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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.

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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. PJ

    In many cases Evangelicals are worse than the Islamic fanatics. They would kill in a heartbeat if they could get away with it.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  2. James

    I watched only parts of the film on youtube – and found it not only unimpressive, but only with a few laughs. We, as Americans, DO NOT react like murderous maniacs to being hated by the rest of the world, which we are. We DO NOT react like murderous maniacs to our flag or the face of our president being burned constantly in the Middle East.

    This is NOT about us having Islamaphobia – it is all about how the Islamic fanatics stir up hatred and rage over anything and everything that does not follow their narrow thoughts. This is about ignorance and intolerance.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  3. AvdBerg

    The local media, including CNN, Fox and your local TV and newspapers are a very important element of social behavior as society is shaped by what it sees, hears and reads and it is conditioned by the events that influence the mind of every person. You reap what you sow.

    To allow yourself to be directed by public opinion is dangerous because most public opinion is the view of the media. If the media does not like something, their bias taints information getting to the public, and this forms public opinion. Public opinion is never based on research and facts. The public uses the media for its sole source of information and for this reason social behavior will continue to deteriorate and wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).

    For a better understanding of the role of the media we invite you to read the articles ‘Influence of the Media’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    The media does not provide accurate information on ‘Religion’ as it continues to ignore the truth and its history of deceptions (John 14:17). They have created the big chasm that now exists, without offering any solutions to unite people in a peaceful environment.

    Consider the truth about Evangelicals, Christianity and Islam and all the others and ask yourself the following question.
    Are so-called Evangelicals and Muslims and all those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8)?

    For a better understanding of the history of Christianity and Islam and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘World History and Developments in the Middle East’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  4. chiefsadler

    We Mormons have been the target of the same hate campaign for decades. And it doesn't appear to be stopping yet either.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  5. SLChod

    Romeny to seize all US gold following election! I have been told that once Romney is elected, he plans to put copies of the book of Mormon as gold tablets in all public and private schools, government offices and mandate their display in  all places where individuals gather. To accomplish this, he plans to issue an executive order to seize ALL INDIVIDUAL's GOLD to turn it into religious propaganda.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • takawalk

      Wow I never knew, so now that you told me this I must believe.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  6. Let It Be

    2012 for many people signals the coming of a greater spiritual awareness. The Mayans wrote that in this year their "9 gods" would return. Both the Hopi indians and the Aztecs had signs and prophecies leading up to this year. Some term this awareness as a purification of the earth and it's civilizations. One now has to wonder if this is how it all starts and ends quickly. Through a world war based solely on religious views.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  7. Reid

    If you want Islamophohic "Christians" to read this you should have published on Fox News. You're preaching to the choir here. It will be a great day when humanity gives up the pointless quest to answer theological questions which do not have an answer. Better to focus on the things we can answer and progress as a people instead of stagnating in mental masturbation.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  8. John

    The writer mentioned Janet Parshall, and he 700 Club. This proves the author ignorance about islamic world. The fact that the media in islamic world insult christianity and judisim 24/7. (watch Al Naas tv, Al Hakika TV, even public tvs, etc. Book of hatred are sold in book stores, on streets and taught at public schools in most islamic countries but no reactions from westren countries!!!!!!! a mile away from the white house, an islamic saudi school had text books to teach little kids that non muslim are infidle and infidle are enemies of islam. No Christians is allowed to wear a cross or carry Bible in public in some muslim countries or face jali and slashed in streets but no comments from western media.
    Thanks you mr writer for your unfair article.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  9. MName

    Muslims, Christians, and Jewish people fight like brothers because at the core they are all the same. Christians do not even follow the teachings of jesus Christ because if they did they would become Buddhists.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • hector

      we love muslims and should learn to speak the truth in love.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  10. muslim2012

    The story goes that an Arab named Khalid was tending his goats in the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia, when he noticed his animals became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries to make the first coffee. Certainly the first record of the drink is of beans exported from Ethiopia to Yemen where Sufis drank it to stay awake all night to pray on special occasions. By the late 15th century it had arrived in Mecca and Turkey from where it made its way to Venice in 1645. It was brought to England in 1650 by a Turk named Pasqua Rosee who opened the first coffee house in Lombard Street in the City of London. The Arabic qahwa became the Turkish kahve then the Italian caffé and then English coffee.

