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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. was blind, but now I see

    In Mohammad's own words, whenever he would be visited by the spirit (who called himself) Gabriel, he would become violently ill and so troubled as to contemplate suicide. NEVER – EVER in the Bible did anybody who recieved a message from above respond in this manner. Quite the opposite. Truly Mohammad was visited by evil spirits claiming to be divine.

    October 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  2. Eric

    The Wahabists of Saudi Arabia only tolerate us because they need us to purchase their oil so that they can live like kings. If you go to work in certain middle eastern countries you must live in a compound and not interact with the natives. They act like we are an infection. Without a doubt there are extremists on both sides in this issue. But Islam does have this undercurrent of it being acceptable to coerce the infidels into accepting Allah while Christianity does not. Christians can't legislate their religion into being the only acceptable one to belong to. Jesus taught otherwise and to claim to follow Him means to not coerce others into believing in Christ Jesus since it is a matter of personal choice.

    October 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  3. GOOD NEWS

    What Jesus and Muhammad foretold here (John 6/27, 40) (Quran 3/81-82 = 33/7-8)
    has absolutely come True now:

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

    ==UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!

    October 11, 2012 at 6:14 am |
  4. RW

    Brian, you obviously don't know much about orthodox Islamic theology... it is totalitarian and supremist, and will stop at nothing to subjugate the kafir (non-muslim). Certainly there are many muslims that do not participate in this, however orthodox Islamic theology is the driving force for all the violence and subjugation of non-muslims, and it CANNOT be appeased. Dialog with individual muslims is to be encouraged so that they can see the awful nature of this ideology posing as a religion. I am a Christian always seeking the truth... so should you.

    October 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • nothern light

      " I am a Christian always seeking the truth... so should you."

      That statement is an oxymoron......Christians "think" they possess the truth as do the Muslims and Jews...and they all evangelize to others to believe their version of truth .....when in fact non are true......Einsteins letter has it right...he states :

      "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible is a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

      October 14, 2012 at 8:26 am |
  5. Muhammey

    You have got to be kidding me. How is this rag of an article still at the top of the "Belief" section? Islamist kill and rappe an American Ambassador and destroy the American embassy in Egypt and Libya. A little girl who just wanted to go to school in Pakistan was just shot by radical Muslims. Wake up CNN... Or is it really the Muslim News Network?

    October 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  6. Lee Oates

    Well writen and quite true.

    October 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • GENERAL PATTON

      IT'S NOT OUR ISLAMAPHOBIA, it's jewish interests that manurfacture hate and fear of muslims, america needs to round up the treasonous jews and deport them, jews will eventually destroy us like they did post ww1 germany, google what jews did to germany and find out WHY germans had to fight back

      October 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Muhammey

      Wow, two Nazi Imams...

      October 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • notraitors

      You're a disgrace to the real Gen. Patton

      October 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  7. doughnuts

    End Islam's Judaophobia!

    October 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Islamophobia?

    October 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  9. Petercha

    My take: End evangelical liberalism.

    October 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • was blind, but now I see

      You mean we should take a little bit of personal responsibility and actually read the book for ourselves ;)

      October 10, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      or take a bit of personal responsibility and ignore the book

      October 15, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  10. GOOD NEWS

    What Jesus and Muhammad foretold has absolutely come TRUE now:

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

    ==UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES!

    October 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  11. Tell the TRUTH

    One just have to look at the life of Mohammad and the teachings of Quran to see what Islam is.
    Please investigate further!!

    Get knowledge about the life of Mohammad in his later years which he used fighting men to kill and conquer.
    Have you ever asked, how many women he had as Allah favored him?
    Have you asked why he married his daughter-in-law (adopted son's wife)?
    Have you asked why he had his critics slain?
    Know the religion by its founder and the religious book!!

    October 10, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  12. Fredsta

    The revolutions in Arab Spring are forceful movements to overcome and expel the rule of haters. While aimed mainly at secular tyrannies, like Assad regime, they also disfavor Muslim extremists, like the Jihadist militia that was driven out of Benghazi because of the murder of Ambassador Stevens. They don't want hateful extremism, either.

    Smart populations want their haters to go back in their caves, so the builders can get on with the business of making a better world (exactly what Stevens was doing).

