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.
Oh the irony....just when some religious studies know it all thinks it's time to teach Christians that it's wrong to be "phobic" of Islam....the Muslims are on our back porch terrorizing us in every barbaric way possible.
Oh the irony: Christians criticising another religion for torture and murder.
It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't?) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.
Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!
Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species.
Of course Islam is a crazy religion. But look at Christianity. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. I don't buy any of it.
Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god (something you know nothing about), fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind. That's where, in your mind, you are inheriting the division and hate from ordinary politicians, lobbyists and salesmen from long ago.
where are my comments?
o “bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN “awaiting moderation” filter:
Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters to modify the “offending” letter combinations.
ar-se…..as in Car-se, etc.
co-ck…..as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, lubco-ck, etc.
co-on…..as in rac-oon, coc-oon, etc.
cu-m……as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
cu-nt…..as in Scu-ntthorpe, a city in the UK famous for having problems with filters…!
ef-fing…as in ef-fing filter
ft-w……as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, etc.
ho-mo…..as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, etc.
ho-rny….as in tho-rny, etc.
jacka-ss…yet “ass” is allowed by itself…..
ja-p……as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
koo-ch….as in koo-chie koo..!
pi-s……as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
pr-ick….as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
ra-pe…..as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
se-x……as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
sh-@t…..but shat is okay – don’t use the @ symbol there.
sp-ic…..as in disp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
ti-t……as in const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
tw-at…..as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, etc.
va-g……as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
who-re….as in who’re you kidding / don’t forget to put in that apostrophe!
There are more, some of them considered “racist”, so do not assume that this list is complete.
Allowed words / not blocked at all:
raping (ra-pe is not ok)
shat (sh-@t is not ok)
look closely at the pictures of the protesters, they need a rabies shot, f in psycho rabid animals.
islaaaam is a cancer , it is a religion of violence and hate
The Muslim protesters look like the Christian protesters at gay pride parades with their venom spewing. One year they threw bibles, hitting people on the head.
although i do not agree with their agenda, are they strapping bombs on themselves and slitting your throat if you dont go gay?
In my 56 years, I am aware of plenty of people murdered and beaten for being gay! It doesn't get on the news because the local Christian cops squelch it. Yes Christians do kill here in American gays and all those they hate. Ask the Olympic bomber.
The Christian Olympic bomber bombed a gay bar and an abortion clinic. What to they have in common? They are both centerpieces of Christian hatred and occasional violence.
The other day I was wiping my a$$ with the pages from an old bible I had found in the town dump. Next thing I know, Joel Osteen bust down my door screaming "infidel!" and peppering my house with an AK47
Political right-wing Christians hate everyone who is not a right-wing hateful Christian. They are a hate machine. They live and breath hatred. Just monitor Family Research Council activities to get a taste of Christian venom. Jerry Falwell once said, "People with AIDS should be shot and buried like cattle with anthrax." The pure example of Christian hatred.
Just like the Taliban.
Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity—and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion—has no abode. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered.
North Americans have awoken to what Islam is about.
You must have been taught by an Evangelical. You should go back to sleep, the world has enough hate at the moment. And if you want the truth, read Karen Armstrongs "Muhammad"
American buildings and people are being destroyed by Islamic groups and CNN posts an article about the dangers of Christianity?
Exactly...ranks up there with that "American Muslims living in Fear" front page opinion article posted on 9/11...who's agenda is CNN serving?
What its only OK for American's to kill and destroy? Your mindset is the problem with the world today.
The author of this article is an apologist for Islamic extremism. The movie in question is in bad taste but there is no excuse for the Islamic world's reaction to it. The religious intolerance of the Islamic world today is similar to the intolerance of the Christian world before the Renaissance. I denounce strongly the atrocities of the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago when they burned people at the stake for disrespecting Jesus and I denounce strongly the modern Islamic world for similar reasons.
There is good reason for Islamophobia (fear of the Islamic world) today as there was good reason to fear the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago.
Why don't you try to go to the south and call "Jesus" peace be upno him some kind of a bad name and let's see ho wmuch love you wil be faced with!!!!!
The American diplomat who was killed by Islamic zealots did not go into any Islamic region and spealk out against Mohamed so your analogy is invalid.
1) Islamic zealots ?!?!?!? What kind of experience or knowledge you have to call them as such? How would you know if they are Islamic Zealots or some drunken men in the streets? Even the state department stated that these are people from the Ghadafi suppoerts who still try to keep the country in an unrest state.
2) So, by your way of thinking, these people over there acted the right way. The movie came out of USA where it is mostly Christians, so it has to be all of them fault!
