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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 • My Take • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. danny

    This is rediculous. Islamaphobia? Is there anything that warrants a "phobia" more? Yea, lets turn all this around and make it the fault of movie. Really? Why not pin it on the ones that did it? Like the phsyco's with rocks, guns, and bullets that run around raping and slaughtering our Ambassadors... They have been violent since the religion came into existence. Christainity was responsible as well, but has abondoned violence in modern times. Why does CNN and most other media outlets continue to blame Christians, or any one that is NOT Musim for that matter when Muslims kill? I will tell you I am not a very religiuos person at all, but I will also tell you if I were stuck in dark, back alley somewhere, I would hope i would encounter a Christian, before I would a Muslim. If walks like a duck, and talks like a duck. Its probably a duck.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  2. I agree!

    "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."
    I absolutely agree! Hate and anger are negative emotions and any religion that follows Christ should not preach these. Too much negative emotion leads to mental distortion and then moves to negative physical action. It is up to the leaders of any religion to "lead" the way, instead of stirring the pot. Although in our crazy online world it is also up to the media to show examples of leaders that are leading in positive ways versus negative ways and all too often it is the big scary headline that gets the attention (money)....not the nice story of someone doing something good. And the readers/listeners also have to make an effort to pay more attention to the "good" stories versus the "negative/hate filled" stories in order to make changes from the bottom to the top. Wonder if we can do this??

    September 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  3. Rob Bob

    Christians are insulted every day and you do not see them burning down buildings. It is hard to defend muslims as not being violent when they act the way they do.

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

      There was a time when Christians burned down people.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Kevin Barbieux

      yeah, "there was a time" about 500 years ago. Then Christians evolved. It's time for Muslims to come out of the cave and evolve too.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • wassupUSA

      @karen
      There was also a time when Democrats led the KKK, if you're so inclined to hold groups accountable for their past transgressions.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Jandice Haven

      I agree Rob...I don't see the extreme in any religion losing it over a 13 minute You Tube Video that is no more silly than a Saturday Night Live skit that the US had nothing to do with..I just don't get those people, never will, nor do I want to know anything about their religion..They need to stop pushing their religion on others and join the 21st century.. As far as I am concerned they can continue burning their own countries down over this until dirt is left....Once again, we have nothing to with that either...

      September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  4. DonQuixote

    Once again, it is OUR fault that Muslims subscribe to religious tenets that make any "non believer" fair game for anything up to and including murder. ANY Muslim complicity in this, Mr. McClaren?

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

      do you always pull lies out of your as$?
      there is no such thing, if there was then why would SO many foreign non-Muslims be going to Muslim lands such as UAE, Kuwait and Dubai, Bahrain, Malaysia etc. etc. etc. etc. ?????
      They leave easily with comfort there and never feel threatened.
      The reason is those nations are being invaded and their people arent be killed.
      If it was just about their religion advocating to kill non-Muslims then you would see that happening all over the mentioned countries but CLEARLY that is not the case.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Guest

    Don't like religious fanatics, no matter what flavor.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  6. thetruth

    Islamophobic....hmmmm..... in their "religious book" it is written that if outsiders do not conform to their "religion" then they are supposed to wipe them out. Now....if that is Islamophobic then I guess I am. AND PLEASE QUIT SAYING THAT THERE ARE PEACEFUL MUSLIMS. THERE AREN'T ANY!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • therealthruth!

      You are a true bigot aren't you!? We have a total 1.6 billion Muslims around the world!
      From Chinese Muslims, to Russians, to Turks, Arabs, Malaysians, Indians, Africans etc.
      You can't tell me that all of them are one and the same. That would be the quintessence of a racist sob talk.

      Afghanistan was invaded by Russia and Afghans lost millions of their own during that war. We armed and converted the moderate Afghans into Talibans. Check history if you doubt this. Our US foreign policies radicalized them to make sure they kicked out the Russians. Before the Russians there was NO radical element in Afghanistan.
      I can take down each country and as example... Iraq is another (if you were educated or fair minded you would agree or know), that our policy put Saddam in power in the later 70s, early 80s.
      We also supported Mubarak in Egypt, why?
      All for Israel's sake....
      We need to reassess our foreign policy which is causing all hate and we need to look at our evangelical leaders who are pushing for a "clash of civilizations"!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • wow, don't know any muslims do you?

