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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. Ricke1949

    We are the infidels. Muslins are called to kill infidels. Is this the definition of phobia?

    September 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • ORChuck

      A phobia is an irrational fear. Based on the news headlines from the last week - much less the last decade - a fear of Islam is hardly irrational.

      Not all fears are irrational, are phobias. Some fears are quite rational and quite healthy. They keep us out of danger. In light of the last decade's headlines, a fear of Islam is rational and self-protective; it is not a phobia.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Fear

      America has severe Atychiphobia which it mixes with Athazagoraphobia to appease it's Atelophobia and uses the rest of the worlds Atomosophobia to get them to fall in line.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  2. John Ashton

    Can't We all Just Get along....

    September 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  3. why do you need one

    Maybe if the muslims would stop killing civilized human beings that disagree with them, but thats like asking a cobra to help out a mongoose

    September 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  4. Duke

    Criminals are stupid therefore stupidity is a crime!? Greed supported by the ignorance is the problem!? Identify the beneficiary of this mayhem to find your answer!? Who benefits from war of religions between Christianity and Islam!?

    September 17, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  5. Zahra Ze American

    This is one of the best articles I have seen expressing how hate is a self destructive cycle. As an American and Muslim person, I speak out often against bigotry within my own community towards 'others'. I have long ago come to the conclusion that the real dividing line between peoples is not between the various religions, rather between those who are on the cycle of love and those who are on the cycle of hate. I have much more in common with those who are Jewish or Christian who are for coexisting, tolerance, love, than I do those Muslims who speak of division, intolerance and hate.
    .
    Bravo for standing up and speaking out. I stand with you.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Jack 3

      I guess if all muslims thought like you we'd be fine but they don't.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  6. Carol

    Interesting article. Christianity has it's Tribes, and the Muslim religion have their Tribes. Terminology makes it harder to define what is considered evangelicalism, between pentecostalism, and fundamentalism because each group can be different, in their interpretation of scripture. We have received many hate forwards from people who have gotten caught up in their beliefs, I just delete them I also delete the hate forwards about President Obama. These are the people that seem to be their target.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  7. Hmmmmm

    Maybe all the violence the Koran commands is only in the first part which was then done away with by the fulfillment of prophecy and so we only should judge it by the later scriptures of love and peace...

    Now where have I heard that excuse used before... hmmm, i know i've heard that before...

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

      Actually in Islam, it's the other way around. Any hint of tolerance found in the earlier al-Meccah Surahs can be explained by the fact that they were given at times when Muhammad felt besieged and was seeking alies or was forced to compromise with his adversaries in order to gain time. These were erased by the later Surahs revealed when the Prophet had become the paramount ruler ... a process known as 'abrogation'.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  8. stop cowering

    This is the most cowardly inflammatory article CNN has ever written. I'm tired of these little rants from obscure people appearing for days on the first page of cnn's website and mobile platform. This is a COWARDLY ( yes that's all caps) article. The islamic nation is by definition western-phobic. And where we might express our opinions passionately they actively try to cleanse the west of all Christianity – or any other religion that is not their own. And by cleanse I mean genocidal type cleansing. This article is a shameful example of CNN's effort to incite and insult the American People.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • i'm confused

      Ok, you're 100% correct and EVERYONE who disagrees with you is 100% wrong... You religious freaks are like 2 year old children; y'all have absolutely ZERO common sense!!!

      September 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Jack 3

      I've said that too...thet's the reason religion is no good.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Akim

      @stop cowering:" ..This is the most cowardly inflammatory article...", so you want him write article to spread hate and chaos in society and then you will be happy .... I think u r coward who is not courageous enough to spread love and peace.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  9. i'm confused

    Muslim, Christian & Jewish religious extremists have all killed in the name of whichever of the foregoing fairy tale religions they have chosen to adopt as their own. This is why it is vital for the continuity of our nation that we maintain strong separations between church & state. If we didn't have fanatics like Michele Bachmann in Congress doing everything she can to fabricate the global misconception that America is an Anti-Muslim nation in which the only fairy tale religion that's tolerated is Christianity, then maybe we wouldn't have so many Muslim extremists spending every waking second developing new ways to attack us...

    September 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  10. JoJo

    Christians vs Muslims: Pot calling kettle black. Distinction without a difference. Same brush.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  11. One one

    Isn't it ironic that people from the two religions of love and peace are constantly at each other throats?

