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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. HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

    Let's see if I got this straight. The Muslims, being freedom lovers, support Planned Parenthood. The infidels killin' their own babies make it easier for them. Bullets cost moolah. The less natural born citizens a nation has, the more room for emigration for them. Wow, babies VS them!

    September 17, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Where the hell did you pull that pile of nonsense you're trying to pass off as a post?

      September 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      I'm going to have to concur with hawaiiguest.

      I'm sure you had some thought in your head that you wanted to relay to us. But no one who reads your post will have the slightest idea what that thought was.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      higuy, european pop figures? The Monroe Doctrine doesn't work amongst the elite intellectuals. Data confuses them.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Have Mud

      Try for some kind of coherency at least troll.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      you better check your batteries, higuy. you ran out of headroom in your amplifier and now have a distortion problem.

      September 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • YoozYerBrain

      Lotta hatred here Mud, lemme guess, yer NOT an atheist....

      September 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      YoozYerBrain, flattery will get you to nowheresville, dude. I've been around the block here at CNN.

      September 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  2. Sean

    This is a wonderful article.

    All of the arguments posted in this string against the author only perfectly illustrate his point. The people posting this comments are assuming that all muslims are the same based on news footage. That's ignorant and uncultured.

    Americans must be sophisticated enough to distinguish between an angry mob and the citizens of an entire nation, or a dictator and the people of a nation. There are millions of Muslims going about their daily lives treating others exactly as they wish to be treated.

    You are no better than the Gihadists if your anger allows you to think that Muslims peoples do not deserve respect as human beings.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Spencer James Nolan

      @Sean. You are the only other person I've seen on this thread so far who has any idea about what this article says. Thank you for utilizing your brain unlike the rest of humanity that seems to populate the internet.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Jill

      Couldn't agree more. Stop the hate

      September 17, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Akim

      @Sean: can you lend some other folks on this discussion to lend your brain for a moment, so hopefully tolerance can be spread. Good point. Thanks.

      September 18, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  3. Kelly

    This is not a religion of peace. It is not a religion of tolerance. It is not a religion that teaches anyone to love their neighbor. We need to quit deluding ourselves that these folks think like we do. They do no. They have not. And, it doesn't look like they will anytime in the near future. Speaking of the term Islamophobia, the only fear I have is that we willl eventually have to fight World War 3 because of the way the fanatics amongst these people want to treat their people and the rest of the world.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  4. sick of christian phonies

    religion is the root of all evil. The gullible, uneducated or stupid, and hateful are the fodder of ALL religions.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      Another poster of the ol' flip side, 'kill em all, let god sort it out.' The commie socie educratists have been busy.

      September 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
  5. Cazo

    Frankly you’re an idiot. They may be small minded, but they are a lot less dangerous in their simple beliefs.

    As Muslims burn the embassy and kill people. The small minded Christians need to reflect on their irrational fear of them. How many of those islamophobic Christians have pulled a man from his home and murdered him in a riot in outrage of an insult to Christ? How many islamophobic Christians burn buildings, launch rocks, blow up busses, night clubs and homes?

    Yes let's get the spec out of their eye so they can more clearly remove the plank from the Muslim’s eye.

    The complete lack of symmetry to your conviction makes me wonder how do these idiotd get a forum?

    September 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Spencer James Nolan

      Only the ones that killed every single man, woman, and child in Jerusalem during the first crusade. Or the ones who followed Hitler and killed six million of innocent people to create their "master race." Christianity has more blood on its hands than you seem to remember. You may want to open a history book before you open your mouth, since your foot is lodged in their pretty well. Christianity

      September 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Cazo

      Yes lets go back a half dozen centuries to get releance to violence today. Brilliant addition to the discussion.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  6. JB

    I swear, if I read another artical about islamaphobia I an going to puke. They are burning down our embassies and killing our politician because an coptic christian egyptian made a 20 min low budget movie that no one in the us had seen untill 1 week ago. I think the real problem here is not islamaphobia its Americanphobia!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • SecularVoice

      nailed it.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
    • sparks2000

      WW3 is near.....the sparks are igniting,and leaving scorching fires throughout the world.Won't be long.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Lisa Marie

      How is it that film after film can blaspheme the holy name of Jesus Christ and it's accepted as free speech, yet a film that offends Muslims is considered hate speech?

