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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. Jaydeep

    Clearly the author is blind and ignorant to the facts ...

    This is the 100% truth. Most people will remember right after 911 a US citizen I believe a soldier (but could be wrong about that) was beheaded with a long knife ... it was posted on al jazeera and was by far one of the most horrible things a person can describe. Now Christopher Stevens was killed (by terrorists) NOT by the average Libyan citizen. The point however, is that the people in power ARE the terrorists ! YES, there are many good muslims in the world, (millions) but Iran, Libya, Afganacrap, etc... are run by terrorists. These are the extremists of the muslim religion.

    http://infidelsarecool.com/2008/01/top-10-quran-quotes-every-woman-must-see/
    http://www.wvinter.net/~haught/Koran.html

    September 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  2. USA 0975

    Mr mclaren we will stop feeling that way when they stop wanting to kill all of us because we don't believe what they do, your one of those people who would try to talk someone out of your house when they have a gun to your child's head

    September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  3. Kristina Wallace

    I'd like to turn his words around and address the muslim community: "The greatest threat to Islam is islamists who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety". I haven't seen any Christians protesting over any film that portrays Christianity in a bad light, nor have Christians gone on a murderous rampage and killed foreign diplomats in anger over a perceived slight. I'm really sick of people saying Christians or Americans need to be more forgiving and tolerant-look at where that has gotten us. It's time for these "holier than thou" academics to quit shoving tolerance down our throats and lets start telling the truth-it doesn't matter how tolerant we are, there are Muslims that want all Americans to be killed, and that is not going to change so we need to be prepared and show a strong political and military presence to protect Americans abroad.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  4. marshallbf

    The British tried to appease the Nazis as well and didn't wake up until they were on London's doorstep! We are not talking about people writing propaganda or imflammatory rhetoric. The minority of Islamists that the author speaks of want nothing less than complete control. Maybe he should try to build a church in Saudi Arabia or a Hindu Temple in the UAE for the expatriate workers from India. The violence and looting we are seeing in the news isn't the fiery rhetoric of some Evangelical preacher. It's real and real people are dying. And as JusticeIsNoneexistent said, I am not afraid either, I just don't agree and I shouldn't have to die for that.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  5. dwal

    humans are evolved from single cell to this modern body, few thousands year ago creating a fire was a magic, for them every thing that happen that they were not able to understand was magic so they imagined a person behind this magic and named it god, people are smart enough to discover space, and dumb enough that they still follow rule that was set by some guy that belived fire was a magic by god. come on live your life on morals not on some holy books, stop judging others without knowing them, if you dont like other religion let it be like that its not desturbing anything you do in 24hours, you spread hate you will get hate in return, open your heads you have only 70 years of life in this world after that no one is going to remember you, so leave this world a better place after you r gone, dont spread this religion illness to coming generation let them figure out whats wrong and whats right on their own. i see kids who dont even know what world is about talking and acting racist and this is not a good sign for futur

    September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  6. woodrow

    Radical Muslims are murdering American's for religious reasons. This is not a phobia. This is a reality. They have declared war on all people from our country. I wish it was a phobia only. Then these embassy workers would not be dead. We did not murder their people over their religion. Hardly any of us even saw this stupid video.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  7. The Truth

    Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the Middle East with a message of peace. He completed 3-day Apostolic Visit to Lebanon. In Lebanon, 40% are Coptic Christian, while 60 % follow Islam. Both groups have lived together for centuries...

    “Dear friends, I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. Christ says, Salami o-tikum, 'My peace I give to you,'” said the Pope at the official welcoming ceremony at the Beirut’s Rafik Hariri Airport Sept. 14.

    “And looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs. To them too Christ says: Salàmi o-tikum."

    September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  8. oliver

    Well I see the responses were of exactly the variety I expected.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  9. MERS

    Maybe evangelicals say some strong things.

    But unlike the Muslims, THEY DON'T GO AROUND KILLING PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH THEM.

    Big difference, Brian....

    September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Akim

      Mers: Killing innocent people is a horrific act and whoever does this he/she needs be brought to the justice ASAP. BUT what u r saying: "...THEY DON'T GO AROUND KILLING PEOPLE...", what is difference between killing innocent people and spreading the hates in the society to corrupt innocent people's mind for worldly gain (may be votes or money for the church)?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Jesse Pinkman

      If a muslim was in my yard chanting "Death to America" and burning an American flag I would send out some lemonade and cookies for them.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  10. Jesse Pinkman

    Wake up America and Europe! Islam is evil period. Islam is violence and hate to it's highest level. The word "islam" translates into "Submit" in the english language. Don't you see how they act when a stupid SNL-like film is made about them?..or a cartoonist draws a cartoon about them? The middle east has NEVER seen peace and it probably never will. At some point we must give up trying to help these people. They are a lost cause. These riots are a wake up call to all non-muslims. Muslims want to take over the world and kill everyone who doesn't follow their laws. Wake up people! These people are chanting "Death to America", burning our flag, burning down buildings, and storming our embassies. It is time to start realizing that muslims are not our friends. This is only going to get worse. If you think 9/11 was bad, all signs point to something worse is coming. Muslims are barbaric evil people and they have proven that they will stop at nothing for their cause. There is a reason they call it a "holy war".

