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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. TomTom

    Indeed the Muslims are naively innocent. They know of no other reality. Islam keeps them in the Middle Ages. Look how they treat their women. And we are supposed to Apologize to them?? 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.

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

    I would propose there is less Islamophobia in the United States than your contributor would admit. Having lived-in and been directly in contact with the culture of Islam I can tell you the ultimate goal is Islam is global saturation; to the extent Sharia Law becomes the dominate influence in the countries Islam seeks to inundate. The fundamental tenants of Islam place the faith in direct opposition to American/Western values; no amount of submission, apology or excuse will endear the Islamic nations of the world to America. Islam has been at the root of every major attack on our country since Pearl Harbor and American Citizens are fair-game in Islamic countries. American’s have seen and felt the brunt of Islamic Jihad, as have the innocent women and children subjugated to Sharia Law. “Islamophobia,” infers a fear of Islam; Americans do fear Islamists . . .for good reason.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • TomTom

      Way to go Lance.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  3. the kat

    You are SO RIGHT SIR in everything you say about so-called christians. I like my friends the muslims have been a target of the christian hate speech. Since day one lies have been told about me and millions of peoples have followed the christian hate against me and my kind. I like my friends the muslims have a different view of faith. I believe in free will. You had no say in coming into this world and you have no say when you will leave and where you will end up in the next world. Unless you follow me. Signed SATAN

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  4. Reload

    Regardless of what McLeran has written here, I tend to believe the physical evidence of the collapsed world trade centers, over three thousand murdered americans, lots of dead soldiers, several burned diplomatic missions, daily car bombing, etc. Phobia implies an irrational fear. I believe that fear and distrust is quite warranted in the case Islam.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  5. The ops

    I like how this author uses harsher language to describe the anti Muslim film then he uses to describe the actions of those protesting and killing and burning American flags and shouting pure hatred toward all Americans for something they had nothing to do with. Can people get real please, America is failing on all fronts.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • no

      no, you are wrong.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  6. Hadenough

    I'm an atheist and certainly no fan of evangelicals. However, you don't need "islamaphobia" to realize the dreadful mantra of that group of individuals. No one has to slam islamists for their repugnant actions towards others. They are quite capable of demonstrating that themselves.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Petercha

      Good point, Hadenough.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  7. RCH

    Two things that will never change. Religon and Politicts

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Demiton

      ..and spelling.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  8. BlindFaithisSin

    If religious folks were capable of thinking outside their little boxes, don't you think the whole Christian vs Muslim issue would have been resolved centuries ago? You can't reason with faith. Each sides starts the debate with "I am right".

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  9. YGBSM

    Cannot believe the author goes so far as to make the film the fault of why muslims killed our people. Thats like blaming a pencil for a spelling mistake. Get your head on right folks, these people don't like our way of life, get it? In 25 years they will be the dominate religion in Europe. A religion of death to non believers.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • timinfla

      islaaaam is a cancer, it is a religion of violence and hate

      September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  10. Veritae

    Sure Mr. McLaren;

    Just as soon as 'they' demonstrate a willingness to come to grips with 'their' Islamic Christophobia. Perhaps, Mr. McLaren, you should come to grips with yours as well. Please. Stop the absurdity of advocating a religious detente. It is PC just silly and wishful thinking. really?! I've observed toddlers with more sense than this.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • thewarpedpen

      People like you are the reason relationships between different religions and sects aren't getting better. Quit pointing fingers at the other side and be the tolerant one. And no, being tolerant doesn't mean "a pushover." Just don't be the kind of person who follows the groupthink of "Yay us! Boo them!" Love your religion, let it help you be kind and just, and reject when people within your religion try to make it a vehicle of hate, intolerance, and bigotry.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  11. Chris33

    There is only one God, and he is love.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • RCH

      AMAN

      September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  12. sickofitall

    "This is an excellent piece, and I completely agree. The evangelist Christians the author speaks of are just going down the same path as the Islamic extremists they supposedly condemn by continuing to spread these lies about Islam."

