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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.

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. mbane

    Evangelical Christian? I'm sorry, but evangelicals are not Christian. They might call themselves that and they might pick and choose passages from the Bible when it suits them but these people do not act like Christians. Having been raised in a Catholic home, I see evangelicals and I wonder if these people even understand the Bible or it's moral lessons or the history behind Christianity (not a very good one). Evangelicals are the offspring of the Puritans back in Europe who ended up in this country and decided to stick to their beliefs of hate and pride in being uneducated. I'm not religious in any way, I'm just saying that Christianity and Evangelicals are two completly different religions. One is very liberal with a strong sence of a social community and acceptance, the other an ultra conservative and hateffull view of the world.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • jott77

      Catholic....u mean the church for little boys...cmon

      September 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  2. jott77

    CNN is sooo unamerican trader news should be shut down for treason!!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Trader? LOL

      September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  3. Colin

    Can a Christian or Muslim please help me? I am having trouble distinguishing the third and forth examples of circular reasoning from the first two. Perhaps you can explain the difference.

    “I believe Obama is a great man because his biography says so, and the reason I believe his biography is that it is about Obama, who is a great man.”

    “I believe Mao Zedung was a wise and great man because it says so in The Little Red Book and I believe the Little Red Book because it was written by Mao Zedung, a wise and great man.”

    "I believe Allah exists because it says so in the Koran and I believe the Koran because it is the inspired word of Allah"

    “I believe God exists because it says so in the Bible and I believe the Bible because it is the inspired word of God.”

    September 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      It's not nice to make the sheeple think too much.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  4. jott77

    any of those guys on 9'11 not muslim....wake up. they only resond to fear not to obamas fake smile and talk. An american killed in the streets a week later and still no responce....George bush please come back we are soooo sorry...CNN u are unamerican slobs

    September 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  5. steve

    this bald headed idiot is a total fraud and should be exposed for what he is.
    his muslim ties only confirms what the vast majority of us feel and know!
    go away you vermin

    September 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  6. Dougo

    Get yer head out of the sand Brian...ya heretic

    September 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  7. Newsflash

    This is such a baseless article. Evangelical Islamophobia? What is that? The greenhouse for American Islamophobia? Why is it that people like Brian Maclaren crave the limelight so much that they would malign people just because they choose to. As a Christian, I have deferred on every issue with Brian and this is another one. The reason those muslims are killing and burning has nothing to do with American Evangelicalism in any way, shape or form – and Brian CANNOT prove otherwise. Very sqad and shameful.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  8. rickwh

    Most Christians love to slam Islam – the other religion. Most Christians want to say that "my God is bigger than yours" whereas most Islamic people feel the same way. For this reason these two religions have been battling over who's God is better since the inception of these religions. When I think of what must amount to billions of people slaughtered over the thousands of years (if all religions are included) in the name of God. It's justified because this is what God wants. It doesn't matter that all sides say this and on the surface (and underneath) it doesn't make sense. I'm an Agnostic. I dislike ALL religions and feel that they exist only to take advantage of the fear that people make of it when they can't explain a natural phenomena and attribute everything to "a God". Religions will always be at war with each other and there is absolutely no way to change that. We need to understand as Americans that people will die senselessly for religious beliefs and we need to accept that. I myself have no intention of being drug into anyone's religious war if I can help it. Unfortunately, the crusades are alive and thriving. As much as I dislike all of this I have to accept it.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Moo

      Anytime you use the word "most" to describe an opinion in an argument, you're probably generating equally false facts that are nothing more then your own delusions.

      Speak for yourself, not others.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • presto88

      Most Christians that I know do not slam Islam. I am a Christian and I have co-workers and friends who are Muslim. The thing that gets under a a lot of peoples skin is the fact that people who do not follow Islam in the middle east are tortured and/or murdered.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • John

      And the really sad part is that Jews, Christians and Muslims all are worshiping the "God of Abraham"

      September 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  9. Steve P

    More liberal drivel from CNN. The fact of the matter is that if any of you on this network actually read the Qu'ran you would see that Islam is in fact a political agenda wrapped within a religion. Any book that teaches that the "Sphere" of Islam will forever be at war with the "sphere" of "war" is not a peaceful piece of scripture. Im not saying that Muslims are bad people but if you read the Qur'an literally, there is allot of scary stuff. My friends Christian family was driven from their ancestral homes in Iraq, Lebanon, and then evetually Egypt by these "peaceful, loving people". The hypocrisy is astounding.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • John

      The bible has some scare stuff in it too.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  10. JamesisalwaysCorrect

    Poor article. The problem isn't christians. Its islamic extremest. And its also Muhammad fault to. He got to be a pretty evil (human being) before he died.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bob

      Brian McClaren has very loose theology. CNN, stop defending Islam....innocent people are dying, why not focus on that? Yes, there are peaceful Muslims...but these nuts follow the Koran to the letter and sadly represent true Islam – in spite of what peaceful Muslims will tell you.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • James' 4th Grade Teacher

      JamesisalwaysCorrect ***except when it comes to spelling, grammar and sentence construction.

