Many thanks to WMG who sent me the AP article from 2002 that, it seems, yesterday’s AP article referred to in regards to Ergun Caner’s honest communication of his story (minus the embellishments that have accrued since then). The sad thing here is, this is a touching and powerful story, which has now been forever marred by the attraction of power and prestige. May we learn the lesson…again.

Convert brothers take heat for message that Islam is hardly a peaceful faith

BYLINE: By ALLEN G. BREED, Associated Press Writer

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 1408 words

Ergun and Emir Caner sat in the cavernous domed stadium with hundreds of other preachers in St. Louis and listened intently as the Rev. Jerry Vines thundered about the difference between Christianity and Islam.

“Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-posessed pedophile who had 12 wives – and his last one was a 9-year-old girl,” the Florida minister shouted to attendees at the pastors conference of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“And I will tell you Allah is not Jehovah either. Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist that’ll try to bomb people and take the lives of thousands and thousands of people.”

When angry Muslims confronted the former SBC president about his remarks last month, Vines said he was merely citing their own texts – as quoted in the Caner brothers’ book, “Unveiling Islam.”

The Caners intended the book as a tool for Christians seeking to reach out to Muslims. Instead, the brothers, who converted to Christianity as teen-agers, have been vilified by many prominent Islamic groups as hostile, sick and hateful. In recent weeks, they received what Emir considers threatening inquiries from overseas.

“Our whole purpose was an act of love,” says Ergun Caner, a Southern Baptist minister and theology professor at The Criswell College in Dallas. “Because I WANT to see Muslims in heaven with me.”

But this was not the first time the Caners had been condemned for their religious beliefs. Two decades ago, their devotion to the “Son” cost them their father.

When the Caner boys came into the world, their Turkish-born father, Acar, the man who called the faithful to prayer at the mosque, whispered in their ears the words they were to live by: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.”

But they were living in Columbus, Ohio, far from Acar’s Sunni Muslim origins. After their parents separated, others were soon whispering in the Caner boys’ ears.

Ergun Caner, the oldest of Acar’s three boys, was the first to convert. He was 15 when he accepted a friend’s invitation to a weeklong church revival.

To him, his relationship with Allah was impersonal, ritualistic. The message he got at Stelzer Baptist Church was something completely different.

“Christ died for man. That was one thing for me to hear. It was quite another thing for me to hear that Christ died for me. Ha. Then it becomes personal,” says Ergun, now 35. “I thought this was good news for all Muslims.”

Instead of welcoming the news, Acar Caner told his son he no longer wanted to see him. When younger brothers Emir and Erdem (who now goes by Mark) went for visitation with their father, there was no talk of Ergun; their elder brother’s face had been cut from family photographs.

Despite that, the two younger brothers soon followed Ergun’s path, with the same results.

While still in their teens, Emir and Ergun said they were called to the ministry.

Both studied at Criswell, where they met Paige Patterson, a driving force in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. When Patterson moved to Wake Forest, N.C., to take over Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Caners followed him.

The two earned master’s degrees from Southeastern, then went on to receive doctorates. They had no contact at all with their father until August 1999, when they learned he was dying of cancer.

The three brothers rushed home, not knowing whether their father would let them in. At the urging of his wife, Acar agreed to see his sons.

Ergun, who was pastoring a church in Colorado, laid his 4-month-old son, Braxton, in his father’s arms, a tradition from Acar’s homeland. He introduced Acar to his wife, a “Southern belle from North Carolina.”

As he watched his “earthly hero” waste away, Emir knew Acar would die as he had lived, a devout Muslim. And according to the son’s reading of Scripture, Acar would not be waiting for him in heaven.

Acar died four days later, on Emir’s 29th birthday.

“That was, for me, a clarion moment,” says Ergun, a bear of a man with shaved head and jutting goatee. That is when their mission came into “sharp focus.”

No Turkey. No Jihad. No Dukes of Hazzard, broken English, Islamic garb, prayers in bathrooms. Sons of a broken family with a Muslim father in Ohio, redeemed and saved. It was a great story. Sadly, Ergun’s theology was not sufficient to allow him to remain faithful to it. He had to embellish, expand, mythologize. Theology matters.

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