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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. Nelson

    Good article : One thing to note is .... Its not about freedom of speech but about a religion that represent almost 3 billion people in the world. We should have a control on Media on cetain hateful things that start these things in very first place..The video should have been baned by you tube...... Try calling a African American a 'N' on any public forum and He will tell you if He thinks that as a joke. Unfortunately in the western world we find it easier to degrade Islam then degrading a race that has sentiments tied to slavery. It is the fear of a backlash the word "N" has disappeared from the American dictionary. Think about it...

    September 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • sam

      Instead of putting more controls on media, I think it's a great idea if people would learn to control themselves and not go blow shit up when they're upset.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • epaul08

      I agree – we should get rid of all offensive language and ideas. I would start with religion.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Catherine

      Nelson is advocating censorship .

      Should we also burn books that might offend Muslims? Should we ban speakers that might offend Muslims. Heck, why don't we just adopt blasphemy laws.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  2. Mopper

    Wow, Imagine that. I have never been so upset since I heard there was Nazi phobia back in the 1930s. I am glad you are ever on guard for these enormities. You know with people lying about irrational mobs running amok over silly films, blatant persecution of non-Muslims in Islamic countries etc. Keep up the Good Work!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  3. chaz

    Islamophobia????? I don't see christians in the USA violently protesting against Islamic people or countries. In fact its quite the opposite.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  4. ArticleHawk

    This article is garbage written from one perspective. You seem more outraged about some every day Christians than you are about Muslims actually killing. YES, actual lives were lost. I can read your article and then turn the news on and watch them actually doing the act of rioting, murder, running through the streets, and shooting machine guns in the air. This is probably the worst possible timing for your bias. Waiting until the Muslims are at least stopping to reload before you post this Christian hit piece.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Akim

      ArticleHawk: "....This article is garbage...." is it because he is suggesting tolerance and condemn spreading haters? Oh you don't have to go out to look for haters, just read the comments here by bunch of "blind followers of haters who need votes to get elected".

      September 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Catherine

      Perhaps because the actual 'hate spreaders' are the ones murdering and rampaging.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  5. epaul08

    When any slightly irreverent depiction the prophet Mohammed is legitimate cause for fear of bodily harm/death, that's all you need to know. Its sad that people don't realize the invisible man they worship is inside their head.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  6. Truth

    Brain Mclaren thank you well said. Majority of American people they don't know any thing about Islam they just talk and judge for what the media tells them they don't to know how to analyze they just go by what they are told ."THAT IS SAD" they said that Moslems they blow building and kill people ok, who is blowing building in the middle east, who killed all those people by the name of war, Iraqis they did not attack you, you want and attached them they did not kill you, you want and killed them now, some one tell me who is the terrorist?? true Islam is peace, tolerance and forgivness, and I am forgiven you America

    September 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • S24H

      Looks real peaceful. When some ignorant person "insults" a religious figure the logical thing to do is go around killing and rioting - REAL PEACEFUL.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Pauls' a happy heratic.

    Deities don't teach hate.
    People with small minds who read the wrong in books of faith and preach the hate.
    This has been practiced by many religions for millinia and likey will continue.
    The small minds of the idealogs are imperfect. All churchs trive on this weakness.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  8. Dave

    Deconstruction junction. This is a typical play by liberal professors and academics alike. Reconstruct the issue such that the "Christians' are in the wrong, rather than the real issue – which is a founded concern for Islamic extremism world wide.