      (he might have turned out to be a good lumberjack or truck driver or something)

      September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  11. How

    Tactics of The Obama administration and all liberal propaganda: first apologize for America- if that fails, blame Christianity.
    How dare CNN write an article and act like Christians hold some sort of responsibility for this! It's actually disgusting already and Obama needs to be fired. What a joke this entire administration has been. Now they want the sheep to believe this was all about a movie! LOL it's just a coincidence it happened on the 11th anniversary on 9/11 and the leaders of libya all said it was planned!!! Like everything else Obama has done he has failed at foreign policy too! Why didn't our embassy's have tightened security for 9/11. Why are our embassy's not more secure regardless of the day. When our embassy's were on fire and 4 americans were dead did Obama go to Vegas to continue campaigning.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • rickwh

      O.K. moron. Obama didn't apologize for it. Stop basing your opinion on republican talking points and start thinking by using the facts (republicants hate those). It's time to grow a brain fool.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  12. joe12234

    John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."

    1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (2) By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (3) and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

    2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (15) What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (17) Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, (18) and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."

    God warned us (His children) to beware false prophets and teachers. We are to have no spiritual partnership with unbelievers. Of course this does not mean we are to hate them or commit violence against them. But that also mean that we do not accept the lies that they promote as truth.

    Islam is a lie from Hell and Muhammad was a false prophet because Muhammad rejected the truth of Jesus Christ.

    Mr. McLaren seems to be suggesting that we can walk in peace and unity with Muslims. This is simply not true.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Observer

      God warned us (His children) to beware false prophets and teachers (like clergy who tell you to put your religion above others'). We are to have no spiritual partnership with unbelievers (but should feel free to judge them and inform them where they will be going upon death). Of course this does not mean we are to hate them or commit violence against them (not overtly, but endorse it, of course! It's spiritual warfare!). But that also mean that we do not accept the lies that they promote as truth (I bet the Muslims are saying the EXACT same thing about the Christians who invade their country and tell them how to live).

      Islam is a lie from Hell and Muhammad (because that's what a 2000 yr old, 3x over translated book says) was a false prophet because Muhammad rejected the truth of Jesus Christ (and Jesus REALLY hates those kinds of people).

      Mr. McLaren seems to be suggesting that we can walk in peace and unity with Muslims. This is simply not true.

      OK, so stop bull****ing then! American evangelicals, put your f***in money where your big fat judgmental, ethnocentric, xenophobic, mouth is, and DECLARE WAR! All out religious war baby! One big global "cleansing" may the best "religion" win. No survivors, one religion wins, EVERYONE ELSE DIES. Let's do it! What are you waiting for? Everyone else in the free world can see your hate eminating from you, so stop the bs and do it!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  13. dcj

    Are you serious? Really? This is the problem? Christians are phobic of Islam and THAT is the real problem? Sure I will grant you that there is propaganda out there that is misleading or completely false. And the Madrasahs? Completely fact based, reasoned and reasonable teachings there I am sure!!!! I am so sick of this. WE get violently attacked and in the media’s naive and neophyte need to appear intellectual and reasoned, OUR RESPONSE to such violence is the story.

    Let me ask you something. Where are the tens-of-thousands of violent protesters over Bill Maher’s criticism of Christians?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • steve

      why protest when we are "secure" in our beliefs
      we could care less what anyone else thinks

      September 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  14. Agreed

    Right, why fear people who cause chaos over some obscure event; to the extent of extermination of people. Why fear radical religion that instruct its believers to kill all who do not. Nothing here move along.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  15. newsfan

    I am a Christian. I love animals. But I won't be having a lion over to dinner anytime soon. Lions are beautiful animals. I enjoy watching them. I love that God created them but if given the chance, they will eat me. And so, I keep my distance. I know this because they do it everyday (not people but you get my point). Islam has bloody borders. Name a Muslim nation that does not demand theocracy and Sharia Law. They don't want to conform to a culture, they demand to BE the culture. There is no "getting along" with them. I don't hate them just like I don't hate lions. But I hear what they say (and do) and I believe them.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • someone

      That's right. If you invite a huge crocodile for a dinner, there are big chances, that you're going to be the dinner.
      That's just common sense.
      Something had to be really wrong in the brains of those, who invited people of completely incompatible culture to their countries. Same people would probably invite a lion for a dinner too.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  16. D0gma

    I'm calling bs on this..
    everything I learned about loving thy neighbour I heard in Church first, other sources last.
    Everything I learned about Islam I learned about in the media reports about terrorism and terrorist acts.

    Blame lies where it belongs... the guys making the news in the name of Islamic Jihad against everything non islamic.

    period.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  17. Mark

    Just curious. Is Islamaphobia the cause of the death of the US Ambassor in Lybia? or the current uprisings across the Middle East?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  18. Jeff

    Are you an idiot? These people are killing and imprisoning anyone who doesn't submit to their beliefs and you write some dribble like this? My God CNN what has happened to you? The world should fear this movement. It is equivilent to Nazi Germany! Their stated goal is world domination. Wake up!!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Put down the crack pipe, turn off Fox News and go play outside.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Jerry

      Jeff, I agree, but they cant see it. That is why even our president even explains it away.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Colonel Angus

      Nice reply from someone who wishes he thought like Thomas Jefferson. I guess innocent people aren't really getting killed for blasphemous acts done by someone else.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • sandcanyongal

      You must be a Christian to hate everyone so much.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  19. sandcanyongal

    I've never met a Muslim. Why would I ever hate them? What I see is the U.S. military invading every Arab country by deadly military force stealing their natural resources and killing their leaders, then replacing them with new puppets. They're using our young men and women as human shields. I'm a disgusted American and don't condone any of this.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  20. BOBO

    No, it's ADVENTURE TIME!

    |(• ◡•)| (❍ᴥ❍ʋ)

    September 17, 2012 at 3:28 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.