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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. Ryan

    You sir ARE part of the problem. It's not a phobia to believe Islam is a joke. Abandon all hope ye who submits to idelogical dogma and abandons individual liberty and progressive thought. Who needs global warming, asteroids, aids, plague, or whatever else is in this weeks top ten things which will end life on earth when Islam, a hijacked jewish hybrid myth, can kill human rights and end the basic freedoms of individual liberty that have built the modern world? I will take physical death over spiritual enslavement. Give me freedom or give me death! And to the slaves of Islam, or any fanatical religion,, if you don't like American culture then turn the TV (brought to you by the USA) off and go read the your version of the holy stories or whatever else Muhammed the False allows you to do. allah knows you have a rule for everything, in the Koran. Replace Allah with dear leader and Koran with the juche idea, same garbage. And of course I am only speaking to the men, because the women obviously should not hear such blashephemy!

    September 30, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Marcus

      Ryan, you seem to confuse the U.S.A. as a religion, rather than what it fundamentally is. The U.S.A. is a government, a collection of people, and land. It isn't a religion, or a faith. Attempts at comparing American values and freedoms with Islam (or any other religion) is a fallacy of equivocation.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • The Deist

      Ok, Ryan. Clearly you don't know your religious family tree. Both Islam and Judaism are Abrahamic religions, correct. However, Christianity is the Jewish hybrid, not Islam. You need to get your noggin screwed on straight, take your meds, and try this again in 24 hours.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:40 am |
  2. JB

    End Islamic phobia/hatred of anything that is not Islamic.

    September 30, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  3. smk

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]

    God will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside God?' " He will say, "Be You glorified. I could not utter what was not right. Had I said it, You already would have known it. You know my thoughts, and I do not know Your thoughts. You know all the secrets.[5:116]

    The Messiah, son of Mary is no more than a messenger like the messengers before him, and his mother was a saint. Both of them used to eat the food. Note how we explain the revelations for them, and note how they still deviate! [5:75]

    (they are condemned) for disbelieving and uttering about Mary a gross lie. [4:156]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.

    September 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • whyshouldwe

      seriously
      why should anyone in their right mind in USA at this point in time really want to have anything to do with islam
      do you think the usa will now be shamed into finding out more about islam because their feelings were hurt by some stupid film about their prophet?
      think again
      nice try at more delusion, shame and confusion
      christ is the sun – get over it

      September 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • was lost, but now I see

      Thank you for posting those verses. These verses clearly show why you cannot do as the author encourages. Islam is NOT "another" path to God. The only way Islam could be consisered a valid path to God is if Christianity is a complete lie. You can't have both toegether when they are clearly contradictory.

      Islam is nothing more than the latest version of Ball worship. Why would people who get so uptight over idolatry (making fun of Mohammed) that they feel they need to defend their god go on a pilgrimage to Mecca to worhip a box full of moon rocks?????????

      Wake up people!!!!!!!!

      September 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • was lost, but now I see

      You do realise that the Vatican created Islam right?

      If not, I highly suggest you google "vatican created Islam"

      September 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • lpzgrn

      Perhaps you should check out a book: Answering Islam, 2d ed.: The Crescent in Light of the Cross
      By: Norman L. Geisler, Abdul Saleeb

      September 30, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • christian

      smk: you sir are mistaken. Jesus was different. He never sinned. he was the word of God made flesh. He was the firstfruits of everthing that ever was. Lord of Lords and KIng of KIngs. the beginning and the end the first and the last. he came from heaven to condemn sin in the flesh. he was muredered on a cross for our justification and rose the third day. the same Jesus God has made both LOrd and Christ and there IS NO OTHER NAME GIVEN AMONG MEN BY WHICH WE MUST BE SAVED. HE DIED AND BEHOLD IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE AND HAS THE KEYS OF DEATH AND HELL. HE WILL JUDGE THE QUICK AND THE DEAD ONE DAY. ONLY THOSE WHO ARE COVERED IN HIS BLOOD WILL STAND

      September 30, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • The Deist

      Most people are pretty clear by now that just because you can Google it doesn't mean it's true. Islam is an Abrahamic religion, nothing has changed in that department. Islam is just another religion that is just as ridiculous as any other religion. You're just one group of lost souls ridiculing another group of lost souls. Same thing, different century.

