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.
My experience with evangelicals does not match the author's experience. I am definitely a Christian evangelical, and I just do not see islamophobia in my circle. It would be interesting to see an actual research study on the issue. I wonder if the percentage of radicals in both faiths is not rather closely matched.
Theauthor very clearly states that the islamophobic portion of the evangelical community is a tiny but vocal minority. If that is the case then itis not so surprising that you may not see it in your circles
WAs there some hallucinogenic in everyone's cereal this morning? Why is anyone focusing on this existence or non-existence of Islamophobia within christian circles? MUslims, mainstream MUslims, have killed 4 people and are losing their collective minds over the film of one probable nut. IT's not about Christianity!! At this point it's not eeven about religion.! If you are of the West, today they want you dead.
This guy is stupid. How can you defend these people that kill and pillage under the guise of a movie?! It's time to wake up, the movie had nothing to do with this. I am sick of Muslims they are sketch balls and I find it difficult to trust a single one. I'm sick of Americans that feel bad for being themselves, success is seen as an evil and the only thing that will do for people with high lq's (liberal quotients) is the downgrading of ourselves to be on level pegging with everyone else around the world, that's not the America I want for my children. Obama has to go, he cannot be given 4 more years to rule us to ruin.
This must have been difficult to type, what with those small eye slits through your hood. Yep, let's just hate people for their religion. If we're going to do that, by all means let's start with the Christians, a group that's been responsible for more bloody violence than any other throughout history. And no, I'm not a muslim.
Frankenstein, your head is up your backside, my hatemongering friend. Obama is not a Muslim no matter how hard you try to make him one. He is black and you are racist. You hate him because you hate blacks. Your Bible reeks of hatred. I hope your children never get the America you want for them.
Your first sentence seems like a better description of yourself than the author.
mmmm BlindSquirrel ok I guess the name explains this distortion of history.
Peteyroo Let us forget that he is a wanna be Harvard indoctrinated lawyer, with no idea that most of his policy's create a unsustainable role for bigger government. That he has not a clue how to govern in away that promotes private sector jobs. Well I will stop there. If I object to his policy's it must be because he is " wanna be" black man. NOT
Yeah – frank is the stupid one. So obvy.
the largest problem in the middle east is not Islam. It is poverty and ignorance (due to a lack of education). ***********Wile on the subject of ignorance, did everyone posting here get an "F" in history. Christians have been far more violent than Muslims. The holy wars, the inquisition, millions died in fights between Protestant and catholic, witch trials..... Christians invaded two continents, killed 95% of the population and forcefully converted (convert or be killed) the few who lived to Christianity.
yo T, that's why its called history. Christians are not a very violent people anymore, it is the 21st century and we are still dealing with apologists like you. You make me sick.
The terrorists of 911 were from wealthy families. Explain that.
Frankenstein, I see you're still full of crap, my ignoramous friend. Jesus said to love your enemies. Is that what you're doing?
T...xianity changed. it modified itself along the way.... islam must do the same. it must change or it must be destroyed.
religion is the cancer of humanity. islam is a great big fat nasty malignant tumor that needs to be extricated, violently. enough is enough.
My charge against you:
You are an ignorant hater who has already attacked people based solely upon your own prejudiced imagination.
If you're going to slander an entire large group of people, you might want to learn what it is that makes a person a member of that group, lest you attack people for something DONE BY SOMEONE ELSE ENTIRELY.
So, here's your chance to defend my charge against you.
What makes a person a "Christian"?
Stop bringing up centries old history- its 2012- these radical islamists are like rabid dogs ready to behead someone over a f in movie
islam is a cancer, it is a religion of violence and hate
God by way of the Holy Spirit makes a person a Christian, not anything about the person or what that person does.
To all sincere folks:
Read Kempo's quotes.
He's clearly stated that his position is that all religions except his (God-hater) should be destroyed.
Typical liberal hypocrisy.
allow me to re-iterate.... i am ANTI-THEIST. ALL religion is the childish product of diseased delusional minds. there are absolutely NO gods – and ALL religion impoverishes humanity. religion is the number one cause of division on this planet and it is the largest enemy of reason. thank you. carry on.
