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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. MIrza

    Who is this anachronism writing for CNN blogs?

    What about the Muslim real-life persecution of christians throughout the Islamic world? People are in prision for converting from Islam. Coptic churches are bombed. Just yesterday 30 Nigerian christians were slaughter by Boko Haram (a Muslim group) in Nigeria – and this utterly out of touch old guy bloviates about barely registerable 'islamophobia'. Puhlease buddy, no one cares what you have to say, and we're not buying your book.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:08 am |
    • Amber

      Absolutely. Beheading christians because they have denounced Islam....yeah, there's no need for fear here. Muslims have created their own image in the face of the world. The so-called good Muslims are too scared to speak out against the religion of hate because they and their families will be sought out and killed. There is nothing that Islam has or says that anyone in their right mind should seriously entertain.

      October 5, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • opus

      there are no good muslims.

      October 5, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Truth

      It is an unfortunate truth, that to be a faithful "good" Muslim, according to their own holy book, one must give their life to the pursuit of killing "infidels"...anyone outside their faith, but especially Jewish and Christian faiths. This is what makes this religion so scary and if we based our decisions on facts, and not opinions, and "happy, fuzzy feelings", we would know that one cannot get along with the faithful of this religion. Their own belief system makes it impossible to do so. Merely getting along, as the Qu'oran states, is only in places where they don't yet outnumber the population that are "infidels". Once they outnumber the infidels, according to their own holy book, they are to rise up and kill anyone not swearing allegiance to Mohammed. Hmmm.... peaceful religion? Not!

      October 6, 2012 at 5:44 am |
  2. Dan

    Deluded turd.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  3. skobenland

    Lifeknoxhard, who are you kidding? If Islam is a religion of hate, than more than 50% of the world would be attacking us. Think before you speak.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Truth

      The problem I see mostly, is two fold: one, people want to set up camp on one side or other, without reading the Qu'oran (it states to live peacefully amidst those who are "unbelievers", and to quietly live amongst the "infidels", growing in population, by bringing forth many children...and check out population explosions in that religion, by the way...that when there are enough in number, to rise up, and kill all in Jihad). The second problem, is that people want to defend something in the name of tolerance, regardless of facts! By now, everyone should know that the violence at the Embassy was premeditated (thinking people would have figured that out, with FACTS), and had nothing to do with some little film that no one knew of, until it was used as an excuse. Just like there are people who call themselves Christians, but are in fact are not, because they don't even know or read the Bible, so are there tons of people who call themselves Muslims but don't know anything about their own holy book, and what it calls them to do. The Muslim religion calls all the faithful in that religion to kill those outside their faith. Following its directives properly, is to incite violence and kill. Period. Those who call themselves "moderate, peaceful muslims", are actually traitors to their own religion, according to their own holy book. There are lovely people, who call themselves Muslim, but no more are muslim than a person standing in a garage is a car, merely for standing in it. Those who simply call others names, and base their decisions on their own opinions have no facts, and are not speaking truth of any kind. And plenty of other posts share the fact that no other religion claims to have the right to kill others, based on their sensitivities, and how they may have been offended. It's incredible to me, how easily so many people have been brain-washed into this ridiculous belief that somehow we are hated for our "hate speech"... whatever!! People, get a grip, we are hated, because the holy book of Islam teaches that we are to be hated for our infidelity to Mohammed. That's the only fact, and that's what needs to be known and understood. Nothing will change, without knowing and acting on truth.

      October 6, 2012 at 5:30 am |
  4. Havildar

    Who is a "Christian"? What makes a person follow Jesus? Why did Jesus say to turn the other cheek? How big was Jesus' Army? How many people did Jesus Kill???
    Hate is easy. Have you tried love?
    The Author is right. Muslims follow the same "God" as the Jews and Christians. Jesus is in their Koran as a Prophet, so is Moses, Abraham, Solomon, David, etc.
    The person who can not read should go to school and learn to read.

    October 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Nate

      Just a side note. Their Jesus is not quite the same. To Islam, he is a prophet. To Christians, he is our God. Big difference. How many Christians attacked New York with the display of Christ on a crucifix in urine? And Christians are the intolerant ones? If you are going to lump all of us together with the crazy movie maker, then we should be allowed to lump all Muslims together, right?

      October 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  5. Anybody know how to read?

    Brian D. McLaren is a book peddler who has to keep his name out there in front of the public.