    Let's suppose there were no religion. Would the situation be worse, better, or no different ?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • dowdotica

      ...and if we were all grey we'd have no racism but would still find something to hate about....

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

      I believe it would be the same. People kill people, religion in reality does nothing.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  12. Rev. Siu Myung Hai

    Please tell me why CNN hates Christians ?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • i'm confused

      You do realize that illusions of persecution are an indicator of schizophrenia, right? I assure you that nobody hates your fairy tale religion any more than we hate any of the other fairy tale religions... If you religious people didn't all view EVERYONE who doesn't see eye to eye with y'all as your bitter enemies, then us normal folks wouldn't hate y'all at all. Since you people do choose to consider disagreement with your views as being no different than hatred toward, there are LOTS of people (myself included) who do genuinely hate everything about you & your religion....

      September 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Dave

      Do you really see that in this article? I don't see anywhere that CNN hates Christians. All I see is that those who call themselves Christians, but hate because someone is different than them, need a wake up call. I didn't see any belittling of Christianity. As a Christian I would agree with what I read here. Ignorance is not a good thing, when you let other people make up your mind for you without getting any kind of information for yourself that is ignorance. If you think this is hating on Christians then maybe you need to do a little research and see what Christ is really calling us to be.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Matt

      I'm Confused is confused. Anything he says is not reality but a fairy tale as it does not conform to reality. In his mind there are four possibilities to explain reality:

      Reality is an illusion
      Reality is self created
      Reality is self existent
      Reality is created ultimately by something that is self existent

      Despite the fact that reason demands the assertion of a self existent eternal being to account for the existence of anything in this world and that you cannot be consistently rational by denying the necessity of a self existent eternal being – I'm Confused would rather believe in a Universe that is Self Created or Self Existent. Based on his conclusion about illusions, I can only hope he isn't confused to think the universe is an Illusion?

      We do know that he believes in something and it is safe to call whatever it is that he believes a fairy tale.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  13. MP

    What I feel more than anything when I read all these response is hatred
    Nobody, none of you is realizing weather you are Moslem,Jew, Christian,....Godless
    that all you are doing is fight and dislike and hate. and none of the founding father of all these
    religious started their messages by spreading HATE, so do not blame them it is us the human
    beings that translates everything to hate.Please read and learn about all these religious before
    writing about them, but check your sources first. Good Job CNN

    September 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Templeton foundation prayer study (religious foundation)

      Templeton Foundation Prayer Study:
      Results: In the two groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred
      in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those
      who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% confidence interval 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in
      59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52%
      (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% confidence
      interval 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.

      Conclusions: Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from
      CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of
      complications.

      **Three groups of people were asked to pray for patients they did not know personally. The congregations came from:
      - St. Paul's Monastery, St. Paul
      - The Community of Teresian Carmelites, Worcester, Massachussetts
      - Silent Unity, which is a Missouri prayer ministry near Kansas City

      Patients were divided into three groups:
      1. Patients who were told people would pray for them
      2. Patients who were not told people would pray for them, but people did pray for them
      3. Patients who were not told anything, and nobody prayed for them.

      Among two groups of patients, one having people praying for them but not knowing, and the other receiving no prayers, there was no difference in their health and recoveries.
      However, the group that was being prayed for and knew about it had more complications after surgery than the other two groups.

      Percentage of Patients Having Complications After Surgery
      52% – Patients who were receiving prayers and did not know this.
      52% – Patients receiving no prayers and not being told anything about prayers taking place anywhere for anyone.
      59% – Patients knowing they were receiving prayers

      According to this study, we may conclude the following:
      - Praying does not help the patient at all.
      - Telling patients that people are going to pray for them does have an effect, but not a good one.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • who me?

      @ Templeton..So,in fact,prayer does change things.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Templeton foundation prayer study (religious foundation)

      who me?
      Only BELIEVING in prayer changed things (for worse), the actual prayer changed nothing. Proven

      September 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • rob

      Ah geez. And 4 out of 5 dentists recommend sugarless gum for their patients that chew gum.
      You are an idiot.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  15. rob

    Brian, you are a coward. Instead of writing an obvious attempt at `factually explaining` why Christians are at fault here due to their intollerance, why dont you just come out and say it. As for "the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence", Ha! Really??? You are now exposed as an idiot. Let's just ignore the incessant reports of facts around that one from all of the other truly reputable news outlets. Let's just make up facts as we go along. It's much more fun that way.
    CNN, your ratings plunge is directly proportionate to your `unbiased` reporting and sensible editorials. I stop by on occasion for a laugh or two when I'm down in the dumps. Thanks for the laugh. You never dissapoint!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  16. jcstauff

    I have an easy solution. Ready? Everyone stop believing in fairy tale gods and multi thousand year old prophets. Grow up. There is no god. Problem solved.

