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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. payjturner

    You people are just as crazy as the extremists. Hypocrites.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  2. religiopolitics

    Anybody who feels that ANY religion throughout history has not been tied to politics is a fool! Religion is used to control people and ideas for political, "earthly gain". The Holy Roman Empire suppressed education for the masses. "If they aren't educated, then they won't know any better. They will do what they are told or fear some 'eternal damnation'."
    Kings and queens have ascended to thrones in the name of divinity; wars and genocide have been waged in the name of some deity. It's all about power.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • payjturner

      finally somone is making sense

      September 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  3. politico

    Everything I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11. 'nough said.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Lobster

      well... one sjhould also pick 19 christians and judge christianity based on them

      September 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      still learnin' 11 years to the day later...

      and they are still teachin'

      schoolin' us again...

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • rosi carlos

      amen......Islam is satanic

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

      Everything I need to know about Christianity I learned from the Crusades.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • payjturner

      Aaron don't forget about the witch trials and the KKK.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Who me?

      Everything I need to know about Catholics,I learned from the the pedophile priest that lives down the block-nuff said?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • politico

      Yes, Catholics can go, too. Is that your point? Catholic Christianity
      Every one of them that pokes the little boys in the behind should be hung by the testicles, then castrated, have it jammed down their throats, then shot. Let them meet their maker.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  4. Aaron

    I'm phobic of all religions equally.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • johnnymoscow

      190 Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.
      191 And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Lobster

      well... the bible tells you to kill a disobedient wife or son...

      September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • American1951

      I have a simple "litmus test" for me to determine if I should be suspect of a muslim not being the peace loving human being Brian McClaren wishes they were. I ask them if I were to mock "the prophet mohammed", would that make them extremely angry and want to behead me, or have someone else do it ? If the answer is "yes", then I will go all islamaphobic on them.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Aaron

      Quoting the Quran? I can quote the bible too. It talks about killing those who don't properly drain blood from animals before consuming the flesh along with idolitors and gay people. Like I said I'm equally phobic of all religions.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • flatpicker

      Aaron – You may quote the bible but that does not mean you have a clue as to what you are quoting. You people who say the bible says to kill or son or drain blood have no clue as to what it means and to who it was written to. Christianity cannot be compared to Islam. It's not even in the same ball park. I seen how Christians not agreeing with the gay lifestyle to the 9/11 mass murder. You people are pathetic to compare the two.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    It's time for Americans to reject the concept that Islam is an "Ok" religion. It is NOT! It teaches murder and violence, in its dictatorial demands of its followers. As such it is NOT benign in any way. It is a dangerous religion to all who are FREE in the world, from dictatorship.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Aaron

      I never noticed a dictatorship in the world's largest Muslim country. Indonesia is a democracy and one of our biggest allies against terrorism. The people you speak of make up less than 1% of 1% of people who call themselves Muslims.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • payjturner

      All religions involve the same evil, ignorance & insanity. Christianity is full of evil things & they've been acted out historically time & again. Does that mean that everyone who is religious is evil?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  6. John

    I find it difficult to believe that Mr McLaren actually read the Qu'ran. Islam in its purest form is a nasty political-religious system. It frankly scares me. The only peaceful Muslims are "bad" Muslims, at least acording to Mohammed's retoric. How can anyone not fear a religion that clearly demands the killing of any and all non-believers?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
  7. flatpicker

    The article says christians speak agianst it ? I think ISLAM speaks for itself ? Just look at the news headlines! This is ISLAM.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  8. Kevin Barbieux

    Um, yeah, Muslims are conducting violent riots all over the world proves that our fear of Islam is unwarranted. Sure thing.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Lobster

      dont you think they were just a tad provoked?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • John Smith

      Yup...sounds about right to me...muslimPHOBIA – totally unwarranted. Freedom of speech is for muslims ONLY. NOBODY else can speak their minds, say what they want, even write stupid movies EXCEPT that your local muslim approves of it...yeah, right...NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • John Smith

      Lobster – I think WE are provoked by all the anti-American rhetoric, burning of flags, killing of Christians in the name of their "prophet". Do you see US burning their embassy??? GET REAL! They're irrational zealots!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Smith39

      Exactly make a comparable video about christianity and see how many attacks there are. See how many people die. Its time that society quit trying to make excuses for everyones actions. The video is not to blame, the people that murdered innocent americans are!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • caroline2^3

      it isn't just about this movie. it is about all those wars started on lies ... such as war in iraq.
      it is about invasion of nations.
      it is about installing dictators in their nations whether you talk about iran in 1953 or mubarak in egypt for 30+ years.
      there is more to the the tea kettle exploding this way than just the one thing.
      it is repeated things one after another.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  9. Colin

    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Children’s fairytales;

    (b) Medieval mythology;

    (c) New age pseudo science; or

    (d) Christianity and Islam

    September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  10. Bob from Michigan

    A great article of ignorance. I would challenge the author to visit the Middle East and look for Christianity-fobia and while he is there look for; basic human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of press, gay rights, womens rights, and the right to VOTE.

    It is time for our Judeo-Christian community call the United States of America to call to the carpet Islam and the radicalness of that "faith".

    We aren't the bad guys here....they are.

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

      well... any and all religions just fly us into buildings anyway...

