Why does Ergun Caner need to lie?

April 30, 2010

Remember Mike Warnke? The popular evangelical comedian was disgraced in 1991 when Cornerstone magazine refuted
his claim to have come to the faith out of a life as a Satanist high
priest. Apparently being a funny, engaging speaker with a strong
evangelical message wasn’t enough of a sales hook for Warnke’s career—he
needed a dramatically anti-Christian backstory as well.

People
love a good conversion story. In the late 70s, Warnke’s fabricated
drug-dealing Satanist made for an appropriately scary past. Thirty years
later, a fake jihadist upbringing does the trick. Ergun Caner,
president of the seminary and grad school at Liberty University, has been under fire
for taking some serious liberties with his biography: he’s claimed a
fundamentalist Muslim upbringing through adolescence before moving to
the U.S., when in reality he’s lived in the States since age four.
(Caner’s also been filmed passing off gibberish as Arabic.)

Like many others, Wade Burleson is outraged
at Caner’s deception, and understandably so. But equally troubling is
the fact that Caner—like Warnke, a compelling personality with genuine
talents—found it worthwhile to fabricate a jihadist background in the
first place. Why is there so much credibility to be gained via a story
of conversion from a colorful and extreme past? Is it just about the
dramatic story arc? Or is it the specific point of Christ winning out
over the bogeyman of the week, whether it’s Satanism or radical Islam or
whatever’s next?

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