    2 The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see. The first person to realise that light enters the eye, rather than leaving it, was the 10th-century Muslim mathematician, astronomer and physicist Ibn al-Haitham. He invented the first pin-hole camera after noticing the way light came through a hole in window shutters. The smaller the hole, the better the picture, he worked out, and set up the first Camera Obscura (from the Arab word qamara for a dark or private room). He is also credited with being the first man to shift physics from a philosophical activity to an experimental one

    September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  11. jlc

    If there was one message I would convey to the evangelicals, it would be this: anyone who resorts to murder, arson, and rioting after viewing this crudely made video is mentally unstable.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  12. Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

    Except for Janism, and some forms of Buddhism, all religions have been known to practice violence.
    Religion is the problem.
    Americans fear Islamists for good reason. They killed 3000 + Americans in one day. "Islamophobia" is quite rational, after that fact, actually. Has Islam ever issued a "fatwa" against violent Islamists ? If they did, why do we not know about it.

    Dump religion folks. Grow up. There is no Easter Bunny.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  13. stereotype_culprit

    It's funny how a (victim of stereotypes) Muslim stereotypes atheists! You fakkking hypocrites should go back to where you belong.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • stereotype_culprit

      Try this link http://youtu.be/RrnMYg62boM?t=1m53s (or replace " dot " with ".") youtu dot be/RrnMYg62boM?t=1m53s

      or search for google for "youtube muslim killed daughter california" & go to the 1:53 minute mark

      September 16, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  14. Jim Smith

    Wow, right on with this author, but not so in tune with many of the people commentin .

    September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  15. snowboarder

    i have many muslim friends who came to this country for the same reason that our ancestors did, to escape oppression. we discuss religion openly and share treats for religious holidays and festivals.

    it may simply be the level of education in my circle of friends, but intolerant and extremist views are unheard of.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  16. Internationalist

    Slanted view by CNN? I do not understand. There are countless videos and stories denouncing the violent and murderous acts by outraged Muslims. Muslim clerics are denouncing the acts and calling for restoring calm. The video clips are not being shown. How does that demonstrate CNN favors Muslim over Christian coverage? My own question is how can such an idiotic film cause so much violence and hatred?

    September 16, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • NoPunIntended

      Because Muslims are a bunch of nutjobs whose only goal in life is to die in a holy war so they can go claim their 72 virgins in the afterlife.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  17. Laurel

    Humans follow a concept of what they believe God would want
    Humans follow their nature in doing this
    Humans will justify this by stating, this is the will of God
    Humans who believe God is peaceful,loving and tolerant... live that way
    Humans who believe God only loves others like them, is intolerant of others and justifies killing another human...live that way

    So where's God in the equation?

    God is shaking his head.....crazy humans, you give them the commandments and they will still do it their way

    September 16, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  18. Wayne

    Hey Brian D. McLaren. I got a question for you. What about Islamic Christophobia? I mean these Christophobiacs don't just send emails full of capital letters and exclamation points. They kill you. Many of their countries arrest you, just for not being Islamic. I'm not religious at all. But, if I had to choose which one seems more of a threat to my freedom, it's Islam and not Christianity.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  19. muslim2012

    Carpets

    Although carpets date back long before Islam , with the first carpets made bythe Bedouin tribes of Arabia Persia and Anatolia, Muslims made thempopular through their advance weaving and colouring techniques anddevelopment of patterns and designs. Carpets with Muslims designs werelater introduced in Europe in the 12

    th

    century.

    Coffee

    The first record of coffee is from Yemen where Muslims would drink thebrew of Ethiopia coffee beans to stay awake through the night for prayers.The drink traveled from Yemen the Makkah and Turkey through travelersand traders in the late 15

    th

    century and then England in 1650. The Arabic“Al-Qahwa” becomes the Turkish “khave” then the Italian “Caffee” andthen English “coffee”

    September 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • John H

      Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  20. JakeF

    "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"

    THIS statement applies to every religion where it's most fervent believers take a blind eye towards those who attack others because of their faith. Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc...

    September 16, 2012 at 9:10 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.