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My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose
September 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Editor's Note: Brian D. McLaren  is author of "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World" (Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group). 

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents."  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

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Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

Ambassador's killing shines light on Muslim sensitivities around Prophet Mohammed

Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.

No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

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Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”

The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. Islam=Evil

    Dear Mr. McLaren, wake up and smell the coffee. Do American's attack foreign embassies and kill ambassadors if the "god" that they worship is poked fun at?

    The want to kill us all. I am an atheist and I understand this. My church didn't tell me so.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  2. Mr. T

    You betta stop that jibba jabba and realize that you need to have some Mr. T-ophobia fools!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  3. Chair Weight

    Hey you....
    I only an islamaphobe in as much as they want to blow me and my family up. We are Christians. We don't hate them. They hate us.
    The fact that a guy like you is able to publish such garbage to such a large audience is proof that we live in a world of cartoons and kool aide. I will never apologize because I think it's wrong for people to enslave women and use children as bait. You are a loser in the lowest sense of the world. Take you ass to the middle east. You obviously belong there.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • the wise one

      have you ever wondered why they hate you smarty pants?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • the wise one

      oh wait, I think it has something to do something with invading their lands, trying to divide them up and steal their resources + murdering and support of murder of million of their people. Yep that is right. I don't think they would hate you out of thin air.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  4. Madeline M.P.

    I am sooo SICK AND TIRED of these three most quarrelsome religions of the People of the Book: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Is there an end in sight to this constant bickering about who's the "holiest" and who has the only "truth" from some Big Brother in the Sky that somehow seems to ignore all the hoopla and continues to stay quiet and invisible? Every Christian denomination, from Orthodox, to Catholic, to Protestants, Lutherans, evangelicals, holy rollers, howling monkeys and the rest promote the idiocy, in the name of “Christian love,” that “heaven” is reserved only for their particular group. Meanwhile, in Islam, Shia and Sunni are at each other’s' throats while both sects have only disdain for the Sufis. Judaism has its own problems with the Haredi Jews looking down and spitting on occasion on everyone else. And, of course, there is the cross-religious exchange of "pleasantries" some of which have cost the lives of ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other US Embassy personnel.
    About 95% of the verbal and physical violence is done by men: men screaming their lungs off; men destroying other people, buildings and anything in sight when in fits of rage over some dead guy's "honor." And they call women emotional? Puhlease! Speaking of women, the only thing these three major religions seem to agree on is that women are inferior beings that must be controlled by men. The rest is just men worshiping a jealous male god who either had a male offspring he sacrificed for the benefit of his ungrateful subject puppets or had a male prophet "He Who Must Not Be Insulted." If people didn't die in the violence and blood wasn't shed, I would think this human aberration a large-scale stand-up comedy. Just imagine how far we would be today in space exploration or how we would have solved humanity’s physical ailments on our world had we not wasted so much time and energy on the irrelevant mindf-ing aka religion.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • RandyM

      Boy did someone rattle your cage or what.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • One one

      Sad isn't it ?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Sue

      Randy, I think Madeline is rattling your cage.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  5. the wise one

    seems that people here are filled with a lot of hate, they need to look in the mirror. you are ok with our military murdering thousands of innocent people but not ok with extremists murdering ten of innocent people

    hypocrites much?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Diplomat Kin

      exactly

      September 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Dominic

      3000 on 9-11 is a lot more than your number

      September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  6. Munkar and Nakir (Google)

    Chapter 19 of the Holy Quran: Maryam (Mary)

    The number of times Jesus's name is mentioned in the Holy Quran: over 100
    Muhammad's

    May God's Peace and Blessings Be Apon All of Them.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Does that mean they like christians?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • RandyM

      If you don't call on Jesus as the Son of God and follow his ways and believe Jesus is the promised one the chosen one then you are doomed to be judged by your own works. If you follow Jesus then you take on the righteousness of God himself and are welcome into heaven. Allah is merely the arabic word for God and that is how Satan wants to be known and worshiped like the God Jehova. Satan has tricked the entire Muslim world into believing that Muhammad is a profit of the true God. But I think Muhammad was tricked by Satan and not just the Satanic verses. Satan rules with hate, anger and fury and that is the God of Islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Munkar and Nakir (Google)

      Randy M,

      We believe in Jesus more than Christians do. Jesus was an Islamic prophet who was God's servant, slave, a messaih, messenger. Righteous and pious from birth.

      Christians are committing grave sin by saying God has son or that Jesus is God. It is actually an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God that has no forgiveness. Associating or giving God partners.

      Because of Christians going astray (and Jews also), it was necessary to bring one final prophet and perfect the message that ALL the prophets brought: Islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Sue

      Randy, why does your "omnipotent" being demand worship? A little needy, insecure, and narcissistic perhaps, that little god that you've made for your little self?

      September 17, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by RandyM is a form of the flawed argument known as Pascal's Wager.

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

      September 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • I wonder

      Randy,
      "I think Muhammad was tricked by Satan..."