    October 3, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  6. bonwood72

    I would like to see Mr. McLaren in a debate with Ayann Hirsi Ali on this subject. Though she does not profess faith in Christ, she is a great deal more knowledgeable than he on this subject.

    October 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  7. jasoncdanforth

    Honestly, we need to take the religion out of the discussion on both sides. A violent evil person is a violent evil person regardless of what god they pray to.

    October 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Truth

      Except for when their god explicitly requires them to kill those who are not in agreement with their ways!

      October 6, 2012 at 5:35 am |
  8. Good News

    Jesus and Muhammad were honorable Prophets of the same GOD,

    both of them prophesied about the absolute Truth,

    and it has thus absolutely come True now

    in the beginning of this most critical Last Day (=Millennium; John 6/27, 40)!

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

    =UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES=

    October 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Anybody know how to read?

      NOT.

      October 3, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • george

      Agreed!

      October 4, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • Rob

      Muhammad actually killed people
      Jesus was just a hippie

      October 4, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • max3333444555

      delusion runs equally through islam, christianity and judeaism.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • nur3497

      that is correct and JESUS ( p.b.u.h) said dont belive me as god i am not a god my father is "' he said that so if you read the bible you would know that he is not a GOD he is a prophet just like PROPHET MOAHMMED (p.b.u.h) also in ISLAM belives in jesus he is in alot of the QURAN if you read both books !!!!!!

      October 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Truth

      nur3497, you keep saying the same thing over and over again, but there is no such scripture in the Bible. Repeating it over and over will not make it so!

      October 6, 2012 at 5:36 am |
  9. lifeknoxhard

    Islam is a religion of hate. Islamic Extremists are the moderates, not the terrorists.

    October 3, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • nur3497

      can i ask do you have a brain ??? ISLAM is a religon of faith and love i dont know where you got your information of if u even read the bible before if you read the bible carefully you would see it says the coming of the PROPHET MOHAMMED (p.b.u.h) it says "ahmed which means mohammed" so for next time get a brain and think before you write please !!!!!!!

      October 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
    • Truth

      Very well said, lifeknoxhard!

      October 6, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  10. allfaith

    True relgion is not about conforming to group ideologies, it's about individual discipline and understanding. Organized religion is static and inapplicable when accepting the grace of god and acknowledging that everything is one. I am, we are... We aren't living the past again. The time is now. Treat others as equals and give them the respect that they deserve. Everyone must come to their own understanding. Judge not lest yee be judged.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  11. History Bear

    I'm a Diest, have been for 30 plus years. I find all this intolerance amusing. Fools arguing about similar ideas and teaching and claiming they have the truth. As to Islamaphobia, its more like arab phobia. A more underhanded, , scheming, money grubbing people I have never met and I've me lots. They use their religion to try and impose their way of doing things. Read some history. When they controlled all of N Africa and the middle east, anyone not Arabic was treated as second class citizens, and that includes other muslims. They haven't changed, just haven't evolved thanks to a 8th Centruy religious idea. But then I don't particulary trust christiians or jews much either. At least not where religion is concerned because they are dishonest. Their real religion is MONEY. THink about it and you'llsee what I say is true.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  12. stupid

    Freshmen suck! *hucks a milkshake*

    October 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  13. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    It's NOT merely evangelical Christians but also over 1 billion Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain Indians who nurture a deep sense of Islamophobia.....and FOR GOOD REASON, b'coz it's the Indians and ofcourse the valiant Jews who have suffered the MOST under centuries of Muslim onslaught.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • allfaith

      If you look at another individual, what do you see? Do you see a Muslim? Do you see a Jew? Do you see a Christian? No, you just see another person wrestling with illusion. Everyone intuitively knows that we are equally important parts of the world. The trick is find a way to bring a conscious awareness of this truth to everyone. That is why Budhism says to be nice to others, why Christianity says to treat others as you would yourself, why Islam says to walk in the light. It's a shame that such good ideas have been hidden by the shadows of past mistakes, left too long unforgiven.

      October 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  14. Barack

    Brian, Brian, Brian – why would Western Civilization "turn the other cheek" at this stage of evolution ? Do you want to return to The Dark Ages ?

