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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. Albacheeser

    This entire article is moot and pointless now that we know more facts (at least if you read more the CNN or MSNBC)...

    New revelations indicate that the US Embassy attack occurred when there was NO demonstrations happening. Multiple sources NOW say and "WE NOW KNOW" (as the media normally loves to say) that this was a planned and coordinated attack.

    The attack and murder was NOT spontaneous. This was a 9/11 anniversary terrorist attack and Al Qaeda even already took credit for it.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  2. B1ased

    -This article is so typical of the random liberal BS we are suppose to believe- People around the middle east rioting and killing because a stupid video made them mad – and I am suppose to understand thier \"hurt feelings\" cause after all it\'s really America\'s fault. Get real. I don\'t need to be tolerant of stupidity. I have no sympathy. My 5th grader acts better than this. \"they said something I don\'t like so now I am going to kill people\" Absurdity. It makes me want to burn the Quran on youtube just out of spite. You want to know what really causes \"Islamophobia\" – having to watch a small number of extremist do stupid things, and then hearing thier leaders SAY NOTHING, Random lip service about how violence is bad, but over and over again not focusing on horrible violence and instead continuing to act horribly wounded by a stupid 3rd grade video. We have people say stupid things in the US all the time, but the difference is the majority of people and our leaders immediately stand up and say how wrong it is. As long as the 99% of peaceful Muslims around the world continue to let thier religion be defined by radical zealots, Islamophobia will continue to rise. True muslims need to take a stand against these ridulous displays of violence and when that happens they will see the world stand up against stupid videos...

    September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Either that or just wake up and realize that all this "god" stuff is complete BS...

      September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Poor B1ased

      Ah, poor B1ased. You only expose yourself to American media (obviously, or you would see more Muslim leaders condemning the attacks). American media is famously fascist in nature – we are the best, so we only cover events that are easily understood by an increasingly uneducated populace. When is the last time you read an opinion piece on Al-Jazeera? Arabnews.com?

      It's ok, though... you define an entire group of people based off Western media, and then you act like it's their fault that they don't act in a way you understand. Try educating yourself a little bit, and then maybe you'll understand. (before you attack me – understanding does not equal condoning).

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  3. Bobby

    I am not religious, but last time I checked the Methodist were not being violent, throwing rogks, or burning buildings because they did not like something. Ditto Catholics and Jews. So the writer says it's just that they have phobia's. Yeah, I bet that is what the dead ones say too.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Poor B1ased

      See: Northern Ireland.

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

      Well, you're certainly wrong about Jews. Or have you forgotten that Israel is a Jewish nation constantly striking its Muslim enemies?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  4. cleverwhatever

    Reblogged this on .

    September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • John

      So, if we want to act like Islamist, the next time a home made movie with an anti-Christian or anti-US theme is uploaded to the internet, we are supposed to storm the middle east embassy of our choice?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Erick Recors

      That's it. I'm done reading CNN or watching your news, unless you get rid of garbage journalism like this. You're saying we have to get over islamaphobia when they are killing people and rioting all over the world over a stupid youtube video? If the last few months have proved anything its that Islam is not a peaceful religion. You wont see us evangelicals going and rioting and killing and raping people when journalists like you slander us.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  5. JOSH P.

    Christians love to think that they are better then others.
    But yet they are same people who came to the Americas Slaughter my ancestors Steal our Treasures and forced us to convert to Christianity at gun point or be killed,at least the Muslims only want to be left alone.I have never seen a Muslim missionary trying to convert anyone in America.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • steve

      Then you must live out in the country. They go door to door in major city's just like the Seventh Day Adventist do.

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

      If Muslims want to be left alone, why do they want to come here? They've had the Middle East for centuries and they don't quite seem to like it there either.

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

      Oh, child of ignorance. How naive you are!

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

      You can't be serious? Look at the way the muslins are acting to a freakin' piece of video footage! Like animals! Christians have their faith mocked daily by the media (seem family guy recently, or south park) and take it in stride.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • tom

      ....a very good point....(howvere I believe the Koran does state that a muslim does have the right (obligation?) to kill non-believers)

      September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • RF

      It is because we are there creating problems.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • RF

      Josh, I totally agree with you.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Ben L

      The issue is that muslims are meant to be spreading their message. the term jihad, used in the qur'an means "strive", which can be interpreted as conversion in its best sense, or violence in its worst. here are some quotes in the qur'an, im not taking them out of context. if you think i did , I included the verses so you can read more and get the whole context.