      September 17, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  7. ARB

    Lets just bury our heads in the sand.
    There is nothing to worry about. Let them burn our embassys.
    We should embrace islam.
    The author is a moron. CNN should be ashamed to print this nonsense.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • JB

      I agree, not only a moron but a self hater. He should move to an arab country and then say all this.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • SecularVoice

      absolutely agree.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  8. John

    This is the fear I have about America, that there are many other deluded individuals like this jack ass. If you still think that violent muslims are only a hand full, you must not have watched TV. That every little act we do in society, like post a youtube fim, by one person, can trigger global riots and you think that our response is islamophobic. You are a sick person Brian McLaren. Brian, how many times would I have to smack you in the head with a 2×4 before you thought that maybe I might not do it again! Mr McLaren, you are a confused fool, who doesn't understand his adversary and you need to let the strong people lead. The only thing violent muslims understand is strength! These are irrational crazed bunch of homicidal killers who are only angry of the west because they are jealous of the west and nothing more. They want to be the global dominant leaders and will not stop until they get what they want. We need to stop them.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Sue

      Among the best ways to start to turn things around would be to promote birth control and to empower women in Arab countries. It is no coincidence that most of the mullahs in power are fat old men, whereas Arab women rank pretty much on par with animals as far as their rights go.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  9. Paul

    So the thousands lost on Sept. 11th, the previous attempt to bring the towers down, the embassy bombings in Africa, the stoning of schoolgirls, I could go on forever....It's all just a bad dream?

    September 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
  10. HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

    Call an ambulance. BM, the author, is in need of an enema. Hurry, please. It's backin' up! His eyes are turning brown.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
  11. WHAT?

    Many of the comments posted here have made Mr. McLaren's point beautifully (albeit tragically). The level of ignorance is absolutely astounding. Islamic extremists are terrorists...not MUSLIMS! Devout Muslims (and Christians and Jews etc) ABHOR terror and abuse in the name of God. WE – people of true faith-are united in our desire for equality and freedom from persecution. Thank God (Allah/ Yahweh) I live in NY where my Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh neighbors share schools, jobs, soccer teams and deep friendships!

    September 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • sparks2000

      tell that to the people rioting in the streets--pictures don't lie-but people do.The people rioting are not all terrorists are they?

      September 17, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Justin

      Just because they aren't AMERICAN Muslims doesn't mean you can say "They aren't Muslims." They aren't YOUR kind of Muslims, maybe, but that's not quite the same thing, is it?

      September 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Dan l

      You left out honor killings.....

      September 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Dan l

      You left out honor killings.....

      ROFLMFAO at you and your stupidity.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Spencer James Nolan

      @WHAT? Thank you for having a level head. I agree completely with what you're saying. You are not what's wrong with the world, and it is quite unfortunate that you are stuck among those that are. How is NY this time of year? I miss the place.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • WHAT?

      The problem with this forum is that it allows people to hate anonymously. The benefit is that we get a glimpse of the fearful ignorance that drives so many of our fellow Americans. The big religions have the same message: LOVE. The rioting, murderous dehumaizing participants of ALL religions are extremists who preach hate. It's not that hard to understand. Why don't people get it?

      September 18, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • WASP

      @what: they can't get it because they were taught to fear anyone not of their faith because that person will mislead them into he11.
      fear eventually turns into hate and the cycle feeds in to itself.

      September 18, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  12. Gene C

    The true phobia is freedom of speech.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Justin

      Do you know what a phobia is?

      September 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      People who prefer Vietnamese food have a Pho bias...

