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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. beanne

    Phobia......?????Phobia??????? We have Muslims calling for the death of Americans...of Jews...THEY Murdered and sodomized our Ambassador...The flew planes into our buildings murdering thousands........PHOBIA...Hell no we are scarred shi!less and more so now that OWE-bama goes around and apologizes to these thugs..these ANIMALS!.....
    I went to Iraq in 07...and I was able to meet many Kurds.....yes they are Muslim but they are not Arabs and these are the kindest most giving people on the planet...and by the way...they LOVE the US and George Bush.
    However these fanatical Muslims/Arabs...are out of control and growing. Perhaps you Sir ( Brian) could/should go to some of these volatile countries and tell me if you don't cringe when a man in a bulky vest walks into your area?
    My son has been to Iraq x15 months and Afghanistan x 12 months...US Infantry and now he is on his way again....Iraq was not that bad...but Afghanistan where these people are tribal-illiterate....and brainwashed is a different story.
    If you can go there w/o guns and w/o the army and live a year and survive...then perhaps you would be worth listening to.
    Yes Jesus said to love your enemy....but he does not expect you to stand by and do NOTHING as your enemy murders your family.;

    September 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  2. john jones

    yeah, christians are the intolerant ones... yeah right. We are not the ones burning down embassys and killing other people for a video that goes against our religion. unbelieveable the bias of CNN.

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

    Perhaps it's time for Muslim countries to make owning a Christian Bible legal? Just to give us a little evidence they're not Christianphobic? It's a real kicker to be lectured about human respect and dignity by Muslim Nations that treat their women like dogs and their dogs like lunch.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Izzy

      Given Christian history, Christian-phobic seems a reasonable, easily justified position to take.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • steve

      @Izzy – Islam has killed just as many, if not more people that Christians did. And the Muslim slave trade lasted centuries longer and enslaved millions more people than the so-called Christian slave trade.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  4. Jack

    You sir are not in a position to tell anyone what they MUST do.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  5. steve

    They get upset when we "insult" their "prophet". I get insulted when they burn churches and throw acid on young gilrs. You decide which is worse.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  6. sandiegobeachbum

    Until I see Muslims everywhere demonstrating when the stinking, cowardly, evil, cruel Talibums throw acid in young girl's faces for going to school, I have not one ounce of respect or anything else for Muslims. They will look for any --– excuse to demonstrate against the US and it's high time the world community strongly condemns these Islamic murdering animals. Islam, Religion of Peace, is the biggest OXYMORON I have ever heard. What a joke. These ignorant ,idiotic and braindead morons have no life and want everyone else to suffer along with them. Nothing in the world can justify any loss of life from these cowards. They are tough in numbers and stinklng cowards when alone. Why we would give one more dime to any Middle Eastern country is a total mystery to me and I would bring our troops home in a nanosecond from those ungrateful Afghan nutjobs. We have sacrificed so much in lives and $$ and to see those stupid, pitiful, sorry excuses for human beings burning our flag in Kabul makes me sick.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Murph In Florida

      There are many Americans, that believe exactly as we do....that's why they want to get rid of us!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  7. weedouthate

    For hundreds of years, humankind has attempted to weed out scapegoats. To much violence, too much killing, too much terror. The time has come to change our hearts and our souls. Let's weed out hate and sow the seeds of peace. Just imagine the possibilities…if children from all over the world would each extract a symbolic weed of hatred and replenish it with a seed of peace! Together, we would cultivate our Promised Land vision for bearing the ultimate fruit that connects with God, Nature, and each other. We would treat each other as we would like to be treated, rooting out hate and evil and planting love and respect in our hearts and in our gardens. Then, we could experience the ultimate blossoms of freedom. Let us weed out hate. Let us sow seeds of peace. And let freedom ring....

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Murph In Florida

      You are dreaming...these people understand only one thing and respond in only one way-VIOLENCE! It's all they know, it's all they are taught, and it is pretty much the way they wish to die.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Catherine

      weedouthate, those are admirable aspirations, but if you think that such simplistic notions are possible........ Keep in mind than when Christians look back to Jesus for an example of behavior you get 'sacrifice for mankinds', 'turn the other cheek". With Muslims, the example is of war and conquest with an injunction to wage war until the world submits.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  8. Ahf66

    I can't believe CNN let a writer like this to publish such slender and yet it proudly call itself the most trusted news network?? what trust is there when you have a writer start putting down Christianity why? Because he knows he can because he will not have any death threats from Christians.. heck he will have plenty of friends on the other side too.. Shame on you CNN

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  9. Paul

    It use to be that the free press had a duty and purpose in America, now it seems like the press has become a tool for radical left wing propaganda. As if Hollywood isn't enough of a left wing propaganda machine.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Bofusabode

      Paul, the state run media has been in bed with the left for years, not just recently.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  10. Descarado

    One can never reconcile Islam with freedom of speech, woman's rights, universal suffrage or Western democracy and Islam has no intentions what-so-ever of reconciling itself to any of those fundamental principals of modern civilization..

