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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. bacon

    There should only be phobia about every religion on earth not just islam. The west should work itself to the bone to spread the ideas of secularism at home at abroad. This religion stuff is over. Is this what the world is now? Groups of people who want to explore space, expand stem cell research and teach science vs groups of people who believe in ancient "prophets", insane stories that defy logic and beliefs that leads to killings? Enough is enough already.

    September 24, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  2. Misunderstood

    If we assume that Muslims are our enemies, then we must treat them as Jesus Christ taught us to: Love your enemy. If we do not understand Jesus Christ's words, then let us follow His example: when He was being cursed by His enemies in the cross, He did not curse back, but prayed to God His Father: Please, Father, forgive them; for they know not what their doing.

    True disciples of Jesus Christ strive to be like Him. Hypocrites look for a way to justify their own rebelliousness by pointing in someone else's direction.

    Islam is wrong because it rejects the Son of God. However, nominal Christians that reject the Way of Christ are worse; neither hot nor cold.

    September 24, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  3. fidakazmee

    everybody here is talking about freedom of speech, i simply want to ask that then why its considered a serious crime when someone talks about the "Holocaust" in western countries. i have come to know that in some countries peopled would b sent to jail if they even mentioned "Holocaust". where is your freedom of speech then??? it is just hypocrasy nothing else.

    September 24, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • James

      you are speaking nonsense, the web is filled with holocaust denials – haven't seen ministers of nations calling for their deaths or riots setting the nation ablaze. Genocide and systematic murder are so common at this point, I think we've become desensitized to it...

      A crime? certainly not in the US and I'm not responsible for other nations where I can't vote. When was the last person sent to jail for it, in any country? Evidence necessary, you can't just make stuff up.

      September 24, 2012 at 7:06 am |
    • iagree

      I agree with you.
      I think it is because of PTSD or some other major psychological manipulation or overall desire – like when people who are victims of something just want to forget about it – you know go – go on with their lives – and then they are suddenly and/or negatively reminded of something that gives them really bad feelings they rather not have to deal with at the time – or they truly get sick – and turn around and kill you – or have a massive hissy fit – and then soon – everyone has PTSD around you.
      that's why
      and i agree
      and so did the president
      and so do most people – actually
      the Prophet Muhammad pbuh and all other prophets are to be respected, as well as religions, because they are prophets and religions for one thing – but also because all things deserve respect and understanding.
      you are right
      unfortunately, right now USA is in midst of elections, so you guys seriously need to get a grip ... truly ...

      September 24, 2012 at 7:09 am |
  4. Abeid

    I say Oh, world accept Islam, All the doors are closed the only door to safe yourself. It is Islam. soon or later you will understand the truth.

    September 24, 2012 at 6:22 am |
    • angelo .s

      That statement seems like a thinly veiled threat sir. Perhaps your are suggesting jihad aimed at all non-believers? Truly? Islam is not a religion. It is not but a long lived cult with not more sense of enlightenment than that present in such belief systems as Scientology. May God have mercy on your heathen soul.

      September 24, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • answerme

      what exactly truth are 'we' missing pray tell?
      care to elaborate?

      September 24, 2012 at 6:50 am |
  5. takawalk

    saywhaaa All people of faith doubt their faith at some point or many points in this life. I assume that you have no faith in a higher being? In the end of your life , if you have a opportunity to think it over, you may think what if I was wrong? what if their is a higher power that I can't hope to understand? Faith and doubt are core human traits.

    September 24, 2012 at 5:14 am |
  6. DocReality

    What a ridiculously-conceived piece. Does this author have any concept of reality? How about any knowledge of world history?

    Islam: One of the World's Oldest Hate Groups. It's a hate group. They may have freedom of speech in America, but they don't get freedom of action and don't get to dictate their "religion" to others.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:36 am |
  7. whenstorm

    I watched some of the controversial 13 minute film. It is hard to believe that a real Christian produced or wrote something so low brow and vulgar. However, accusing real Christians, who have been doing mortal combat at a higher spiritual level against the beast , of having phobias, is just the kind of thing that a servant of the devil would do.If that devil does not come after you, then you aren't correct enough to attract his attention and anger. If you don't know who the Islamic beast is, you're still sinning and lying to yourself. Your watered down, love the devil, kind of religion is fake and dangerous to us.You are a secular humanist who will fail the hour of test because you do not know what you are dealing with.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • whatareyoutalkingabout

      ok – so there are devils in USA
      they even have flags and celebrations and religions and customes and such.
      but what are you talking about?
      i truly want to understand – what is it you fear?
      (i think i understand more now – but swimming in this ocean of overriding doubt requires getting questions answers so that the next clue of safe harbor to rest this world's weary mind can be found. what devil? what does the islam want us to know? Why are they so scared and why do you think other people don't see and live in the midst of these devils just like islam. does islam expect USA to save them from ALL these f***g demons – how do they expect us to do that when they are just as much the demons as all the rest of us ... and them.
      seriously – what are you talking about?

