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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. bhigh

    Evangelicals? Muslims? Fanatical religionists of every stripe? You are all wrong. There is no god and religion was made up by men. Religion guarantees that you will be unhappy.

    September 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Art

      You're wrong Jesus was a real man he was not made up.

      September 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • just my thoughts

      Yes there is a God. He created everthing and everyone. He gave us free to choose to worship him or not. He also tells us the blessing for for worshiping him and the consequences for not. The if you look at everything logically there is no other answer that completely covers all the bases for where everything and everyone came from. I believe in science. It allows us to see how things work. There are way too many things that would have to happen for life to be created accidentally for there not to be a creator. If you truly believe there is no God I feel so sorry for you. Not having any hope of your continued existance must be a horrific thought. I hope you will not harden your heart too much and when God presents himself to you, you will be able to believe.

      September 23, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  2. Arvoasitis

    The Islamic terrorists need the hostility of the evangelical Islam.ophobes just as much as the Islamo.phobic evangelicals need the vio.lence of the Islamic terrorists to sustain each other. As Jesus taught, hate breeds hate.

    September 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  3. Reality99

    McLaren is whining because no one wants to buy his books. His warped thinking is the cause, since no one wants to buy his ignorant rantings.

    September 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  4. Earl

    Read the root cause of the present religious conflicts happening in the world today and what effective action can be taken by the leaders of the world and all peoples to end this religious conflicts and attain everlasting peace once and for all.

    May you read this link: http://www.thename.ph/thename/revelations/division&cause-en.htm

    September 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  5. Patrick m.

    Brian Mclaren is a heretic sellout whose only promoting his own book.

    September 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • The Taught Police

      Whose who's are you hewing into hues? Then was a time to use 'than'. There are two tu's to your tutu too. It's time for its correct usage.

      September 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Henry Halley

      I was thinking the same thing. He must have married a person wearing a burka, since he seems to be biased.

      September 22, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  6. Jason

    Or maybe the rioting Muslims could just realize it is a terrible film, and get over it.

    September 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Harry Kuheim

      Choose? Fine...Nuke the Rags.

      September 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Henry Halley

      Apparently the Muslim's god cannot exact revenge on his own to any offense, so these ignorant people must do it for him. What kind of small god is this? Have they ever heard of freedom of expression? Apparently not.

      September 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • thoughts

      Henry – think more deeply perhaps – maybe this is a very big god – and using these people to do these types of actions is a way to achieve some larger goal that is yet understood by those whom do not yet understand.
      all things happen for a reason – and if not – one will eventually be found.
      anyway, back to the god thing – you probably would be best in letting god decide if its a huge or tiny god – being as it is a god and all.

      September 22, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  7. Rman33

    Clearly this piece is just a plug to sell this clown’s book. Anyone who understands psychology knows that a phobia has no basis in fact, it is a baseless fear. The author has made up an idiotic term, ”Islamophobia”, that is devoid of meaning because it DOES have an actual basis in reality. The fear of Islam is not baseless. When we speak of violence and terror on a global scale many of the underlying perpetrators are Muslim. Name the last 100 violent protests in the world and you will see Muslims at the root of 80 of them.

    The problem with Islam is that it has never evolved into a modern religion. It is stuck squarely in the middle ages by virtue of its lack of intellectual values, outdated ideals and the actions of its followers. Islam itself is wholly intolerant of other religions, beliefs or values yet its followers insist on violently imposing their beliefs on others.

    Islam needs to grow up. It needs to embrace tolerance of other faiths and individuals. It needs to change the internal structure of Islam so that those who refuse to embrace the modern world values can be ostracized, excommunicated or otherwise completely kicked out of the larger Muslim community. Even those who call themselves ‘mainstream’ Muslims do nothing to disavow the fringe elements. They simply stand by and do nothing lest they offend a brother Muslim.

    The author can shove his book. The reasons Muslims are prone to terrorism lie with Islam itself not within the perception of the larger global community. It is up to Islam to change that perception by changing their religion. If they don’t change it will spell the end of Islam because the rest of the world is fed up with their actions and stands ready to end their existence.

    September 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  8. Aaron

    What's an Islamophobe? Someone who sees Islamic people killing others daily for insulting their great prophet and fearing for their safety or freedom of speech.

    September 22, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  9. xbjllb

    Please stop confusing True Christianity as Jesus Christ lived, taught, and died, with christianism, the satanic perversion of it into evangelical and heretical catholic "christianity". While True Christianity is a religion with sadly, few adherents left in the world, christianism is a purely political movement based on obtaining great weath, power, and eventually absolute control of a worldwide government. As these are the aims of militant Islam, they are equally fallen Satanic opposing perversions of great religions. There is no bigotry in True Christianity, while christianism and militant islamicism couldn't exist without it.

    September 22, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post is an instance of the No True Scotsmen fallacy.

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

      September 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  10. allisonknightkhan

    This is the Ahmadi Muslim Community view of Anti-violence:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries&w=640&h=390]

    September 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  11. You

    Hey Mr. McClaren, why don't you go to the Middle East and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? You are an apostate and a sell out and unless you repent you will perish with the evils of Islam

    September 22, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Eron

      Currently I think pseudo christians in America are in far more need of hearing the true gospel then Arabs are. Christianity in America is in sad shape. Most evangelical/ charismatic seem to have de evolved into old testament hate mongers. Priests and ministers around the nation lament on how Christians are functionally illiterate when it comes to tenets of our faith. Its no small wonder why people are leaving the faith in droves to become atheists and new agers.
      Christianity in America has ceased being about Hope Faith and love and has morphed into an ugly combination of fear hate and self centered salvation.