    October 2, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  15. maxmaxwell

    What is really sad is most people believe this garbage. The Christians have a charge to go and convert all the planet to Bajesus to herald the second coming, the muslims have the Koran, and if you read the thing, as they print it today" death to non believers". Then the jews have the Talmud, "all non jews are cow dung" , get it straight, there is no tolerance between these three theologies. It will never exist. You cannot do one thing, say another and the deepest guidance of your belief is to harm or kill (even caste them out to hades) of non believers.
    I laugh every time I hear of, oh it's not us, we are a peaceful group. Oh really?? Then why do you clap or promote bombing of abortion clinics? or How about ethnic cleansing of the west bank? Or the killing of tens of thousands to instill islam?
    Ohhh it was our right! Ok so what about the other people who don't want to follow "your right, or your left" by some divine calling you feel the right to put to death those that don't agree or follow you, so it's ok?
    Here we are with the gentlemen above, "we should all get along" and where do you come from Mars?? It takes three generations of education to instill a change in a society or culture, this is a proven fact. As long as you rob the basic educational process from any culture they can easily be brainwashed and led like pigs to slaughter. Instilling a peaceful existence is a crock of crap. You instill education, without theology, so the freewill of the person can and will determine their path.
    Then maybe just maybe, you can find the coexistence people so desperately seek. I for one am sick and tired or another opinon of how America is the "greenhouse" of anything. Hey, they fermented this hate, bred it, and support it in the middle east, not New York, Not LA, Not Detroit. Either clean up YOUR HOUSE OF PRAYER, or the other side of the issue is we ( America) will.
    Funny, everybody thinks those guys in the middle east are playing the USA, hahahahaha better read into the situation, who's playing who, is a better guess. hahahahhahaa

    October 2, 2012 at 6:47 am |
    • anthony bourne

      can you tell me where this "charge" is to convert the world to christianity, and who gave this charge? Im not sure that your facts are correct

      October 2, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  16. Last Day

    Jesus and Muhammad were honorable Prophets of the same GOD,

    and what they prophesied about have just absolutely been fulfilled

    in the beginning of this long awaited and anticipated Third and Last Day (=Millennium) now! (John 6/27, 40)

    Here are the Most Clear and Solid Proofs:

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

    "UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES"

    October 2, 2012 at 6:21 am |
  17. The Deist

    I'm waiting for the day when people are courageous enough to rely on their own relationship with God to be enough rather than listening to the blind leading the blind every Sunday. Religion (all revealed doctrined religion) is nothing more than a blind-fold that keeps you from a true link to the Creator. Wasting your lives on nonsense. Sad.

    October 2, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  18. The Truth of Reason

    If Jesus rose from the dead and saw the hatred abound in the world today, he would be disturbed. He would be ashamed to see denominations that worship in his name spout hatred at a concept that they do not understand – indeed, he would issue forth a plea for the unity of humankind, and the coming of the understanding and tolerance that facilitate his kingdom. This understanding and tolerance is absent worldwide – maybe the West could try to understand the positive role Islamic culture has played in the world, the contributions of Islamic societies, and the religion itself – just as the decent and honorable 99.99% of the Muslim population make themselves more visible to us in the West over the buffoons that have been getting all the screen time.

    October 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Ned

      Jesus did rise from the dead.

      October 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • WASP

      @TR: if "jesus" was to come back today he would be locked in an insane assylm for believeing he was jesus. even if the military or police shot him and he rose again, they would think "zombie acopalyse" and keep firing. lmfao

      October 2, 2012 at 6:39 am |
  19. Dave Thrush

    Perhaps this dysfunctional Liberal Christian can get his Christophobia off my Son's College along with several hundred Catholic Hospitals and Colleges across America being forced to deny their beliefs by the forced HHS mandate requiring them to put away their faith or be heavily fined...Where's the vaunted separation of Church and state now?

    October 1, 2012 at 5:14 am |
    • KaceyNoel

      We need prayer back in schools and to remember what this country was founded under- God! Why are we moving away from that!?!?

      October 1, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • WASP

      @dave: they are only requiring the hospitals and colleges to help pay because they are public hospitals and colleges, thus they aren't exempt.

      @kacey: america was founded secular, not religious. that would be why we permit all religious to exsist and have no official religion for these great states. public schools are open to children of all faiths, thus forced prayer before events and class aren't allowed..........however that doesn't stop your children from praying if they want to it just can't be lead by any of the faculty. being an athiest i would have a major problem with the faculty bullying my children into prayer when it isn't their faith.

      October 2, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Dave Thrush

      @ Wasp...you are misguided..my son's college CCU in Denver is a PRIVATE Christian College, as are ALL of the PRIVATE Catholic Colleges...get your facts straight

      December 3, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  20. Reece

    All you need to do is type in Islamic Beheadings into any seaarch browser for some truth on the manufactured religion of islam

    September 30, 2012 at 8:23 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.