      September 24, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • whatareyoutalkingabout

      is this what you are afraid of right now?
      check out the explosion (sunspot explosion) shown in the video on the spaceweather.com site.
      the CME coronal mass ejection is headed away from all planets, but the sunspot that caused it is rotating this way.
      so far, it seems, in this current solar maximum, most of the largest CME's have headed outward of the far side of the sun, but eventually, in theory, you would think these larger CME's will start heading towards earth. maybe we will be lucky, and there is something that pulls the CME's mostly toward the far side of the sun as a standard event.
      i do not know.
      just some thoughts ...
      check it out here: http://www.spaceweather.com

      September 24, 2012 at 5:08 am |
  8. Matt

    Is it ever a good idea to start right off with name calling – Islamophobia? Kind of means you are struggling for intellectual ammo.

    It's apparent that you are a liberal Christian. That means you are different than 75% of regular church goers. You see the world differently. In fact, your entire world is upside-down as compared to the other 75%. When they see black, you see white. So it's not just the issue of Islam, it's everything.

    How can this be?

    How the modern liberal thinks versus the modern conservative.

    Liberal:

    1. All outcome for an individual or nation can be no better or worse than any other.
    2. If an outcome is found to be better, then they must have cheated.
    3. If an outcome is found to be worse, then they must have been victimized.
    4. The amount a victim lashes out is directly proportional to the victimization.
    5. The cheater does the victimizing.

    Conservative:

    1. Good behavior leads to a better outcome.
    2. Bad behavior leads to a worse outcome.

    Since the outcome for Muslims is kind of crappy, that means they are victims of the West. There cannot be anything wrong with Islam. Bad behavior for Muslims is the victim lashing out against the oppressor – the West.

    Sadly, this means that liberals are blind to threats like those from Islam. They are blind to other threats, like those from Russia and China.

    Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

    This verse is talking about the modern liberal. Blindness to threats means the West won't be around much longer.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:22 am |
    • SteveC

      Talk about name calling. You called him a Liberal, then proceeded to define liberal in the worst possible way. Be completely honest with yourself, and then redefine Liberal in a realistic way, or heaven forbid in the way Liberal's would define themselves. They may not live up to that always, but neither do conservatives.

      September 24, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  9. frzzbt

    Are there any true protestants left on this planet?. Oh, yes, quakers, amish and other menonites who have values very similar to islam, only they place Jesus the prophet a little higher than Muhammed the profit. A true protestant understands parental teaching the wickedness of the crusades (past and present one would hope) and the influence of islam on renegade crusader knights who were the true founders of protestantism, not martin luther or john calvin. These "evangelical" clowns are closet papists and seek reunification along those lines. It's all a fraud. The authentic women's rights movement founded by temperance leaders in Canada and the US was profoundly influenced by the superior rights of women in muslim countries as opposed to the chattel slavery imposed under judaism and christianity. These dissemblers are very active in the state of Hawaii, where they brain wash the local people relentlessly, also in Africa where they operate under the guise of "charity".

    September 24, 2012 at 1:37 am |
  10. Reagan80

    Why, yes, I see the wisdom of your thoughts. It's all the fault of those mean ole evangelical Christians who attack the Religion of Peace. In their paranoia, they're afraid of these nice young Muslim men who only want to lay 72 virgins.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • Loustfharden

      yes, you sound just like an 80-year-old reagan

      September 24, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  11. trueblue

    Good article – the politics of hatred and lies propagates fearful small mindedness.

    September 24, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  12. bob

    http://www.barenakedislam.com/category/beheadings-graphic/

    Is this a Muslim religious ritual ? How long is the world goning to put up with this crap and pull appologetics out of their asses before we just vaporize the lot of them?

    September 24, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • ProudToBeIslamphobic

      We should send all the apologetics to Muslims countries and they will get the chance to daily apologize on streets in Muslim countries. I can't wait to see that on Youtube

      September 24, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  13. Eddie

    I wonder how many Jewis Synagogues these tolerant Muslims have in there country? Give me a break.

    September 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • @EarlHigh

      quite a few actually. and i wonder when it will be legal in Israel for a nonjew to marry a jew.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:07 am |
  14. Kelley

    Sounds like Mr. McLaren is a hater himself, he didn't use very nice words when talking about Evangelical Christians, sounded a little pious himself.

    September 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  15. Rudy

    Dude, you would be one of the first people offended when Jesus lectured the pharisees on their religiosity missing the spirit of the law. Instead of worrying about evangelicals why don't you criticize the people who ust tortured and murdered a US ambassador.

    September 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  16. hymotion

    We ought to keep producing many movies that mock Islam and Muhammad.

    Eventually the nuts would just realize that burning their own cities is a waste of time and they will get used to it. All religions are mocked. Muhammad doesn't get a free pass.