    Anyone that has been around various religious groups knows that they all have a degree of skepticism for a faith other than their own. This is normal, not necessarily healthy, but normal and not attributable to only Christian groups. Go ahead just put Hindus and Buddhists in the same room.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  9. buccakenji

    Anyone that watches news programs on TV KNOWS about the Islamic radicals have vowed to destroy the U.S. and Israel. Any who accuses anyone of a phobia based on what is common knowledge and repeated threats is either blind, deaf, dumb or stupid. Probably all of the above.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  10. Brian

    Brian McLaren continues to blame evangelical Christianity for every bad thing that happens in the world. When he first started writing books he had a good criticism of Christianity showing where we need to make some changes. As time goes on, it just shows that he has no interest in contributing to Christianity and his agenda is to tear it down.
    He is right in that the Christian response isn't to return hate with hate, but that isn't what is happening. Christians need to pray for peace in the middle-east and pray that God would give wisdom to the leaders of our nation, but McLaren doesn't give those kinds of solutions.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  11. gstlab3

    I say we should by right of our evolution and modern way of life that it demands we crush the third world into submission and destroy the last vestages of the primative world in the middle east.

    Communism must go too or we'll all live under the Tyrany of this new world order which is just a code word for world wide communism if you are not that well read that is what this all means.

    We have tried the old carrot and stick with most of the world and it has worked to some large degree but some backwards stone aged hold outs remain and we should act now before it is too late.

    The government is lying to us.

    The dollar has been replaced with Chinese money in the new Russian China oil trade deal confirmed on Sept 6th.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  12. beanne

    Obama says to the terrorists:
    Murder us and I will apologize for our Free Speech
    Sodomize us and I will make excuses for you
    Terrorize us and I will call it man made disaster
    Bomb us and I will bow to you
    rise up in your country and I will defend you and send you money
    Threaten Israel and I will ignore it.

    Obama says to Israel:
    You're on your own.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  13. nottolate

    It is written,

    Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

    That's what you get when you read these post. I am astonished that these people have grown altogether completely ignorant of religious things and it son't matter the religion. Of the 6000 plus post here, literally only a handful are accurate and the poster knew what he/she was talking about. The rest are lies, ignorance, and drivel starting with the author of this article.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  14. Nick Nihad

    American Liberals are the dumbest people on earth. Read the Quran and you will see it endorces violence to all who oppose their way of life. Liberals are just a bunch of wussies buddying up to Muslims because they hope it will earn the Muslims favor. The evidence is not only in the Quran it is also evidenced in the happenings of the world. Brian Mclaren is an idiot.

    Are there some good muslims who want peace? Yes, I believe there are, but from a Fundamental Islamic view these people are apostates and will be killed if they oppose true Islam.

    Talk to any true Muslim who is honest and he will confirm the truth!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • epaul08

      Liberals ARE idiots. I'm a liberal and I agree with everything you just said.

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

      I did. And he said that he had neither the time nor the interest in worrying about whether someone else was Muslim or not.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  15. readthequranandrelianceofthetraveller

    Who is intolerant of the other's religion? Quran, Verse 3:85: And whosoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and Hereafter, he will be one of the losers.
    Jihad is an obligation of war, you must fight or pay up to support fighters. Quran, Verse 2:190: And fight in the way of Allah (with notes for translation) Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah's Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam an is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established, Allah's Word is made superior, and His religion is propagated. Verse 2:191: And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. Verse 8:57: So if you gain mastery over them in war, punish them severly in order to disperse those who are behind them, so that they may learn a lesson (in other words don't get captured). Verse 8:60: And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artiller) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom you may not know, but whom Allah does know.
    Reliance of the Traveller, page 600: " He who provides the equipment for a soldier in jihad has himself performed jihad".
    When they tell you something to dissuade your concerns about the realities of Islam: Reliance of the Traveller Page 745: "When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible".
    What is a permissible goal you ask? Global rule by single Caliphate: Quran Verse 8:73: And those who disbelieve are allies of one another, (and) if you (Muslims of the whole world collectively) do not do so [ become allies, as one united block under one Khalifah to make victorious Allah's religion of Islamic Monotheism], there will be Fitnah (wars, battles, polytheism) and oppression on earth, and a great michief and corruption.
    For our political leaders to say that all the killing, destruction, attacks, terrorism, lying, deception, torture committed by Muslim fundamentalists (note that I didn't call them extremists) is a surprise, or a result of our own actions, is either a result of their incompetence or gross negligence.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  16. Roberto

    I'm tired of all this appeasement for Islam. Islamic leaders need to take responsibility for all the hatred that comes from the texts of the Koran and the hadiths.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  17. Awais

    I am a Muslim and I condemn such a hateful movie but certainly it is not a surprise. We have been told in the Quran by Allah(SW) that such hateful, insults will be coming till the last and final day of the Judgement by non-Muslims about our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace & Blessings be upon him) & all the other previous beloved Prophets (Peace & Blessings be upon them all).

