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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. coocoochatoo

    Brain, I found it hard to finish your article. You speak about Right and wrong and about the duty of "so called church leaders to Love and respect all Beliefs. Not one Ever has done That!! You all seen to forget Every piece of writing on any Faith was done by man. Not some God. We as people make rules and to some extent enforce these rules. We seem to need to do the latter more often.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  2. Jeb

    So this author's point is that the poor behavior choices of masses of people across the Islamic world are the fault of evangelical Christians? Good grief CNN have you no standards any more?

    September 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • mjbrin

      really? that's what you got from this article? I didn't. what i got is that more is expected from Evangelical Christians than simply acitng like "poor me, i got blamed for something again" . First I don't think they got blamed for the whole problem just that their silence about condemning the film said volumes

      September 16, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • takawalk

      mjbrin again you talk about the silence of Evangelical Christians. They have been far from silent.

      September 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  3. Kerwyn

    When people stop using God (under whatever guise) as an excuse for killing, hate, separatism, racism or repression, then and only then will humanity as a whole begin to mature. This applies to ANY religion including Christianity and Islam.

    If you want to kill, at least be honest about it and say, I am a killer, I like to kill and leave religion out of it.

    More wars and murder has been done in the name of "God" then for any other reason. This includes Christians and Muslims alike. The fact that any Christian minister is espousing hate speech for any reason, simply tells me they are not a Christian and should not be listened to.

    This is also why I stopped attending ANY church years ago.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  4. Jane Peters

    It sounds like you are blaming Christians for these attacks. The ones with the "phobias" are the Muslims in the Middle East. I haven't seen the movie. Nor do I want to. The west is tolerant. The Middle East is not. This movie was made by a very small bunch of people. People probably determined to cause trouble. I wouldn't call them religious. There seems to be too much hate in the world.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  5. muslim2012

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cur_6aYs_7k&w=640&h=390]

    September 16, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  6. Paul

    Mclaren is a complete and total fu%^#@g idiot.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  7. Trials

    Chad

    @Tom, Tom, the Other One "You do know the difference between your God and the God of the Jews, don't you? Chad, your God is the triune God which includes God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God."
    @Chad "uh..
    wrong...

    you see, here's the thing so many athiests dont know

    Jesus IS the JEWISH messiah
    God, is His FATHER
    The Holy Spirit comes from the Father

    these are all old testament, and new testament, foundational truths.
    the only difference between Christians and Jews is that Christians believe that the Messiah has come, and Jews are still waiting for that return.

    really, if you are going to attempt to discuss biblical concepts, dont you think you should read it?

    Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Chad: "these are all old testament, and new testament, foundational truths.
    the only difference between Christians and Jews is that Christians believe that the Messiah has come, and Jews are still waiting for that return.

    really, if you are going to attempt to discuss biblical concepts, dont you think you should read it?"

    I think you approach the world with studied ignorance, Chad.

    The New Testament is useless to most Jews, Chad. The whole concept of a divine Messiah, much less the Trinity, is not recognized by them at all. The only people who do believe in your God, Chad, are people who have believed the New Testament and the teachings of the Christian church fathers.

    Your God of Abraham is simply not what they believe in, Chad. Do some reading Chad. Start with what the Jews are actually looking for in their Messiah. Then do some thinking on what Jews mean when they say "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one". Really, Chad, they don't and won't believe in your triune God.

    I'm curious. Do you believe that Jews must accept the "foundational truths" of your New Testament?

    September 16, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      We were also talking about Muslims. Like Jews they worship the God of Abraham as strict monotheists. I'm curious about them as well: Do you believe that Muslims must accept the "foundational truths" of your New Testament?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  8. Joe in Kalispell

    I have met and worked with several Muslims. As individuals they were OK. In a group they seemed to change for the worse.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • snowboarder

      that seems to be true for many ethnic and religious groups.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • cyberhackster

      The problem with the "moderates" - They don't want to clean up their own act – self police themselves – like some of the other races....Turn their back and blame Bush

      September 16, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • mjbrin

      that is true of many ethnic and religious groups, even down to some families

      September 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  9. northern light

    Hitchens was right.....religion poisons everything

    September 16, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Jane Peters

      He wasn't right. True religion is a good thing.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • snowboarder

      jane – everybody thinks their religion is the true religion. it is part of the indoctrination.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • John Sharp

      He was right. Religion is for the stupid. God doesn't work in mysterious ways, he just doesn't exist. If you have evidence of anything else please submit your findings to a rational person so we can investigate.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  10. Cuffy Meigs

    Every Moslem on earth, without exception, falls into one of two categories:

    1) INSANE, BLOODTHIRSTY KILLERS who murder at the behest of a dead pervert

    or

    2) enablers of INSANE, BLOODTHIRSTY KILLERS who murder at the behest of a dead pervert.

