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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.

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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. insighteous

    Anyone who says that we need to moderate our language and thought to accomodate Islam make a bargan that will end in the destruction of western culture. This it the goal of the Islamofacists. The Islamofacists and their fools make statement like "American" does. Equating the stupid film with "fire in a theater." What utter BS. I will respect peaceful Muslams when they take care of the bad guys. Until then, they are all on my "watch list." Not fair, tough. Deal with it.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      I agree
      if muslims are so worried about the bad rap they are getting
      Police Your Own – Bring us the bad guys

      or are they accomplishing your dirty work for you...

      September 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  2. hellbag

    I knew it was somehow my fault. I'm sorry, I really am. All us Christians are all the same.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  3. MP

    God Bless you CNN

    September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  4. Yasser Ahmad

    Thank you Mr. McLaren. I am a Muslim by faith and after reading your article/blog , i am relieved and my faith in goodness, mutual respect and tolerance for others has strengthened. It is great to know that there are scholars like you who are against prejudice and hateful speech.

    Love for all and hate for Non !

    Regards,

    Yasser Ahmad

    September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • insighteous

      Yasser, Yasser, Three Bags Full!!! Of ABSOLUTE PIG POOP!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      now I must go and clean my AK and polish my RPG's

      Please, let's talk, while I plan my next big one

      September 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  5. Erick

    Unbelievable nonsense. Moral relativism at it's finest. Why does the author not speak of this simple fact – In Islam, if a Muslim converts to Christianity, the person should be put to death. This is practiced in Muslim countries all over the world, and carried out by the government of Saudi Arabia routinely. In Christian majority nations, which converts from Christianity to Islam are similarly executed by the government or by family in honor killings? Which ones?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  6. danita

    No, CNN has to because our president is muslim.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  7. Matt

    This is a joke. Islamic radicals deserve no respect or understanding for their horrible criminal actions made in the name of horrible delusions and fairy tales. Pretending that this is acceptable gives them false justification, and only contributes to the problem.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  8. Lou

    CNN fears Muslims because CNN is scared the radical Muslims will kill them... Period!!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  9. bill

    How about the reality of what Islam is?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • gdouglaso

      Agreed, this would be a good inclusion.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • danita

      it's a bunch of dog crap and I hope one of them reads this. Lord God Almighty.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  10. moostafa

    Was Monty Python hate speech?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      Maybe. Let's bring it back and do it all over again and see how things fly. I do miss it.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  11. Bob

    Sorry – you can spin this any way you want – but muslims are violent, intolerant, and, by my standards, decidely evil. Not, in many cases, as individuals, but very often in the collective. I was in Cairo, in 1971, when the Jordanian ambassador was assinated, and well rember the joyus descriptions and celebrations over the fact that the assassins drank his blood. Mob behavior is ugly everywhere – but muslims are quite prone to committing horrific acts of violence in groups. Basically, rabid animals.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  12. Roberto Fontanez

    CNN Wonders why thier ratins are in the tank, why thier profits are down, HEY CNN EDITORS, SO CALLED JOURNALIST AND OBAMA SUPPORTERS. SImply read your crap, watch the trash that you guys report, listen to yourself and how you twisted and look for anyway to explain this inept, ignorant, communist president. You liberal idots, this mess is cause simply because many in the middle east HATE THE USA, BECAUSE YOU HAVE AN IGNORANT PRESIDENT THAT GOES TO OTHER COUNTRIES TO APOLOGIZE FOR US BEING AMERICANS, FOR AN ADMINISTRATION THAT KEEPS GUTTING OUR MILITARY, FOR THE LIBERAL VIEWS THAT ARE DESTROYING THIS COUNTRY. YOU IN THE MEDIA SHOULD BE THE FIRST ONES TO UNDERSTAND THAT IN ISLAMIC LAW YOU WILL NOT HAVE THE RIGHT OR POWER TO EVEN COMPLAINT ABOUT THE GOVERMENT OR ANYONE IN POWER. CONTINUE SHOWING US WHAT CNN IS REALLY ABOUT, CNN IS SIMPLY A TOOL OF THIS ADMINISTRATION AND THE DNC. I DO WONDER HOW YOU ALL WILL DEAL WITH AN OBAMA DEFEAT. Keep drinking the Kool – Aid.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      Hey,
      not all liberals are stupid...