What makes me a Christian is the teachings of Jesus. He too spoke against religious zealots, and in return these zealots convinced the Romans to crucify him.
I am an atheist, so I'm really not swayed by religious arguments for or against Islam. But I do watch the news and am aware that while many evangelicals may not like it, American principles of freedom of religion protect Muslims in their worshipping here in the US. Not true in Saudi Arabia, where you can go to jail for practicing the Christian faith.
I am frequently frustrated at the Christian right's war against women's right to choose, but you'd have to be blind not to see the difference between how our Christian culture treats women and how the Islamic culture treat theirs. I don't read stories about Christian honor killings much or stonings. Do you?
And perhaps most apropos to current events, while I don't really care whether someone decides to deride the Islamic faith in an apparently poorly made movie, I very much value our culture's understanding that the producers of that movie have the same rights of free expression as anyone else - including Muslims. And atheists, like me. On the other hand, you can get arrested and condemned for blasphamy - and then jailed, flogged, stoned to death - for preaching any faith other than Islam in some Islamic countries.
The radical - shall we say, hysterical - reaction in the Islamic world to this movie merely reinforces, for me, that there are some very basic differences between Islamic and Christian cultures when it comes to fundamental human rights and respecting opposing points of view. Now, some may say that I am confusing culture with religious belief. But cultural values are shaped by religious values, and surely do reflect those values. And regardless of one's faith - or absence of faith - simple fair-mindedness and a basic sense of justice present a very strong argument that runs counter to the suggestion that evangelicals and the Christian right - along with many other Americans who are wary of Islamic values - are wrong in their assessment of Islamic culture.
Actions speak for themselves, and should be harshly condemned when they are unfair, unjust, or occasionally medieval in their barbarism. Not on the basis of religious prejudice, but on self-evident, fundamental human rights.
Your religion's (Atheism) pride-filled hypocrisy is the most dangerous of all.
Strong case for FOX NEWS. Islam is not tolerant of any other opinion other than sharia. Islamophobia = logic based on the data
Mr. McLaren, you miss the point of what muslims are attempting to do. They want YOU to be a mindless subject to islam and the local imam. They didn't crucify christians in Egypt but they did kill christians in rioting. Any little excuse to injure or kill is good enough. Phobia? No Mr. McLaren, islam is a real threat. You are the one that is myoptic and phobic. At least here in America you can give you opinion without threat of death.
Kangeroo, you are correct to say Islam is a real threat. Don't forget to mention that Christianity is also a real threat.
islam is a disease, a plague, upon mankind.It must be contained for the sake of our children. Militant religion> God help us.
Angie, Islam and Christianity are both threats. It will be a glorious day when they are both driven from the feeble, violent, hate-filled minds of their adherents.
Peteyroo So I can better understand, why do you consider Christianity such a threat? I probably know the answers but I don't want to be a ass and assume I do.
believe in Allah or we will cut your head off wilth a sword- pretty basic religion of fear. except the sword will be replace by nukes one day.....big problem.
for hex-sake how hard is it to actually READ the koran???? I promise if you take the time to do it, you'll see that these "extremists" , however delusional they may be – are DEVOUT muslims, submitting to the will of allah. it's foolish to ignore this. yes – our xians in general are moderate and don't follow the book of leviticus – but damn people! these muslims are doing as they are admonished. islam is a religion of peace ONLY TOWARDS OTHER MUSLIMS!!! - this isn't hyperbole or ad-hominem – it's the truth. why is there soooooo much wilful ignorance over this topic? why are there so many apologists??? it's time to get real people. yes – islam is disgusting – the adherents are vile – it's steeped in ignorance – but no-one has to coddle this sort of thing. love and peace and kind words WON'T put a stop to it. free speech isn't going away – and I call for a bombardment of anti-islam rhetoric across the globe. we won't be bullied or cowed. deal with it.
Very Christian of you
let me be clear about this.... i am ANTI-THEIST. i despise religion and delusional thinking. it's all mental illness – and by far – on this planet the number one thing that causes the most human suffering is mental illness. religion impoverishes all of humanity, it causes division and does us absolutely NO justice – at all. while muslim extremists may be something a bit unpalatable – xianity isn't far off. for humanity to advance we REALLY need combat this.
