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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. wakeupusa

    We are under attack, the attacker has clearly identified himself and his targets having launched a full-scale war against our civilization and our core values. We can't win this war without defining who we fight with. Mr. McLaren, like a newborn baby, sees the world upside down and fails to understand what's going on. In his naive and immature view, fighting islamophobia should be our priority. What would be the outcome of WWII if the allies fought with germanophobia, not with the Nazis and the country that was their host and homeland?

    McLarens, wake up and come to your senses!

    September 16, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  2. Brigance

    The level of immaturity shown in the Muslim response to this video illustrates the destructiveness of religion and how it prevents us from evolving socially and politically as a species. The next great human epiphany will be the realization that religion is all bunk. Until then we have to tolerate this ridiculous behavior that is frankly shown by most religions.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  3. orwellia

    Gee, Officer Krumpke....we're just misunderstood! the reason we Muslims burn, torture and kill is because those crazy evalgelicals send EMAILS WITH CAPITAL LETTERS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS saying mean things about us! This is clown journalism, bro!

    September 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  4. DM

    The comments on this article clearly show that organized religion (of any type) is the biggest threat to humanity. If someone truly believes they are doing "gods" work, then there are no bounds on the evil they can be capable of.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  5. muslim2012

    September 16, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  6. liberalismrequirestryanny

    Someone once said:
    "God by way of the Holy Spirit makes a person a Christian, not anything about the person or what that person does."

    So, how does a person know that any other person (or even himself) is a "Christian"?

    September 16, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Who cares?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Phoenix

      The changed heart, works of righteous, done not out of a simple piety, but because of our love for Christ, His life, and His commandments. See the book of James (it's a quick read :) ) email me at brianledesky @gmail.com for further questions :)

      September 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  7. whatever

    "My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose" Utterly Irrelevant, Mr. No One trying to cash in on these murders.

    MY TAKE? IT'S TIME FOR PEACE-LOVING MUSLIMS TO CHOOSE. SPEAK OUT AGAINST THESE ATTCKS, OR APPEAR TO BE IN APPROVAL.

    REALLY CNN, ENOUGH TERRORIST BUTTT-KISSING. FILMAKERS, EVANGELICALS, CHRISTIAN NUTS AREN'T THE ONES *****MURDERING***** OVER THIS YOUTUBE NONSENSE.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • JOeOnTheGo

      google them. Scores of muslim organizations have issued condemnations since september 11 2001. If Your lazy ass never bothered checking, but that doesn't mean they havent.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Sam

      You stop short of understanding that what happpend over there is a REACTION of what happened here. Meaning the terrorist here did something and peopole over there REACTED. So tell the ones in here to F off and all will be good. None of them is right. But you start something and get your REACTION.........SIMPLE.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  8. J. Matthews

    This guy, quite simply, has to be a clown in a three circus in his own head. Does he have any Coptic Christian friends in Egypt? When moderate Muslims are calling this outlandish reaction to a useless movie outrageous, why would this writer sit around and tell us to censor ourselves.
    And here is the best part – in all my years in an American evangelical setting, I have not heard one pastor say anything mean about Muslims. The exact opposite, in fact. We have been encouraged to reach out to Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. I am not white, if that helps Mclaren in any way.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  9. John Truett

    I totally agree with this author, and have been a fan of his since reading 3 of his other articles/journals over the years:

    "It's Time for the North to Realize That Lincoln Had No Regard for the South's, or John Wilkes Booth's, Rights"

    "It's Time for the Jews to Self-Reflect and Say to Themselves, 'Perhaps There is Something WE Are Doing That Upsets the Nazis So Much'"

    "It's Time for the Boys of State College, PA to Stop Making Themselves So Attractive To Former Penn State Assistant Football Coaches"

    All 4 articles were spot-on!

    September 16, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • timinfla

      you are insane :) I say that peacefully, nor do I want to act like a rabid dog and slit your throat

      September 16, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  10. K. P. F.

    Also, Hey dude.. That small percentage you are talking about.. the 10 percent that has been estimated? That comes out to be 100 million angry radical Muslims..

    September 16, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  11. Steve in Illinois

    I'm tired of being concerned about offending people that want to rule the world and kill others that don't submit to their god. The sooner islam is gone from the face of the earth the better.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Gil

      So true. Same for Christianity -just a different set ot superstitions. The fewer lunatics doing the violence and bigotry that their holey book dictates, the better.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  12. radiomankc

    The militants are nuts. And generally are uncivilized punks in more orderly muslim countries. They are our enemy. They are the enemies of their own fellow Muslims. But on a larger role, aside from violence, Islam isn't a tolerant 'religion'. We can talk about our own people until we're blue in the face. But that won't bring reason to the teaching and history of the followers of Mohammad. The author here is indeed naive.

    We are going to have to deal with them using military force. At some point. And the way Iran is acting, it's likely to be sooner,not later.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Gil

      Christianity was like that once too, and its folllowers did their share of killing. The bible even demands it, despite its flock brushing that under the carpet when they can get away with it.

      Best choice is no religion. Religion is for cowards and no god worth following would demand bigotry and violence such as the bible and koran both ask for in lurid detail. If you disagree, just pull the books out and prove it to yourself.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • takawalk

      Gil I see a lot of posters saying similar things. Can I point out one thing? Christians follow our Christ who we know as Jesus. The old testament and all of it's cruelty was based on law. This is hard but not impossible to explain to other people of faith or no faith. I won't try in this venue, but I will speak the keyword GRACE.

      September 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  13. John

    1. Muslim's believe their own book, the Quran.
    2. Muslim's riot and kill people if the Quran is discussed, because it's unacceptable to know what a Quran says.

