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.
Ambassador's killing shines light on Muslim sensitivities around Prophet Mohammed
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.
I remember the violence in that story of that man named Jesus, when he fashioned a whip made of cord to drive out the vendors from the Temple. I recall the violence that Saint Olaf used to convert the Scandinavians from their Norse beliefs and Gods into the "Christian" beliefs and God. Now, along comes Islam, continuing their failed march on the plains of Gaul, into the twenty first century nearly two thousand years later! They will know that the only way to convert Christians to Islam is through violence. And....... they ALL will be doing their Islamic duties, as opposed to those weak "Christians" who selectively use the parts of their "holy book" to live their pitiful lives. Odin would turn in disgust at this mess we of Norse ancestry have allowed ourselves to be scourged with.
Odin must be rolling in his grave.
here we go again with another agenda-driven article from Clinton News Network. it's just mindboggling the state of journalism these days
whats wrong with the article and why are you calling it "agenda driven", M? Its an opinion piece. Newspapers have been doing opinion pieces ever since paper was invented.
Grow up. I understand you don't like the article. I get that. Get over it because the world does not rotate around YOU.
CNN does this on a regular basis – they print an opinion piece by some religious person who has written a book in order to boost sales of the author's books.
This article is a political spin piece masquerading as a faith piece.
This article is a political spin piece masquerading as a faith piece."
Political spin? Are we reading the same article? Or do you see politics in everything. I don't see the words "GOP", "Dem...", "liberal", "conservative", "Obama", "Romney" anywhere in this article.
Just so everyone is clear, please allow me to set the record straight. Mr. McLaren grew up in an evangelical home but is not an evangelical at this time based on his writings and speaking engagements. He differs on major points with Christian beliefs held by the vast majority of those who claim the name "Evangelical Christian". He is therefore not qualified to write or speak as though he is an evangalical critiquing from within. He is on the outside attacking from the outside. The evangelicals I spend time with in my church and in my daily life or not consumed by hatred of Islam or fear of Islam. In fact, I know of no one who fits that description in the scores of relationships I have with those who are evangelical.
So Juan, instead of rebutting his message that we should follow the way of Christ, you rebut the man himself and say he's not qualified to give his opinion. Who then, is qualified for you? Has to be the pope?
Here we go again with the attacks on Christians. Why is it that no one is asking the real questions here? Like Why every time someone says something about Mohammad their are riots and killings. These people are violent we should just stay the hell out of the middle east all together. Christians don't murder people when they are offended by trash someone puts out. Why is it okay to attack us but when we point out the destructive ways of Islam we are Islamophobic. This guy is full of b.s. The truth is that if they don't get their way they murder you. Plan and simple. Look at what is going on right now. CNN would rather trash Christians with articles like this then tell the truth. Let's not forget that CNN's founder Ted Turner is a known Atheist. So he isn't going to print anything that is pro Christian. This is just another misguided man trashing Christianity.
the only people on earth who cannot accept disparaging remarks about their religion without flipping out are muslims. perhaps it's because they live in stone-age conditions and lash out at any opportunity (although CNN and the rest will tell people it's because of some film made by some guy on his iphone practically). christianity and judaism get denegrated all the time, and we don't go out killing people.
interesting if we explored THOSE facts instead of this silly hypothetical that is the subject of this article.
M, you need anger and hate management.
@ M – it is not an "article". It is an opinion piece. Next.
Ted Turner has been gone from CNN for, what, ten or more years now?
@ tom. Posters need hate management? Not the rioters? But Americans posting on CNN's message board? They're the problem here? Go away.
@ tom. Posters need hate management? Not the rioters? But Americans posting on CNN's message board? They're the problem here? Go away."
You are an idiot. I was replying to "M". What did you expect, that I list everyone in the world who needs anger management? There is no one, I repeat no one, more against what the Muslims are doing in response to the video, than myself. Got it fool? Happy now. That I am an American and against what they are doing, should have gone without saying but I guess you are not intelligent enough to figure that out.