    Hmm let me see; by this logic – spreading lies = stoning women to death, throwing acid in the face of young female school girls, cutting the heads off of your enemies with a dull knife, blowing innocent people up, including fellow Muslims, slaughtering fellow Muslims who aren't Shiite or Sunni or??

    The clarity of his position is just stunning in it's obviousness; almost as obvious as the hatred expressed on this board by people suggesting we should embrace poor misunderstood Muslims while expressing hatred for Christians..

    September 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Petercha

      Good post, sickofitall.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Dave

      Dead on right...nice job.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  13. Petercha

    Personally, I've seen the movie trailer, and I would not have made a movie like that. However, an insult to one's religion is NOT, I repeat NOT, a reason to kill people, riot, destroy property, and so on. Period. And therein lies one of the many differences between islam and all other religions. You don't see Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, etc., conducting themselves in such an evil manner when their religion is insulted.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Demiton

      ...except fundamentalist Christians murdering women's health doctors.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Jonsie

      Very well said. Jews, Christians, Catholics etc. are critized on a daily basis and we don't riot in the streets or kills people that don't believe like we do. Muslims want to keep their people poor so they can control them. They, frankly, are very scary!!

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

      Dont generalize my friend.. the acts of a few senseless people cannot be attributed to the whole religion.. that is what the problem is.. everybody generalizes so they find a simple explanation to a problem. The reasons why these so called fundamentalists act this way could be several... but unfortunately Religion is the only one that shows. It is like saying.. Catholic preists molest small children.. so all Catholics are child molestors.. Think about it.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  14. Tri0de

    As long as people with invisible sky friends are allowed to vote, breed or even be out on the streets, the problems will continue.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  15. Tom

    How many christians have flown planes into buidings or destroyed embassy's? The media keeps shoving at us about how Islam is a religion of peace, but history including the Bible and in modern times has proven over and over that they are not.

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

      Good post, Tom.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Lance

      Exactly Tom, additionally; how many new commentators who LOUDLY extol the virtues of the Islamists would ever step-up to defend Christianity when there are myriads of offences in art, television film and music. When Try Parker wants to depict Christ as a cable-tv host, I don’t see CNN running to defend the faith. However, any offense to a religion who has murdered more innocent Americans than any on the planet will receive the full backing and support CNN. Speaks volumes for the CNN agenda.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Obama2012

      Stop relying on media to supply you all the info about Islam. Everyone makes Islam look bad. It does teach peace, paitence, nonviolence and much more. However it does not teach to kill and fight as we are saying. Those are just mislead. There were 10 attacks during ramadhan on mosques accross America and did you see Muslim retaliate? Of course not because Islam does not promote violence but condemns it. You are nothing but an uneducated moron on religon.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  16. james hotz

    Mohammad had many women.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  17. Chris33

    Science flies you to the moon.

    Religion flies you into buildings..

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

      Chris, you paint with much too broad a brush. It was ISLAM that flew those planes into buildings, not all religions.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Moses

      What a silly think to write....religoin didn't fly airplanes into buildings or kill embassadors, radical Islam did

      September 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  18. staplehawk

    Is this really an article defending Islam as getting a 'bad rap', while also citing the embassies getting attacked and people getting killed because some retard in California made a horribly low budget film painting their beliefs in a bad light? Really?? Brian Mclaren, maybe you would be good to listen to your evangelical family and understand The Fruits of faith are produced upon a people for the seeds they sow. Violence, anger, hatred and Blaming others for their problems are all we are seeing from Islam. That is the Fruits from with Islams roots grow. Until we the people see something different... Calling an Apple a pear is not going to change what it is.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  19. David

    The Muslims kill anyone who disagrees with them.........I never heard of Christians doing that!!!!
    Your article makes out that the Christians (& I am not one) are to blame!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  20. taurran

    I'm not Christian, but I think the mindset of even the average Muslim in the middle east is detestable and deplorable. I find it insulting that writers such as the author of this article can simply overlook the actions of these Muslims; killing and rioting over a pathetically poor film. The actions of the few speak for the many. I don't care how many peaceful Muslims we have in the western world – it's time to take responsibility for the extremists your religion spawns.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:56 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.