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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. muslim2012

    September 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • timinfla

      so whats your point?
      pork fat rules

      September 16, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  2. AvdBerg

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

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

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

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

    Consider the truth about Evangelicals, Christianity and Islam and all the others and ask yourself the following question.

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

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

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

    September 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Joe

      Everyone: Just report abuse on AvdBerg spam and CNN will block him eventually.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • AvdBerg

      Joe

      So, what is your message to the people of this world?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  3. Gary Meyers

    The whole premise of your article is wrong. The violence in the Mid East is not because of this video, only an excuse!

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

      Gary is absolutely right about this. Every time someone creates something that is insulting to these people, someone dies. This isn't the first time this has happened and it won't be the last. The creators of South Park are still threatened every day over a cartoon! At some point people need to wake up and stop explaining their violence away as simply being a misunderstood people. They aren't misunderstood. They want to kill everyone that doesn't see things the way they do. Be it Christian, moderate Muslims, or anyone else that doesn't conform to their belief system.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  4. Christo

    A silly agnostic thought from aside....Its amazing how Muslims seem to take their religion so much more seriously than Christians yet Christians think they'll be at the gates of heaven (with Buddhists, Atheists, agnostics et al) being judged for entrance while scratching their heads wondering how they missed out on the "true religion". All that praying to Mecca for naught. All the Christians will be behind the gates chanting, "na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey goodbye.."

    Fairy tails have such a profound effect on our world.

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

      Christo, I like your style!

      September 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • Christian

      We are saved by grace, not our own perfection. There is no entrance exam. There is only he excepting of a free gift and no human work will be accepted to get in. You do not earn your way in.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Christo

      thanks Christian for the 10000th interpretation of that process. You should collaborate with all of the denominations including Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons and the Amish to come up with a collective consistent viewpoint as they all differ. There will be some group behind the gates of heaven cheering "see WE were right, yay us!"

      September 16, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • majcitizen

      How do you know? Because an old book written by men hundreds of years after Jesus Christ lived said so? To state with certainty something which you do not know is called lying.

      September 17, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  5. Melvin Painter

    Typical CNN BS.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  6. Christian

    I am not arrogant for thinking that Jesus was right and Mohammad was not. I am saying Christianity as described by Jesus in the Bible is the only correct religion. I did not write the Bible so it is not arrogant for me to say it is correct. It is logically impossible for Islam and Christianity to both be correct.

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

      what about Judaism? Jesus was a Jew. How does that work out?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      It IS arrogant for YOU to think that YOUR choice is the correct one while ALL others are wrong .. pride is a deadly sin and cometh before a fall.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Christian

      if you understand that Jesus is the Jewish prophet then you are correct. He came to fulfill the Jewish law.

      Read Isaiah 53.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Christian

      If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses, Wrong. It is not pride that makes my choice. "You have not chosen me, I have chosen you" - Jesus Christ.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  7. Unafiliated

    This article is like one big troll post. I'm an Atheist, but this strikes me as so offensive to Evangelical Christians. Yes, Evangelical Christians are arrogant SOBs. But giving a pass to Muslims as somehow misunderstood is beyond reason. Every nation on earth that is ruled by Islamic Law would obliterate the US in a second if they had the power... and there would be raucous celebration in the streets in all the middle east and in Muslim neighborhoods in Europe and Asia. Evangelical Christians spew hate too, but not violence... and that is the critical difference between Free Speech and Jihad.

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

      yes EC's can be just as crazy in their views, just look at the wellsboro church folks....but is is only radical islamists that act like rabid dogs ready to slit your throat

      September 16, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Centrist and Realist

      This seems to be the only intellectually honest note on here (to include the article itself). Well said.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • beedizzle

      Very well spoken and absolutely correct.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  8. MeZ

    Clearly nobody wants to take the high road or follow the "turn the other cheek" Christian way in regards to the heated situation, nor to admit to their own ethnocentricity and prejudice. The Muslims delivered swift retribution for the insult to the most sacred person in their religion, and now the demand is for counter-attack. There are no words of peace, love and understanding–the words of Jesus–that will ring true in anyone's heart right now.

    Perhaps a year from now, some of the people here might regret calling for blood and lowering their standards to the same Middle Eastern eye-for-an-eye mentality. But right now? War is what people want... albeit most of them want it from the safety of their air-conditioned living rooms and from behind their computers, rather than joining the military and becoming a physical, active part of the solution (rather than sit back and be just another whiner).