    September 23, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • respectfear

      ...and they will get used to it and start burning other people's cities too – to see if that satisfies their nuts better ...
      islam is simply for control of their women.
      unfortunately for them, USA is not their religion since their women finally have a voice and a say.
      give thanks to god, amen

      September 23, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • respectfear

      it seems to me that USA was islam until the civil rights movements brought changes to this land, it's people, it's freedoms, and it's laws.
      these changes are still being seen today – in a major way.
      so as the story line goes – i think – christians must truly follow a balanced religion in order to overcome the subversive antics of either the jewish or the islam religions in order to survive.
      this is why there is so much fear – because USA or christians are finally showing more of a balanced approach – therefore they know they will lose.
      so, the only way they win is if they set the USA off balance to lean more toward jewish or islam maddness, which it is – since you can't hide what it truly is anymore ...
      i am grateful to finally understand these truths, as they have never really been understood by myself – or others ...

      September 24, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • respectfear

      and the reason the islams hate the jewish is because they can't have them submit to their will, like they do their women – and they can not have their women.
      i refuse to have my life ruled by this fruedian bs any longer in such a major way.
      tell the islams to get a grip ... and give them education and jobs just like the rest ... so they won't be so ignorant.
      the jewish people were told not to do this by their own bible.
      why should i (or my country) pay for their sins when my country is no religion – only one nation under god – a god that is universal and infinite and cannot be mandated or limited by belief or religion or politics or man.
      give me a break (as the saying goes)
      islams need real education – not more delusion and madness
      the jewish need to quit provoking thier neighbors – don't you get it YET
      sfs

      September 24, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • respectfear

      when i think of repubs – i think of these 3 things – and i have to say no more:
      1 9-11
      2. New Orleans
      3. the image of smiling faces – in the midst of madness – they are respected from old – but want to go back to the old where no one else wants to go – cuz we want to keep moving forward.
      but all things snap back – or do they
      is there truly infinity – or only infinity to a point – and then all doubles back – always – and forever – and therefore – infinity

      September 24, 2012 at 1:57 am |
    • Ain

      Get a grip on yourself.. Just because a bunch of idiots out there go out and make fun of their own religion doesnt mean Muslims will take jabs at their Prophet lightly. The West has freedom of speech.. Nice..go make fun of your Prophets and Saints. Dont drag the Prophet in between because the Muslims never ever speak ill of him. Its funny how everyone in the West is so sensitive about their feelings, their political beliefs even their pet dogs and plants but have absolutely no regards for others beliefs. Dont be the stupid fool that you are by nature. Fight against nature and respect whatever beliefs the other people have. Cuz they just might get offended!

      September 24, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • respectfear

      i think this means you should leave them alone ...
      quit rubbing it in ... and all that

      September 24, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  17. lcb

    I will grant you that the majority of muslims are peace loving people who only want to raise their families and live their lives.

    Still..

    Why is Asia Bibi still in prison? And why was the governor who spoke out against blasphemy laws murdered, and his murderer treated as a hero? http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2012/09/198_120036.htm Why have more than 300 Christians been arrested in Iran? http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-20/news/sns-rt-us-iran-christiansbre88j0v0-20120920_1_apostasy-christian-pastor-gholam-hossein-mohseni-ejei Why are Western governments ignoring the plight of Syrian Christians caught in the crossfire of their country's civil war? http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/opinion/syrias-threatened-christians.html?_r=0 Why has Saudi Arabia refused to sign the UN declaration of Human Rights? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Declaration_of_Human_Rights#Muslim_countries and why is freedom of religion "virtually non-existent" there? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_religion_in_Saudi_Arabia
    An estimated 150,000 Christians a year martyred for their faith http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/article/901492–christianity-arguably-the-most-persecuted-religion-in-the-world – do we not have a responsibility to speak out on behalf of the oppressed?

    I could go on, but I think that is enough to make my point. Note by the way that I did not quote any Evangelical media.

    September 23, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  18. Sam

    My Take: The media is clearly in bed with Islamists while they insist on attacking Christians and Jews! Can this be anymore obvious? The media says they that they stand for womens rights, while they defend Islam. What?????????????????? Is there a religion on the face of the earth more hostile toward women? Hypocrites!!! You claim that Christian women are in someway held back or mistreated, while you defend Muslims and their horror of a religion. Who are you trying to fool???? You are in bed with Islam!

    September 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
  19. correctlycenter

    What would happen to a Christian in Saudi Arabia if he/she was caught having a bible study or a service in the kingdom? Jail, torture, harassment and other oppression to family members is the norm for a believer of Jesus Christ in a muslim nation. Pastors are jailed, beaten, homes destroyed, possessions taken by muslims and the authorities...

    September 23, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  20. oldcrowe

    What kind of religion values the ownership of a goat over the value of a loving woman. How can women be teated as third class citizens, forced to wear what amounts to be bags over their heads, refused education and equal rights....how is this a religion, who can believe in this nonsense.....what fool thinks murdering someone who disagrees with you will be rewarded with the gift of violating 70 virgins in the after life.....this is not a religion this is an evil sickness

    September 23, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You are a moron as a Muslim woman we are treated with dignity and respect and that is not a bag that women wear over their heads do yourself a favor and look up the internet that is how I have came to read a lot of stuff and yes on the internet you will find different kinds of hijab we women wear and not a 'bag' and yes you are a bigot

      September 23, 2012 at 8:14 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.