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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 • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. Rob

    Have you watched television – they pulled our ambassador out of his home and killed him. I think there maybe good reason to be Islaophobic.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • jkee

      AMEN. Most people do not understand the Koran provides three options for infidels. (1) convert; (2) enslave or (3) kill. There is no love for non muslims.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  2. John

    Yeah, it's those radical christian s out their killing our soldiers, ambassadors and blowing up buildings. WOW

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  3. Dave

    Yes, it makes complete sense to write a piece bashing Evangelical Christians for Islamaphobia rather than addressing the bigger issue of Islam induced violence. This is atrocious.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  4. AJ

    Brian.....how different are you from that guy who made that video?? Let you not ignite the other end to spread the fire fast.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  5. Egyptian Girl

    When Muslims act violently against other religions/cusltures, it's because they are instructed by Islam to fight the unbelievers till they;
    1./ submit and either convert to Islam, or
    2./ Pay a huge tax for keeping their original faith, or
    3./ get killed. And that is if they won't convert and can't afford to maintain their original faith. And by the way, Option two was only given to Christians and Jews at the time of the prophet. If the unbelievers were worshiping status they either covert or be killed. Very clear and very simple rule. This is Islam.

    9:29 Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low

    Based on this verse what is called now the Muslim World was conqurred by the sword allover 1400 years and all minorities in those countries suffered prosecution and discrimination till today!

    9:12 And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief – Lo! they have no binding oaths – in order that they may desist

    This verse is a command from God to kill whoever dare to "assail" (criticize) Islam, that explains the violence you see from Muslims allover the world everytime there is such an instance like the Cartoons 2006 and the movie few days ago

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Laurie in Spokane

      If what you say is true of Islam, it truly is a brbaric religion. Of course, as an atheist, I believe all religions/belief in a "god" is barbarous. Sooooooooooooooo, either become an Muslim, or pay to keep your religion, or be killed. Sounds like a wonderful god you have there. So conciliatory, loving, and – ahem – "non-violent".

      September 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  6. Maden

    "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." well said!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  7. Bob

    Islamophobia is not limited to Christians. Far from it. Atheists are far less tolerant, which is why Muslims are required by Allah to kill them first.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  8. Andy

    One word to counter this article.

    BESLAN

    Thats all you need to know. There is no need for evangelical "twistings" – just point to all the dead children.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • james

      One name to counter your post, Andy: Jim Jones.

      It's all you need to know to remember that Islam is not the only religion in whose name atrocities are committed.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Andy

      @James

      Unfortunately Jones's actions would not necessarily be regarded as terrorism. A nasty, evil cult yes, but would it be classified as terrorism?

      Beslan was plain just revolting.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  9. Nigostoros

    Thank you for the sound advice. Evangelical Christianity, Jehadi Christianity and Communism are all the same. The world can be a very peaceful place if we stop conversion, and promote love.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  10. Joshua

    I have Muslim friend who have explained the Quran and what it says to me. It was an oral revelation given to their Prophet Muhammad. The verses about killing disbelievers were revealed after Muhammad was forced to abandon his city after 12 years of peaceful preaching and patiently taking oppression. The verses about killing apparently were revealed only after he migrated and had an army of Meccan polytheists marching to his city. That is why the verse starts out, "now permission has come to you to fight" and another verse which clearly states in all english translationst that i have read, "fight only those who fight you"

    September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  11. John

    wasn't the guy who made the Islamaphobic movie part of a religious group Egytian Coptic Christians (not American Evangelicals) being persecuted and their worship centers burned to the ground by the religion of "we want a piece of you". Have you paid attention to what these peaceful people have been doing to Christians in nigeria, sudan, bosnia. Peaceful, not hardly.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • CNN YOU HAVE LOST ALL CREDIBILITY

      All I can say is WOW. CNN and its liberal agenda knows NO bounds. NOTHING SHORT OF DISGUSTING. Pandering fanny patting and playing patty cake with the beheaaders. Heaven forbid we be "ISLA MOPHOBES"??? And by the way why stop short at Isla m? WHy not stop being silly Cannibalphobes, rapistaphobes, naziphobes... PLEASE CNN GET A GRIP ON REALITY.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  12. Larry B

    Using labels is a time honored way of denigrating the opposition and putting yourself above others. The arguments goes something like this, "Certainly THEY must be ____phobic and as you can see I am not therefore I am superior to them." Mr. McLaren follows this formula. The truth is that Radical Islamists support death for others, specificially Christians and Jews, who do not convert. Fundamentalist Christians want to love our opponents to death. We want to win their souls for Christ, but allow them the freedom to reject Christ. Freedom is not a part of the Islamic faith and is seen as a weakness by the general Islamic population. The author should be ashamed of his motivation and intellectual argument in writting this article.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  13. Ronen

    CNN spare me your b.s.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  14. Joshua

    why am i being censored??? im not even saying anything offensive?!!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  15. Southerner01

    A phobia is an irrational fear. There is nothing irrational about fear toward the people who crashed planes into the World Trade Center or the ones who raided our embassies and consulates. When extremists in any other part of the world get violent, they are put down, sometimes very harshly. They are not met with celebrations and chants of death to USA.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  16. mclanea

    Thank you Brian, for speaking out on behalf of so many evangelicals who want to have nothing to do with the hate-filled speech of politicized, so-called brothers in Christ.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  17. TomTom

    Brian D. McLaren has no clue how Islam works. He is a premier example of the libral mindset that thinks apologizing to the Muslims will gain their love and favor. Brian D. McLaren is a tool. Islam will stop at nothing other than total world domination. At least try to read their so called religious text. CNN got a donation from Saudi Arabia.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • steve

      Amen,Tom Tom.I'm with you.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  18. Rufus T. Firefly

    The violent fundamentalist Muslims of the Middle East are a example of what any religion may become if it's not forced to operate within the civil laws of a secular government and the balancing effect of a diverse population.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  19. DNC

    NO way, Christians really condemning people based upon lies and fallacies. This article must be pro-Islam. Pale skinned/European Jesus would be so mad. LOL

    September 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  20. Dr. R.

    The world has officially turned upside down. Mr. McLaren, you blame the victims–an easy target. Why not take the difficult stance–blame radical Islam, and risk your life.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:53 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.