SB 1070 is “Senate Bill 1070,” passed a few weeks ago here in Arizona. I am one of the very small percentage of human beings on the planet who has actually read the entirety of the legislation (it is not, like a certain “health care bill” rushed through Congress a few months ago, thousands of pages long). It only took a few minutes to read it. It is not difficult to understand. It says that if you are stopped by the normal actions of police officers (pulled over for traffic violations, apprehended after a crime, trespassing, etc.) and you cannot produce a driver’s license or other official identification (something we are all accustomed to doing), they have the right to inquire as to whether you are legally in the United States or not, and if not, they can begin the legal process leading to deportation.
Now, if I had not read the bill myself, I would never come to the conclusion that SB 1070 says what it says by watching a very wide variety of people on television, from the President of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States (neither of which had taken the time I did to actually read the bill), movie stars, entire sports teams (including the Phoenix Suns, who lost a supporter in yours truly when they injected politics into sport a few weeks ago) etc. and etc. The wild-eyed behavior of people I have observed is simply shocking in its excess, and its ignorance. Not only does California have a similar law on its books already, but the scolding of my home state by the President of Mexico (and the groveling applause he received in so doing) set new records for gross hypocrisy in that Mexico’s laws relating to illegal entrance into their country (combined with the massive corruption of the federal government of Mexico) makes Arizona’s law look like a rule from the local cookie bake off competition. The talking heads on television who mock the rule of law by adopting a Nazi-esque accent while saying, “Your papers, please!” only shows the utter lack of thought behind the action. How many times do I have to produce identification in my regular life? Every time I get on a plane I have to prove who I am. Every time I check into a hotel, cash a check, file official papers. Goodness, I remember how my parents had to provide my birth certificate just so I could play Little League Baseball back in Pennsylvania in the early 1970s! Nobody dreamed that amounted to “Your papers please!” There is so obviously something else going on in the reaction to SB 1070 that it makes me wonder how any clear-thinking individual cannot see that. On one side calm factuality based upon such basic questions as “Have you actually read the bill?” and on the other side red-faced angry denunciations and constant ad-hominem argumentation in the form of charges of racism, etc.
By the way—I raise this as an illustration. If you are one of those red-faced, emotionally driven folks who have not calmly studied the issues, read the bill, and considered both sides calmly, please, do NOT write to me to argue about it. I haven’t the slightest interest, believe me.
It finally hit me this morning what has been so eerily familiar about this situation. It is a tremendous parallel to the prosecution of the defense of Ergun Caner. Think about it. One side calmly points to legal documents that give dates and locations. They point to video tapes where Caner says X, then Caner says not-X. They point out he could not possibly be living in Ohio AND Turkey at the same time. On a biblical level, they provide a biblical basis for the need for integrity and honesty in the pulpit and in Christian leadership. And they continue to ask him to address these issues openly and honestly, always raising the opportunity for forgiveness and redemption upon the appearance of confession and contrition.
But on the other side you have the red-faced angry denunciations of anyone who would “team up with Muslims” to “attack” Ergun Caner. Every kind of conspiracy theory is valid in defense of Caner (“Well, the jihadis are everywhere! They could have been in Ohio back then, too, you know!”). When you ask these people if they have even bothered watching the videos, reading the documentation, checking the facts, the vast majority have not. They have been told by others “people are attacking the great Dr. Caner!” and that’s all they need. Facts matter nothing. But for others, there is no limitation on how far they will go. Ad-hominem attack upon anyone who would stand up and say “Dr. Caner must answer these questions for the sake of the integrity of his position and the work of the gospel” is the name of the game. I have rarely seen the kind of vitriol spewed my direction as I have over the past few months since this issue arose. And, as normal, the primary purveyors of hatred and insult have been Baptists. This has been my experience for twenty years now: no one, and I mean no one, outside of rank, God-hating atheists, can out-do a Baptist when it comes to acting in the most non-Christian ways. My parentage, my spirituality, my scholarship—it matters not, it is fair game for the sin of having dared to question Ergun Caner’s story. As if I am even slightly relevant to the documented facts that have been produced. I mean, let’s say I’m the biggest jerk on the planet: how is that relevant to Ergun Caner telling an audience “I was born in Istanbul, Turkey” or claiming to have debated Abdul Saleeb? Has anyone figured that out? Only those with very limited ability to reason through issues are impressed by such thinking, but that seems to account for a lot of what I am observing in the “Canerite” movement. The parallel to the anti-SB 1070 hysteria is amazingly clear, and not just a little bit frightening.
