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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. stjdsj

    “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” (1John 1:9-11, written testimony of John, A.D. 65)

    October 7, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  2. stjdsj

    “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”
    “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”
    “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”
    “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1: 8-12, written testimony of Paul to church at Galatia in today’s Turkey, A.D. 55)

    October 7, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  3. stjdsj

    “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.”
    “This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:22-26, written by the apostle Paul to the Christian church at Galatia in 55 A.D.)

    October 7, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Mike

      Blah Blah Blah!!!!!!

      October 7, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  4. Jim

    Islamophobia implies unreasoned fear. There are good reasons to be wary of the Mohammedans. There is an historic enmity between the West and Islam. I don't see Christians blowing themselves up to kill innocent people in the name of God. Only the duped would believe that the West has nothing to fear from Islam. "Arab Spring' was a joke. One of the first things Egyptians wanted to do was end the Peace Treaty with Israel. This is not to say we can't get along with Islam as long as we keep our eyes open to the real threat it represents to Western Culture.

    October 7, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • bobby

      Jim, what you are doing on the CNN website, and more importantly, what are you doing on the religion section of the CNN website? You seem to be one of the only intelligent people here. You would benefit more from a website where the people commenting at least have a basic understanding of the world and of at least one religion. I am just shaking my head at the pure ignorance of the people commenting here as well as the people writing the articles. And the sad thing is that they are so sure of their baseless and illogical opinions.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  5. edward

    Islam is a evil religion with its birth in hell. I will never accept Islam as a legitimate religion. Would love to see Islam religion disappear of the face of the earth. Mohammed was a false prophect and Allah is a myth, does not exist.The only god Islam could be is satan.

    October 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • clector

      Hi Edward, just to have your thoughts in context, could you disclose other beliefs you may have, your religious background, your educational background, have you ever travel outside the country? Thanks

      October 7, 2012 at 7:16 am |
    • Tacitus Talks

      Clector – I have traveled outside of this country and have had first hand experience. Do you know the difference between a radical and a moderate Muslim? Their respective clerics. If the moderate's clerics suddenly starts to preach jihad, the moderate will magically become radical. In my travels overseas, I have seen the exposure these so called experts have to the real world. They are driven from the airport to their 5 star hotel. They meet with officials of the government and academcs. THEY NEVER walk the paths of the common men. On the other hand, every country I live in, I get lost in the back water bazaars and markets. I sit squat and eat with these people (and sometimes get a bad case of food poisoning). I can tell you a Muslim can be the kindest most giving person in the world – UNTIL – you mention that Jesus may be superior to Mohamed or their cleric in their mosque tells them to kill the infidel, then they are the most blood thirsty lot that exists and the only response is to kill them to the last man, or let them kill you- for there is no middle ground. What this author suggest is that evangelicals must surrender their religion, that is not peaceful coexistence. And what CNN and all the Media does when it examines Islam is questions a bunch of "westernized" Muslims in a country where they are a VERY SMALL MINORITY. Of course they are going to 'behave".

      October 7, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • chris

      clector, does it make you feel good to think you are superior to Edward? The only way a person could possibly think like Edward is if they are ignorant and uneducated, right? Because clector is so intelligent, educated, and knowledgeable in the ways of the world, right? I bet I would agree with Edward much more than I would with you. I have three college degrees (two graduate) and have been to other countries and other continents. I guarantee I have a better understanding of the world than you. Your response gives you away as a small minded bigot whose knowledge and education couldn’t possibly be enough to justify your arrogance.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Practicepeace

      Edward and everyone else who agrees with Edward. You must all be Evangelical Christians. You are exactly what the author describes you as. You should be ashamed. Believe what you see on the news–sucks to be you. Make up your own mind without watching television or talking to your friends who believe what you do. Also, Tacitus Talks, you must be a missionary preaching your word. You only present your side of the story which could be grossly inaccurate and bias, so be careful what you spread. Karma's a b!tch.