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Kababspbs

      what some call a "phobia" others call "ethics"....you wanna play the Word Game? Be my guest, just be sure to use the correct language, please.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • paul

      The muslims riot and kill because they get offended. Well, there is almost nothing that doesn't offend a muslim. Their own existence is offensive because they aren't with Mo bent over back on to allah.

      But how about this. Americans love their flag and what it represents to them, and certainly burning one has to be an insult to most Americans. How about that every time an image is portrayed of some muslim burning there are violent riots in the States, mosques raized, people attacked. How would that play out? Alls equal under the sun, isn't it?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  11. Teresa

    Really CNN....we have a dead American Ambassador, countless dead soldiers, all at the hands of Islamic extremist...and this is the article you so prominently post. The American people are NOT as dumb as your treat them. Oh and don't get me started about the HUMAN RIGHTS violations against women and children in Islamic nations.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  12. IDIC

    Only when the world understands the science is the only path for understanding, not mythology, will this type of violence cease.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  13. Davester

    People cut off heads in the name of Islam, descriminate against woman in the name of Islam, and kill and threaten Jews in the name of Islam. Is it fair to have Islamophobia? Yup!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • paul

      Although now, due to intent by the muslims, islamaphobia is actually somewhat considered to be a hatred of islam, it isn't really the correct use of phobia. Normally a phobia is an irrational fear of something, open space, heights, spiders. It is not irrational to fear what islam represents and what it would like to do to all non-muslims. Thus islamaphobia is really mythical. Somehow we need to turn that back around. Maybe start using terms like freedomaphobia, democracyaphobia, rightsaphobia, femalerightsaphobia. Start shoving that down their throats until it hurts.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  14. Nontolerance

    It is my firm belief that Islamic religion is a threat to the survival of the human species. I do believe there are peacefull muslims but their counterpart the 10% of extrememists have the capability to ignite a world war that will end with the use of nuclear weapons. I don't think i need to go into detail about muslim history but from everything Ive read their quest is not one of tolerance but of domination.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  15. Val

    Brian McLaren could not publish his warm fuzzy Christian books in most muslin countries countries, He is just another koolaid drinker. Poor fellow–God help him.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • asdfasdf

      "It is hate speech."

      The reference to "hate speech" in the article is Orwellian.

      In a country with the Bill of Rights , the Orwellian idea of 'hate speech' should not even exist.

      The whole point of the 1st Amendment is to protect 'minority opinion' from the 'tyranny of the majority'.

      'Minority opinion' includes opinions the 'majority' find controversial, including views which oppose religions, races, political systems, etc. While I do not (generally) agree with anti-Muslim or anti-Christian sentiments, we must defend the right for people to express any and all opinions.

      Free speech does not mean someone can 'pick and choose' what is 'okay' and what is 'not okay' to say, and to argue otherwise is to go down the path of George Orwell.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  16. a-muslim

    To those who are saying bad things about Islam: Islam is against terrorism for sure. It is a beautiful religion, if only you study it. I have been studying Islam for 3 years now. Read The Quran tafsir and authentic hadiths. Muhammad is the last prophet God has sent on Earth, and Jesus has spoken about Muhammad's coming on Earth. Just Google 'Muhammad in Bible'. Old testatment also has spoken about Muhammad's coming. Also Google 'Miracles in Quran', 'prophecies by Muhammad'. I hope you get sometime to do your own study and not become a mouthpiece of a liar.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Jobwelldone

      Iits beautiful religion just for a gang called muslim, it runs like underworld ring. It is worst for every other relgion and even moderate muslim. Remember Pakistani muslim minister killed because he wanted to avoid Christians getting punished for falser Blasphemy.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Jack 3

      the truthis...you let yourself become brainwashed.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Catherine

      A-muslim, maybe instead of trying to convince us of how beautiful and peaceful Islam is, you should be focusing on convincing your co-religionists.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Jesse Pinkman

      I say we exterminate the muslims before they exterminate us."Kill 'em all and pile their skulls to the Heavens"

      September 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Bluegillonthefly

      Is the Quran you're studying the same one that says to not bother People of the Book, but to give the rest a choice between Islam and the sword?

      Even if not all Muslims no longer accept that as a reasonable thing to do, you can't deny that many not only do so but practice it. And that part about not bothering People of the Book? It seems most Muslims no longer accept that as reasonable, either. Muslims are free to practice their religion and what they would call Christian lands (not that there is any land that is actually ruled by Christianity per se) or in Jewish lands, but Christians, Jews, Buddists, Sikhs, Hindus, Eckists, and any other religion you would care to name are not free to practice their religion in Muslim lands. In some places they may practice it under restrictions; in others, not at all. The Muslim countries in which Christians – and even moreso, Jews – may practice their religion openly and without fear are few in number.

      Not all Muslims may profess to believe in Islamic conquest of the world, but some of those who don't profess it believe it but are in the closet; most of the rest may not believe it, but neither do they speak or act against it. They know that if Islam takes over the world, most of them will more than likely benefit from that.