      You obviously don't know any muslims. There are millions of them in the US and they are not attacking everyone. There are many religions that state that those that do not accept "this religion" are evil and will go to hell and we must kill them. The key is to read and research and listen to your specific religious "Leader" ; be it Preacher, Pope, Imam, Rabbi, etc. It is obvious that the "leaders" of certain Sects in Islam used this pathetic video to inflame "ignorant" muslims. Ignorant, meaning they did not have any other knowledge or resources to reseach the truth and realize that pretty much NO ONE in the US gave a rats butt about this "movie". Here in the US we can do research and use our brains to figure things out....like when a story is trying to inflame us or when it is trying to make us think a bit more outside of ourselves. CO-EXIST people...CO-EXIST

      September 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • therealthruth!

      Point here is ... when SO many millions of Muslims have died for eg. in Iraq alone due to our foreign intervention. There is bound to be some reactionary elements that want to resort to violence to express themselves. So yes there are cookkooo heads there in the middle east produced as a result of years of war(S). But considering the # of people affected by wars and the relatively small percentage of radicals I have to say there are 99.99999% more peaceful Muslims than the other kind. If the same level of invasion and deaths occured of another religious or ethnic group then there would possibly be far more reactions around the world.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • enfilmigult

      Yes, you are. Read the Bible lately? Have you seen how many things for which the Bible demands death, but which the vast majority of people reasonably ignore? That a holy book says to kill unbelievers is not proof of much in this day and age.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  7. takenobull

    I really rely on common sense more then my christian faith in looking at the Muslim faith. I just read a article that in Saudi Arabia a man is to be beheaded for reckless driving that caused a death. I read a article where in Iran a Christian Pastor is to be hanged for not denouncing his religion. I read a article where a woman was shot to death for adultery in Afghanistan in other countries they are stoned to death. I read a article where a little girl with down syndrome is to be hanged for damaging a Koran. I could go on. I suggest that if all I am reading is a lie the lies should be stopped. If they the truth then a bad view of the Muslim faith has nothing to do with your views as a Christian.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • then thou art lessened then

      Now and then are both not times to use "then" if you mean "than".

      September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  8. "He's Dead Jim."

    1) Who coined "islamophobe" ? Did that name find it's roots from the like of the muslim brotherhood? Did they have strategic aims when coining this name?

    2) You cite lies being told about islam. So, who on earth are any of us supposed to trust with "the truth"?

    I don't think anyone is capable of telling any of us what the real truths are.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  9. Jobwelldone

    Muslims start war after Friday Namaz..what kind of peacefull religion is this?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • jonsdurdi

      you are a hindu. spotted you! :)

      September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  10. Maria Coffee

    let us all pray in OUR OWN SPIRITUELL BELIEFS for the people in the arabic countries and take a video of it and put it on u tube facebook or any other global provider.
    let them know that we all send the divine white light which will transform anything into peace love and happyness.
    as more people we will be as more healing energies can be send!
    time is changing fox, we can not respond anymore to our problems how we used to...

    September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • HomerGriffin

      Is the divine white light flowing forth from a thermo-nuclear device? If so, I strongly support your comment.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  11. sapo

    I can't wait until the Israel gets a hold of Iran they better have pleanty of virgins. Like Patton said let the other bast@rd die for his country.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  12. WildOmar

    Are we really using the old splinter-in-thine-eye analogy? Seriously? Are we really that exhausted as a nation? I like what Joe Scarborough said. He said that these people don't hate us because of Koran burnings, or because of some idiotic film on YouTube, or because some revivial tent fire/brimstone preacher says Islam is evil. These people hate because they HATE us. They don't need a reason. If one pops-up... yayyy. But even if we don't give them a reason, they are STILL going to hate us.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • enfilmigult

      Yes, a tiny minority does. In a city with a Muslim population of six million (not counting the metro area), a couple of thousand showed up to protest. Some were paid to be there. The ones who weren't, as you AND THE OP-ED say, really have a problem. But if by "they" you mean Muslims, you're dead wrong...or, rather, the people who told you this are dead wrong. Read this all the way through.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  13. CA Liberal

    Well said Mr. McLaren. Hate and fear breed more hate and fear. I am afraid that both Christians and Islam have a minority with this problem. Jesus did not have this problem.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  14. dionysusBeer

    The Muslim world shouldn't use violence as a form of protest. Period. That said, the responses from some "Christians" on here are alarming. Islam is a bucket of crap, that's for sure. But to ignore the bloody past of Christianity and pretend that only Muslims are capable of violence and extreme hatred is as disingenuous as it gets. Christianity had the benefit of being the majority religion in the West where Enlightenment values were able to take hold so, yes, most American and European Christians behave themselves. But a quick look at the past reveals that at one point the Muslim world was more civilized than the Christian world. But even in modern times we can find examples of Christians (without access to Western Enlightenment values) behaving badly. To pretend that your poop don't stink and that Muslims are the only ones capable of violence is extremely ignorant and/or dishonest.