      October 9, 2012 at 8:14 am |
  6. Good News

    The real and absolute Peace among Jews, Christians and Muslims will only be possible

    when they see that the long awaited and anticipated Messiah (=Son of David, Son of Man, Son of Muhammad)

    has thus already come here with the real GOOD NEWS

    in the beginning of this most critical Third and Last DAY (=MILLENNIUM) now! (=John 6/27, 40)

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

    ==UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!

    October 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Mike

      Blah! Blah! Blah!

      October 7, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  7. Dorothy

    Christianity is not a "religion", it is a "Relationship With God".

    October 6, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Erik

      Definition of religion: The way we practice our faith. Definition of faith: Assurance in what you are hoping for. Christianity = Religion.

      October 8, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  8. Zoraida Hinton

    http://www.johnythegame78r2.com

    October 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  9. lance

    most of the worlds blood thirsty terrorists are islamic, harp on that !

    October 6, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Sandra Streifel, Canada

      Sorry, Lance. Love Americans and know lots of fellow Christians especially, but US has murdered a lot more Muslim civilians than anyone else. US government are biggest terrorists on the planet, they just have a license. No violence is acceptable to Christ. In Islam, only defensive war is acceptable. We've all got lots of work to do.

      October 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Jesus is the most powerful figure known to mankind (Fact)

    There is evidence that GOD is distant from this world, but no evidence that He does not exist. GOD's government does not exist in this world, there is also evidence of this. GOD is allowing mankinds self-rule to continue until the time He has appointed. Look around you look at the world yesterday and today. Look at the governments all around the world. Are they not corrupt? This world is full of violence, lust, envy, confusion, greed, pride, lies, hatred, and death. Man alone brought forth the destruction of the world through an extraterrestrial named satan. The world crys out for the government of GOD and His justice. The world crys out for the Kingdom of GOD whos Eternal Law is Love in every aspect. Jesus Christ left this world with one command, to love. He said love as He has loved. "What greater love is there then the love of someone freely giving up their life for a friend?" – Jesus. This is the Etern Law in the Kingdom of GOD, this is the law man has forsaken, and it is this law that will judge each and every person. Soon all will change, mankinds self-rule is almost up. The end is near and the government of GOD draws near, the Kingdom is at hand. Jesus warnings are becoming more frequent and growing more severe. Those who have ears hear His words, those who have life repent and turn to Christ Jesus earths only hope. None will deny the power of this new one world order, and all knees will bow to the Kingship of the Lord of all lords. May the grace of the Almighty be with you all. John 8 vs 47-"He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

    October 6, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  11. nur3497

    if people had brains then they would know that ISLAM is a religon of faith and it is a very wounderful religon !!! and in the bible is says that there will be the last prophet and his name is AHMED which mean " MOHAMMED "" (p.b.u.h) and JESUS (p.b.u.h) also said dont belive me as a GOD belive in my father WHICH IS GOD soo really i think ISLAM IS A VERY FAITHFULL RELIGON which no person should have hate !!!!!!!!!!! so please people think before you write

    October 5, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  12. Atheist Tin Hat

    One needn't be an "evangelical" of any sort to be Islamaphobic. There are plenty of agnostics and atheists who are "Islamaphobes". It's driven primarily by world events highlighted by hatred, and outright draconian and barbaric behavior.

    The Muslim population of the world has become feared because of the propensity to violence and oppression of basic civil liberty. THATs the basis of the failure of Islam, plain and simple; it has nothing to offer the world that isn't offered better and and with more civility by any other organized religion, spiritual or not.

    October 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  13. Jim

    Islam is a religion from hell, and anyone that disagrees, does not know what the Bible says about false relgions, false prophets, and claiming to be religious but denys the power there-of (God's power?)

    October 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're an illiterate moron. Anyone who disagrees is a moron as well.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • nur3497

      your an idiot first of all it says in the bible the coming of the prophet mohammed (p.b.u.h) also if you read carefully u would see that the bible says that he is coming they say" ahmed the last prophet"" so jim next time you want to make a comment think before you write ISLAM is a religon of faith and it is wounderful religon also

      October 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  14. opus

    Islam is a sickness so please don't try to sugarcoat it. They like killing and have been at it for thousands of years. Please
    send them all back to where they came. They came from a crap hole and want to make USA the same. Our leaders
    are fools to not understand this......