      O Prophet! Strive hard against the unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, – an evil refuge indeed. (9:73, 66:9)

      Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness. (25:52)

      there are many more, but i wont waste your time. what we need to realize is that while some Muslims interpret this as a need to do missionary work, its not a long stretch for them to interpret it as a need for violence against anyone who is not an Islam believer. I'm not saying we should wage a war against Islam or anything like that, but to say we should ever think their religion does not teach violence against others is very uninformed.

      Quran (2:191-193) – "And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah."

      We have to understand them in order to protect ourselves from their extremists and to possibly prevent the spread of extremism to the rest of Islamic believers. Christian missionaries ask you to join, the Qur'an tells Islamic missionaries to make you join. That's a dangerous difference no matter how you look at it.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  6. Cubist Tut

    Islamaphobia, Chriatianaphobia, religionaphodia... what is the different? You are still judging people based on their beliefs.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • timinfla

      cubist twit- its 2012- these people are strapping bombs to themselves and slitting non believers throats.

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

      Perhaps their beliefs are idiotic with little basis in reality.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Cubist Tut

      oops, change different to difference.

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

      does it matter?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  7. Dan

    Islam is a Disease of Violence and anyone that thinks its some sort of religious paranoia on the part of America certainly did not watch the news on 9/11 and anyone who thinks we brought this on by ourselves should quite drinking the Koolaid that the Liberal media puts out like the ridiculous concept of Islamaphobia. Hers a few quotes from the Quran ( the religion of peace ad Love )

    Quran (5:33) – "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement"

    Quran (8:12) – "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle.

    So I decided I will stay "Islamaphobic " for a while longer

    September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • the 16 year muslim girl

      hahah my friend you are terribly wrong dont be ignorant and let the bad seeds of islam totally affect your perspective on the religion you cannot mock other religions bc you think they are wrong. please, have you ever heard of respect? do you not recall the germans in the holocaust or the crusades? islam is a beautiful religion just as all the others. we all have the same views. we beleive in jesus, god, heaven, hell, and judgment day. so i hope these words werent just a waste. for everyone out there who thinks that muslims are terrorists or whatever the hell the media has brainwashed your minds to think, just want to let you know you are wrong. any religion can be made to look bad very easily. i could write a blog on how christians are horrible violent ppl or yada yada but i dont because i have respect for every religion and everyone.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Poor B1ased

      Christianity is a religion of violence. The difference is that the Christian nations have the world's wealth, and use the Muslim nation's natural resources for Western gain. Something tells me that if an Iraqi company had come in, destroyed our government, murdered our people and laid claim to all the oil shale in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Iowa, West Virginia, etc. etc. that Americans wouldn't be too happy about that.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  8. ed thorner

    So why are those outside of Sharia law called the House of War (dar al Harb)?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  9. Chewbacca

    The problem is both Muslims and Christians.

    Both these groups worship Yahweh, a bronze-age, middle-eastern, genocidal deity who is one of the worst fictional characters in the history of man.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • nope

      @ chew...
      nope

      September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      @nope Good argument, meatball.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  10. Jeff

    So, Brian, to summarize –
    1) You were "raised as an evangelical Christian in America." (and therefore have a platform to speak from)
    2) A timy minority of Muslims use violence.
    3) A vast majority of evangelicals practice hate.
    No disclaimers, not caveats, no nuances...........? Just that simple. Wow. Thanks for explaining it so succintly Brian.
    What arrogance!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  11. Bob the Janitor

    This guy is too stupid for words...just another peacenik who wants Americans to give away another of our hard-fought freedoms.

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

      Which freedoms are those, Bob? The right to impose our will on the rest of hte world?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  12. Horus

    As I was reading a book about Egyptian, Greek and Roman mythology to my daughter I couldn't help but think to myself – I hope 2000 years from now someone is reading a book to their child about the myths of our time and their equal absurdity to the one's we read about today.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  13. Fundamentalist hater of "religion" but lover of Jesus Christ

    Mr. McLaren, I'm not sure what god you serve but it doesn't sound anything like the God of the Bible. I couldn't even make it 2 minutes into that video without being so disgusted. I do not believe that any true Christ follower could mastermind that mess. I understand somewhat why the people in Islamic countries think like they do and can see why they are offended- rightly so. But I can't wrap my mind around your way of thinking. I just hope that people who are not Christians realize that many people call themselves Christian, but that doesn't mean it's so. If a person has wondered who God really is and what's He's like just ask Jesus to show you and see what happens. Fortunately we live in a free society and can give our opinions on things like this. Blessings to you-

