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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. Endreligion

    Religion will bring humanity to its knees (pun) and then destroy it.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  2. jimbo

    More liberal guilt. Who cares if the film is offensive? Don't go see it then.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  3. Ta

    hmm

    September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  4. Albro

    A phobia is generally defined as an UNREASONABLE fear. The barbaric violent actions of muslims all over the world , TODAY, justify treating them as dangerous.....reasonably!!!!!

    September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  5. DonQuixote

    I think that Muslims do themselves no favors when they act exactly as they are portrayed – crazy, wild-yed xenophobe extremists. And yes, I know that Christians killed tens of thousands of Muslims... 700 years ago. Not much societal evolution going on the middle East, apparently...

    September 16, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Seeker

      Don't buy into the Christians being the bad guys in the Crusades! Islam taking over Jerusalem by the sword and imposing their belief system there were part of the reasons for the crusades.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  6. JPolk84

    Christians have to endure far more "phobia" in the U.S. than Muslims. Watch ABC, NBC, and CBS sometime. OH, and CNN for that matter. But we're told to shut up and take it, aren't we?

    September 16, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  7. muslim2012

    September 16, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  8. Rainer Braendlein

    Are the suicide bombers Muslims? Yes, they are model Muslims according to Mahomet, and will once visit the Oktoberfest in Munich, and "adorn" it with their presence, and the dilettante police of Munich will not be able to stop them (they only can write tickets).

    The Good Being which has created us wants us to love each other independent from distinct belief, nationality, color, social status, etc.. We simpy should respect our human dignity. A true Christian will love his Muslim neighbour despite his false religion Islam, he will also love his Catholic neighbour despite his false religion Catholicism (of course, this refers only to ordinary Muslims and Catholics; criminal Muslims and Catholics are a case for the authority; actually it should be beyond imagination that a true Christian committs any crime but it is possible, and then he is also a case for the authority).

    The great difference between genuine Christianity and Islam is that you can justify no killing of infidels by the genuine Christian doctrine but you can justify the killing of infidels by the Islamic doctrine. Hence, Christianity is much better than Islam, or Islam is a criminal religion innately because Jihad (killing of infidels) belongs to its core tenets.

    Muhammad spread his demonic nonsense by using the sword which is a historical fact, in contrast, Jesus spread the divine truth only by words.

    A great problem in the Western World is the crowd of nominal Christians, that means people which call themselves Christians (mostly they are Catholics or Cheap-Grace-Protestants but also Anabaptists) which don't really live as true Christians in daily life although they are baptized, and pretend to believe.

    This regretable state is perceived by the Umma (Muslim community), and I guess that they perceice us as nasty hypocrites which have to be punished in the name of Allah. It is true that we have to be punished but this is not the task of the Muslims or Umma but God's own task. God is the only being which has the right to judge (the authority has a divine mandate to judge criminals). The Muslims committ an unforgiveable crime when they presume to be our judges (even the Holy God Jesus did not judge us but offered grace; first after the period of grace he will judge).

    The Muslims err when they assume the Christian faith would be the reason for the corruption of the Western World, that is a very nonsense. The Christian doctrine is very good in itself, yet the problem is that too less people really believe in the Son of God Jesus, and follow him in daily life which would mean suffering and rejection but happyness of the soul.

    The great dark mystery of Muhammad and the Koran is that they regard us as infidels. Shortly before Muhammad started to preach the Islam in Arabia (around 610 a. D.) the Christian Eastern Roman Empire Byzantium had experienced a great crisis under the rule of the usurper Phocas (the worst tyrant of all history) who was an ancient kind of Hitler. Possibly the "Christian" soldiers of Phoca's armies committed terrible crimes in Near East, and Muhammad became witness of that because he as a merchant stayed in Palestine very often. Yet, Muhammad made a mistake to conclude that Christianity was the reasom for the misbehaviour of the "Christian" Roman soldiers. The reason was the criminal leader Phocas whom Dr. Martin Luther called an incarnation of the devil. By the way, Phocas also introduced papacy by making the Roman See the highest one on earth.

    And also today the reason for the misery of the Western World and all its moral doom and loss of culture is not Christianity but godless leaders which are greedy for honor, power and riches, and to a large extend the unholy pope (successor of Judas Iscariot according to Luther) with his wrong doctrine.

    How to solve the Islamic issue?

    Simply when we call ourselves Christians we should really live as Christians. God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, Jesus for our sins, and raised him from the dead for our justification. If we believe that and get sacramentally baptized (or remember our infant baptism) we become righteous. This righteousness is not only a status but through faith in Christ we behave righteous in daily life. If we do so, God will be with us, and protect us from our enemies.

    Concerning the Oktoberfest in Munich/Bavaria:

    Don't go there, it is only a question of time when the first Islamic fool blows himself up there. You may respond that half of the population of Munich are policemen, and could protect the visitors of the great Binge but I tell you that the police of Munich is not even able to catch bicycle thiefs; how then should they be able to protect us from the Islamists?

    In the name of Jesus Christ.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    September 16, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  9. WhySlamIslam

    Certain small minorities of Evangelicals are as prone to radicalization as Islamists. The principal difference is that when radical Evangelicals propose radical or even violent action, they are easily exposed as hypocrites when confronted with their driving Holy Book, the new Testament. Radical Islamists, however, are clearly acting in guidance with their Holy Book, the Koran.