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

      How sad. How has guidance from mortal man treated you/us so far? The liberals/dems have done a great job at flushing out religion from the state. I dont recall our dear leader promoting any christian values. Yet, wow! How well things have turned around is amazing.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
      • jcstauff

        Guidance from mortal people, specifically atheists has treated me just fine, thank you every much. You should get to know some atheists, they are usually better "christians" than most christians. Atheists are moral and ethical people because they know what's right, not because they fear retribution from an imaginary god.

        The rest of your comment is non-sensical, as it typically the case with religious people, so I'm not quite sure how to respond to it.

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

      Actually, now that I rethink my position, I completely agree with your blanket statement of "Atheists are moral and ethical people because they know what's right, not because they fear retribution from an imaginary god".
      Atheists and their attempts at governing (Pol Pot, Mao, stalin, etc, etc) are fine examples to strive for.
      Have a blessed day.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
      • jcstauff

        Yes, because there certainly aren't any examples of religious leaders committing atrocities, right? Cherry picking examples to reinforce your point is another very christian thing of you to do. That's why you really only follow about 10% of the book you claim is total truth. How many people does god kill in the bible? I'm sure you don't know because you didn't cherry pick that part for your own use. It's almost 2.5 million. But then again, the bible is false so maybe that's not a good example. After all, Pol Pot was a real person. King David was not.

        September 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  17. Teresa Nortillo

    Brian,while I agree with you that Christ taught us to turn the other check, and to pray for those who persecute us, I totally disagree with your premise that all evangelicals are islamophobic. For someone who, as in the most recent CNN article, suggests we seperate the radicals from the mainstream beliefs of their faith, you did just the opposite by lumping all evangelicals into the iislamophobic category. What is truly your objective here? I am totally confused by your article. You say we should look at the fringe element, but then you bash the entire evangelical population. I , for one, am not Islamophobic, and I am an evanglelical. So your entire article is bogus, as it rest on a truly false premise. I believe as you do that there are mainy good and loving muslims who do not wish the US harm. You just seem extremly bent on bashing evangelicals. Where is the christlikeness in that? Geesh – angry much?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  18. banlarson

    Christianity celebrates dozens of prophets including Elijah who raised the dead and rode up to heaven on a flaming chariot, far more than the Muslim prophet Mohamed. Yet you don't see Christian's rioting in the streets or killing people who show his picture or defame his character. There is not only a cultural, but moral difference between Christians and radical Islamist's. To somehow attempt to shift the focus of what is going on around the world towards Christians is not only ludicrous, but appalling. I think CNN is a terrorist propaganda organization. Wow, its easy to spew hatred and accusations like CNN; an anti-Christian media outlet. Clearly they are funded by Al Qaeda.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • who me?

      So,CNN is a terrorist organization?I am very much heartened to see right-wing desperation over here on CNN,as it will feel that much better watching you loonies go nuts when Obama wins.Per haps you might find a more sympathetic comment board over on the fair and balanced web-site.Or not.November 6th can't come soon enough,it's going to be sweet !

      September 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  19. Sam

    I think part of the reason many Americans (not just evangelical or fundamentalist Christians) have such an animosity toward Muslims is that our government and media keep glossing over what this religion is truly about: we hear that it's a religion of peace, when every day, we see it's examples of its violence; we hear that Islam respects women, but see women treated like second class citizens or worse in Islamic countries; we hear that Muslims want to just be Americans and integrate into the country, yet we see them demanding special rights and accomodation at every turn. Of course people are tired of being told that what they see isn't true. People feel like their government and the media cares more about protecting an undeserving few than about telling the truth. This article is yet another example.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  20. cdsdawg

    I looked out of my window this morning and I saw a little furry creature with a bushy tail climbing on a tree. After a little while I observed the rodent looking creature with the bushy tale digging around in the mulch at the foot of the tree. After a minute or so I saw him standing up holding an acorn and eating it. It then climbed back up the tree. Can I call it a squirrel or would that be profiling?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:51 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.