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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. nik green

    This headline is "Limited Hangout". The reality is that the US establishment and power structure has all but banned Muslims from partaking – while actively demonizing and tarring an entire demographic and faith, even to the point of lying to the American people to start numerous wars...and WORSE.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  2. The Procktologist

    Dear Mr. McLaren, You are an absolute idiot. To say that WE have a phobia about islam is absurd. WE aren't they ones rioting in the streets...the islamist are. Please shut your mouth and move to the middle east so you can see real religious-phobias in action. Your book is a shamefull wast of paper.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • netanyahu

      rioting in the streets? We got it right here in usa. Occupy movement? Watts riots? Chicago? You got selective memory.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  3. adam

    Bill: WELL SAID.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  4. Mohsin Masood

    You are man of peace. Your article is a step in the right direction.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • timinfla

      fool

      September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Sam A.

      ... only for those who are seeking piece!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  5. Don

    Your WRONG !!
    There is nothing wrong with any form of belief. You believe in whatever you wish as long as you don't use it to kill. It seems as if the entire Muslim nation is hell bent on killing anyone and everyone, including themselves, at whim. That's what I fear about Muslims. Yes, history is full of any number of religions killing others because they don't believe in the same thing, but I thought we had gotten over that 100's of years ago. The Muslims seem to think it is still ok to kill one another as well as anyone else and do each and every day someplace in the world. That is what I call disgusting and why there is fear.

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

      Uh don, it's "you're" not "your"

      Anyway "You believe in whatever you wish as long as you don't use it to kill"

      You might need to review your bible especially all the parts depicting gratuitous bloodletting at the direction of your god.

      Also, why did bush invade iraq? Because he believed his god told him it was the right thing to do.
      Result: tens of thousands of dead innocent iraqi civilians

      The world does not need powerful men who decide the fate of hundreds of millions based on the voices in their head. If it was anyone off the street you would say they were psycho.

      Just goes to show, the religion of millions is one mans delusion.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      Uh, sybaris; it's "Bush", not "bush." BTW – Marxism is one bigot's delusion and it's followers are just as fanatical and creepy as those of Islam and Obama. Included in that cesspool are McLaren and his politically correct sidekicks in the media.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Shahinshah

      I recently came acorss your web website and have been reading along. I believed I would leave my extremely 1st comment. Good blog. I will maintain visiting this website very frequently.

      October 9, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
    • umrcza

      dErEyB zasmbsioxdak

      October 12, 2012 at 5:24 am |
  6. tbp

    wonderful article and excellent points, Brian. and these are hard truths to hear, as witnessed by these comments, but i'm so heartened that you and others like you are courageously speaking up. your voice is sorely needed.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      Courage is defined by standing on moral principle in the face of enemies, such as those facing Muslims death threats. A yes-man sitting in a plush newsroom who affirms the shallow politically correct views of like-minded morons only represents cowardice.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  7. Joe in NH

    Well after viewing this "News" article it is clear to me why CNN's viewership is in the toilet compared to FOX News. CNN is so bad it's not even in the same ball park. This agency is just an extension of the Obama campaign...

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

      It's an op-ed, hence the t.itle: "My Take"......

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

      and fox is a zionist tool.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • netanyahu

      and fox is a zionist propoganda tool.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Fernando

      Why did CNN see fit to publish this news item by Joe in NH up above? He's just talking about his opinion or something and I don't see why it's gotta be in the news. These idjots at CNN should start an opinion section or something specially for opinions and such.

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

      It's an Op / Ed piece. He's correct- read the entire article. He doesn't go into why we have our paranoid right wingers, he just says fear and insults are beneath us, so he's correct. And you too are correct- CNN and the rest of the mainstream media for the most part lean hard left. As a lifelong Dem, it's embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as Michelle Bachman and Rush. I'll stay a Dem for now- Pelosi, Reed, Caroline K etc. are embarrassing too, but... pick our poison, vote for whom you agree with some of the time, and who will lead most adeptly.
      (what the author conveniently / understandably leaves out is the elephant in the room- 9/11, Fort Hood shooter, Al Qeada, Iran's goal to kill all the Jews (again), all the fun we get to have with the TSA now and on and on and on)

      September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Sam A.