One other note while I am at the keyboard. I hear Peter Lumpkins (one of the chief purveyors of addled thinking in the promotion of Canerism today) has raised questions about my being an expert on Islam. Once again Lumpkins shows himself utterly incapable of either research, or honesty, or both. Those who have taken the time to listen to my debates, or listen to my lectures, or listen to my interactions with Islamic claims on the Dividing Line (such as the current response I am offering to Sheikh Awal) know that I have consistently eschewed the title of “expert on Islam.” Honest people know I refer to myself as a student of Islam. I began studying it in 2005 in preparation for my debate with Shabir Ally at Biola in May of 2006. This information would not be hard to obtain, if Peter Lumpkins cared to obtain it. But unlike how we have carefully sought documentation in reference to asking the important questions of Ergun Caner, Peter Lumpkins and his fellows (Guthrie et al) have no concern for context or serious research. No, they are desperate for something to throw in the air to distract from the ever-growing list of questions that are being asked of Ergun Caner, so any old thing will do. So once again Peter Lumpkins has beaten up a straw-man of his own imagination, which is about as far as he has ever gotten in his campaigns of late.
But I wanted to point something out here. I am, in fact, a student of Islam. With the help of God’s people I have built a wonderfully useful Islamic portion of my library, replete with vital resources relating to Islamic history, theology, and in particular, the history of the text of the Qur’an. I have taken this information into debates with the very people Ergun Caner has pretended to debate for years, Muslims Sheikhs and Imams. You can watch many of these exchanges on YouTube. But here is the point: if I, as a student of Islam, have sufficient knowledge of its theology, its history, its Scripture, its practice, and even its language, to detect error after error in the statements of “experts” such as Ergun Caner, what does this say? And far more importantly, how can people like Peter Lumpkins be so prejudiced, so biased, so as to miss this? Further, Mr. Lumpkins has asked where I studied Islam. Outside of various surface-level discussions in seminary (and a very good section in my Church History class), my study has been personal. What does it say about my schooling and my scholarship that I can do that kind of research and produce the body of apologetic defense of Christianity that I have over the past five years in this field? But let’s put the shoe on the other foot: where did either Ergun or Emir Caner do graduate study in Islamic theology or apologetics? Answer? They didn’t. They have been granted “expert” status for one simple reason: Ergun’s claims that they were raised in Turkey, sons of a Muslim scholar, devout Muslims trained to love jihad and to think all Christians hated them. Of course, that story doesn’t work well in Ohio, but let’s leave that aside for the moment. The only reason they have been given the status they have has been due to their self-professed upbringing. But even then, that upbringing only extended to the middle teen years for Ergun, and the early teen years for Emir! I’m sorry, but once again, would anyone seriously consider a twelve year old convert from Christianity to Islam an “expert” on the Christian faith later in life? Or even a sixteen year old? Ergun Caner well realized this back in 2001 when he added a decade to the time frame of his arrival in the US, moving it from 1969 to 1979 so as to allow him to become an “expert” on Islam. And don’t think for a moment Emir Caner has lived in blissful ignorance of his brother’s claims. He’s known it all along and, while refraining from weaving his own myths, has likewise remained culpably silent the entire time, even to this day. So I ask Peter Lumpkins: who has been honest in this situation? The one who has rejected being called an expert in Islam, who has often said that he is too old now to ever learn all he needs to know in that field (life is too short), but who has taken what he has, in fact, learned, into the very forefront of apologetic exchange with Muslims on three continents, or Ergun Caner, who fabricated the grounds of his alleged expertise? The answer is obvious. Will Peter Lumpkins admit it?