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • JeffH

      I have been to most of the Muslim world and they are just like here in North America. Your post unfortunately shows your ignorance. It is not Us versus them. It is Us versus fanaticism in ALL religions.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • John

      The article is absurd. A phobia is an unfounded or exaggerated fear.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • payjturner

      You sound exactly like the people you call the "bad guys". Its that kind of ignorance & intolerance that keeps peace out of our reach. Who are you..or the United States...to say what is right or call anyone to the carpet because of what they believe? Do you want the "bad guys" calling you to the carpet for what you believe?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • isabella24

      are you just a racist or just trying hard to be one?
      if Islam was bad there'd be more killings in other nations where the US has not gone in like Malaysia , UAE, Dubai, Bahrain. But the fact is that in many cases there are huge foreign non-Muslim populations and living perfectly fine and infact going out there to seek jobs.
      "they" who are "they" to you?
      Ofcourse if you have invasion after invasion (Russia invaded Afghanistan then the US did) and then in Iraq you have a WAR started on a LIE that ended up killing MILLIONS of innocent Iraqi children alone.... Give me a BREAK this IS A religion of peace. If it wasn't there would be A LOT more terrorists and a lot more revenge attacks around the world but there isn't.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • orbund1

      Bob there is no need to define who are the "bad guys". If you have been to a certain country in the Middle East it does not mean you have proper or full understanding of Muslims. Because, there are around 49 Muslim majority countries in the world. Not all of them are Talibans or live in the Middle East. In fact not even half of them live in the middle east or are Arabs. You mentioned stuff like voting rights. Don't forget that even America did not have voting rights for women and non-whites just 100 years ago. I am an American originally from Bangladesh, which is a Muslim majority country. There is democracy, but both main parties are corrupt and driven by money. It does not mean any good for the people. I see flaws in democracy in US also. The people also need a lot of education to choose their representatives. It takes time for democracy to take root and serve the people. So, your limited knowledge is frightening. I agree will the writer that you can not serve two masters. You are either the seeker of the truth and believe in promoting truth or you are seeker of ignorance, promote lies and hatred.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  11. Colin

    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian or Muslim

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

      i will take (d)

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  12. AmericanLiberal

    I think we are getting a very negative backlash on this one CNN

    and I think they are right...

    I think we are crossing some lines that we don't want to cross here, attacking the largest group in our nation and blaming them for the obvious. Aren't we getting a wee bit too arrogant and blind to reality.

    One sided, narrow-minded, hypocritical – it wasn't too long ago we were using these words on christians
    Seams things have gone full circle, and now those words apply to us...
    And I think people are seeing it very clearly now

    September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  13. Ashish

    Its happening again.. in the war between good and evil, the evil always has an upper hand,, and there are folks who leave no stone unturned to justify it. what will happen over the course of time is that Muslims will keep on justifying their fossilized terror mindset on the basis of oppression of west, and intellectuals will keep buying that story refusing all the while to see naked truth. Wake up folks, America or no America, West or no West, Freedom or no Freedom, Muslims Jehad would hold fast. There was no america no provocation when Mohd and his tribes started the killing spree in the lust for power, women and territory.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  14. Roman

    It is not anti-Christian protests, but anti-USA.
    USA is the most hated country, and rightfully so.

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

      Maybe we should cut off your welfare check then...

      ya know, if you hate us so much

      September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Canadian Liberal

      Perhaps you might show some stones, and some details, as to why the US is rightfully the most hated country in the world.I am not American,but I visit often,and I love the US(warts and all).

      September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • politico

      If we are hated so much, then why do you try so hard to learn our language and come here to enjoy our freedoms. How many dollars do these countries send to the US for every dollar we send there?

      "Bad, bad people. Please send more money."

      September 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  15. ndubbaya

    The main problem isn't with Christianity. The problem is with the media lumping the attacks and the protests together. Extremists used the protests as a front to make their attack. You wouldn't be able to tell that if you saw the news. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox are all guilty of this. They make it all sound like the protesters killed these people. If that was true, if the protesters really did kill them, how would a random group of protestors know where the ambassadors were? That was confidential information.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  16. jean

    one word about this article: RIDICULOUS

    September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  17. James

    Why does CNN continue to feature this story? To feature this article for so many days and in such a prominent place must mean they believe strongly in the content. This should send a message to anyone getting their news predominantly from CNN. Their main viewers and where CNN makes most of its money is overseas. So they must first pander to their base. And that is OK, as long as you know and understand that, and then move on to other news sources for a larger and more balanced approach. For you CNN liberal junkies, I worry more about what CNN DOES NOT report and what you don't see than the stories they feed you. Two cases in point – Susan Rice contradicting everyone else as to whether the Libyan attacks were spontaneous or not, and Obama admitting to Telemundo that Egypt is no longer an "ally" of the US. If you have the guts, go read up and learn.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  18. Colin

    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos and its billions of galaxies watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions

    (d) A Christian or Muslim

    September 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Only Response

      (e) You are a dumbA$$ that wants the world to live with no hope just because you have none

      September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  19. wisdom4u2

    Where's the article on American Christianphobia? I haven't seen on yet!!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Newsflash

      Very good point.

      September 18, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  20. doughnuts

    The "Tiny Minority of Extremists"(TM) and all the media coverage they generate has given people ample reason to distrust the followers of Islam.

    Perhaps it should be called "Islamorealism" instead.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
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