      Well, then, please do not let us not stop you from enjoying BOX news!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      Ultra-Ditto!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  9. Chewbacca

    The problem is both Muslims and Christians in general.

    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.

    As religious people tend to be one of the least educated and gullible segments of any society, religious people are the bane of this world.

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

      @chew...
      nope !

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

      Exactly, religion requires ignorance to perpetuate

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • outlawgodsucks

      This coming from a person that worships Star Wars figures LOL!!!!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Lester Singleton

      Its not hard to tell through your incoherent rambling that my 5 year old probably has more education than you.

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

      oooo, how Edgy and Controversial of you....such fresh perspective, you never hear these kinds of thoughts on the Internet. You get MAJOR "Plus" points for calling their god "Fiction", now THAT shows originality and makes it obvious you're a true free-thinker.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      Educated? You mean like all of Obama's creepy supporters and followers of brother Karl (Marx)? Sounds more like indoctrinated than educated. Your secular governments slaughtered 120 million innocents in less than a century; they're on track to dwarf the Crusades.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  10. tigro13

    CNN is doing an admiral job of trying to brainwash Americans with its fascistic political correctness-tolerate everything-everything is a shade of gray/there is no good or evil – propaganda. Just keep lying over and over and over and over and over and eventually the ignorant self-absorbed citizenry will get it and the ones who are fully awake can be branded hatemongers and *intolerant* – the greatest sin among liberalism and now, given their brainwashing, modern society. G.K. Chesterton once said, "Tolerance is the greatest virtual of a person without convictions." Clearly, we are a culture of no virtues. There is no moral equivalency of Christianity and Islam, and only a fool would eat CNN\'s nicely packaged lies.

    And, by the way, Google crucifixions of Christians in Egypt, it has been confirmed and there are videos. But who are you going to believe, CNN or your own lying eyes?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      And now Obama is trying to censor Google; something to think about,especially for all you who laugh at accusations of this president really being a Muslim.

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

    You do realize that Evangelicals do not recognize McLaren as a Christian,but rather as an universalist.

    You may try finding a Christian spoke person who is actually a Christian...otherwise you are embarrassing yourself.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • joe12234

      You are correct.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • GrampaSez

      Your mistake was in thinking that CNN didn't already KNOW THAT.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  12. Ross

    I don't know about you (Brian McLaren) but I was at work minding my own business on the morning of 9/11. I had absolutely no ill will towards muslims until about 8:15 that morning. Since that time, I have seen muslims stoning other muslims; beheading American aid workers, taking over aid shipments in Sudan, hanging muslims, cutting off hands of muslims, cutting off the nose of muslim women and on and on and on... you REALLY need to get a grip on what's going on Brian McLaren. Islamaphobia? You bet. I have seen NOTHING to show Islam as a religion of peace. They look more like minions of satan to me.

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

      Well said! I think the publication of this "opinion" says more about CNN than anything else

      September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      >>>”I don't know about you (Brian McLaren) but I was at work minding my own business on the morning of 9/11.”

      I wonder how those living in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Or those living in Pearl on December 7th of 1941.

      Or Americans towards England during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Heck, Sherman torched everything in his march to the sea with his Union Army.

      Now, these groups and people are beyond friends today. If history repeats we will be good friends with the Muslim world in our lifetimes.

      >>>”Since that time, I have seen Muslims stoning other Muslims; beheading American aid workers, taking over aid shipments in Sudan, hanging Muslims, cutting off hands of Muslims, cutting off the nose of Muslim women and on and on and on... you REALLY need to get a grip on what's going on”

      Well, lets stick with Americans. 12996 people were murdered in the United States last year. That is a rate of 4.2. Tunisa … with a over throw of their government suffered 117 murders with a rate of 1.1.

      Oh yeah... Libya had 176 With a rate of 2.9. If you factor in the war to bring down Gaddafi which reported to have 25,000 killed... think about America almost 13k with a much larger population and it took civil war in a small country to eclipse us.

