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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. DJ

    The Obama administration would love you to believe this poor quality video was to blame for the uprisings in islamic countries arround the world, when in reality had absolutey nothing to do with it. These were preplaned violent protest which have been caused in large part by the failed policies of the Obama Administration. This Administration has projected strong weakness in the middle East with its mishandling of it's embassies, and it's apprehensible treatment of Isreal, our only true friend and aley in the region.
    Our nation must elect a new president and get this poor excuse of a leader out of Washington along with all of his cronies.

    Obama has destroyed this country inside and out. Things are only going to get worse until he is gone. Wake up America! Too many people are so used to the deception the press has been feeding them that they can't tell the diffence between horse manure and prime rib.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • OOO

      "Obama has destroyed this country inside and out. "

      Really?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Eli

      That may (or may not) be true in Libya, but it is not true in other countries. The protests were quite clearly about the film.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • calvin

      I AGREED THAT WE A NEW LEADER AND A NEW CONGRESS ALSO. VOTE THEM ALL OUT. AS FOR THE STORY WHY IS ALWAYS THE AMERICANS. ARE WE THE ONLY ONE WHO WORSHIP CHRIST. AND WHY IS IT OK FOR THE MUSLIM TO KILL EVERY ONE WHO SAYS SOMETHING THEY DO NOT LIKE. I THINK WE SHOUG DO LIKE RONALD REGAN DID SHOT BACK HARDERE WHEN HE DID THAT TO THEM THEY STOP FOR 25 YEARS.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  2. Dialogos

    These story is a lie!!! Created by the biased MSM to deflect attention from Obama and his Arab Spring gone wrong. Helping Extremist take over Egypt, Libya and soon Syria will only lead to WW3 when they turn their attentions to Israel!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  3. magnum12

    My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose. Your take is full of baloney, Mclaren.

    If they would have listened to Churchill instead of Chamberlain WWII might have been averted altogether or it would have ended much sooner with much less destruction and death. It cost the lives of 57 million people (the great majority were innocent) to eliminate a cancer that was permitted to grow to big. If we have learned anything from our past history we need to deal quickly with any threatening cancer in the world today and then we will not need to destroy entire countries and their innocent people in order to rid the world of the cancer. History has proven time and again that pacifying, accommodating or ignoring thugs only postpones the inevitable.The majority of Muslims are good people. It is the Islamists (Extremist Muslims) that are the problem and there is great parallel between their world vision and tyrants of the past. Living under an Islamist regime is worse than living under a Nazi or a Stalinist regime. At least, girls were not killed for going to school.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  4. irock

    A few years ago it was iraqniphobia.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  5. Claudia

    CNN's anti-Christine and pro-Islamic is ongoing. What do you call Mr. McLaren, the Islamic's attacks on innocent people on 9.11? Get real and get a real perspective of life as it truly is!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  6. kareem nasaar

    the question is why you chose this Paige of Qur'an to use it as picture for this article ?!!!

    kareem from syria

    September 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Eli

      It's a stock image.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Barry Brindisi

      As Eli said, it's a stock photo. I saw the picture and it's in Arabic. What does it say?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  7. cbr

    Once again we are blaming the messenger. As a nation we should be able to understand and respect all religions. Islam does have some extremists just as other religions. The more we know the more we are able to work together. It is not a case of being naive it is a case of living in a world where everything we say and do is passed on instantly. Sometimes the words or actions cause a great deal of trouble and anger.

    No one is apologizing. WE are recognizing that we need to be vigilant all the time. WE need to respect each other and make sure that these films and stories which depict another religion in unfavorable terms are really factual and are not continuing stereotypes or false images. Those who cannot realize that his film was a bad idea need to think about their own religions and how they would feel if their religion was trashed.

    The prejudice being shown really should not have any place in a country where religious freedom is one of the basic tenets. To call another religion a sham does not bode well for Americans. You have a right to your opinion but please do not spout off as if your opinion is 100% correct.

    Many of us saw what could happen when a religion is tormented over and over again. WWII is a prime example of what can happen when religion is condemned and misunderstood. There is a saying about an enemy coming for different groups and the indifference shown until the enemy reaches your group and it is too late.

