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My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose
September 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Editor's Note: Brian D. McLaren  is author of "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World" (Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group). 

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents."  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

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Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

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Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.

No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

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Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”

The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. Louis

    Brian.. were do I start you claim you were raised as a Christian? Look Brian... Brian, Brian even the devil believe. Are You SAVED? I will pray for you do you accept JESUS CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR? WILL YOU REPENT OF YOUR SINS AND THE ONLY WAY TO GET SAVED IS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD AND SAVIOR. Again I will pray for you also please READ THE BIBLE. JOHN 3: 16 AND ACTS. 4:12 AND 2 CORINTHIANS 4:3-4. Brain there is only one way to get SAVED and that is threw OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. EPHENSIAN 4:5
    P.S. Brian I understand your trying to sell Book but the ONLY BOOK That is True is the Bible just thought You might want to Read. My prayer are with you so please read the Bible and get SAVED

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  2. DLR

    A pretty foolish editorial. Most people's view of muslims is determined by what is seen on the news every day and year after year. They see women being abused, a religion that sanction's killing of "nonbelievers." and terrorism. It doesn't take a detailed examination of some other religion (Christianity) to form a pretty established view of theirs If Muslims don't like the way others view them, find a way to show the world a different daily view.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  3. maxmaxwell

    what a sorry excuse for journalism, there is no way we as a country should accept islam on any level. First they slide in with 'we are just a peaceful people who pray and want peace" then by culture and practice they undermine our civil structure by declaring their own laws and rules. (sharia) let stake that alone for one minute. We have civil order in America, it may have it's problems at times but we cannot have two sets of laws two sets of punishments and tribunals. Either the muslims get over thenselves and stop their own lunatica from all the rampages and such, or just plan on staying out of the USA. it's that simple, show us ten years of no terrorist attacks or stoning of people or public executions of adultereres but you can't, its a selective religion run by wackos following a pedeophile. Even the UN ambassador claims crap untrue. Islam is a dangerous religion it brings bloodshed and terrorism whever it goes, while it may "only" be a small percentage of extremeist who do the damage why is it only islam that has this issue? Yet we are led to believe ohhh nooo it's the other ones do that, Uhh I don't think so, so unless every news medium on every channel from every country is lieing which I doubt, islam is a very bad culture and thinking maybe it's time the world itself put islam in its place and put an end ot it.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  4. Jack Sparrow

    Actions speak louder than words when you see people destroying stuff based on a 13 minute video that speaks more about the religion than you may realize don't worry these televangilists are no better they use the word of God to make a prophit they are just as guilty in my eyes. Jesus said you would know his followers by their fruitage.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  5. timinfla

    google the other articles this guy has written, he's a nutjob

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  6. Tebowing for Jesuses

    The mistake is your and their belief in any imaginary friend to begin with.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Karen

    I really didn't understand this author's point of view. Are we supposed to just turn the other cheek while Americans are being killed? If Muslims felt that peace and love was their answer, wouldn't they make a move to stop the violence? Even the leaders of their countries won't state that the actions of these groups are wrong. Where are all these peaceful Muslims at?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • maxmaxwell

      Thats just it, they can't find a group of just peacful muslims. it's genetic. I believe they are all wack jobs who use islam to justify their lunacy.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  8. Bob

    The Qur'an tells them to kill everyone else. I don't see this anywhere in Christianity. Yes, some do not do what the Qur'an says, so where is their claim to being Islamic? They are simply making up their own religion, which thus has no content.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • sybaris

      If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12 )

      Guess there are no real christians either

      September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  9. KLF

    It's an interesting article however, the world, our country, our neighborhoods, our houses will forever remain divided on the topic of religion or religious belief. Lack of education, poverty, governmental neglect, etc. or in some cases, too much education, lack of poverty and extreme governmental influence have fueled a fire that is well beyond the ability to ever be brought under a manageable or tolerable acceptance. The world is spiraling so hold on because it's just getting started. It's like Six Flags only the rides are operated by adults bent on being heard through whatever means required.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  10. Ronen

    Yeah. Islamaphobia my a**....