      We just wanna win soooo bad

      September 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  13. *Laurie

    Nonsense

    September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  14. Jay

    Muslims are the enemy of the USA. I have no problem doing my part to neutralize that enemy. No matter what liberals..ie..Obamites...Socialist...have to say. If liberals want to be all fuzzy and friendly, they should live in a Muslim country and see how long they stay alive. You people love your welfare, and don't care about anything but your next check of my tax dollars.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • TJ

      Makes one wonder... "Gee, WHY are Islamaphobes 'fearful' of Islam?"

      Hmmm... maybe it's because they see so many beheadings. Nope nope nope... that can't be it.
      Maybe it's because of seeing innocent people blown-up in the name of allah. Nope, nope nope... that can't be it.
      Maybe it's because of hearing how all muslims must "kill the infidels" around the world, and that only Islam must rule the world. Nope, nope, nope... that can't be it.
      Maybe it's because of.... well, I think any life-loving intelligent person would get the idea WHY people are fearful of Muslims. And who can blame them. ISLAM MADE IT THIS WAY.

      And now, the ONLY solution Islam leaves us is to either eradicate them completely, or contain them totally. Unless Islam starts behaving itself, that's what it might come down to.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  15. barrie

    Good grief, stop blaming the victims! Christians are being killed by these "peace loving" Muslims, and CNN accuses us of "Islamaphobia." CNN, you are just another leftist organization supporting all the forces that are working to destroy the USA.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Chat Pata

      Can you count how many Christians are killed by Muslims? Less than ten thousands including 9/11 victims. Can you count how many million Muslims have been killed by us or our operatives (or former operatives like Saddam)? No you can not.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • pensimmon

      Remember that the Muslims have killed a few thousand people in the West (including 9/11). Guess how many we killed in an illegal war in Iraq? About 100,000 – that's how many. And lots of them were children. No wonder they hate us. We occupy their country, kill their children- for what? Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  16. Chat Pata

    The problem is, the less than 1% Wahhabies attest to the Evangelical propaganda that Islam is all about killing non-Muslims. They have all the oil money and their kings have our protection. Majority of Muslims are Sufies and the Wahhabies do not recognize them as Muslims at all. Evangelicals quote Wahhabies and ignore Sufies because it suits their agenda. This holy alliance works for both of them. Evangelicals say Muslims do not worship God, but Allah (Arabic word for God). Wahhabies say Christians do not worship Allah but God, Coptic Christians and Mizrahi Jews used the word Allah for God, and with this movie they have also joined this stupidity.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  17. ROMNEY 2012: OBOZO HATES AMERICA AND FREEDOM

    I'd vote for Hitler before I'd vote for Obama the monkeyface lazy inferior race muslim

    September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • timinfla

      LOL!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • J Perry

      Reply to Romney 2012: You are goingto revive Hitler from his grave when Obama is re-elected. From the balcony of everyone else's intelligence you can be seen in the basement of your imbecility.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Been a prejudiced idiot long?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  18. kcir321

    I think its time for us to start fighting back,I am so sick of hearing about that silly evil religion they try to force on people,we are not that stupid

    September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Emre

      No one is forcing Islam on anyone, and I hope you not referring to the land in the Middle East.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  19. IC Dude

    Americans are indifferent regarding any/all religious groups. If it wasn't for the extremely large group of radical islamists trying to kill every American on the planet, NOBODY WOULD CARE. STOP TRYING TO KILL US AND WE WILL LEAVE YOU ALONE.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  20. X00marine

    So what was so bad about this movie? it was kind of funny!! are they pist off that Mohamed or Ala was getting some and the real Muslims can't? is that what this is all about? GROW UP Muslims!!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Emre

      Let's put it this way, lets make a similar video featuring your mother and sister. Funny?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 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.