      September 22, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • sgreco

      say, is that a plank in your eye?

      September 22, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  12. allisonknightkhan

    The caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community assures you that Ahmadiyyat is the true Islam:
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7miEvwL5xg&w=640&h=390]

    September 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  13. allisonknightkhan

    The caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is discussing Religious Tolerance in his Friday sermon. It is wonderful to hear. He enjoins all of his followers to act on the belief, "Love for All, Hatred for None."

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7miEvwL5xg&w=640&h=390]

    September 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  14. JONNY

    TELL THAT TO THE FOLKS IN THE TWIN TOWERS. Oh yeah, they can't hear you. Wake up and smell the JIHAD !!!

    September 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • shut up, idiot.

      be stupid in silence.

      September 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
  15. Loving

    Good words. Truly. I pray your Life speaks the same.

    September 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  16. Pame5

    This is exactly WHY I gave up on religion and became a happy, well adjusted Atheist...I don"t have to serve some unseen sky god or practice old customs that have no meaning in today's world or watch people kill each other over who's God is better then another's...Free At Last!

    September 22, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Eron

      If at any point you were worshiping some "sky god" then you were doing Christianity wrong.
      If you thought Christians Muslims and Jews worship different Gods you were a poorly/ uneducated Christian.
      You traded slavery false idols for bondage to narcissism, your hardly free.

      September 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  17. Atheism is Great for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

    It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't??) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.

    Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!

    Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species.

    Take Christianity, for instance. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. It's way too unfounded to argue over.

    Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god (something you know nothing about), fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind. That's where, in your mind, you are inheriting the division and hate from ordinary politicians, lobbyists and salesmen from long ago. My goodness.

    mama kindless

    September 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Truth Hurts

      It's very simple if you study history and revelations. The end fight is at Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Who do you think the last war will be with ? It's Christians against Muslims plain and simple end of story with no debating the facts of history. It is and will be good vs evil and these are the only 2 players. Anything else said to the contrary is irrelevant, unrealistic and simply false. We all have only one side or the other to take. Good or evil....make your choice people. God Bless you all and i wish and hope you ALL make the right choice.

      September 22, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • takawalk

      Someone once said that an Atheist in his (her) heart knows there is a God, but has decided to rebel against. I think that most Atheist at some point in their life will realize this is true.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @takawalk

      Awww how cute. Some religious fuckstick trying to tell others what they know and don't.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  18. Mos

    I thought we Americans were fighting religious "extremists". Not the religion itself. For a country founded by people who were persecuted in their homeland, then violently killed the non believing natives and enslaved a specific race of people, those who preach hate to Islam sure do like their own kool aid a lot. Remember when the Crusades happened? Inquisition? We have a new enemy now. Its not muslims. Its people who preach hate despite the facts. Be you muslim, christian, hindu or jewish, this is your enemy. Those who actually have read the Qu'Ran know that those who would "kill in the name of Allah" are not the base population. The wars in afghanistan and iraq are not to eliminate islam. It is too eliminate extremism (at this point). Islam is not anti-american, pakistani extremists.... hell even some of our own american born christians are anti american. I look forward to the day when we as americans are back on the moral high ground. Americans have killed their democratically elected officials (see Iran). The difference now is we have the internet and a pretty solid propaganda machine. Our propaganda machine is much more powerful and crude than we would really like to admit.

    September 22, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Blahhh

      Wow...you're one of those foolhardy people who always brings up things that happened waaaaaaay in the past to justify the hatred and killing of muslims, aren't you? Well, ain't you special. Not very relevant, but you're special....see, one religion grew....the other didn't....this is the world's way of putting a mirror in the face of islam and showing it how stupid it is. But you go ahead and continue to be the "special" person you are.

      September 22, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jack Kidd

      We are fighting a war against "terrorism". The participants might be religious extremists. In some cases they are just thugs.

      September 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • ME II

      "see, one religion grew....the other didn't"
      Isn't Islam the religion that's growing now?

      September 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  19. Jack Kidd

    The author's point is that evangelicals need to decide if they are going preach Jesus's teachings of "love they neighbor as theyself" or attack and vilify non-evangelical Christians. Of course many of us thought this conflict ended when the Wars of Religion in Europe ended.

    The ultimate perspective really should be our American ideals. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. "

    As Americans we tolerate everyone's view of who their Creator is. That is called religious tolerance. Have we always lived up to our ideals? No. Should we? Definitely.

    We have a right to protect ourselves from real enemies but we do not have the right to persecute a specific religion.

    September 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Blahhh

      Funny how you point that out when it's islam being shown to be stupid, but when it happens to Christians, you're probably one of those people telling Christians to shut up and leave it alone...why be sensitive Christians....right?

      Muslim-loving P.O.S.

      September 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • takawalk

      It was a good post Jack. However when 99 percent justify their violence by their believe in Islam while shouting Allah is great, wide spread phobia is a predictable reaction.

      September 28, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  20. Arthur Kennedy

    Brian I think you have a truely Christ like take on this hate filled issue. May you be blessed to continue to proclaim a thoughtful Christian response to all who seek to blame the 'other' whether Christian or Muslem.

    September 22, 2012 at 12:15 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.