*Please note that the following statement includes my opinion of the deeds and character of Ergun Caner and Georgia Baptist Leadership based upon the information to which I have been exposed. Please note that I wrote this very late. Let’s be forgiving Christians…forgive my typos.
“We didn’t consider Dr. Caner in spite of the attacks. We elected him because of them. He has endured relentless and pagan attacks like a warrior. We need a warrior as our next president.” – An unnamed Brewton Parker Trustee commenting on the hire of Ergun Caner as that institution’s president.
“Austin never gave up! Austin never have up!…I can tell ya, we’ve never seen a display of intestinal fortitude like we saw with Stone Cold Steve Austin.” – The WWF Announcers after Steve Austin’s loss to Brett Hart at Wrestlemania XIII.
If you’ve ever listened to the charlatan Dr. Ergun Caner speak, you know he is a fan of professional wrestling…or as they call it in Possum Kill, NC, “Rasslin.’” Dr. Caner tweeted about Wrestlemania just today. When I read that tweet, along with the numerous other wrestling-themed tweets on his feed, it hit me: Dr. Caner knows his target demographic really well…and it’s not lost people or Christians in need of biblical edification. The charlatan’s target demographic is pro-wrestling fans. He knows how pro-wrestling fans react and what makes them tick. Pro-wrestling fans chant the slogans of their favorite wrestler. Pro-wresting fans boo and shout down the enemies of their favorite wrestler when they talk. Pro-wrestling fans holler and cheer at incendiary, pre-match fightin’ words spoken by their favorite wrestler. Pro-wrestling fans scream in adulation when their favorite wrestler hits his finisher and scores the pinfall, but when their favorite wrester loses…Pro-wrestling fans claim it was a screwjob; their guy didn’t really lose. Like so many successful professional wrestlers, Dr. Caner knows how to manipulate this demographic. Like so many professional wrestlers, Dr. Caner knows how to make a living off of this manipulation. In other words, Dr. Caner knows how to get over with his fans. To do so, the charlatan uses the pro-wrestling concepts of the gimmick, the stable, the promo, and kayfabe to keep his supporters chanting his name. There is nothing wrong when pro-wrestlers do this, it is their job and it’s done in good fun. Ergun Caner purports to be a Christian apologist. A Christian apologist shouldn’t put on a show just to put butts in the seats but it seems like this what Caner does. His detractors need to know this when engaging his supporters. His supporters aren’t New York Times-reading liberal-intellectual college professors; they are hero-worshipping redneck wrestling fans. Ergun Caner is their hero; approach them accordingly.
“… the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (Titus 1:5-9)
The Attitude Era: Caner Finds a Pugnacious Gimmick
For the most part, Rasslin’ has always been good, family-friendly entertainment…for the most part. Faces, or wrestlers marketed as heroes, would square off against heels, or wrestlers marketed as villains. The good guys were clearly separated from the bad guys…but something strange started to happen during what has become known as pro-wrestling’s Attitude Era. The lines between good guys and bad guys were blurred and the tweeners emerged. A tweener is neither a good guy nor a bad guy, but more of a wrestler who is cheered just because fans like his attitude. The most famous tweener of all was Stone Cold Steve Austin, a profane, beer-swilling redneck with a never-say-die, never-give-up attitude. The Stone Cold character was actually designed to be a heel, but it didn’t work out that way. People started rooting for Austin over and against marketed heroes like Brett Hart. Austin’s gimmick, which was basically to be abrasive and pugnacious, won over many of testosterone-fueled teenage boy types (and many of their redneck mothers) over and against the machinations of the WWF’s writing team. This was unprecedented. Traditionally fans were won over by the gimmicks of heroes such as Hulk Hogan. Hulk stressed the training, the prayers, and the vitamins to starry-eyed little boys everywhere, but in the attitude era, even the Hulkster turned heel. It was in this era that Steve Austin won legions of fans for stirring up trouble. When I think of a bald-headed, goateed, country-boy hurling insults, two men come to find: Steve Austin and Dr. Ergun Caner. Ergun Caner was basically the Stone Cold Steve Austin of evangelical events such as the Winter Xtreme Conference. Even after his exposure as a fraud, his standoffish attitude still resonates with his supporters today. He refuses to repent, refuses to turn back, and refuses to quit even…and his supporters love him for it. He just gives the people what they want. Brewton-Parker wants a pugnacious “warrior.” It got one.