    The evolution of humanity requires expression and protection of human creativity and individuality. Tribalism, radical expression of religion, and even Nationalism must fall by the wayside. Rather than treat Islamists with kid gloves, or as children in fact, they need to be confronted with the fruits of reason and rational thought and their behavior held to accountability in the eyes of progressive, humanist culture.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  10. Keith

    I am glad to discover that there are some thinking folks among the Fundamentalists; I will have to check out this guy’s books.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Thinking folks? Fundamentalists? That's a contradiction of terms.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • Keith

        That was my belief too, until I read this article.

        September 16, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  11. Henry

    Jesus said in Matthew 25: 31-46, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    September 16, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  12. gordon peterson

    I think all religion is bull. every one says that the other is wrong. most people do not really live as their religion says to do. I was brought up catholic but decide along a go that it was not for me. I have attended almost every faith and found that all of them are about money and control of the masses. I have many muslim friends and we never discuss videos like the one that has spurred so much hate. stuff like this doesn't deserve any nod. tolerance is the key word to live by.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  13. akismet-d1ac97498bd026aa1b01a53c0f92a45b

    Again, just another attack against Christians from within.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • mjbrin

      still can't get that plank out of your eye, huh?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  14. pEvanB

    Islamaphobia. fear of muslims – I don't fear muslims I think that the ones that take what the koran says seriously are capable of being violent people. That is not fear that is wisdom that is understanding the situation.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • lewtwo

      AMEN

      September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • mjbrin

      you could say the same for the ones who take what the bible says seriously are capable of the same things,

      September 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  15. Parvez

    Brian – Thx for a very refreshing artical ! Both Anti-Semetism and Violence needs to Stop Now and let's move on with our lives.. Thx – Parvez

    September 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  16. Evangelicalphobia

    I am tired of the liberal media's Evangelicalphobia and Christianphobia and Republicanphobia! Has anyone noticed that free speech is stifled today by people insulting those they don't agree with as something-o-phobic? People like Brian McLaren are either blind to the intellectual arguments of Evangelicals, or they merely want to suppress them with insults.

    Unlike his erroneous charicature, I have been to a middle eastern country. I have given charity to poor children there, but I've also been hatefully shouted down because of my ethnicity and religion. I have read the Koran, and I have read some of the Hadiths. I have and have had Muslim friends.

    I still believe that Islam is a false and dangerous religion due to what is in the Koran and the Hadiths. Literal interpretation calls for the beheadings, of which only some have been covered by the media. In many middle eastern countries, the mosque spiritual leaders give fiery sermons against westerners, not just the west, as evil and worthy of death. There have been countless recent instances of Christians and non-Muslims being framed for death senteces, beheaded, killed in other gruesome manners, holy churches or other religious symbols being destroyed.

    Say what you want about Islamophobia, but you are blind if you don't see all the extreme violence around the Muslim world in the name of Islam. People will point out bombings of abortion clinics by Christans, but it is usually one crazy person acting alone, someone who might have murdered for other reasons just as easily. With Islam, there is mass agreement with the many recent acts of violence.

    Try this from the Koran: Cow 2:216 : Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it. but you may hate a thing although it is bad for you. God knows,, but you do not. Imrans 3:18: Believers, do not make friends with any but your own people. Table 5:51: Believers, take neither Jew nor the Christians for your friends. Repentance 9:5: When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them.

    I could go on and haven't touched the Hadith.

    How could Islam have taken the beautiful concept of a martyr as someone who sacrifices their life for their belief by submitting to unjust execution into homicide bombing?!

    September 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Daryl K. Tabor

      Amen!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • mjbrin

      wow, that is a big plank in your eye

      September 16, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Evangelicalphobia

      @mjbrin: Were you to provide some substance, you're post might actually forward discussion rather than stifling it.

      It is ironic that you bring up Biblical "planks" since doing so means that you are also judging. Regardless, theological neophytes often misunderstand the individual verses they use, and atheists don't even believe them.

      Mohammad told his followers not to be friends with non-muslims and even to kill them as well as apostates. In contrast, Jesus said to love your enemies.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  17. Ryan - Oklahoma

    Great article, Mr. McLaren.
    Makes me wonder which side of that fence I am on.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  18. Cynthia Noble

    The front page of CNN online stated "if enough evangelicals watch the film trailer...they may move beyond the tipping point" Seriously? I am an evangelical and I would never watch the above mentioned video because it is disrespectful and so ridiculous.I would ask you to show Christians the same respect that you are justifiably asking us to show Muslims

    September 16, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Ryan - Oklahoma

      Cynthia,
      How would you know what the video showed unless you heard it from the media. This is the media, right here. You are partaking of the media. What is the problem?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  19. common sense

    Religion is a personal thing. When it becomes part of the rule of law and mandated by government it is clearly not compatible with our way of life in or outside the country.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • common sense

      which also includes humanism as a religion

      September 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Humanism isn't a religion. It's a philosophy. There is no invisible, imaginary supernatural being involved.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  20. muslim2012

    Medieval Europe had kitchen and herb gardens, but it was the Arabs who developed the idea of the garden as a place of beauty and meditation. The first royal pleasure gardens in Europe were opened in 11th-century Muslim Spain. Flowers which originated in Muslim gardens include the carnation and the tulip

    September 16, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • pEvanB

      jim111506 you are a boob

      September 16, 2012 at 9:28 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.