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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. Whateva!

    CNN, this is just plain aweful! At least your consistant.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  2. Chris

    It is just ridiculous that CNN can publish one article criticizing creationism, and the next defending Islam. This news article should have been published along with statistical information on what percentages of their employees are Islamic.

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

    Saw a bumper sticker on a minivan which read, 'Be Nice, Work Hard.' What simple tenet to build your life on. Supernatural assistance is not required or needed. No need to imagine or conjure up reasons to 'believe' that we are diffferent.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  4. wisdom4u2

    Brian McLaren is a bald face liar....'cause all anyone has to do is observe the actions of one's belief. I don't go by what anyone says or preach, I go by their actions.... Sort of like this:

    Proverbs 23:6-8 (NASB)
    6 Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
    Or desire his delicacies;
    7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
    He says to you, "Eat and drink!"
    But his heart is not with you.
    8 You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten,
    And waste your compliments.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  5. Ali

    Very well written, Bravo!
    To some islamophobes out there, do a favor to yourself and go visit Casablanca, Istanbul, Cordoba and what remains from Baghdad. Read history and see where the muslim scientists were and what they achieved while Europe was in the middle ages. I am not justifying the killing of the ambasador or the attack of the ambassies, we should keep in mind that many people who live out there don't have the bare minimum of education nowadays and they recently learnt how to oust their 42 year ruler!!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  6. Paul

    Islam makes headway with people like Brian McLaren. Islam makes headway in free democratic societies but abhors democracy. Those who don't want democracy should not fear Islam. Islam controls every aspect of people's lives, how and what to eat, how to dress, when, where and for how long they will worship. Democracy is in danger when Islam becomes a force to be reckoned with. Look at all the countries Islam has taken over and ruined. Their objective is obvious to all but their minions who prefer to look the other way. Freedom of religion has cost the entire world plenty. Islam will cash in big time with all that freedom, at the cost of those who cherish their freedoms.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  7. mariamorrell

    Islamophobia is such a funny word. If they were "afraid" they would not speak out against it. They simply disagree with it. It is so funny how liberals think if a person disagrees with something it means they fear it.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  8. Gary N

    Brian Mc Laren is an atheist and pseudo Christian. He denied the existence of Jesus Christ and the Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    This article is basically a New Age religion of feel good and all paths lead to God, which is 100% false and demonic.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Horus

      Theologians have questioned the mystical Jesus since the 3rd century.... Many believe in a historical Jesus, but not a god-man version.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • wisdom4u2

      Anyone can tell Brian is a fool.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  9. biggerdawg

    The reality is there is no Islamophobia. The fear is real because the threat is real and has been for 1400 years. But hey, don't let facts get in the way.

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

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

      September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • USDude

      Great point! Let's see how afraid Brian D. McLaren would be if we let anyone have a visa and no airport security checks – I have a feeling Brian D. McLaren would be a little more afriad than he's letting on :-) Also, let's see, a small percentage of a whole lot of people is still a whole lot of people to be afraid of =:-O

      September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Truth Matters

      You may think that you have a point, but a majority of the terrorism in this country and even in most recent years have been by our own people to our own people. Last time I checked, the KKK were going to church every Sunday and hanging minorities week to week. So, the threat you may speak of is not fact because the biggest slaughters, murders and demonic work has been done by Americans against Americans. Now that is FACT AND CANNOT BE REFUTED!!!! The point of the article is that bigotry against another religion or people especially if you claim to be a Chistrian is hypocritical and plainly, wrong.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • USDude

      Truth Matters – yes – there are crazy people everywhere and we don't have to go back many months to see mass shootings by Americans, etc. However, Christians speak out against these acts of domestic/international terror while Muslims stay silent in agreement – significant difference.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  10. Colin

    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Sociology; or

    (d) Religion

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

      Too bad you left off economics which accounts for 99%.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  11. Bill

    Relgion = hate = sorry sad but true

    September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Marc Perkel

      AmeN1

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

      what an ignorant generalization.
      Food=obesity.
      Education=genius
      You need an education= sorry sad but true!!!!!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  12. Lauren

    The problem is not those who disagree with Islam. There are those who disagree with Islam, Christianity, or Judaism. The problem is that Islamists, or radical Islamists if that is what you feel, are allowed to speak AGAINST the other religions but Christians and Jews are not? If someone doesn't agree, talk to someone else, don't attack sovereign soil and blow people up. That IS what part of (radical) Islam teaches.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  13. biglifter

    Yes, ignore the fact that muslims blow up buildings and people over cartoons and movies. The real issue here is we need to deepen our understanding. Riiiight.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  14. Colin

    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, blowing up an embassy, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • How

      i don't know how to explain faith to a simpleton like you.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Is he a simpleton for depending on his senses and experiences to deduce the truth about the world around him or are you a simpleton for believing a fairy tale?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  15. RN

    Nice Change- It is about time for the readers to hear truth and facts and not be misled. Those who spread hate, they are naturally hatful and they live in constant anger with themselves and the world. And those who promote peace and love are blessed. Why are we fighting if we all share one GOD?

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

    WRONG! It's the one time evangelicals and I actually agree on something. Problem is, evangelicals are just as bad and should also be eradicated.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Tomk777

      And who decides who should be irradicaded ? You, last time we made a blanket statement and said every one of a particular belief should be killed, 9 million Jews lost their life.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  17. 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 differed 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 sad and shameful.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  18. Greg S

    There is this American tendency to disregard the reality of extremism as it plays out before our eyes and interact only with a theoretical "moderate" view that we've created. Then to show a sense of fairness, they'll throw a lot of Christian evangelicals/fundamentalists under the bus as "extremists" to create this false comparison that there are extremists in both camps. But this is completely imaginary. It is completely valid to interact with Islam as it's actually applied in countries with Sharia law (like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afganistan, ect.) It's valid to interact with the actual views of Muslims such as the widespread desire for Sharia world-domination. It is completely absurd and warped to interact with this Western construct of a "moderate" Islam where we're all friends and Islam only affects willing participants in a Mosque. These same people who criticize evangelicals are completely ignorant of what a false comparison they're making and how utterly miserable they would be under Sharia law.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  19. 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 differed 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 3:33 pm |
  20. Read Facts

    All organized religion is delusion by consensus, most often backed-up with books of fables (koran, bible, etc). All of it would be laughable if they weren't so expensive and deadly.

    There are no imaginary sky gods, no heaven, no hell, at least that has any proof or merit within a reasonable framework of intelligent thinking.

    I don't know why we are here, and I don't know how or why the Earth and the universe exists, but just because I don't know doesn't mean I get to fill in the gaps with wild conjecture about 72 virgins, talking snakes, living the belly of a whale, walking on water, etc.

    Religion will likely be the reason for the end of us (nuclear weapons or other WMDs at the hands of the super-delusional). It won't be over food, or water, or land, or all the other real and important things we all need to coexist. Instead, it will be because one group of deluded adults will use their book of fables as "real."

    September 17, 2012 at 3:33 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.