    October 10, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  13. Fredsta

    Exactly right. We've got ignorant hateful self-righteous extremists screaming for the extermination of the other culture, on both sides. Their Taliban vs our Taliban Wannabes.

    October 10, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  14. Bmun

    Talk, talk,talk...........it never goes away and never will! What the world needs is a ruling political party to the far of right to correct this hopeless problem.

    October 10, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  15. icons download

    In my opinion you commit an error. I can prove it. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.

    October 10, 2012 at 4:44 am |
  16. GBAZ

    I clicked on the link that read, "My take: End Evangelical Islamophobia." So, here's "My take: End Islamic extremists' phobia towards all of those they consider to be infidels." (Yeah, this post probably won't remain for long because someone will flag it as abusive. I hate double-standards. Don't you?)

    October 10, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  17. Auth

    And thus not by any single event will Europe reach a brkeaing point, but by the constant and daily horrors occurring in their own countries.Well, yes. But there'll always be a last drop, the last straw. And we are slowly reaching that point. It could very well be that last straw is some inane incident or even maybe a stupid accident. But that won't matter. It'll be the one that broke the camels back.You can just feel it. Governments and media are still pretending multi-cultural society can work, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The sad thing is: It *was* working. It still is working with those groups that aren't predominantly Islamic. It's the Islamic minorities in the Netherlands and Europe that are encroaching on the rest ever more aggressive. Governments and media refuse to analyse it in terms of Islams relation to the Judeo-Christianity and Humanism. Yet in the street (as you rightly observe) they are and tension between groups is rising.In the Netherlands even muslims are scared. In an interview I read the muslim communities in Amsterdam pretty much closed up shop for a couple of days after the van Gogh murder, because they were convinced there'd be trouble.Unless we get leaders that are able to face facts and take positive steps to deconstruct multi-cultural society in such a way that muslims of good will still have a place in society, that tension is bound to come to an (ugly) head. Not speaking about the problems, killing discussions before they even begin, certainly won't make it go away. Things are far too far along for that to be a remedy (if it ever were).

    October 10, 2012 at 1:50 am |
  18. edmundburkeson

    It's not Islamaphobia! It's religious intolerance in Muslim countries in general that Christians fear – and rightly so! Don't bring it here!

    October 9, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • edmundburkeson

      Also, the Quran view of God is so anemic it could cause spiritual starvation!

      October 9, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  19. Aleksandar

    denise, the thing you have to remember about ALL polls, is that creatin assumptions are made. Some are quite reasonable, counting a creatin percentage for men and a creatin amount for women, and the same for differen traces, geographic regions, and so on. But the Obama Love Fest in the media is circular logic. He gets more press, so he must have more support, so the polls are weighted to show far more democrats than are actually out there. I'm not talking about the historic advantage of democrats to republicans 38 or 39 percent of the voters to the GOP's 35 or 36 percent. I mean polls which weigh as much as 45% democrats to 25% republicans. I will agree that turnout is critical, and if the republicans give up and sit at home, the democrats MAY get their 40-45% of the voters in which case the media-driven polls become self-fulfilling prophecies. But if republicans stay charged, then at the worst they can match almost all of the democrats' votes, and it comes down to a group that the polls have been strangely quiet about.The independents.Did you wonder why McCain took the tone he did in the first debate, Mister Reasonable and not on the attck, even when it looked like he had an easy line to Obama's weak spots? Obama was speaking like a democrat, McCain aimed for the indies.Why have the polls not shown his results? Two reasons. First, polls have crunched hard on indies, because about ONE-THIRD of them have still not made up their mind (from internals at Gallup, CBS, and Fox polls), and so they are down-weighted, as little as 10% of the voters in some cases. And two, most of them are still making up their minds, and the debate laid seeds. It's not an overnight thing.I tell you plainly, McCain is winning right now, when you take the polls, use their internals to back-step the weighting and re-weight with historical norms.We.Are.Winning.Ever wonder why Obama is nastier than ever? Why did they try such an obvious dirty trick with getting Ifil as the moderator for the VP debate? He's losing and he knows it.All Obama can do is bluff, but we have to be careful and not buy the hype.

    October 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  20. Pam

    The idea of Human Sacrifice of their own with suicide bombings and the victims infidels and innocents are necessary to please "Allah" is wrong. There is no Phobia about it being wrong.

    October 9, 2012 at 9:54 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.