Dang tom seems like you could use a lil bit of anger management yourself. " You are an idiot. I was replying to "M". What did you expect, that I list everyone in the world who needs anger management? There is no one, I repeat no one, more against what the Muslims are doing in response to the video, than myself. Got it fool? Happy now. That I am an American and against what they are doing, should have gone without saying but I guess you are not intelligent enough to figure that out." >I agree with much that you say but try expressing yourself with common courtesy.
Incredible. Islamic radicals kill Americans, burn american embassies and the people to blame are American Christians? Wow. CNN has sunk to incredible new lows. If you people were around when the Iranians took our embassy back in the 1970's you would have told us how America deserved it and we should send billions of dollars to the Ayatollah Komeini to help support his new regime and that we should apologize for making them upset in the first place.
It's incredible at how deep the left in this country TRULY hate everything American and will even embrace radical Shariah if it furthers their agenda of the destruction of America.
Randy, learn to read. Get some 3rd grade books. Where in the article does it say that Christians are to blame for the Muslim reactions to the film? Better you don't post your opinions, especially with your full name, because all your friends will see your absurd comments and you'll be embarrassed.
If people would STFU about religion, this world would be a better place. For such a deeply personal thing, people seem to want to stuff religion down our throats. STOP IT
This is NOT RIGHT. WHY do the evangelicals get the ugly headlines.
THEY AREN'T attacking anyone. They aren't blowing anyone up. They aren't chanting death to America.
They aren't threatening anyone. PLEASE STOP THE INSANITY AND YOUR AGENDA CNN.
Evangelicals are not getting negative headlines, stop acting like a child. As an evangelical himself, the author is taking the opportunity of the moment to address the conflict between the religion.
My God, some of you belong back in 3rd grade because you have zero reading comprehension. Or maybe its that hate is blinding everyone such that they only hear what they want to hear. A little of both is going on, I think.
This guy is way off the mark. The term "islamaphobic evangelicals" suggests its only evangelicals that are concerned with muslim intolerance and extreamism. I am a non-believer and am extreamly concerned about it.
There is a link to another article suggesting the Ambassador's killing is about muslim sensitivities about the prophet muhammad . We all know that is a lie. It was a planned execution, that is unless protesters normally bring heavy machine guns and RPSs to the demonstration.
Yes, there is concern about Muslim intolerance and extreamism among evangelicals and non-evangelicals.
The worse part is the end, "evangelicals must choose". Choose what? "gentle strength" ?
The only choice worth making is whether to defend free speech or not.
This article is as bad as the dumb movie that is claimed to have caused riots among thousands in 20 countries that happened to begin on 9/11.
It is you who is way off the mark. The article is about making choices as a RELIGIOUS person, a devout Christian.
Where in the bible does it talk about "freedom of speech"? This is a freedom granted by GOVERNMENT. You are totally confused and lost about the purpose and scope of the article.
@tom. This article is a political spin piece masquerading as a faith piece.
You swallowed the bait.
THE SENSOR BOARD SHOULD STOP THIS FILM.
If it wasn't this film, they would find something else as a cover for their intolerance of Christianity, Israel, and America.
Your mother was a goat.
And if anyone else says something that Muslims decide they don't like should the censure board stop them also ?
I believe you mean CENSOR board – which doesn't exist. There is only a film rating board.....which ascribes ratings based on age appropriateness. Learn some things before you post.....
I am guessing from your comment about "censor board", that you are a person living outside of the U.S., perhaps a middle eastern Muslim, who does not understand what powers the American government has and does not have. We don't live under a dictatorship or powerful monarchy like most of the "muslim" countries. We don't have a Bashar Hafez al-Assad in charge here who can round people up in the night who don't do what he says to do.
Learn how the U.S. works before making conclusions.
The land of my ancestors has been under constant attacks from the muslim ottoman empire for centuries. My ancestors did not participate in any crusades against the muslims. Yet for centuries when my ancestors lost, Romanian lands were pilfered, men were killed, many others were taken into slavery by ottomans and wealth was given to them so my ancestors could go on for another year. Only when we defended our lands with the like of Vlad Tepes, Stefan Cel Mare, MIhai Viteazul, MIrcea cel Batran. would we smell some real freedom but not when conquered. Lack of phobia? The author working for CNN need to read some history books and see that maybe some fear of muslim religious people are instilled in my genes from my forefathers. JUst like Christianity, the muslims have done their share of killing other in the name or religion and the is a basis for people to fear that religion in our days.