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

      Wow, you are why Christians are truly awful people to interact with. First of all, Mr. McLaren has written an article about how awful the video is and how the Christian community ought to be more ashamed of it and how many in the Muslim world assume that it speaks for all Christians. How is that so different than what you believe? Secondly, as a mortal human being you are in no position to judge another mortal human being's Christianity. Period. The end. You can have your beliefs and Mr. McLaren can have his beliefs and I can have my beliefs and that is all there is. Telling Mr. McLaren that his God isn't the right God is ignorant, arrogant, and judgmental.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  14. mawcm

    The administration is lying about their prior knowledge of potential attacks on US interests, and this is the front page story of cnn.com??? Your bias and determination to deflect and redirect the conversation with regard to any negative spin on the current president is disgraceful. You are derelict in your duty to the American people to provide truthful information for them to frame their own opinions.

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

      This is not the CNN front page, this is the religion section. Still, you're not going to find your conspiracy theory on any reputable page. You will find it on those who treat rabid fiction as truth.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  15. JohnRJohnson

    Unfortunately, "Islamophobia" is the logical result of more than 40 years of Muslims murdering non-Muslims in the most gruesome ways imaginable. Of course, members of all religions commit atrocities, but not with anything near the regularity as Muslims. Go back to Black September, countless hijackings, countless bus bombings, the Achille Lauro, the 1972 Olympics, Lockerbie, Bali, 9/11, London 2007, Ft. Hood, Daniel Pearl, and dozens of other filmed beheadings. Anybody who suggests that this wouldn't have some kind of reaction is crazy.

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

      So by your logic then Muslims should be very Christianaphobic given about 1200 years of Muslims being killed at the hands of people who claim to follow Christianity(Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War, etc.).

      September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  16. YouCantFixStüpid

    BRIAN MCLAREN – You have got to be the stüpidest person on earth. Muslims kill and victims are the problem?
    So are you saying that gays are like these radical muslims?
    It's more accurate to say that you are like these radical muslims, because you are a moron! there's no cure for you because you can't fix stüpd

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

    The opinions and "facts" set forth in this artical have absolutely nothing to do with reality. The author is just another CNN pawn.

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

      oui

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

      No. Nothing to do? The fact that you deal in these sad absolutes ranks you beneath those you dismiss.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  18. Ryan

    2 Responses:

    1. Why does McLaren sill think he's in the evangelical circle. He's a heretic. He has no authority to speak on behalf of evangelicals.

    2. The quotes below show he is inconsistent in his thinking. The first quote has him saying Islamophia is a mainstream idea in evangelicalism. The second has him saying it is a tiny group. Which is it McLaren? McLaren is just bitter because so many evangelicals have declared him a heretic and have stopped printing and selling his books as he mentions in this very article.

    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.

    We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • payjturner

      He's talking about 2 seperate things. 1 is saying that islamaphobia is wide spread among christians. I would say its widespread among all of western society. 2 is saying that christianity has its own "minority" of extremists that hasn't been dealt with. They're 2 seperate statements.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  19. Alan

    Only from CNN. What the hell is this idiot talking about? The problem is Islam, not evangelicals. Evangelicals are not going about burning down embassies, and killing innocent people.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Iraq

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

      Palestine

      September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Lobster

      Planned Parenthood. Atlanta Olympics. Gays...and the list goes on

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

      Afghanistan

      September 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • flatpicker

      You people are sick. How can you compare Christians to ISLAM. It just shows how low in the gutter america is when you compare christains to islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • caroline2^3

      Evangelicals ARE 1000000% the root cause of terrorism in the middle east. Their talk is vile and hateful.
      in fact judeo christian fundamentalism in the root cause of terrorism in the middle east.
      It is in essence breeding racism and telling us that God chose a people... "chosen people" ! How RACIST is that!

      That mentality leads to us propping dictators that our special interest groups like and that are actually even against American interests. Evangelicals were for the illegal was against Iraq and now trying hard to go against Iran. They are causing wars after wars.. only we find out years later it was over LIES!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  20. HugoCorv

    Sharia law will eventually be imposed on people in the West, when the percentage of Muslim population increases there.

    Then you will be stoned to death for the "crime" of leaving Islam. Or for the "crime" of not obeying it, even if you are not Muslim. And you will be an "Islamophobe" if you protest as you are being killed.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      That is...retarded

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Mystic Rose

      Wow, you are an ignorant fool with the IQ of a dead rat. Your god will punish you with eternity in hell. HAHAHHAHA

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

      Shrai law = 10 commandments. go check

      September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • flatpicker

      Just look at England. They never thought it would get that bad over there either.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 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.