The video was a factually accurate portrayal of historical events as described in the muslim texts. Yes it had low production standards. And it did portray mohamet in a bad light. But how do you put in a good light the murder by drawing in quarters of a 100 year old woman. And he did "reveal from allah" that it was ok for him to marry his daughter in law Zainab. And he did murder Kinnana of Khaybar and took his wife to bed the same night. How exactly do you put that in a good light? And what about little Aisha? Did he or did he not wed her ad a very tender age?
What the anger is about is that non muslims aren't supposed to talk about these things. Make no mistake that pious muslims celebrate all this within their own community even as they riot when outsiders recount the same events. . It's in the qur'an after all. Or hadiths. Or sira. Or did you think they repudiate these acts of their prophet? Most do not. Most celebrate.
Enough with the kumbaya already. And enough lies. The film portrayed historical events. Period.
While I make no case for chld marriage, one should interpet these events in the light of the West's history. On 31 October 1396, at the age of six, Isabella married the widower King Richard II of England in a move for peace with France. Although the union was political, Richard II and the child Isabella developed a mutual respectful relationship. From Wikipedia. Many such alliances were political or ways of providing for daughters. This is jnot an isolated incident either. Context is important.
Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone. Just as I thought. No stone throwers in the Christian community either.
This is about freedom of speech. And it shows that Islam is intolerant of the wests choice to respect its own laws and values. The west is at war with Islam but it is not our choosing. The followers of Islam have brought the war to us because they don't agree with free secular societies and would rather see us dead. We are going to have to come to terms with this fact and act accordingly.
Christianity is likewise intolerant.
robert – i appreciate your comments – but i have to add – it's not just islam that hates freedom and liberty.... oh no – there's a whole body politic of xians out there who want to legislate their morals into all of society. while it is plain to see that islam is intolerant – so is xianity.... xians just aren't so violent about it all.
I am a christian, I do not at all agree with that video, I could not get beyond just a few minutes of it myself BUT that however does not justify even one life and that's what I want the leadership of this country to stand up and say instead of apologizing for the stupid video demand the violence stop against our people, our American people, not our democrat people, not our republican people but our American people. We are a country divided against ourself and we can never succeed if we are against ourselves.
ugh. You begin sounding like you're going to say something moderately sane ... then you reveal yourself to be exactly what you're pretending not to be. Just as bad as the rest of them.
Tell me, how many times have you heard of Jews or Christians flying planes into buildings? I'll tell you, Never! Wake up people, Muslims want to kill us!!
Does a U-Haul outside of the Oklahoma City Federal building ring any bells? Don't think that was a blue eyed blonde haired muslim.
Sadly, I see much sympathy here for the very people that, if given the chance, would gladly draw and quarter and behead, publicly might I add, every one of the individuals expressing that sympathy and support of those very 'misunderstood muslim'. I would suggest you gird your "sword of sympathy and understanding" and think about how you would feel were you in the midst of being overrun by these radicals and your fate left to their discretion.....I am pretty sure you would not be so 'liberal' in your thinking then. I think what it really gets down to is human nature. Given the chance to display either hate for one another, or love, the majority of us humans would display reprehensible behavior and choose the 'dark side'....THIS is our nature. Anyone who would argue this apparently does NOT watch the news.....or at least pay attention to it. For those of you claiming to understand why the radical muslims.....really, these are everyday people and not 'radical' at all....in fact, no more radical than you yourself are when cheering for your favorite team...and look at some of the brawls THAT leads to......are so angry, think of it like this, if christians rioted every time some movie or film or public statement or book came out mocking christianity, well, it would be the crusades all over again. The fact is, you are SCARED....THAT is why you pronounce your support of and sympathy for a religion that would celebrate their god by killing others. It is always disheartening, as an american, to see the support of other supposed americans, for ANY behavior such as that recent behavior that has caused the loss of life of your fellow americans, of YOUR military members (these are the men and women who have agreed to die, and who HAVE died, to give you the right to be able to choose to say as you wish and rally around your cause......PEACEABLY mind you). America is STILL the greatest country in the world.....americans ARE being attacked.....don't believe it, ask the family of the marines who were recently killed at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province....or perhaps, worse yet, the family of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Ask THEM how they feel about the pictures of those wonderful muslims dragging his body through the streets for their display against America....not against any religion such as judaism or christianity, but against AMERICA and AMERICANS. Wake up folks, America is INDEED under attack. Soon enough, these 'radicals' will be bringing it to YOUR doorstep. Let us see how 'liberal' you are with your sympathy then. My guess is you will then seek out your conservative neighbor....you know, the one whom you believe to be 'out of control' because he/she exercises their second amendment rights and has armed themselves for self defense. In the meantime, I really do wish we could help you get a better understanding of muslims.....by dropping you right in the middle of Sudan, or Libya, or Iran, or any other hotspot full of those 'poor misunderstood muslims'.....you deserve it.