Interesting comment. Perhaps in time we will have nothing to fear from any religionists in the world as they will become like most "Christians" in the US. That is, they'll go to church, sing God's praises, never read the Bible much, and spend the week working, eating, making love, raising kids, and not thinking much about religion, until that two hours in church on Sunday reminds them that, "Hey, I God loves me." BTW, the Turkish Muslims do a pretty good business with Romania these days, no? Probably have close ties to Bulgaria and Albania as well. I know that Serbs love to listen to the Turkish diva Ebru Gundes.
SIMPLE WAY WAS THE SENSOR BOARD SHOULD STOP THIS MOVIE.
Go phuck yourself.
What sensor board?
Another anti-Christian article from CNN. I don't hate Muslims. I have talked to Muslims at great length and was shocked at their point of view and beliefs. They are more intolerant than the worst evangelical and more hateful of Jews, generally speaking, than the K K K . The author does not seem interested in the idea that Islam and Christianity can not both be correct. If Evangelicals are correct in doctrine, then Islam is evil because it diverts people away from being saved by Jesus Christ. It is not fear; it is awareness and understanding that form evangelicals. Maybe you went to a bad church or something as a kid.
You're both wrong. You're clinging to myths, and your delusions threaten humanity.
By your logic then, Jews are evil, Hindus are evil, Buddists are evil....when do YOU stop.....
Brian D , McLaren BRAVO to you sir. An american christian evangelical who has the wisdom of God and the boldness to write intelligibly. I too am evangelical, but I call myself a disciple of Christ. I listen to christian broadcasting nowadays to have a good laugh at the nonsense that is being spewed across the airways all in the name of Jesus.
Where are all the hate-theists today?
Only someone who hasn't seen this video (and I strongly suggest you do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjoa3QazVy8) would write this misguided article. Mr. McLaren is obviously well intentioned but uninformed. These planned attacks are nothing but a pretext. Wake up.
Mommy, you miss the point. The article is explaining that if you are a devout Christian, then you follow the way of Christ and his teachings. You don't view a video or watch stuff on tv and just react with anger or rage. You follow Christ's example.
Why is that so hard for you to understand. Either you are a devout Christian or your not. Its very black and white.
Tom...I didn't miss the point. Trust me. My religion is as irrelevant as this anti-muslim video. Watch it and get back to me.
f you can stomach the self loathing of this article. It was a 12 minute poorly and hopelessly amateurish video that has the Islamic world worked enough to kill Americans and our Islamaphobia. It is not a religion that teaches hate and kills its perceived enemies and nonbelievers in the most brutal fashions imaginable. Keep apologizing and they will keep killing.
Next week some Islamo nut case will strap a bomb to his ribs and walk onto the middle of a bunch of children on their way to school and blow them into little body parts.
And the silence from the Muslim world will be deafening.
You complain that our representatives are "apologizing" for the video and trying to calm the situation. O Wise Chad, what would you do if King for a Day, drop the bomb on them all? Start another war? Its an easy childish reaction to criticize without offering a "better" plan.
It is hardly "the Islamic world" that is reacting, but a handful of idiots who have no concept of freedom of speech, let alone the 1st Amendment. There are 2 billion Muslims in the world and they are not all going crazy. Like most Christians and Jews they are living their lives without thinking much about religion, or getting worked up over crappy videos.
Apologizing is much the same as saying their reaction was justified. our leaders should make comments about how silly the movie is, but to apologize is to say that they share some responsibility for the stupid film. If "peaceful" Muslim leaders had vehemently condemned the violence using versus from the Koran to justify their remarks. If this is a peaceful religion then this violence should be against the teachings in the Koran.
I am a Christian and quite frankly knew nothing of the history or the tenets of Islam until I listened to some of the things that Walid Shoebat had to say about a religion he grew up in. He has lived Islam and found it lacking to his liking. He doesn't espouse hatred or violence but he does encourage people to educate themselves about radical fundamental Islam. I am doing so. If that is "islamophobia" then so be it but you won't see me attacking Muslim embassies or trying to hurt anyone simply because of what they believe. There is nothing wrong with being aware and I, for one, have no intention of letting anyone, like Mr. McClaren or CNN, try to guilt me for doing so. I respect Mr. McClaren's opinions. This is America and he has a right to believe what he believes and do agree that spreading unfounded rumors is hurtful. But then again, reality can be much more so.