      Think about, ...and I love my Country …..Heck I own Toby Keith CDs and know all the words to James Browns “Livin' in America”… but we are the only country that has used a nuclear weapon and killed 90,000 to 166,000 people in one Ja'panese city and between 60,000 to 80,000 in another.

      Its easy to judge another group of people but also look at your own. We are pretty bloodthirsty here. :)

      …..I didn't even go into the rates of Americans killing Americans.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  13. ISLAM is SLAVERY

    Study History, when ISLAM took over the country (Example Turkey) All other religions, including Christianity diminished down to 2%.... and don;t forget ISLAM is allowed to kill people who are not ISLAMIC because their written doctrine tells them so, in the name of "peace".

    September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      Good man! You get it; and it's nice to see so many other responders on this site also get it.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Bob McNeal

      Hmmmm, seems to me you never picked up a book in your sorry lifetime.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  14. juiceybgc

    all religions taken seriously are a bit of a joke... theyre stories told from the dark ages about mythological gods and goddesses... theyre meant to be looked at as a guide, not to run and rule ur life... its pathetic tht pple fall back on it as a reason to murder and maim each other... all the fanatics need to find smthng better to do w themselves, youre all slowly becoming extinct the quicker it actually happens the better off this world will be... try a puzzle

    September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bob McNeal

      I do agree that the level of intellect in Christianity and Jewdaism is fit these days for a 10 YO. You need however to look objectively as Islam, read what it's about and don't be misled by what the ignorant mob is doing.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  15. BD

    How easy it is for pseudo-intellectuals like you to spew such non-senses! Go to your beloved Muslim countries and live there as a local Christian, not as a pseduo-intellectual Amercian, and see for yourself how your beloved Muslims behave!!!
    Shame on liars like you.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Dave Farber

    McLaren is a crank for social justice: secular humanism peppered with failed Marxist schemes of class-envy and wealth redistribution. That nonsense is intended to please radicals in academia and media bigots. Charity must come from the heart and can't be imposed by government mandate, as Obama or his Sharia sidekicks want. McLaren's social justice outfit has driven a wedge in Churches because it's fundamentally anti-Christian.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • spike

      I don't know where he thinks evangelicals hate muslims. Most evangelicals pray for muslims, that God would open their eyes to the truth. I actually feel sorry for the muslims. They have been indoctrinated into a gang. It's not a religion. I know of no religion who's holy book calls for the killing of those who do not share the same faith. Nor do I know of a religion that calls for the killing of those who leave the faith. Islam is not a religion. It's a worldwide gang and it's members have been deceived. I will keep praying that God reveals himself to these people.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Geovana

      boukar souley Posted on Hello. I would like to apply for a Master in luagnages and international relations option specialized translation and interpretation link.i have an A'Level in french general teaching; a university degree in English as second language and a master 1 certificate in translation and interpretation.thank you in advance for giving me specific information

      October 10, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  17. glenview0818

    OK, I get it, because some fruitcake makes a worthless film, a bunch of people kill innocent Americans and I am Islamophobic? Question why was Brian McLaren afraid to cross the road? Answer; he thought an evangelical Christian would run him over.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • DDW 1946

      Priceless

      September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  18. Blahbadebloo

    September 11, 2001 – Muslim terrorists in America killing Americans. September 11, 2012 – terrorists in other countries killing Americans. Questions?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Bill

      yeah, where we supposed to come up with the money to fund the absolutely insane war with Iran that your ilk would have us mis-adventure into?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Dude in Colorado

      Bill – you're half right... The question should be: Where are we supposed to get the money to fund the war from Morocco to the Sudan that many of the above's ilk are calling for? I don't know, but I bet no one is going to be down with raising taxes to do it!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  19. anon

    aww yeah. Gotta love how 1 week prior to the Libyan attack the Egyptian government issued a warning about high potential for US embassy attacks. Yeah, Egypt TOLD OBAMA IT WAS COMING. Also, the possibility of a US Embassy attack was actually published in many different foreign newspapers. Maybe Obama can't read... or WANTED THIS TO HAPPEN. Obama is a murderer of women and children with his drone strikes. Unfortunately Romney will be no different.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Bill

      no irony in this one: great post

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  20. tigro13

    Wow, what evil propaganda.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:56 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.