John Q, what point are you trying to make?
OutdoorJohn, we are indeed under attack–from the Christian Right. Evangelicals want to condem everyone and everything not absolutely on the straight and narrow with their beliefs. That includes Muslims, Jews, liberal Democratics, moderate Republicans, Mormons, and of course their favorite whipping boy–atheists.
I wish the violence obsessed on both sides would finally break lose and eat each other alive so we can set about the business of bringing some peace and quiet to this planet.
Fundamentalist nutcases of all stripes are boring and a block to progress.
What is wrong with you bigoted so called Christians? You should be up in arms! Your hate spewing DemiGODS should be preaching disgust and sending out burning and lynching mobs from their pulpits for even entertaining the thought that a DEMON inspired CULT such as the murdering (see Google Mormon massacre) polygamists, child molesting pedophiles called MORMONS could possible be running for POTUS.
If a WHITE so called Christian was running against a Satan worshiping CULT such a the Mormons, with a Catholic side kick, you and your version of Jesus would fall off your CROSSES, but NO. The fact that a Christian BLACK man is running against a WHITE MORMON (cult in your book) is all good.
I have and still sit in a pew every Sunday and listen to how The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Islam, Christian Science, Scientology, Jehovah Wittiness, Buddha, and on and on and on are nothing but CULTS and going to hell.
Wow – Let’s all agree to split this country up and each group go the separate ways.
Take a deep breath or try meditation.
Jesus called – he wants his religion back.
My invisible pink unicorn called. She wants to talk to Jesus. Can you give me his number?
These violent demonstrations and killings were committed by gentle and kind muslims, right? These people were trained from childhood 'an eye for an eye". If you don't believe it just read Sharia law. Is it not time for another crusade to stop this carnage?
No they were commited by poor fanatical factions who use these events to get try to drum up support against their perceived enemies. The fact that they are muslims is secondary. Since there are Millions of muslims who don't participate in this, would have to say this was similiar to our farthest right extremists. They don't really represent many people, but they sure do get a lot of press.
Be careful my fellow Christians and be wary of pointing out the splinter in anothers eye while failing to see the log in your own eye. This is not a judgment merely a reminder and a suggestion. Did you miss the writers point when he said" The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge." In order to claim to be a Christian one must follow the precepts of Christ and not just pick and choose which one wishes to follow and think by doing some of the teachings one can then claim to be Christ like. Where is our tolerance and compassion for those who despise us. Christ turned his cheek and I don't see many cheeks being turned. Christ had faith that whatever trial he was experiencing God's will be done and he did not choose to judge or retaliate but he did forgive any and all. We need more compassion and love in this troubled world not more war, hatred masked in piety, and pointing of fingers in the blame game.
Satan's greatest trick was convincing man he didn't exist don't the the Great Deceiver push your buttons by using the very teaching that transcend our baser desires and promote and nurture God's Loving presence on this world. Be Peace, Be Love and do unto others as you wish done to you....even when you are at your most unbecoming
There are ZERO religions that are able to keep individuals from interpreting the religion individually. Zero.
If you want people to have a monolithic ideology, you will have to raise a bunch of clones identically and force their brains to think the same way about everything.
Religion uses terrorism to coerce the believer into following, but the personal interpretation will always be different from everyone else's. There are no "true" Christians any more than there are "true" Scotsmen.
Claiming that there is one way to be a Christian is to deny all the other ways that are being used by each individual.
Your argument hinges on the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.
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.