Are you watching the crazies in your own cult as well or are you one of those crazies?
Educating yourself is certainly admirable... but if you are unable to separate truth from fiction, then what do you gain ? Walid Shoebat has been shown to be a fraud so many times, that only the truly brainwashed Fundamentalists (such as the followers of Pat Robertson, Janet Parshall, and John Hagee) believe a word of his nonsense. These rabid Fundamentalists drag Christianity down into their slime-pit, making not only their followers, but the entire community of Christians look evil in the eyes of the non-Christian world.
It's time that good, God-fearing, Christ-following Christians repudiate these nut cases for what they are... the lying, hate-mongering False Prophets that the Bible warns us about.
Really? This is the TOP news story.
Any stories that alarms thinking freedom loving people about the Talibangelicals should be front and center. I bet normal German citizens in the 1930s were yawning over front page news stories about the Nazis as well.
Whattsa matter, John? Your boyfriend dump you last night?
Wow, I only go to CNN to see the next depth of insanity to which the American Progressive will go. To turn Islamic hatred and violence into a reason to engage in anti-christian bigotry is a new low, I am impressed.
I am agnostic and I could not agree more, I came close to deleting CNN as a favorite. Hopefully they will read your comment and reconsider what the headline should be.....but I doubt it. Will delete as a favorite in future.
Hey but you got to give them credit for creativity.
You state Islamaphobia runs in the mainstream of our common heritage. You cite: emails, television, radio, and book sources as the stem for this Islamaphobia. However, there is no mention in your article that these attacks occured on the anniversary of 9/11. There is a great amount of significance in that fact, and I find it odd that you fail to note that correalation. Or, are emails, television, radio, and books to blame for 9/11 as well? Maybe radical islamists just hate us (evangelicals) because we exist and worship our God unapologetically. Could that be the more rational possibility? I think its closer to the truth than your explanation.
Your arguement, as you state it,
"The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety."
I would argue, "The greatest threat to evangelicalism is islamists who encourage hate and promote hate openly through condoned terrorist acts – no camouflage required"
As Christians, we are called to love. We are also called to have no other gods before us. These are two distinct commands. We can love our Muslim brothers all day long, and respect there right to worship, but history has proven this is not enough. The very fact that we worship our God and not theirs is where the problem lies.
You should still love, but you must also open up your eyes and quit blaming evangelicals, books, radio, tv, and emails. It makes you look foolish. Thinking Christians not base their beliefs or faith on these sources.
A lot of Christians on this board are proving the writer's point.
UncleM – Or alot of Christians on this board are expressing that Mr. McLaren's false depiction of "mainstream Christians" who foster hate is not representative of us.
This article is correct. How can one say that they follow Jesus and be afraid and bigoted in any way. This "fear of Islam" is then falsely tied to our President and then to race, (Skin color). It is sold as a giant conspiracy that is somehow being revealed through the Holy Spirit and is another sign that these are the End Times. Central to it all is the huge misbelief that Islam is the False Religion, Mohammed the false profit and that Obama is the Anti Christ. In reality Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same God from three very different perspectives. Islam like all faiths must be respected and President Obama is not a Manchurian conspiracy. I am a follower of Christ and know that He will reveal himself to all who seek Him; though so many choose not to see Him and many who claim to know Him in fact are blind. We are called to love everyone as Christ loves us. Nowhere in His teaching does he call for us to instill hatred, lies, politics, and fear into our faith as His followers! If indeed these are end times then why aren't we Christians reaching out to do God's Will & spread God's Peace even if we are led as sheep to slaughter?
"UncleM A lot of Christians on this board are proving the writer's point."
A lot of people call themselves "Christians" but have not practiced the religion since their parents sent them to bible school, or they attend services on Sunday to make a show but while the sermon is being given, they are mentally somewhere else.
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.