      October 2, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  4. Bobby Clerici

    What a coward!
    How about end Islamo-Fascism?
    How about taking a stand for freedom and against the oppression of liberty we see in Islamic nations?
    Your selective concern is warranted, but what about the Muslim intolerance, violence and stifled freedoms?
    Coward....

    September 30, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • CWAlstom

      "Coward"? Ridiculous. Just because he isn't talking about the end of "islamo-facism" or intollerance in Muslem places, doesn't mean he isn't against them, or he wouldn't say anything about it. It just wasn't the point of his essay. He sees a problem with the spreading of hate and misinformation within Evangelical groups and America as a whole and wants that problem to be solve. This doesn't mean it's the worst problem in the world. It just meant that he felt the need to say it.

      Seriously, it would be just as fair to call you a coward for not denoucing pediophila in your reply to him.

      What you're doing is derailing the topic.

      September 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  5. Kala

    This false premise is idiotic from the start. When Islamic terrorists attack buildings with commercial planes it is not islamaphobia to call them "Terrorists". If the KKK did that this phony intellegencia academic would have no problem calling them terrorists and he wouldn't call it a phobia to be appalled by it. This is just the kind of thinking that will get us killed and I'm no evenagelical.
    His evangelicaphobia is showing.

    September 30, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • CWAlstom

      Your poor comprehension skills are showing. There is no indication that he's against calling the Islamic 9/11 Hijackers "terrorists". The point is there are many people in America who think all or even most Muslems support the attack, which is completely false. There are too many people that thinks "Muslem" equals "terrorist", which is offensively wrong.

      I don't know what article you read for you to have the response you did.

      September 30, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • Guest

      Obviously the polls that show the majority of Muslims approve of killing anyone who insults their "prophet" are lost on people who want to bash Christianity. These Christians are proving their point with every mob that burns embassies, or chants about death to an entire country for not submitting to total Muslim rule over the entire world.

      September 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  6. chris in DC

    It is the mother of all assumptions to believe that if Jesus was walking the earth once again and was asked about his opinion on Islam that he would give some ooey-gooey sappy endorsement of it or at the very least a tearful plea for all of humanity to be tolerant of it. I mean that is what his approach was regarding his own Jewish faith and its leaders, right? Wrong.

    About them Jesus said “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town." (Matthew 23:33-34) He wasn't advocating the killing of Jews and its leaders. He was being blunt, not mincing words. It was a far cry from being hateful of his enemies.

    September 30, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • thinkagain

      I do not think the islams are the problem in this picture – the over reaction to the islams was what could have caused a major disaster for this world – and what the one percent were and are hoping for. that is all.
      this was a better save than could be expected perhaps
      because without a calm hand – the missles could be / are / and will continue to be flown
      it is just how far they will go that is the question
      and what they will do if we react in ways they would not want you too
      because ...
      i do not know
      ...
      isreal is supplying it's citizens with gas masks
      r. is giving obama a look of tearful steel as he hears o's determination to tax the rich and cut the flow of money out of the country – as – in – here's my impression: 1. he is sorry to see his dear friend be so stubborn – and he is sorry for what is coming ... and there is a depth to that despair in his eyes that looks real – as if he was in fear

      September 30, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  7. turban1

    Ahhh – Here it is –
    In Jewish and Christian tradition, Abraham is the father of the Israelites through his son Isaac, whose mother was Sarah. His oldest son is Ishmael, whose mother is Hagar, Sarah's Egyptian handmaiden.

    In Islamic tradition, Abraham is considered a prophet of Islam, the ancestor of Muhammad, through his son Ishmael, whose mother is Hagar (هاجر).
    * it seems they both say they came from Abraham – But it seems that islam only "say" this – because of the references to building the kaaba – Why would Abraham build Both the Jews and the muslim ???

    September 30, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  8. laudens

    I keep hearing the phrase Islamaphobia and wondered what I could find in the dictionary. The word is made up from two words, Islam and phobia.