3) The "American Diplomat" has a name and his name is : J. Christopher Stevens. His killing was wrong and what happened there was wrong. He and his family have been in my prayers since day one.
4) All Muslims condemned the entire situation and the behavior.
5) I do not see the media, the people, or anyone else call the people attacking mosques, Muslims cemeteries, and schools a Christians Zealots, or Jews Zealots, or any other Zealots. No one called anybody who lives in Florida a Hispanic American Christian because of the shooting.
With that, let us call the issues as hey are: There was a crime committed and the responsible will be brought to justice.
If you are going to generalize about Muslims and anyone who lived there and mark them all “Islamic Zealots”, then you are as good as they are.
Brian D. McLaren wants Christians to apologize. and apologize, and apologize and apologize.
Have the esteemed Muslims EVER apologized for ANYTHING?
How much money did you make out of this article Brian D. McLaren? Shame on you.
This whole situation is very simple and can be summarized as follows: religion enslaves and corrupts simple minds. These would be normaly good people but they have let religion provoke and justify a primal us vs. Them mentality. George bush didnt like stem cell research because it was a "slippery slope" Well, if religon iyself isnt s slippery slope i dont know what is.
Christianity is a veneer for raw venomous hatred!
Hi Muslims, So you're offended by the depiction of your prophet?
I'm horribly offended by your religion's treatment of women and based on the number of ludicrous acts, like blasphemy laws that punish illiterate children and blowing up of the priceless ancient statues in Bamiyan, I think your religion is an insult to Humanity.
Does that give me a right to throw stones, burn your buildings and kill your diplomats and ambassedors?
That would be the work of the Taliban, not Muslims and we Muslims are equally disgusted with what they do in the name of Islam. The Taliban are the byproduct of the Saudi's, a product of the West. So now you know where to properly voice your complaint.
There is a lot of hate on this article against the piece and a lot of justification to the continuance of it. Did everyone ignore the part about Jesus' forgiveness and acceptance? All the author is saying is that this cycle of "offense, outrage, revenge" , a cycle which does exist, needs to be stopped or it keeps going (obviously). The only way to stop it is to stop the next action. Don't offend. Don't be outraged. Don't avenge. Especially to something so petty, which I'm already seeing all over the comments section.
Now I know that many at this suggestion will point out that an American LIFE was lost abroad. Are we to do nothing? Quite to the contrary, understanding that the forces behind that act were individuals and the exception to a norm will lead us to forgiveness. Not every Muslim will take the opportunity to kill an American because they just don't want to. The act of a few have led to this misunderstanding: a reiteration of this article that so many commenters have missed.
I have tons of Muslim friends because, admittedly, I was privileged enough to grow up in an environment where my parents exposed me to many new and foreign ideas. Muslims are all about incorporating their religion into everything they do, especially when they show off their religion to foreigners (this experience was about seven years ago abroad). The Muslims I know and knew love to preach love and they hate to preach hate. Come on people, it's no accident that I wasn't murdered by these Muslims yet Muslims murder on the media. Instead, there are a few people who are "sub-Islamic" that do preach hate and their violent actions catch prime-time media attention because they're violent actions (all violent actions catch media attention). Does the everyday Muslim catch that same attention? Nope.
What do we do about this, then? Be aware that, just as Christians are divided, so are Muslims. The acts of a few should NOT reflect the acts of many: interpreting otherwise would be immature and ignorant. If anyone wants to fight a war anyway, though, I suggest you fight a social one, one that reinforces the beauty of preaching love instead of preaching hate. Even if you think that Islam is a religion inspired by hate (which I think it is NOT), then preach love in the face of violence to show one up over the other (but know that real love doesn't comes out of hate).
I am so glad that this piece made it to the front page. It was an incredibly eye-opening call of the truth.
Which begs the question – where were your muslim friends? Abroad, or in America?
Point being – American Muslim's are to Islam what Penguins are to birds. A very small slice and not very representative of the breed. 7 million US muslims out of 1.5 billion worldwide. The average muslim is an uneducated indonesian or pakistani farmer who hates the US and thinks it is the den of iniquity.
Apologies – The man did say abroad.
However, he also indicated this was in his childhood – not sure how many years ago, or where abroad. If Europe there are 100 million or so Muslims. Of course, in Turkey there are 68 milliion out of 68 million people.. Good people I'm sure, but not a lot of diversity going on there..
Point stands – majority of muslims live very differently than the posters on this board do and have very different values.