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

      You don't "justify" or "ignore" killing or bad behavior today based on killing or bad behavior in the past Muslims are the problem today – they can't tolerate anyone with a different opinion or way of life. Don't tell me "it is only a few". If that was indeed the case the many "good" ones would get rid of those few. The truth is instead thay tolerate them and encourage them by doing nothing.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  15. jane justice

    Sorry . . . this is an unbelievable post on the part of the author. Why is he calling out evangelicals as the people with the problem? Does everyone else in America love those who hate our country, destroy our buildings and kill with impunity?
    He has OD'D on the approval drug–has to have it.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  16. Ed

    Muslims are like rats. You leave them alone unless they are a hazard to you – in that case the only solution is to kill them.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  17. American

    from US Legal dot com: "Endangerment refers to an act or an instance of putting someone or something in danger or exposure to peril or harm. In US law, endangerment comprises of several types of crimes involving conduct that is wrongful and reckless or wanton, and likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm to another person. The offense is intended to prohibit and therefore deter reckless or wanton conduct that wrongfully creates a substantial risk of death or serious injury to others." .....releasing this film classifies as a crime of endangerment

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

      You like to post this tripe–it only paints you as the fool. You have no more understanding of the 1st Amendment then those murdering mid-east thugs.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Ed

      The real definition of endangerment is living in a Muslim nation and being a non-Muslim. The concept that I as a person in the U.S. can make a film that Muslims don't like and they kill as a reaction is "endangerment" is a joke. Let's blame the people doing the killing not someone saying something they don't like. I wonder if I killed those that for "art" insult the Christian faith – would you defend me due to "endangerment"??????

      September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • American

      VanHagar, your hate and ignorance are profound. Go join the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, they love to recruit dolts like you.

      Ed, I'm neither excusing nor defending terrorism at all, not one little bit, they are indeed criminally responsible for their inexcusable and unacceptable acts. I'm saying the reality in the world we live in is if you provoke a sleeping grizzly to intentionally pi$$ him off, then you also play a role in the harm which results.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Catherine

      Salman Rushdie is still walking around with a death sentence because he dared to write a book that offended Muslims – Satanic Verses – about 25 years ago. Should he be charged? Irshad Manji a 'reform' Muslim, receives constant death threats for espousing a reinterpretation of the Koran. Should she be charged? Ayan Hirsi Ali wrote a book about why she left Islam and lives with 24 hour guards. Should she be charged? Scholarship on the historical Mohammed and the origens of the Koran are done surripticiously for fear of the violent consequences. Should such scholarship be stopped and those scholars charged?

      September 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • VanHagar

      I have no hate, and the only ignorance is yours...citing to a .com for legal analysis–really? Thanks Matlock!

      September 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  18. Tom Policastro

    My take on islamaphobia. A phobia is an irrational fear of something that can't do you any harm. Like a fear of sweaters or cats or so forth. A fear of something that can do you harm is not irrational it is in fact totally rational. All over the world muslims are doing a great deal of harm to each other and to the innocent people around them. So the fear of the potential of islam to do harm is, demonstrably, not a phobia but common sense. People who try to dismiss reasonable peoples fear of the threat posed to our lives and our way of life are fools or liars.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  19. David Roy

    I think the author means well. But the author did not cover Mohammuds martial legacy. Did not point out those passages in the Koran that say to fight. Pointing those out along with an explanation as to why a Islamic person would NOT want to do those things because, if it truely is against their religion not some context would clarify the authors points. Basically, the author is just being nice and not addressing Islam as it's written or it's history. Until CNN and the media get that cleared up, well, nothing will be accomplished.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  20. Rob Stenner

    Really, really poor timing to come out with an "Islam is not Evil" story.. Does this guy not watch the news?

    O->–< <-– Look, a physical characterization of Muhamed. Do I really deserve to be killed by extremist now?

    Jeesh.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:59 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.