he is not being employed or paid to promote this information, so I am not sure exactly what you are going for. Without exit interviews or evaluations from the audience after Caner’s talk to the military, what can your need to know his personal information, prove?

    Somehow I missed the thank you in your original comment.

    I think some in the military trusted Caner because of his position, just as many evangelical Christians did, too. Why would the military assume Liberty would send a liar to speak to them?

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    I have to agree with Lydia about how you asked Jim to verify his identity, and I appreciated his gracious response.

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    Debbie, Lydia, Deb…no harm, no foul on my account.

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    Thank you for your wonderful Christian example, for your service to our country, and for taking the time to read our blog. You are a blessing!

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    Questions should be asked and I thank Jim for his graciousness in answering mine.

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    Sorry Debbie, it sounded to me like you wanted to know who he was in terms of his full name, etc. So, I am glad all your questions were answered by his sharing his current military status only.

    I am not sure how that helps with the proving the information he shared on FBCJax about Caner speaking to the Military or targeting the military for not checking Caner out. Which was my earlier point.

    I think a lot of folks assumed they could trust the Liberty ‘brand’. Why would it occur to them they need to check the background of Liberty’s president before speaking to a group? I would think most would trust the University had already done that. Now, we know better!

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    Lydia, you put the round on target. Most individuals and organizations “assumed they could trust the ‘Liberty’ brand…. Now, we know better.” We certainly know better better now.

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    Do y’all remember years ago when a Christian comedian faked a background as a Satanic high priest? I remember going to his “concert” — and laughed till I cried. The things that made me laugh had nothing to do with his supposed Satanic background. He made a huge appeal for donations, supposedly using those to fund a hotline for runaways and provide dramatic rescues of those who’d gotten caught up in Satanic worship. We bought his books — and his tale — hook, line, and sinker. Put $ in the plate. My daughter did a book report on one of his fabrications for a school class. Groan.

    After his wife spoke up and revealed the fraud, I started distrusting almost EVERYBODY AND THEIR CREDENTIALS. But even before that, there was a young woman who wrote a “biography” as if she grew up Native American and became a Christian. I read that book and believed every word — several years later it was debunked — her family came forward to say it was a crock. I believe the Christian publisher re-issued it as fiction, but what a horrible mess.

    All that didn’t stop me from getting sucked into a hyper-authoritarian church movement for 20 some years. I hope I have finally learned to stop being so darn gullible.

    These guys would’ve done themselves and the rest of us much better by starting out with the truth instead of using lies to take shortcuts to fame. Now, none of them have any credibility anywhere, their witness is completely negated, and we who believed them look like fools.

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    I remember that Native American scam. I had spent two years on the Navajo Reservation as a nurse and thought her story seemed a little too pat. I, like you, am very wary of any new “incredible” Christian conversion story. No wonder Christians are looked at as naive in secular circles.