    Islam is defined by Webster’s as “the religious faith of Muslims including belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Muhammad as his prophet”

    Webster’s defines a phobia as “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation”.

    Islamaphobia would then be defined as an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of Islam or Muslims.

    The people accused of Islamaphobia, fear Islam because of the public statements made in the name of Islam; statements in support of past actions such as 9/11 and calling for future similar actions. People fear Islam and Muslims because of the public actions of far too many Muslims and the public statements of Islamic leaders. Leaders and followers who created the riots across the Muslim world, those same leaders and followers who are celebrating the killing of the American ambassador to Lybia.

    Since the fear has a real basis it’s not a phobia, it’s a rational response to a self-proclaimed threat.

    September 30, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • mike

      An excellent comment!

      September 30, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • CWAlstom

      "Islamaphobia would then be defined as an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of Islam or Muslims."

      And this holds true. Someone can be arachnophobic even after being bit by a spider.

      It would be like saying it's okay to be afraid of Christianity because of what the KKK (and other terrible folks do in the name of religion) say.

      Islam isn't attacking Americans, it's a very small group (Like, a thousandth percent) of terrible people within. To fear all of Islam is an exaggerated reaction.

      September 30, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • KaceyNoel

      I agree with Laudens! Our phobia is more thnan justified!

      October 1, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • anthony bourne

      This is not a "small" group. These are nations, and many citizens. Maybe they dont all have RPG's, along with a coordinated effort, but many many of them do agree in a "holy war" against Israel and Western Civilization. That is why the "real" muslims have not waged a war against their terrorists counter parts. It is why we have to go in and ensure our safety by invasion.

      October 2, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  9. beyondsad2

    this is so they can feel like they were right
    after all
    like they said
    because
    that
    is
    all
    that
    matters
    to
    them

    September 30, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • doyoumeanaboutiran

      well the president of iran talks like he is not worried about the war that isreal is proposing.
      he wants everyone's opinion
      from what i can tell from the transcription of his reply to CNN
      of course – he looks way to happy to have really been that obtuse
      i don't think he understands usa culture with mental health
      no one in their right mind would give him a nuke unless they actually did want him to 'blow isreal off the map"
      did he REALLY say that CNN
      where is the proof
      this guy thinks everyone is laughing with him
      not at him
      and i don't understand why he is so unconcerned (since i cannot understand his language)
      but i understand the concern of others if what is said was said is true
      tell him
      i am shaking my head
      and shaking in fear for not only him but for all his people and all others – who will be affected by
      isreal wanting to be right
      tell him that for me please (since he asked for public input)

      September 30, 2012 at 3:23 am |
  10. beyondsad

    beyond sad is the fact that they will create enough chaos (and their hoping or hoped support) to take whatever it is they feel is their just reward on the temple mount – as well as Iraq – the USA – and whatever ...

    September 30, 2012 at 2:50 am |
  11. sad

    well
    this is seriously
    just a very sad situation
    because
    i
    am
    being
    asked
    to
    choose
    to
    vote
    between this group of one percent who is controlling the world into oblivion
    because
    they
    can
    and
    a
    puppet
    at
    their
    bidding

    September 30, 2012 at 12:42 am |
    • sadder

      these puppets are even telling us not to expect much to clack from their glass jaws (the puppets are made out of brittleness) – (easier to replace that way) – (yeah – easier to smash over each other heads their hammered rhetoric) – ...
      this will be fun
      watching them both duke it out on center stage
      silver jaws meet the claws
      (wonder if they will come out)
      or
      will there simply be more
      hee haws and yippie di doodle cuz that what brittle jaws do – they yodel

      September 30, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • saddest

      saddest is the one percent want war – before
      there is a chance to choose
      a different way
      so
      they
      can
      have
      their
      way

      September 30, 2012 at 1:54 am |
  12. Nathan

    http://www.france24.com/en/20120928-christians-flee-egypt-town-after-death-threats

    September 30, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  13. DWN

    It seems a great many want to do away with doctrine altogether and just make all religions come together in a great big relativistic pile of mush. They shudder to think that some groups have more truth than others, so they necessarily denigrate those groups as "fundamentalists." How about some love for us outside the pile of relativistic mush. I think it is time I bought a Quran so I can discuss this more thoroughly with those consistently de-emphasizing doctrine.