    September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  11. Guest

    Would it be OK with CNN to dislike all religious wack jobs, regardless of the flavor?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  12. JNM 1982

    This article pizzes me off just as much – I'm sure – as the video pizzed off the Muslims. The only difference is that I have no plans to go hunt down and kill the author nor do I plan to protest or riot. This artilce has no effect on my day to day life. Nevertheless, I take this as an insult, as should any decent American, whether they be evangelical or not.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • tavajm

      I agree

      September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  13. hamada

    Brian Mclaren must live in fantasy land or bizarro world
    I have lived in 8 muslim countries during the last 30 years and in ever one there is hated of christains and jews and anyone that is not muslim, women are considered less that men and death is more honorable than life
    Islam does not condon worshipping idols or icons yet they workship muhammad instead of allah to them created muhammad. Islam is a violent religion and the recent riots are just another example of no tolerance in their culture
    This has been going on for thousand years and yet the so called moderate muslims are in a small minority
    MR MCLAREN IS JUST ANOTHER SCARE FOOLISH AND NAIVE WRITER WHO SHOULD BE SUPPORTING FREE SPEECH NOT SUPPORTING FREEDOM PRESECUTION

    September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  14. Semper Cogitatus

    Yes, many Christian hate Muslims or anyone else that sees the world a little different from them. Also, many Muslims hate Christians or anyone else that sees the world a little different than they do. Also, many atheists hate Christians and anyone else that sees the world a little differently than they do. The list goes on. The problem here may be a little deeper than the author suspects.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • mike

      Yes, but ONLY Muslims back that hate with violence.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Gaf

      You're almost right. All religions have followers who hate other people, but atheists don't hate Christians. They just don't believe what Christians (or any other religious people) believe. I think the problem of fearing other viewpoints is inherent to all religions. The current brutish and misplaced outrage by hordes of otherwise intelligent people is an example of how much hatred religion engenders.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  15. malibu123

    How many times are you going to post this moronic article, CNN?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  16. Murph In Florida

    When I hear and see even 10% of Muslim Leaders rant and rave about how their "Brethren" are are so wrong about killing innocent people and will out-cast them from Islam, then I'll start believing there will not, someday soon, be an all-out, knock down, blow up, and eradicating war between Islam and the rest of the world! The leaders of Islam are either cowards or leading the terrorists!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • JNM 1982

      perhaps they are silently sympathetic? No, silently SUPPORTIVE is more like it!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  17. Chuck North

    This is a sorry and transparent excuse to continue to blame Christianity for hate. The one sideness of the media is sickening and disgusting when it comes to liberalism.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Jennifer

      AMEN

      September 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  18. RGClark

    Obviously Brian McLaren is a CNN nut case that most likely hasn't spent more than 10 minutes reading the Quran. If he would "extend his reading ability" and delve into the Quran say for another 45 minutes, he would discover the real difference between "Christian" teachings and "Islamic" teaching (sic to say the least) The Christian books, new testaments, advocate peace, forgiveness and turning the other cheek. The Quran, advocates fear of God, hatre for infidels (any and all non islamic believers are "infidels), death of an infidel is justified, any child who associates with an infidel is subject to an "honor (sicker yet)" execution, revenge and lying to anyone who isn't of the islamic faith (since infidels have no real value or justification for life).

    September 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Sean

      Obvious you have not read the Qur'an.... please tell me where it says this... and when you post please post the whole page not just one sentence.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  19. Sean

    I am sick of religion... the day we stop believing in imaginary magical things is the day we will stop slaughtering each other over them.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Cutlass

      Tell that to the hundreds of millions killed in the name of the atheistic doctrine of communism (unless you include the teachings of Karl Marx among "imaginary magical things").

      September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  20. Dude in Colorado

    I am NOT making an excuse for the rioters and/or Al-Qaeda's opportunistic exploitation of Innocence of the Muslins, those people need to be found and brought to justice. However, there are certain facts the cannot be ignored either:

    1) Noukala LIED about his name while making this film. (Stirke 1)
    2) Noukala LIED to the people participating in the making of this film about the film's nature. (Strike 2)
    3) Noukala LIED about where he got his funding for the film to implicate Jews. (Strike 3)

    Our Freedom of Speech does not protect peole who lie with intent to commit fraud or incite riots. Noukala needs to be investigated first because using an assumed name violates his probation, second because his string of lies indicates a mens rhea ("guilty mind", he knew what he was doing was wrong) and may therefore be guilty of depraved indifference in the deaths of six Americans overseas including the standing Ambassador to Libya.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:55 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.