      September 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  13. sparks2000

    well,well,well.Here we go again with the Islamophobia stuff,and we are just all wrong for thinking Islam is a violent religion.These people,for the most part,are in third world country's with a third world mentality.Rioting and looting and burning stuff is quite the peaceful way to show your opinion,is it not?Oh,and we'll attack a few embassies along the way.Islam is so peaceful-right.I got made fun of as a child,but I didn't go burning stuff and rioting in the streets like a crazed lunatic-unlike these people.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Doctor J

      Reading this statement makes me think two things: you either have a low reading comprehension level, or you don't read the news. All of the countries that are experiencing rioting have millions and millions of citizens. Many of the riots struggle to even get into the thousands. We're talking about a fraction of 1% of the population of these countries. How can you lump all muslims into one category based on the actions of a lunatic fringe group? If there were hundreds of thousands rioting, then you would have a slightly more legitimate argument (but even then you'd probably only be right about 5% of the population). Because we're talking maybe thousands across all of these countries, your remarks are ignorant and bigoted and you are the real enemy to humanity.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • a human

      this is the point that is trying to be made.

      you are taking what you see in the news and in the media...as proof that islam is a violent religion. but it is not. i repeat, it is not. what you are seeing are violent people hiding behind a religion and using it as an excuse to cause violence. that group of people...represents a tiny, tiny percentage of the people you have pre-judged that are very peaceful, accepting people.

      those extremist people are no different than any other group that is fueled by hate or perverse desires and hides behind a religion, a group (oh, say...becomes a boy scout leader to get his pedophilia kick), a cause, etc....and gives the religon, the group, the cause a bad name.

      those people aren't religious. quite the opposite.

      and if you are ever given the chance to learn about the middle east from some of its great residents...i would suggest casting aside your present beliefs and hear him/her/them with an open mind. assuming you are american (and that would be my guess based on the writing in your comment)...you have to be frustrated with the stereotypes of americans by other countries. it is hurtful...and not true for most of us. don't do the same thing to others.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  14. truth

    so you are saying muslims are not to blame AT ALL for the islamophobia? Like the terror attacks must have been done by just angry teens. Islam is hypocrisy, ok? Mormons don't go killing people over "The Book of Mormon" and some even find that play tobe funny, why can't muslims? Is it because they are just hypocrits? Yep, simple as that. The current debackle in the ME proves one thing: America is no longer feared or respected.

    September 17, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  15. JP

    the Arab Spring....hmmm

    people ...Democracy will NEVER exist without a civil Society....Islamist have NEVER had a civil society

    you can not put the cart before the horse....BEFORE democracy can exist in an Islamic world, a CIVIL SOCIETY must be achieved ...a society that not only accepts JEW and CHRISTIANS....but embraces their RIGHT to SPEAK freely about ANYTHING...even if it insults them...

    September 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • sick of giving excusses to the islam

      5 star for effort

      but i dont see any chance anymore for the muslim community be civil

      we've tried for decades with them....

      September 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • robt

      Amen. I don't understand everybody wanting to defend the muslim lifestyle. If you want a real education,read the koran. That will wakeyou up. It is not a kinder,gentler religion. Talk about hate mongers! Kill the infidel. That's what the koran tells them.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Jack

      Have you ever read the bible. It is loaded to the brim with hate and intolerance.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
  16. the_dude

    Muslims have pretty much worn out their welcome globally

    September 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • An American

      American society is far more welcoming and understanding of Islam than Islam is welcoming and understanding of Americans. Our welcome, however, does not extend to the point where we will tolerate the destruction or displacement of our beliefs in fundamental freedoms and human liberty.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  17. Hayat

    One of the very few, reasonable articles i came across while trying to understand this hate/revenge ideology!

    September 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Chris

      Are you serious that this article is reasonable? CNN is such as pro-Democratic, garbage reporting source, that they hire authors to take whatever side will help calm criticism on the current administration. The one that has dealt with this situation shamefully. They hire authors that help point the finger everywhere except at the murderous radicals and attempt to pacify their need for brutality. I don't many evangelical christian folks that aren't friends with a Muslim. Stop pacifying the violent radicals, Europe tried appeasement with Hitler. I have read the Quran and no where in the book does it tell you to murder!

      September 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • CNN

      Chris, don't be a dick.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  18. b collin

    from a tooth fairy believer about a bunny rabbit believer...way to go..

    September 17, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  19. HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

    Imagine that, Birdbwains smarter than humans.

    September 17, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  20. millennium3

    Understand the Quran, Gospel and Torah in a new Light.
    Then there will be real and absolute Peace.

    http://www.holy-19-harvest.com

    September 17, 2012 at 6:48 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.