    We are told in Quran by Allah (SW) that in such cases response with better behavior (certainly not violence against anyone & anything) so whatever happened in the Muslim world in retaliation was wrong. And that Allah (SW) says in the Quran that the high status and respect of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is given to him by Allah (SW), the God Himself, and His angles and hence it is ordered to Muslims that pay respect to the Prophet (pbuh) as well. No action by ANYONE can reduce that respect for him (pbuh) which is granted by Allah Himself!

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

      But obviously your fellow Muslim do not believe that your Allah is powerful, so they take matter's into their own hands.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • High Way

      "We are told in Quran by Allah (SW) that in such cases response with better behavior (certainly not violence against anyone & anything) so whatever happened in the Muslim world in retaliation was wrong."

      Its too bad that we don't here it more often what you have said from Arab countries. If you happen to be in an Arab country where the radicals live you would be accused of sympathising with the infidels and you would put to death.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Fresh

      Well Said.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  18. Arlene Jensen

    Pray tell me, what large sectors of evangelical Christians serve as a greenhouse for "Islamphobia" ? It seems this is a terminology to descrbe people who don't see the world the same way as far left idealogues see it. Would you agree there is a large sector of left/liberal idealogical people that, have Christianphobia. I don't know how the extreme elements of the Islam faith could be more expressive of their hatred and evil intents toward Christians and Jews. What about their own statements that they want to wipe us off the face of the earth do you not understand.

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

      They don't want to understand anything other than Christianity is evil and Islam is good. The funny thing is in reality they hate all religion but somehow 'love' Islam. I guess it is easier for them to defile Christianiity since they don't get killed for it.

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

      Any examples?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  19. wassupUSA

    Muslims burnt our embassies, murdered our embassador, flew airplanes into the twin towers, sunk the USS Cole, committed (or attempted to) Fort Hood, blow up Times Square, use underpants to take out plane. Those are just their actions agianst America. That doesn't even include the murder committed by them in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. But yeah, Christians are the problem.
    Liberalism is the art of standing on your head and telling the world it's upside down.

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

      Christians have firebombed theaters showing 'The Last Temptation of Christ,' murdered doctors who perform abortions, bombed clinics, set off bombs at nightclubs and the Atlanta Olympics and led the KKK. Does that mean Christianity is fundamentally a source of hate and evil? No. Those people were in the vast minority of Christians, and had their own problems. It's no different for anybody else, no matter what religion they claim to commit violent acts for.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • enfilmigult

      That wasn't a complete list of recent terrorists acts comitted for Christ, by the way. The point is, blaming it on the religion, instead of the individuals who do these things, is looking in the wrong direction. There are terrorists of all kinds. No religion has a monopoly on these acts, and no religion advocates them. It's no religion's fault that, with that many millions of members, some of them are crazies.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Catherine

      One theater (in Paris) was fire bombed. 4 doctors murdered (though 8 killed). Many other attempts. Eric Rudolf is serving a life sentence for the killing of an abortion doctor and the Olympics bombing. This over the course of 20 years.

      You didn't see Christians in any discernable numbers supporting them.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  20. anthonya_ii

    The REAL people who produced the movie are the Hate mongers who are not Coptic Christians.
    They are Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.
    Not Nakoula who was just a proxy most likely. Nakoula (the supposed film maker) is denying it.
    Don't forget Nakoula is a Con artist and also involved in FRAUD of all kinds ... most notably Bank Fraud in the US. He is a fraud through and through!

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

      Careful about throwing out such accusations as you can get someone killed.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:24 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.