      But, let's say a person is not religious at all. Let's look at this from the point of view of an atheist.

      All religions have had violence in their past. Some at odds with what their Book teaches (something which undermines their credibility in the eyes of an atheist, and not without some justification), and some because their Book preaches it.

      Islam has never converted any country by any means other than the sword, not even its place of origin, what we now call Saudi Arabia. Islam today still looks to violence as a means to spread Islam, or at least to prevent others the free exercise of non-Islamic faith. As Wes wrote, it's a good thing to be wary of someone who might want to kill you. That's not Islamophobia, it's just prudence; there are many Muslims in the world who want to give the entire world a choice between Islam and the sword.

      Whether it is the Christian point of view, the Jewish point of view, the Hindu point of view, the Buddhist point of view, or the atheist point of view, we all have plenty of good reason to fear Islam. Who would have thought that militant Islam would be the thing that could unite all those disparate groups on something?

      If you'd like us all to stop (rightly) fearing Islam, how about Islam stop doing things to give us reason to fear it? Until then, you'll understand if we keep our army at the ready, won't you?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  17. hcc2011

    Phobia? PHOBIA? These people crucify cats and stone women to death. They do not value freedom of speech, nor freedom of anything really. And, oh yes, BTW, they just killed four ambassadors who were in their country trying to HELP them. They are a scourge and they are coming to a town near you.

    And BTW I've not been anywhere near an evangelical person or event for probably 10 years. I am a highly educated professional, lifelong liberal, resident of a large liberal east coast town, speaking not from fear or ignorance, but from what I see with my own two eyes.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • asdfasdf

      I'd really like to see a source reference for 'crucifying cats'. That sounds like nonsense to me.

      Remember it is America which is currently raining predator drone strikes upon the innocent and guilty alike.

      Pick your totalitarian system: The material totalitarian system of America (NDAA, Patriot Act, etc), or the spiritual totalitarian systems of Islamism (No freedom of conscience/religion).

      I should add the Wahabi-ists in Saudi Arabia are some of are biggest clients in the defense market. The division between the Islamic world and Western Civilization is really an manufactured illusion ruled by money.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Catherine

      Totalitarian? You have no idea what a totalitarian system is like if you point to the Patriot Act as an example. Want to know what a totalitarian system is like? Read Robert Conques's "The Great Terror". Or "The Killing Fields", Or Mao, by Jung Chang.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  18. Tony S

    More Blame America Garbage. Now we Christians are the cause of the phobia. Not the Islamic animals that blow up innocent people including those who help them obtain liberty. No wonder the media supports Obama and his Apology Tour...They are all cut from the same cloth. Why don't they all get on a boat and move to Islamabad?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • the wise one

      compare the number of death by the radical muslims to the number of deaths by the american military

      September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • David

      Can you state when Obama apologized for the attack on Americans?

      Do you notice that one right-winger says a lie, and then the others repeat it? That's why I can't trust Republicans. Ideology comes before ethics and morals (honesty and integrity).

      I am wrong, you say? Than I come back to my original question. Exactly when (a link to a video would be nice) did Obama apologize?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • calculate it

      ok, give us the numbers wise one

      September 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  19. Veritas

    The way some of these articles are written, you'd think 9/11 never happened! But who am I kidding, since most leftist intellectuals make no secret of their belief that America 'deserved it'.

    Sorry folks, like it or not, 9/11 was an attack by ISLAMIC extremists. Saying terrorists who TO THIS DAY deliberately kill civilians "aren't Muslims" because they commit acts of violence against innocents is downright idiotic–as if they were atheists pretending to be Muslims!!

    We have audio of the hijackers of flight 93 shouting "Allahu Akbar" as they flew their plane into the ground of Pennsylvania. Timothy McVeigh did not shout "praise Jesus" after the Murrah Federal Building exploded, so don't try the "Christians commit mass terror as well" nonsense either.

    'Islamophobia' is a word leftists invented to silence legitimate criticism of a religion that explicitly considers members of it's own faith to have more value as humans than all others. TURN ON THE NEWS AND LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE MIDDLE EAST RIGHT NOW. The influence of Islam should be opposed by the West using all peaceful means, because Islam has been shown to breed violence wherever it spreads.

    Calling that hate is as absurd as saying any man who takes out a life insurance policy on his wife is guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • the wise one

      you cry about 911 what about the millions of iraqis and afghanis that were murdered?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • fredd

      Finally a person who cares about all the civilians that died.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • the wise one

      the funny part is, muslim extremists kill more muslims than non muslims. CNN doesn't provide the news about the bombings in iraq or afghanistan where 10s of muslims die everyday

      September 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  20. Cof Catan

    The least CNN editors could do is look for a few references and some sign of critical thinking, both of which are lacking in this little "jot off". Does this insipid thematic formula (I was raised evangelical; I have muslim friends who are good people; look at how there are mean people speaking as believers in this country) really meet any journalistic standard in contributing to reasoned debate? McLaren is of the same mud-slinging ilk that made the picture show he found worthy of putting pen to paper for five minutes. The CNN crew should be ashamed.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:20 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.