    The filmmakers themselves proved their cowardice and are now in hiding... what of their anti-Islamic beliefs? Now that people are rioting and killing, you'd think this would be the prime time for them to step forward, rally their supporters and say, "See? We TOLD you the Muslims were animals!" Instead, all their efforts resulted in letting other Americans die under the excuse of their film, and they refuse to even speak to the media now and reaffirm their actions. Cowards, each of them.

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

      I am prior service myself. I don't call for war, but I would gladly stand up and fight for the rights of all Americans to be bigots if they want. We must remember that our principles dictate that as a nation, we defend our people, regardless of whether or not we agree with their opinions. You have as much right to be an Atheist, Agnostic, Wiccan, Christian or whatever you want in this country, and to express yourself in that manner. When our fellow countrymen are killed over someone else's expression of their opinion, it's going to anger some people. It would be my opinion that instead of killing more people, we do what we should have done years ago. We pull all foreign aid to these countries, regardless of the relationship we have with the gov's in power within them. It's the general populace that dislikes America, and wants to punish all of America, over the voice of an individual. That being what it is, we should stop feeding the fire, and helping these people with the resources to stay alive when we have so many problems on our own home front. The logical response to such a wide violent retort to a video? Pull the aid. Make them fend for themselves if they hate Americans so much. God knows we could use the money elsewhere anyway.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  9. Easygoing7

    The author of this article is a Mo Ron. I had no problem watching this video. He would have us believe it is our fault that these muslim's are murdering!

    September 16, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  10. Mike

    Simply put...two very different cultures that will never blend. Personally, I align with Christian beliefs. Men with thick snarly beards, wearing dirty white gowns, missing teeth and angry faces filled with excuses to act like barbaric animals forcing women into submission, children into hatred and brothers into bloodshed only fortifies my belief that we will never come to peaceful terms with these barbarians. Should the day ever come, I am prepared to do my part to rid the US of one more aligned with Islam and make room for one more aligned with Christianity.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  11. Drewdoc

    Brian McLaron is correct. There are parallels between cultural warriors within Islam who reject modernity, reason, and social scientific evidence to advocate a religious ideology that fosters hatred of non-Muslims and cultural warriors within Christianity who reject modernity, reason, and social scientific evidence to advocate a religious ideology that fosters hatred of non Christians. Look at the comments of many American Christians to these articles. It is shocking to see how many want to engage in genocide of one sixth of the world's population to "eliminate the cancer of Islam." Does this not resemble Al Qaeda's worldview???

    September 16, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • Tentative Infidel

      Not true. Islam has not reformed, it shows no sign of any possible reformation at this moment. If does reform, it cannot be Islam. Massive problems ensue.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  12. Dino

    Tolerate us as we plot to kill you! That's islam. They are all murderers.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  13. cl

    "We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected." Right, because the American evangelicals are the ones running around destroying embassies. This is more of CNN stirring things up for the sake of ratings/website hits. The "Belief" Blog does nothing but bash Christianity while championing agnosticism and defending Islam.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  14. Placidly

    This week, Obama reassured Egyptian President Morsi that he “rejects efforts to denigrate Islam.” Why did he need to say so?
    Does he also reject efforts to denigrate Coptic Christians?
    What about Jews?
    Did he mention that? Has he given that speech? Repeatedly?

    September 16, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  15. Brian is a Dolt

    September 16, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  16. Tentative Infidel

    Islam has all the elements of a psychological disorder combined with a fascist political movement. What a wonderful way to live.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  17. lindaluttrell

    And strangely, all three religions claim Abraham as the source of their faiths...

    September 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  18. beedizzle

    Why is everyone defending the actions of these people? Why are Americans Islamaphobes because we don't like to be killed over a movie that someone retard made? What sense does this make? Why does the entire left continue to defend this crap? I don't understand why this continues to get downplayed. Radical Islam preaches "Join us or Die" and preaches death to anyone that insults the religion. And this is something that we have to tolerate because it's in their believe system? We have a double standard when it comes to tolerance in this world. If you're Muslim, the message is that it's ok to kill people from the same country or region as someone who makes a video that insults your religion. If we can equal out the standards here, we could justify the annexation of some mid east countries because they burn our flag, or insult my religion.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  19. Brian is a Dolt

    September 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  20. zap

    Wow, I am just amazed at 35 pages of this drivel.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Rogue

      I'm not. CNN does this pretty much every Sunday. They post a controversial sort of article about some aspect of religion and hope that it generates lots of comments and click-dollars from their advertisers.
      This one might drum up sales of the guy's book, too, but he is clearly stupid, so I doubt it.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:53 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.