lacking sensitivity, refinement, or intelligence.
Dr. Emir Caner is the President of Truett-Mconnel University, a Georgia Baptist institution of higher learning in Cleveland, Georgia. Due to his stature in Georgia Baptist life, he is often presented with the opportunity and the honor of filling the pulpits of Georgia Baptist churches. According to his website, he was born into a Sunni Muslim family and converted to Christianity as a young teenager. He is an author, accomplished academic, and a polished speaker. On paper, given his testimony and accomplishments, Caner seems like the perfect guest-preaching candidate. Unfortunately, Caner is anything but. His sermons are often filled with offensive, inappropriate jokes. Like his brother Ergun, a known charlatan, Emir Caner comes off as more of a stand-up comic than a Spirit-filled preacher. I’ve come across recordings of Emir Caner making off-color jokes from the pulpit in the course of my research of his brother, but I experienced his brand of crass preaching for myself on September 16, 2017.
Dr. Caner was given the honor of preaching at Rowland Springs Baptist Church (of which I am a member) on the occasion of the church’s 150th anniversary. An occasion so special that it warranted a front page story in The Daily Tribune News . The church celebrated by having a special dinner after the service. Former members and family members were invited from all around; Emir Caner preached to a full house.
Caner, an expert in Anabaptist history, preached a sermon on religious persecution. It wasn’t long before he made his first crass joke. Knowing that a dinner was to be served after the sermon Caner stated, “I won’t keep you long,” quipping that it was the very same remark Liz Taylor made to her many husbands. Taylor was a serial divorcee and adulterer. She was married and divorced eight times and died apart from faith in Jesus in 2011 at age 79. What would possess a Christian to joke about something God hates, from a pulpit mind you, at the expense of a troubled woman destined for an eternity in Hell? Jesus didn’t take cheap shots at the woman at the well. In my pew, I was not amused.
For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Malachi 2:16
This kind of behavior cannot be dismissed as a one-time offense from Dr. Caner. He often recycles his material, telling the same offensive jokes in church after church. It wasn’t long in the sermon that he told another offensive joke that I’d heard him tell before. In this case, referring to his baldness, he joked that he resembles the “love child of Mr. Clean and a Saudi woman.” A recording of him telling the same joke at another church is below:
Is it ever funny to joke about illegitimate children? Caner did it from the pulpit of a church. It was offensive. It was inappropriate. Worse yet, the implication may have been that Saudi women have beards (Caner is bearded). At least that’s how one Muslim blogger understood the joke when he came across it. That same blogger took great offense to additional jokes made by Caner about potenially not being able to obtain a gun or pilot’s license in United States because he was Muslim. Unbelievably, Emir makes jokes, at churches, which clearly allude to the tragic events of 9/11. Again, these are not one time jokes but regular parts of Caner’s repertoire. I once heard a recording of him making the pilot’s license joke at Roswell Street Baptist Church. The congregation did not sound amused. I hardly think Christ would make off-color ethnic jokes. Caner, a man tasked with shaping minds at a Baptist college, makes them with regularity. Is this how he hopes to win Muslims, by joking about them flying into buildings? Clearly, it’s how he hopes to get Baptists to laugh. Jokes like the ones told by Caner (and his brother) appeal to the flesh, not the transformed mind of the born-again, Spirit-filled Christian.
How long will Georgia Baptists pay Emir Caner a six-figure salary to shape the minds of their children at Truett-McConnel? How long will Georgia Baptists continue to let this crass man profane their pulpits? In the information age, in a world where people have Google, how is this man’s preaching career allowed to continue?
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)