    October 5, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • nur3497

      your stupid !!!!!!!!!! and a moron ISLAM is a religon of faith you idiot >>> it has no voilence if you know and you are really a christen then you would know that its says in the bible that there is a PROPHET NAMED AHMED "" MEANS MOHAMMED"'that will be the last prophet on earth soooooo please get a brain before you talk ISLAM IS A VERY GOOD RELIGON and if u had a brain u would know that plzz get a brain then write

      October 5, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  15. USMarineCorpsCaptain

    Mr. McLaren,

    You seem to be "preaching" from a vantage point completely removed from the realities faced everday by Christians in the Middle East or as they aptly name it – the Muslim World. Islam, at it's base, is a violent, hateful and cleverly disguised diatribe against all who do not "see it their way". I have served in these countries...I have seen first-hand the "religion of peace". The Democrats speak of a War on Women? Go to Iraq...Iran...Saudi Arabia...now THERE is a war on women. Jews do not murder when the God of Israel is slandered. Christians do not murder when Christ is urinated on as an "art peice". Buddists do not burn houses, women and children when someone places a picture of Buddah on the wall. Islam does all of these things with zeal...zest...pride...and pleasure. You, sir, are an idiot. An intellectually dishonest idiot. People of every other faith can stop being afraid of Muslims when Muslims sweep clean their "house" and stop this madness. Until such a time comes – I will make ready my Colt .45 and a few other "trinkets" I have waiting.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Francis

      You are my hero dude! Brian McLyan is a fraud and a psedo-intellectual who is another democratic drone about to loose out on some $ he won't be receiving if Romney is elected and the other guy is not.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  16. allfaith

    When we act out of malice because of perceived slights we are acting violent. There are no reasons or justifications that will change that truth. Justice is fairness, not revenge.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  17. Jack 3

    This author os totally naive and cluless.

    October 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  18. Johan Christensen

    I think fanaticism of any kind is terrible however let us all be honest. You do not see swarms of Christians or even Jews burning, killing, bombing and murdering others for criticism of their religion. There is something fundatmentally different about the Muslim faith as there is no secular Islam and truly peaceful Islam. Wherever you go in the world from India, Russia, to China, Europe and the Americas.. we ALL have problems with radical Islam.

    October 5, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  19. wilypagan

    When I, an American woman, can ride a Harley through Jedda, unaccompanied, passing out Bibles, I might buy your bullcrap. Until then, please keep your traitorous mouth closed.

    October 5, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • Aolex

      People should not be worried about Islam. Its Christianity people should fear.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Johan Christensen

      @Aolex you are nimrod. lol It is not the 1400s anymore, yes fear the Christians of the past.. fear the Muslims anytime.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • allfaith

      We see others from our own perspective. Accept that there is good in others and you will see it.

      October 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  20. whataboutthemetaphor

    Wow. One hears about American Islamophobia but it's mostly dismissed as an exaggerated fringe ideology much like the Tea Party; and yet, here, on a relatively centrist news source, an article that is really not very provocative is cause for this sickening unleashing of the most racist, intolerant, disgusting barrage of comments I have seen. What you are not aware of is that the rest of the world regards you with as much horror as they do the extremist militant Islamic factions, because you are one and the same. Their hate is your hate. Your violence is theirs. You have descended from a once shining notion of a free and liberal beacon to nothing more than hate-infused joke. The mighty nation crumbles, and the jackals and vultures rule supreme. It is the End of Days for you, America, and a long and dark period awaits you.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:03 am |
    • AeroEng

      If there were more people like you the world will be a whole lot better. Even though there are other comments like yours that are not absurd, sadly they aren't the majority of the ones that we see.

      October 5, 2012 at 3:25 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.