    CAn we just try to respect each other and those who hold different beliefs.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • twobits

      "Islam does have some extremists just as other religions". Really? Tell me about the extreme Christians who fly planes into buildings, slit the throats of innocent people, etc.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  8. J

    Romney seems, Well, "Way over the hill...." -Get it: Over the hill? ( Too out of touch with America; valued on his foreign reserves and how he'll keep them better afloat by being the President and getting some new monetary knowledge reserves -ie. therein: "seeing the books"- and that he is far too Mormon. By the way, if he believes in the God of the King James Bible why is he mormon in the first place? They're different: there is only one...true God and 'he not looked like the one from the Mormon (add-on) scriptures. !' -If he wants to get actually saved...redeemed, it's not too late to go see Billy Graham...If he really wants to be President of a country.)

    September 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  9. twobits

    suggestion for McLaren: Since "Islamophobia" is so distressing to you, why not escape it and move to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, or Syria? Bring your wife. If you have a daughter, bring her. Maybe she can find a nice Sharia-loving husband to take good care of her...

    September 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  10. Eli

    "It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history."

    You are out of your friggin mind. Criticizing/mocking a military leader (that's what Mohammed was!) is not the same as calling for the deaths of an entire race of people.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  11. DT

    Brian McClaren is infamous for attacking and deconstructing Evangelical Christianity, so this article is no surprise. He thinks he's a "post-evangelical" but really is just a critic and emergent agnostic posing as a Christian. It's funny that he accuses evangelicals of 'hate speech' yet he seems to be slinging it pretty good himself. I mean, seriously Brian, who is killing innocent ambassadors? Who is calling for the murder of "infidels"? At least the worst our "tiny minority" does over here is burn a Quran. We don't torch our cities and burn the mosques because they are burning our flags, or burning our Coptic friends churches, or beating Christian coverts to death. No, instead we send them aide, missionaries, doctors without borders, medicine, newly dug wells, orphanage care, Bibles and missionaries to teach them about the true Jesus, not the false Jesus Mohammed taught them. Are you seriously going to drag the 500 year old Inquisitions, and Luther's anti-semitism, and the Crusaders into the argument as a caricature of 21st century evangelicalism? Why is it, Brian, that evangelical missionaries are constantly under death threats and persecution in Muslim lands? And actually, Brian, Western Civilization is where Muslims actually are given freedoms and rights they have never known in their homelands. This is just a bogus article CNN.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Stephen

      Well-said on all fronts, DT! This is just another opportunity for McLaren to hitch up his britches and sanctimoniously attack Evangelicals to the cheers of the Emergents, the hip, the chic, the secularists, and, no doubt, the radical Islamists for whom he and is ilk serve as useful apologists and tools.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • TodayTomorrow

      Well said. Best post of the day.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  12. Jim

    CNN = PRAVDA

    September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • John

      A complainer, yet someone who still gets his news from the site. Go figure. Still, thank you for your patronage, comrade Jim.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  13. Barry Brindisi

    Stop blaming the victim for islamaphobia?? I know people are reacting to what's seen in the news. The media has this wonderfully annoying habit of putting things under a magnifying lens and making things seems bigger then it is. Yet, they can't be making up the violence seen on TV.

    But this isn't what Brian is talking about. He's talking about "Christian" leaders who do nothing more than fan the flame of fear. They are not helping anymore then claiming Islam is a religion of peace. From what I'm seeing, the problem is largely spiritual. Prayer is needed to combat this spirit of unreasoning violence over in the Middle East.