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiQuO-EO7wU&w=420&h=315]

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  11. Bob67

    Islamaphobia will be rampant after the Vizigotic attacks. It'is a normal reaction (of the same force and direction and of opposite sense) which was born out of the Christianofobia.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  12. Brian

    You site the "Muslim Brotherhood" as if it is a whole... The Muslim Brotherhood is a large group of Muslims. An egyptian christian man came to work with me at the steel mill. We had some communication problems as he was learning english but he was a very somber and peaceful guy... He told me about "the Muslim Brotherhood" and how they came to him and threatened his daughters and his life for being a Christian. This was the reason he spent everything he had to get out of Egypt. I don't believe your article. I think you are an optimitic person that has good things to say... but reading that part of your column made me cringe. The man I befriended was in tears because he missed his homeland but can't control what is going on over there. I think they are evil, not because of things they say... but from the actions I've seen them take in most aspects of life. By the way, I'm atheist. I really don't like any cults...

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  13. Phil

    Thank you. I am always surprised on the amount of Christians who are not "Christ-like". The low-thinking, no compassion and self-centered "Christians" are not following the Christ – but following the the made up idol they have, themselves, raised.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  14. Maxwell

    uhh, sure. Can we maybe postpone the introversion until at least a few weeks *after* crazed Islamists go on a multi-continent rampage over an incredibly stupid and meaningless youtube video? In the meantime let's have an honest discussion about the dangerous fanatacism of Islamic adherents. I mean Jesus.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  15. sybaris

    It's not so much that christians lie to aggregate negativity towards muslims, it's more that religion and the belief in god(s) requires willful ignorance which permeates the lives of religionists. It takes a whole lot of gullibility to tout a 2000 year old book written by ignorant sheep herders as the truth.

    The bottom line is that religion requires ignorance to perpetuate and triumph over competi.tors.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Speakthetruth

      Well said! Well said!. Well said.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • RayinKuwait

      Sybaris, "ignorant sheepherders" wouldn't have been able to read or write back then, so how could they have written any scriptures?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • sybaris

      RayinKuwait, I am ignorant about astrophysics but I can read and write.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  16. JPopNC

    McLaren must feel like an idiot to post such an article indicating Islamic groups aren't as violent as they're portrayed, and then all this recent violence erupts. I'm certain us Christians are imagining all this violence too aren't we?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  17. skarphace

    Very good article, but you will get no converts. Those that believe that all Muslims are evil terrorists who want to take over the world will not be swayed.

    It isn't that they think this way by accident; they want to think this way. It makes them feel better about themselves to have something to condemn and to rally against. Without an external evil, they would have to begin looking at the evil within themselves, which is the last thing they want to be doing.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • RayinKuwait

      Amen to that!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  18. Get Over It

    Basically, bottom line is, if you don't want to watch or hear the movie, THEN DON'T! no one is FORCING you to watch it or listen to it...there is NO REASON for attacking INNOCENT people who DID NOTHING and HAD NOTHING to do with the video. These people were there to TRY to make Libya a better place....opening the lines of communication.

    So, now that these countries have truly shown that they hate the U.S. so much, maybe now its time to take away the 2 billion in aid we send their way.....then what will happen next? Will they cry that the U.S. abandoned them? If they want us out of their country that badly, lets just LEAVE! take our troops and our ambassadors and LEAVE!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • sensible

      no sh!t..we need to leave. why would i continue to give my kids money if the burnt down my garage! it makes zero sense to be active in this area anymore.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  19. sam

    The reason for the hatred is not being christian or Jews they have lived with both for many years actually thousand of years .
    the main reason for that hatred is the US policy in the Middle East . And the US not being an honest broker for the Palestinian cause as long the problem still exist the hate will be there.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  20. Name*

    well, several issues like sartarisng statements only, below huge topicts and senseless aproach could result to outrageous form of war, but it is all nothing more than a put up job by any who decides to use bacile as a christian calling him an anti-islam, and all of that trailer trash, 2348135577787 i wish to revew a secret behind the scene. fredson.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.