    September 29, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • ok

      ok
      here's some love for you
      you fundamentalist non pile of relativistic mush you
      we all love you
      you know we do
      feel better?

      September 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  14. Ryan

    I'm not sure what point this guy is trying to make. As Christians, we should of course love Muslims, just like we should love everybody else. As for the video made by a coptic Christian, it does not represent the view that the majority of evangelicals have. I agree that sometimes people get carried away with the Muslims trying to take over the world. Extreme Muslims would like to take over the world, but there's probably not much we can do about that. We can, however, vote in a government that recognizes the threat that Muslim terrorists pose and not one that tries to pretend that we caused the violence by a movie made by an Egyptian-American a couple months ago.

    September 29, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  15. tony

    Evangelical (a-n-g-e-l encased by e-v-i-l ) . Wicked mis-leaders fooling credulous but otherwise good followers

    September 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  16. Jesse

    My Take: end Islamofacist Christophobia and Westophobia.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  17. Jerry Christ-follower

    While one error in McClaren's essay irks me (his mention of planks and specks in the eye clearly misses the biblical context of brothers–meaning shared faith and life, not merely "neighbors" which is what Christians and Muslims are), I have to affirm the essay as a whole. Christians of all flavors who are lead by fear are NOT being led by God or His command to love. If we don't want to make the world worse by responding to evil with more evil (Romans 12:17), we would do well to live out Romans 12:21, which says "don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." It is good, and God's love that will move us from Arab Spring to God's Kingdom come in the fullness of its greatest power–love.

    September 29, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • question

      where is this god's kingdom that is destination from the arab spring?
      what are you talking about?

      September 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  18. so

    i wonder if it is even possible for all ninety nine percent of USA to override the one percent.
    If everyone – and i mean everyone – stood up and DO NOT vote and said NO MORE
    I wonder if that would even matter to change the one percent?
    I know it would matter to the rest of the world – that the USA PEOPLE say NO MORE
    because they know, and i pray we will know before it is too late – or even any later, that this is the only way to make democracy real for all people.
    otherwise – all are held captive to the one percent – and don't you know – no one but the one percent want that
    who are these people – or are they corporations that exist as people – but actually contain a lot of people who have no clue what they are doing – or do they? who are these people?
    we need a list of this

    September 29, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  19. so

    so, like with wwII – International business machines I B M was used to create computer list of all these people – who later ended up dead – shot in the head and all that ...
    the Jewish were involved in making this list
    You see this as a major enterprise – here and abroad – all these lists of people – and accounts – and ...
    the list goes on
    they make list for all people on medicaid – those who are disabled – those who are young and old ... children, men and women ...
    the lists go on
    they make list for all people who are more – or are less intelligent – or not
    the list go on
    you can say this is crazy – and this doesn't happen
    ... who cares – you can say it all you want
    if you look closely – everyone in your country is or will be on these lists – if your country is listed – or if you come in contact with certain governments who make lists ... and their affiliates, etc.
    is there a choice to not be on any lists anywhere?
    try to find that out ...

    September 29, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  20. misinformation

    i think that the USA people have been sadly and seriously disrepected in a huge number of ways, and they still do not know, or they are just becoming more aware.
    we have had our eyes blinded by fears, intimidation, chaos, financial harm to cover more chaos created in all parts of the world – all in order to continue to lie to the USA public, and exploit the world and its peoples for the 1 percent – who are not even USA to begin with. People outside the USA are sometimes more aware of the travesties committed by the USA against it's own people and all people of the world. I think USA people will eventually have to take a stand – and say no more – and quit deceiving their own people and the people of other countries. No one wants war – only those who benefit from war and war's spoils want war. not to much to not understand about that.
    i am not standing up for the terrorist nor the extremist – i am saying that the USA has some real truths to comprehend – either on their own – or with the insistence of others – because too much harm is being done – and too many do not agree with what they have seen and see.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:28 am |
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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.