      Yeah, nothing like those trained magicians from the Egyptian Royal Court, Moses and Aaron, eh?

      September 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
  7. Jerry ouellette

    Peacful religion? tell that to the Coptic Christrians burned alive in Kenya. Sorry, I am not Islamaphobic I just know when not to turn my back on someone holding a knife of hatred.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  8. David

    Middle East: "Death to America."
    America: "We should just bomb the hell out of Iran."

    I guess we aren't so different.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  9. Simon

    Shame on you CNN for running a story like this in the aftermath of US citizens being KILLED this WEEK!!!! How dare you insult the situation and the lives lost by trying to swing the blame somewhere else!!! Do you have any idea how the christians are suffering in Egypt???? Look back through your own archives!!! how stupid can you be!!! This man who wrote this article should retire quickly.....out of touch completely. CNN you have offended us by with your sympathetic love of Islamic terrorism!!!

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

      They want to divert attention from Obamas screw up in Libya .

      September 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Dominic

      They want to divert attention from Obamas screw up in Libya .Left wing media

      September 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Dudus57

      Someone ought to start reading for they say crap.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  10. caesarbc

    There is no such thing as islamophobia...

    Chrisitians can visit any country in the Middleast right now no problem.

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

      Yes and they cannot tell a single Muslim about Jesus Christ with the risk of beheading.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  11. Unstuck in time

    I haven't seen a religion this crazy since the christian inquisitions.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • smidge300

      Sure you have ... It was the atheistic slaughter of the Jews (i.e. the Holocaust)

      September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Unstuck in time

      Atheism is not a religion & in all my travels there have been no killings in the name of Atheism, only religion.
      BTW, Hitler was a born and raised devout Catholic by a devout Catholic Mother. So even if he claimed not to be Catholic, we can certainly blame his upbringing for what he became.
      Learn from history or you're doomed to repeat it.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • David

      Actually, Smidge, most Nazis were Christians, not Atheists – 54% Protestant and 40% Catholic (Johnson, Eric (2000). Nazi terror: the Gestapo, Jews, and ordinary Germans. New York: Basic Books). So if you are trying to blame blame the Holocaust on a religion, you are back to Christians again. Maybe it is best to simply blame the people involved and not a religion for the Holocaust (and please don't randomly blame Atheists for things just because you don't like the fact that they don't believe in God).

      September 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • RandyM

      Unstuck in Time, your reasoning is moronic. Blaming Catholicism for the Holocaust is moronic. Hitler was an occultist who was more of a spiritualist. And that is not much different from Atheism. Atheism is merely the modern interpretation of polytheism and that is what spiritualist are.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Dominic

      Your name doesn't match your statement .

      September 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Unstuck in time

      Thanks for the facts David!
      RandyM, occustist Catholic, look it up.
      Dominic, read a book (Vonnegut)

      September 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Avalon

      Nazi Germans were nominal Christians, meaning in name only. The Pope in 1937 condemned what the Nazi's were beginning to do, and Hitler used the "Christian" tag politically. We was more into paganism and loyalty to him as a god.
      Men may twist what the bible says, for their own ends. But to read it while seeking understanding, and then doing the same with the Quran, I get two totally divergent paths.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Avalon

      He, meaning Hitler. Of course I didn't mean "we."

      September 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • RandyM

      I do not speak in ignorance. Just because Hitler went to a Catholic church a few times does not make him Catholic.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm |
    • RandyM

      Most Germans were attending Christian churches is about all you can say. Hitler was an occultist. He was also part Jewish does that make the Jews responsible for killing themselves? Reciting facts without understanding is not useful.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Unstuck in time

      RandyM, I couldn't agree more with your last statement !!

      September 18, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  12. Mike Shepard

    More apologies for being a Christian American.... This is the fringe highlighted to explain why the Muslim violence is our fault

    September 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  13. rahmah uganda

    Funny Americans!you think you can eliminate islam?well you are dreaming

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

      Funny Muslim, the real God will take you and everyone who does not call on the name of Jesus down. Repent as you are serving Satan himself. You have been deceived and your God is full of hate and fury and that is who Satan is.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Mr. T

      Jibba jabba! I'll punch Jesus and Mohammed in the face with one hand while I eat a turkey sandwich with the other, fools!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Your book of hindu Mithra ism, savior ism called Bible does not confirm your hinduism, lie, hindu, ignorant.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Munkar and Nakir (Google)

      Angel Gabriel came to Mary (announce of birth of son Jesus) and Muhammad (announcement of final message of Islam).

      September 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Jack 3

      We can eliinate it in this country if they become violent here. this country is different than where you came from.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Your Mohamads in hell eating satan's man

      September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Munkar and Nakir (Google)

      Randy, Jesus was a man, prophet, messaih, servant and slave of God Almighty. He was not God. Why are you worshipping a human?

      If he was God, why didn't Jesus stand on a hill and have all the people pray to him?