    For we do not battle against "flesh and blood"; rather we battle against spiritual principalities that exploits what is happening in the earthly realm. Yes, Al Queda is milking the situation and they're not alone.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Stephen

      Brian makes it appear that fear and hate are in the main of how Evangelicals have responded to Islamic extremism. He offers zero proof of the accuracy of his smears against other Christians and their claims. While there are kernels of truth in this opinion blog, I believe the overall thrust here is, at best, misguided. Brian always does a nice job of presenting an appealing and seemingly earnest face to his arguments; after reading his stuff for years, I just don't quite buy it, and find it annoyingly passive-aggressive. Yes, spiritual warfare (which Brian actually seems to mock a bit in his blog) is a vital part of this issue and, yes, we must conduct ourselves in a Christ-like manner. But a good shepherd not only feeds and tends his flock, or even prays for it; he also defends vigorously against wolves.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Barry Brindisi

      Hi Stephen,

      The fact is, I rarely listen to Pat Robertson, John Hagee and others. The only reason that I wrote a blog post on Pat, it's because of what I read on Christian Post. I stopped listening to him, years ago. Because of past experiences, I can readily believe Brian.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  14. Thomas Diemer

    There seems to be a seed of hated in the center of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, wether it is hatred of Moslems, Gay People, Mormons, Jews, immigrants, feminists, science, whatever. Its part of the nature of the thinking and world view. I guess it comes from the conviction that one has the one and only truth and everyone else is wrong.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Keith

      I don't know why anyone would hate or be afraid of muslime. After all, all they are doing is rioting, killing thousands of people around the world and expressing hatred of everything non-islamic. That is just what they do. We are just supposed to accept it.

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

      And Gay People, Mormons, Jews, immigrants, feminists, scientists are going into crowded markets and setting off bombs?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  15. James

    Well sir we HAVE chosen. We reject the Islamic religion for what it has DEMONSTRATED itself to be. No lies in WATCHING them kill our soldiers and drag their bodies under the name of Allah, Killing innocent civilians and CELEBRATING it and recording it. There will NEVER be peace with the Christian people with Islam. We have tried to work with them and they keep showing their deluded insanity and you have a break point where you just give up on them. PERIOD

    September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  16. Islamo-denial

    If we are to use psycho-babel to describe things, the appropriate term is not "phobia" (an irrational psychological fear) but "denial." The irrational nature of McLaren's Islamo-denial is this: Mulsims in the name of Islam have murdered our diplomats and trashed our embassies and rioted throughout the Mulsim world over a non-event (a "film" that was never even distributed), and all that McLaren can worry about is Islamophobia. Here is the triumph of Mclaren's ideology over real-world evidence.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  17. Nfidel

    If 1000's of Easter Bunnies were blowing up buildings and beheading people simply for speaking out against a belief system, then there would be stereotypes about Easter Bunnies. No one is being Islamophobic – they are simply being observant.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Chuck

      Exactly NFidel! The Muslim leadership needs to call a pres conference to vehemently attack the evildoers every time there is an incident if they want us to start believing they don't really condone the attacks.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  18. Dialogos

    CNN is bigoted in how they are trying to twist the issue around. How can your lot attack Christians whose forefathers died to create a free Nation like ours? Unlike what is found in the Muslim World. The supposed movie in question has little to do with the riots worldwide. Your lies are created by the biased MSM to deflect attention from Obama and his Arab Spring gone wrong. Helping Extremist take over Egypt, Libya and soon Syria will only lead to WW3 when they turn their attentions to Israel! Liberals are led around like sheep by their limousine lib leaders. You guys are the end all of America and leading the simple minded off a cliff of economic and social demise.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Dan Halen

      And you, are off your meds again.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'Dialogos' contains instances of the ad hominem fallacy and the Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right fallacy, as well as conspiracy theories and other common fallacies.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      September 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  19. freqflyr

    These people want the film maker tried under Sharia law and executed if he doesn't repent. They have not said what would happen if he did repent, he would probably be beheaded. Sharia law is typically implemented by a small portion of the population, the Islamic extremists, forcing their will on the total population through violence. This is taking place in north and east African countries. Once in place only violence can rid a country of Sharia law because the muslims will fight to the death to protect it. If that is Islamaphobia, sign me up.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  20. Common Sense

    Why am I not surprised this whole dilemma has been bent back towards blaming Christians??? Yeah, you're right, it was all my fault, and Jesus' fault, and the catholic church etc.....

    WHAT A FREAKING JOKE

    September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
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