    This includes the Chief Apologizing Enabler in the White Mosque.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Blow Hole #34139

      What's the difference in a person who isn't muslim, and a person who "is" but never says that he is, never goes to mosque, never fulfills his duty to pray five times a day, never takes hajj, never advocates Islam, etc, and etc...?

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

      Exactly! !

      September 16, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • mjbrin

      they use to say that about blacks in America too

      September 16, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  11. Steve

    Why are we still talking about a crappy movie and not the people who were just murdered by Muslim extremists? Why is the headline on CNN blaming Christians for Islamaphobia because of crappy email forwards and youtube videos and not the people who just murdered Americans in the name of Islam? Are we all really that dumb?

    September 16, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • cyberhackster

      The way of the ku-ran – Lie, cheat and deceive to accomplish the goal of the islamist_parasite

      September 16, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • PJSW

      completely agree...lets blame nut jobs making movies for the death of innocent Americans. Leave it to CNN to have this on the COVER of their web site. Just a continuation of the Obama and left wing "we are sorry world, we suck" worldwide apology agenda. Makes me sick. This country was founded on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I don't see a lot of that in the Middle East? Who are the truly myopic and intolerant? Please.....

      September 16, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • mjbrin

      why? because you are one of the many who used the phrase "Muslim extremist"
      when the murders used a religion to back up their action

      September 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  12. barry

    Unreal...front page of CNN, "we are the problem with in the US". Let's let CNN change the story to be about the fear from within vs. our weak leadership in Washington DC – go live in the mid east or an EU country to the fools who buy into this warped view! Last time I will read, listen, or watch anything from CNN.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • mjbrin

      oh please, stop being so sensitive

      September 16, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  13. Jesus Follower- not religion rules follower

    I happen to have a few Muslim friends- In fact my employer is a Muslim- I am a Christian a follower of Christ- First off I would never watch this trailer... secondly I have learned and observed several of the Muslim faith who come into our office are kind and gentle people. There are those who claim to be Muslims who have taken the opposite approach and look for anyway they can to be destructive and it becomes a hate crime. There are those extreme Christians who do the same thing look at the extremest claimed Baptist Church group who protest at funerals they are far fetched and do not follow the gospel as intended. As Christians or followers we are encouraged to lift one another up and love them even if we do not agree with them we are to be the hands and feet of Christ.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Frank Ch. Eigler

      "There are those extreme Christians who do the same thing"

      Same thing, really? Tasteless protests vs mass riots, assassinations, terrorism? Form a backbone, make a judgement.

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

      thanks for the rational comment. Many, if not most, of these comments just prove the author's point. Those of us who know and associate with our Muslim neighbors know they are just like us.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  14. TA

    I am appalled by the transfer of the blame. Let us question the sanity of Islam. The question is where is the common sense and sanity in Islam. Ok let us assume there is Islamophobia among Evangelicals. Then where is the logic and the common sense in killing innocent people like the Ambasador in Libya?? I think we have to look for ways to investigate the cause of that caused the maniac mob that is like a rabid dog all the time something happens. Let us agree that there is vioelnce in the religion of Islam. I don't see peace in it at all.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • NG

      I agree wholeheartedly... Islam and violence seem to be synonymous... violence resulting from confusion within the ranks (tiny factions within Islam)... and hatred for Christians and Americans... remember a network reporter named Pearl?... beheaded... I fail to understand why Americans tolerate or consider these ideologues when it is obvious they do not mean us well... look at their behavior in the UK... look at Syria... I doubt there are any "good guys" in that fiasco... consider the "wannabees" in prison

      September 16, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Evelyn Connaway

      ALL AMERICANS SHOULD BE FORCED TO READ OUR HISTORY OF MAN MADE RELIGIONS. START WITH THE INQUISITION IN EUROPE AND OTHER NATIONS BEFORE PEOPLE SET FOOT ON THE SHORES OF AMERICA – THE TRUE HISTORY, NOT THE DIFFERENT BIASED REPORTS OF THE MAN MADE RELIGIONS TRYING TO HIDE WHAT THEY ACTUALLY DID TO HUMANITY. IT WAS A TIME OF HATE AND DESTRUCTION TAUGHT BY SUPPOSEDLY CHRISTIAN LEADERS FOR ALL OTHER PEOPLE THAT DIDN'T BELIEVE AS THE DID. THIS IS THE REASON FOR THE CONTINUED HATE AROUND THE WORLD FROM MANY OF THE NATIONS WHOSE BELIEFS THEY TRIED TO DESTROY. THEIR BRAND OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION WASN'T THE BRAND TAUGHT BY JESUS CHRIST. IT WAS A GROUP OF EVIL MEN WHO WANTED TOTAL POWER OF RELIGION OVER ALL MEN,
      THEY WERE GREEDY AND WANTED ALL WEALTH AND FOR ALL MEN TO BE SUBSERVIENT TO THEIR CHURCHES. IT CONTINUES TO THIS DAY. NOTE THE ABSOLUTE WEALTH AND CONTROL OF SOME DENOMINATIONS OVER THEIR FOLLOWERS. AND ALL THE MIXTURE OF POLITICS INTO THE CHURCHES.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • mjbrin