      May God's Peace and Blessing Be Apon Him.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • RandyM

      Munkar you obviously have not read the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. People did worship him here on Earth and others hated him and did not accept his Messiahship. God give you a free choice of Salvation. You must decide without force or coercion. Salvation from hell is freely given by God to all who will believe in Jesus. But you must realize that Satan has polluted your mind with Islam and you must read the gospels with an open mind to God and not a preconceived notion taught by the enemy of Jesus who is Satan. Satan is out to deceive the world. Read the gospels in your own language if that is English then select a modern translation. I suggest the English standard version or the New American Standard if you are in America. I don't know the best translations for other English speakers. Read one of the gospels mentioned and see how it lines up with what you have been taught. I bet its quite different.

      I will also add that you have probably been told that the Bible is not trustworthy and has been changed and no longer resembles the original version. I have done much research on this and you can visit website that can prove the validity of the transalations to modern times. Just google "christian apologetics" there is a website that I recommend that uses the initials CARM. Weigh the facts and consider my assertion and God will do the rest through the power of the Holy Spirit.

      I have studied the Quran or at least parts and it is wrong in my opinion about many things concerning Jesus and the Bible.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  14. Munkar and Nakir (Google)

    Jesus was Muslim.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Yes, son of Mary was truth full and a messenger of truth absolute.

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

      That is as wrong as it is hilarious. Jesus is God's son and does not worship as we do. We honor Jesus as the sacrificial lamb provided by God that paid the sin debt for all mankind. Jesus own words say "I am the bread of life whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." The bread means that Jesus is the nourishment our soul needs and never thirst means that his joy will be our joy and it is eternal. Jesus also says "I came down out of heaven" and most importantly in Jesus's own words he says for this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." So you see Jesus in not Muslim as he is superior to Muhammad as Muhammad was merely a man and Jesus is both God and man. Jesus taught that we can do nothing to save ourselves but he did it all for us. Jesus was perfect before God and never sinned or made a mistake. Muhammad was a normal man who had some knowledge of God but was either not called of God or lost his way and got caught up in the glory of his position on Earth.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • RandyM

      Most of the radical Muslims get their inspiration from the hadiths and not the Qur'an. Am I right on this? Therefore the Muslims themselves have been fooled and do not even trust their own book to provide all the answers. They have to have additions and changes and retractions to make sense of it. This is not practiced in Christianity nor in Judaism. Although I'm not speaking for the Jews.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  15. Ray Romano

    Uh, Mr. McLaren, were you not around during September 11, 2001? Or in the 11 years since?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  16. Jason Hur

    Is christianity a coward? what is the ambassador got killed or so what? or so when.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  17. wes

    Muslims and the middle east have been historically violent people/nations since greecian times, the fear is justified. The author says Christians shouldn't be so islamaphobic, but take a look at muslim views; they basically believe that everyone that is not muslim is an infidel, and if they can not be converted they should die. OK OK so maybe the non-extremists don't view things that way but then again no one is worried about them are they?

    I'm not a Christian, I personally believe there will be another world war centered in the middle east/ east, sometime in the near future. I'm not afraid of muslims, I'm afraid of extremeist muslims who believe that any means nessecary is ok to get their message across. @ the author, healthy fear is good fear, phobias are bad fear. Last I checked it was a good thing to be wary of someone who might want to kill you

    September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Islam gave law's, limits to humanity to live like human, hindu, Ignorant.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Jack 3

      hinduism source of hindufilthyracism....Too bad you guys don't follow them. can't you see that something is seriously wrong with your religion in the PR department? they aren't doing too good here.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  18. Southbound Jones

    Another example of a beard-scratching "intellectual" cloaking his bigotry and hatred with a university degree. Another example of a disillusioned Boomer refusing to make peace with his parents' generation.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  19. WABlue

    I agree that there is a huge amount of Islamophobia in the US. Just these past two weeks there have been thousands of violent demonstrations in US cities with huge crowds chanting "Death to Islam, Death to Saudi Arabia, Death to all Muslims.
    There have been places of worship burned, and the Saudi Consulate in Chicago was attacked by an armed group of Christians enraged by an Islamic film depicting Jesus and the Saudi Ambassador was killed, and his body was dragged through the streets of Chicago.
    Wait, Wait,
    I think am a little confused, this is not occurring in the US, but in the Middle East.
    And it is not Muslim houses of worship that have been burned, it is churches.
    It is not Muslims that are being killed, it is Americans.
    Let me think, is there "Christianfobia? Can this be?
    No, no, this is all our fault in the US. It is us who hate, who censure, who demand, who burn, who kill in the name of religion.
    I guess I forgot my training from Berkley.

    WABlue

    September 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • rs

      And lets not forget.....

      Treating women like slaves is just another peice of misinformation for us bad islamaphobosts.
      And killing anyone who is even accused of insulting islam, more crazy wentern thought.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  20. Lilith

    It appears by many of these comments that Atheist-phobia is quite rampant as well.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:29 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.