    People and ignorance, a deadly combination.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • liberalismrequirestryanny

      John,

      I contend it is US that are (intentionally) ignorant of Islam. Their "holy" book is clear that it is right and proper to lie to further the cause of Islam (Hilary's State Department might want to remove it's head from the sand on that one).
      Their "holy" book also states that it is right and proper to murder the infidel who refuses to submit to Islam.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • abe

      You know I was chocked when I saw a CNN report about how Most of the us people ignore what is going on outside us, people like you, take a look

      September 16, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • abe

      liberalismrequirestryanny,
      do you have proof about what you saying, or just running your mouth

      September 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  14. ironage

    Isn't it AMAZING how the left-wing media can turn the present world-wide Islamic extremist movement into an anti-Christian article? The followers of Islam are now....and have been for many years.... wreaking havoc all across the globe....yet CNN twists everything around and publishes an article about "Islamophobia" in the Evangelical community. TRULY Amazing, CNN! You have really out done yourself! Sheeese!!

    September 16, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  15. John

    I am amazed that recent events over seas would cause CNN to post an article attacking evangelicals. I am an evangelical and I'm not sure what the "tipping point" is that this auther is referring to. My views on Islam have not changed due to recent events surrounding american embassies. Evangelicals are not the radicals that this author depicts them to be and the millions of americans that make up this faith should not be negatively stereotyped by the misinformed. I think that this author may be evangelicalaphobic.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  16. K. P. F.

    This is the most one sided piece of trash article I have ever read. No wonder CNN is going down the tubes.. Lets find fault with the Christians,, no mention of the horrors of Islamic Radicals.. No mention of Christian Phobia among the Muslims.. Oh yes, the Christians are at fault here.. No wonder this country is the way it is.. I don't know of any Christians wanting to go out and Kill Muslims.. Is there concern? Yes, of course,, Muslims are killing people.. There is need for worry... Oh my Gosh,, I'm concerned, I must have the phobia.. Help.....

    September 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • gary

      I agree. We need to stop making excuses and apologies for the behavior of radical Muslims. I am a christian, but if someone insults Jesus, I don't get my buddies together and blow up buildings and kill people. We need to stand together as Americans and not put up with this. I don't know what that means, but it sure isn't making apologies and excuses.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  17. Steve in Illinois

    Sorry, it's called free speech. Muslims can stick it where the sun don't shine.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  18. Al Russell

    I'm sorry to tell you Mr. McLaren, but it may already be too late. Organized Christianity today is so overrun by hate mongers that there may be no saving it. For people like me, an agnostic watching from the outside, Christianity has become synonymous with hatred and ignorance. Of course, I know that there are decent, kind Christians out there who legitimately care for their fellow man and follow the actual teachings of Jesus Christ, but their voices are in the minority now. You are making an attempt to hold back the tide and I commend you for that. More sane Christians need to speak out against those that would spread vitriol and sow dissension or the negative images of the faith will continue to spread.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • ilovethefalcons

      Yet the agnostic has no harsh words for the violent Muslims that protest and kill. There is no excuse for such violence. Coward.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • rlesliesnyder

      Well said, as an 'agnostic', watching from the outside. 'Christianity has become synonymous with hatred and ignorance.' That would be, Al, an opinion, and a fatuous assertion, at best. If you have offered your opinion in the context, let's say, Muslim vs Christian or Muslim vs Infidel, then you have at the very least, failed to consider the muslim side of the comparison. Muslims are not our friends, Al (that would be my opinion), and Islam is not in the US, to you know, get along and go along with us in the whole spirit of religious tolerance. See CAIR and the Muslim Brotherhood. They put their intentions right out there if you care to take a look.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • rlesliesnyder

      Hey Al: "Do you really want to start a conversation about individuals who have done great harm in the name of religion? I'd advise any Christian against opening that particular door." Look, you want to lay down before Islam, make the endless concessions to our freedoms and way of life to these followers of the religion of sand and fury, have at it. But don't make any concessions on my behalf, don't apologize or rationalize anything for me, because I'm against them, at every step.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  19. Al

    Islamaphobic? A phobia is an irrational fear. Last I checked, it was Muslims that blew up the WTC, the London subway, killed our diplomats and attacked our embassies. Gosh, I can't imagine why they'd have a "phobia" of muslims. Just because all snakes don't bite, doesn't mean people shouldn't be afraid of them.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Al Russell

      Do you really want to start a conversation about individuals who have done great harm in the name of religion? I'd advise any Christian against opening that particular door. Familiarize yourself with the history of Christianity, and even more recent events, before you start a flame war. It would be rank hypocrisy for you to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few, yet try to excuse Christianity for the actions of it's own terrorists and hate mongers. Think before speaking. It saves everyone time.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • CommonSense

      Author sounds like he must be in love with a muslim man and or woman trying to make points with them he is offensive unamerican and a poir writer abusing facts and no facts. He says he is part of the evangelical tribe what a fraud to claim you are part of something you hate and attack to maje your words sound better ..CNN again weakens this country zero nationalism. Come on! American bodies not cold yet and he uses words like shining the light on Muslim sensitivities? American families are crying for dead relatives. Thus guy is evil. Hey you extreme atheists and agnostics who have morphed in past few years from doubting and self denial to haters of faith better choose USA and shut up. God bless America.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  20. Richard B Long

    How about the reality of Islam Extremism. If a video about any other faiths prophet went out, there would be no violent reaction such as this. With Islam, violent killings and protests. Some say "Blame the people who do this and not the religion". I say if you, as a religion, tolerate this and allow it to continue, you are just as guilty. Its not a phobia, it is a legitimate reaction to the consistent faith based violence and suppression of women and human rights that this religion tolerates at the very least and often times condones.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:16 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.