As my usual readers here likely already know, Liberty University has issued a statement regarding their investigation into the background claims of Ergun Caner, and have relieved him of his role of Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. They have however, offered (and he has accepted) to keep him on as a professor. In a nutshell, they claim in their statement that Caner "made factual statements that are self-contradictory". You can read the full statement here.
And now, my thoughts. In no particular order:
So then, the 4 person committee of Liberty University’s Board of Trustees has concluded that Dr. Caner did in fact lie like a rug about his background of being a jihadist, growing up in primarily Muslim countries, trained to do that which was done on 9/11, learned English by watching the Dukes of Hazard in some far away country (a year before it even went on the air), believed Christians hated him, is an expert on Islam, blah blah blah... and yet they offered him a job on faculty for another year, as a professor. As one friend questioned "professor of what, Lying 101?" No question at all that he's quite skilled in lying, but I wonder how many parents really want a skilled liar shaping the minds of their kids that they send off to Liberty? Apparently, Liberty has no problem with it.
And what about us as Christians, do we have a problem with it? According to Elmer Towns (School of Religion dean) when he told Christianity Today just last month, what Caner has done is: “not an ethical issue, it’s not a moral issue. We give faculty a certain amount of theological leverage.”
So if I am to understand this correctly, lying your face off about your background is not an ethical or a moral issue. What's more, is that LU gives faculty a certain amount of "theological leverage". What exactly does theological leverage mean? Does it mean they permit faculty to lie about who they are, if it means that gives them an edge, and/or brings up the enrollment numbers for the school? Now to be fair to Elmer Towns, at the time he said this the investigation into Caner's claims by Liberty hadn't yet taken place, so I suppose it's possible he didn't know (when he said that) that Caner was a liar. So it's possible he meant something else with his statements. Or... maybe he did know. Maybe everyone there knew, and figured what the hey, it sounds good, it's exciting, it drives up the enrollment number$, lets just give him a little of that "theological leverage" and look the other way. No one will ever find out anyway, right? Wink wink, nudge nudge.
I can't help but remind readers it was also Elmer Towns who said, in this same article in Christianity Today: "We don't see any way that bloggers will damage Liberty" as well as "The arguments of the bloggers would not stand up in court".
The thing is, it wasn't any Christian blogger that was looking to harm Liberty. We just wanted truth, integrity and honesty. A reasonable expectation considering Caner's position of authority in a Christian school. What's more, the arguments of the bloggers do in fact stand up in court, since it was the court documents themselves that proved Caner's stories about his background to be monumentally false. This is pure speculation here on my part, but you just really have to wonder who, and how many people at Liberty knew all along that Caner had made all this stuff up, and who really didn't believe anyone would ever find out.
It's outrageous to assume Caner was hired on with NO background checks or verification whatsoever. It's equally outrageous to believe he was hired on with folks in full knowledge of his phoney background, but hired anyway. Obviously however, one of the two definitely happened, and it's damaging to Liberty either way you slice it, and bloggers had nothing to do with it, except to uncover it. The fault of this nasty mess lays squarely at the feet of Caner, and those who put him in position at Liberty. (And while I'm sure there are honest, decent folks at Liberty who would never in a million years consider doing what Caner has done, it does make me wonder who else is on staff there, that either never had a thorough background check or who was hired knowingly, with phoney credentials. Precedent has been set here, so it's hard not to wonder what else is going on down there.)
Since this news broke, I've seen a lot of comments. One such comment was along the lines of "would the powers that be at Liberty be as gracious with a student who was busted lying about his work?" That's a very good question. Would they give him a slap on the wrist and a passing grade too? Isn't this the same as rewarding liars without any genuine consequence?
Another comment I've read was "no one really expected him to be fired or anything". Well, you can count me among those that DID expect him to be fired on the spot, and should have been. Even more, he should have also been under church discipline by his own church, as well.
Let's keep in mind his position and his history here. This is a man who is in a leadership/authority position over many many young people in a Christian school. For years now, he's being going all over the place at a wide variety of speaking and teaching engagements LYING about who he is. Not "misstatements", not "discprencies over dates", not "factual statements that were self-contradictory". No, he's been purposely and intentionally lying for years about who he is. By virtue of accountability and integrity (are we not Christians? Do we not live by honesty and truthfulness before the Lord?) he SHOULD have been fired on the spot, and maybe even a letter sent out to Liberty students apologzing for having a fraud on staff. Now don't get me wrong, I do NOT want his wife and children to suffer financially as a result of his lies, but if Liberty actually did the right thing, and they did end up suffering, the blame again would lay squarely at the feet of Ergun Caner, and no one else.
Consider for a moment your workplace (secular or Christian, doesn't matter). Consider what your direct superiors would do to you, if they found out today that you lied to get the job, lied to keep the job and were in fact not at all who you claimed to be, all the while representing that company or organization. Do you think you'd still have a job tomorrow? Likely not, unless... maybe you knew things about the boss or the company and they were afraid you'd disclose that information. In most cases though, in most all places of employment, you'd be out the door with a big fat "see ya later, loser" send off. And you'd deserve it.
Frankly, I'm just sick and tired of the politics and the headgames and the wordplay far too often found among Christians. Earlier this evening I read a post at aomin.org that defined this kind of nonsense as "weasel words". I found that to be a most apt description indeed. This news has gone national, it has made it's way into the secular, mainstream media and non-Christians are watching and listening and seeing how we Christians handle things like this. Not only is it all wrong, it's an embarassment and most importantly of all it brings shame to the name of Christ. That part makes me feel just sick in my heart.
So in a nutshell: Liberty FAIL.