No need to read this article. I know what its intentions are. However, I have lived in the muslim world and see how women are treated. Their culture is religious-based. "Honor killings" is a culture-related crime. Sharia law is nothing like Christian teachings as far as the punishment for the crime, and it does not extend to women much of a chance. I have seen how women are treated and thought of in those countries. Even the moderate world muslims won't stand up and loudly condemn terriorism of their more radical brothers, because they ARE "brothers". There should be no place for this type of thinking in the USA (church and state) , that the moderate muslims keep quiet and don't stand up for the laws of the USA where they are living, as opposed to Sharia law. Come on. Sugar coat it as much as you like. Obama has experienced the utter ignorance of Islamaphobia and now must find out the harmful effects of defending and supporting the religion-that sweet-talking love of all cultures/religions is just not possible when it comes to how deeply engrained the "brotherhood" is, and the consequences of their countries being ruled by Sharia law. The Koran states in one place that a man may "lightly beat" an unruly wife. I hope Americans will not be brainwashed into hating muslims, and I also hope they will not be brainwashed into believing we need to accommodate Sharia law in the USA, over the rules we have already established here that do not involve a specific religion and is equal to both males and females.
This article is pure B.S. Those poor Muslims, those poor victims. Christians are monsters. I don't see Christians blowing up tons of people with suicide belts, throwing stones at their women, and murdering American diplomats lately. Christians are being murdered in Middle East countries. You have your good people, and you have your bad people in every group.
See, Katie, that is exactly what we mean when we say you are being fed faulty information. So there is 22 Muslim countries in North Africa and Middle East... only a group in Saudi Arabia still do stoning (maybe?).. What about the other 21 countries? Islam teaches that people of the book (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) derive from the same faith, and we never say you are evil or monsters. However, the US policies and the monarchy suppression in the Middle East make people confuse America Christianity and American foreign policy
Those that do kill Christians would be the work of the Taliban, not Muslims and we Muslims are equally disgusted with what they do in the name of Islam. The Taliban are the byproduct of the Saudi's, a product of the West. So now you know where to properly voice your complaint.
You forget the Westboro Baptist Church. Although no real "violence" is committed, they're doing their best. Also, you forget every Christian inspired war that has ever found itself on the face of the earth.
Now what do you do about it? I used to have a great friend who is a Muslim, but now she can't speak to me at all because she's getting married. I believe she just turned 18. That's oppression, and I wholeheartedly believe it is. The things is, however, she doesn't see it that way at all! She sees it as the way a moral life is supposed to be, and I strongly disagree.
We both disagree, I'm sure. I'd like to have a friendly discussion to settle these differences, but how can that happen if one refuses to talk to the other? We both have to have a decent discussion until we can reach an agreement. It may take hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, or millennia, but it should never take spilled blood or tears. I think we can both agree that it's wrong for either of us to impose our own will on the other. So in the end, we keep trying, not sacrifice our sacred values.
Unfortunately Katie these two groups are pure hatred driven. While Christians may not be blowing up embassies its only because of the laws we have in this country that deters them. I think christians are worse because they hide behind veneers of kindness and respectability and use God only when they think it supports their own self-interest. I was raised in and have many evangelical christian family members (who I no longer associate with) the level of hate and ignorance is appalling and I'm sure some Islam families can say the same about their relatives. At least Islamic extremist don't pretend to be anything else.
Brian D. McLaren let hope you don't get to see one of these fanatical Muslims close up because it will be the last thing you ever see.
I agree these Liberals do not know who their enemies are
I am American and Muslim. The majority of my friends are Christians. There are always people who are close minded and mislead by the media or their ego. Evangelical who tolerate hate and fear and Muslim extremist are the minority in both parties, but unfortunately, the media needs news that makes big headlines ...
Muslims are, too, told and preached forgiveness, compassion, and love, but you hardly heard about that, I bet!
That is wonderful. However you can only be the open minded Muslim you are because you live in a Western non-Muslim country. Otherwise if you lived in many other Muslim nations you unfortunately would be silents like the hundreds of other Muslims are.
@liberalChristain, Maybe of the West did not put dictators over Muslims like the Saudi's or the murderers in Bahrain and Yemen we would be able to speak.
actually i too am muslim, and i've lived in the U.S. all my life, but i've also been fortunate enough to travel around the world and can say that the muslims i've met are more worried about their own lifes than what the U.S. does.
Its a bit egotistical to think that their lives revolve around us.
Fitting how CNN would publish an article like this and not even mention the fact that Christians have been slaughtered by their Muslim invaders in the Middle East since 626AD.
this article is pure crap.. how can you compare sending emails to killings??
i love it when these christian extremist try to play the victim... "oh its okay to hate christians but not muslims... "
cry me a river... losers
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.