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-22)
The Stable: Caner Fights a Faction
Every popular wrestler needs an enemy to fight, sometimes a whole group of them. In the pro-wresting business, such a group is known as a stable and it usually villainous. Notable stables include the Four Horseman, Degeneration X, and the New World Order. Wrestling heroes, unfairly ganged up upon, have made careers fighting off stables against all odds. Caner created a villainous stable of his own to face off against…scapegoat boogey men to draw attention away from his unchristian attitude and lies. That stable is…the down and dirty Calvinists…the “Calvin Boys” as Caner calls them. The charlatan Ergun Caner knows that many anti-intellectual people hate and fear Calvinists as heretical. Caner, in the guise of tough-guy Stone Cold Steve Austin, stands boldly against the stuck-up, frozen and chosen Calvinists of the world. A discussion about Caner with one his anti-Calvinist supporters would go something like a discussion with the Rock. Basically, Caner detractor, “It doesn’t matter what you think.” It matters what their hero Caner says. He’s created bad guys for his supporters to fear. Let me be Frank, Dr. Caner plays off of the factions within the body of Christ to promote himself; this is fleshy and evil.
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with [great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
The Promo: Tickling the Ears
Almost every headlining pro-wrester has to master the promo. He must perfect his promotional work on the microphone as well as his wrestling work in the ring. Dr. Caner does some of the best microphone work I’ve ever seen…inside and outside of wresting. Caner passes himself off to his fan base as a country boy nicknamed Butch. He connects with his fans. Like them, he eats at the Cracker Barrel, his father-in-law makes moonshine, and he calls out illegal immigrants as criminals. He even has a made-to-order story of turning from heel to face. He was an evil Muslim who hated Christians…until he found God in that little-country-church (just like the little county church his fans attend). Now he’s a country boy Christian like them. Caner understands his supporters and promotes himself with them. He relishes their attention, even going so far as to open himself up for questioning on Twitter when he the spotlight moves off of him for a while. Charlatans thrive off this type of attention and hero worship. If you are going to win over a Caner supporter, logic and argument may not be your best tools. Try finding them a better hero, otherwise they will just chant you own and boo you out of the building. As Ric Flair said, “to be the man, you have to beat the man.” The replacement hero can’t be James White or any other Calvinist. That even rules out Al Mohler and David Platt. You have to find a pre-millennial, non-Calvinist Southern Baptist to stand up to Caner who has some cache and swerve. I’m still looking for that guy.
Kayfabe: Turning Aside to Myths
Sometimes, pro-wrestling promoters need a back-story in order to make a storyline work. Since pro-wrestling is a show, these storylines are often fabricated for the sake of entertainment. Familial and marital relationships are often created. (For example, Kane and the Undertaker are kayfabe brothers but these men are not blood-related in real life.) Often, kayfabe storylines involve name changes. (For example, Mick Foley, Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love are different kayfabe personas of the same man.) Kayfabe storylines are most effective when generated to play upon what is popular in the media. After 9/11, Ergun Caner became a kayfabe former jihadist. E. Michael Caner became Ergun Mehmet Caner. Playing the reformed jihadist is how he got over with his evangelical, conservative, Muslim-fearing fan base. Caner is basically the Iron Sheik turned the Patriot. Wrestling fans ignore the kayfabe stories of their heroes for the sake of the show; they want to believe even though they know the show is fake. Unfortunately, Caner supporters do this in real life. While wrestling promoters make honest money selling fake stories, Caner and his promoters in the Georgia Baptist Convention are going to take dishonest money off of Caner’s lies and deceptions right out of church offering plates. It’s not right…and it makes me think that Ergun Caner might really be a kayfabe Christian…maybe E. Michael Caner, the Christian professor, is as kayfabe as Ergun Mehmet Caner, the former jihadist Muslim. As I view wrestling clips to link in this blog, I see so much of Caner and his theatrical methods.
Coming Clean: A Confession to Make
As I’ve stated in previous posts, I don’t hold out much hope of Caner ever coming clean…but I can do so. I’ve got a confession of my own to make. I like rasslin’. Part of the reason I know so much about it is that I am a redneck country boy. I own a Stone Cold Steve Austin T-shirt; I bought it at a WWF pay-per view. I own an NWO Wolfpac T-shirt; I bought it at the Monday Nitro where Goldberg beat Hollywood Hogan for the World Title. I like pro-wrestling; I even liked it during the attitude era. I shouldn’t have. In those days, the programming wasn’t fit for Christian consumption. My youth pastor, in 1999, told my youth group as much. We scoffed at him. We shouldn’t have. He was right. Nothing about a Stone Cold Steve Austin attitude befits a Christian man. Following Jesus Christ means repenting of such an attitude and humbly following Christ. I hope anyone reading this will do so. A Christian witness with a changed Christian heart needs to be the real deal. Heaven and Hell aren’t kayfabe. They are for real and forever. Are we pre-destined or pre-determined (like a pro-wrestler) by God to go to one or the other? That’s not the point. The point is that we are not to be kayfabe Christians. Repent and believe in the good news. Promote Jesus. Take up the cross, not a gimmick. Join the greatest stable of all, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. It likely will not be a path filled with screaming acolytes. That certainly has not been the path for my old youth pastor…but his small, God-honoring church (it doesn’t give to the GBC) got my tithe check this week. Sometimes you don’t see the hero for who he is when you are young and full of testosterone. I didn’t. I do now. I hope you will.
Let that be the bottom line…