      American Christians murdered many Native Americans and justified it with their religionous beliefs
      but we too could fall back to the old ways too and justify it like the old days......

      September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  15. llatpoh

    Time for C N N to stop whitewashing the TRUTH and blaming others for the crimes of Islamists. The problem is not FREE SPEECH. The problem is Islamists trying to bully the West into enforcing their Sharia-based blasphemy laws in order to silence any criticism of I s l a m.

    The West has been following a multi-culturist/apologist agenda, and by apologizing, and persecuting those who exercised their right to Free Speech, has only served to encourage and embolden the Islamists.

    Time for the West to grow a spine, stop apologizing, and defend Free Speech.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Evelyn Connaway

      SORRY FELLOW THE MEN WHO CLAIMED TO BE CHRISTIANS STARTED THIS WAR TRYING TO DESTROY ALL MUSLIMS AND JEWISH PEOPLE AND OTHERS THAT DIDN'T BELIEVE AS THEY DID, IN FACT THE INQUISITION WENT ON FOR OVER 600 YEARS AND MILLIONS DIED DURING THEIR CRUSADE FOR POWER. IT REALLY CONTINUES IN THIS DAY AND TIME AND WE STILL TRY TO BLAME OTHERS THAT HAVE A DIFFERENT BELIEF. WE SEND MISSIONARIES ALL OVER THE WORLD TO TRY TO CONVERT PEOPLE TO OUR BELIEF – WE JUST DON'T KILL THEM IF THEY DON'T CONVERT. CAN ANYONE NAME ME ONE GROUP OF MUSLIM MISSIONARIES TRYING TO CONVERT CHRISTIANS OR ANY OTHER RELIGION TO THEIR BELIEFS.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • mjbrin

      so when is it "free speech" and when is it "hate speech"
      "free" when you say something duragatory about another's religion and "hate" when others say something about your religion?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • llatpoh

      The punishment, under shariah, for leaving Islam is death. Non muslims living in Islamist states are persecuted, murdered etc (eg Coptic Christians in Egypt). Respect and tolerance needs to be a two-way street. The Islamists demand one way – their way.

      Free speech is a sacred right – even when abused. Freedom requires it – once you restrict people from saying stupid things it is a slippery slope – who gets to define what can/cannot be said?

      The age of cultural apologism and moral realtivism is over. Time to call a spade a spade and deal with it.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  16. thishasgottawork

    I think I am seeing an uptick in Evangelicalophobia...

    September 16, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  17. Debbie B.

    Really? I am an Evangelical Christian. I watched the film for about 10 minutes (so I would know a little something about it before I talked about it). It was idiotic beyond belief and certainly not worth the taking of 4 lives. These Muslim extremists do NOT like us and this film was just another excuse to go on another killing spree. I am not Islmaphobic. I have a wonderful doctor who is Muslim and we talk a lot about the state of things. But you, like our administration and moderate Muslims, seem to not be able to understand that there are terrorists out there who want us dead or converted. All in the name of Allah.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  18. Alex

    Finally, a sane, adult evangelical that is expressing the feelings of the vast majority of Christians. Interesting that he is getting trashed by so many on this thread. Makes me think that only extremists write comments on threads like this.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  19. That's me

    Do not trust this writer. He obviously doesn't understand the psychology of the muslims and tribal mentality of people from the middle-east. Islam IS a threat. How much clearer can it be? So to have someone write a book and be interviewed as an expert extolling the virtues of islam proves him out to be highly suspect. He is a tool of muslims. It would be interesting to see the truth of his background.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • mjbrin

      so didn't things get really bad with this stuff after the berlin wall came down.....or do i have my history wrong?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • takawalk

      mjbrin> Go back to 700 a.d

      September 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  20. guy c

    mythologies can serve to organize our experiences and to transmit cultural and, often, worthy values. yet to treat unproven stories as "sacred" and to demand that others prop up ones belief, that is unjustified. it is better to eumlate jesus, or the buddha, or any other good person, than to erect totems and demand deference from others.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
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