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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. dm

    Its a damn shame that the author along with people on this forum fall to see the point of view from a Christina living in a Muslim region. Does anyone have a relative who's a Christian living in any of the Muslim countries? Or are you a Christian from that region that left your country and home because your muslim government and neighbors kicked you out?? Well, wake up folks, that is the reality of the Christians living in the Middle East. Do some research and you will know how the Christians are being treated over there... but beware, it isn't pretty. So, don't portray the Muslims as "peacemakers" or people that respect other religions because THEY DON'T.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Seyedibar

      No religion respects another. The entire point of religion is to exclude others from the make-believe club. I don't feel for christians anymore than I feel sympathy for a muslim.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • dm

      @Seyedibar – you missed my point.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  2. Fredsta

    All the Haters of the world are of the same ilk—Islamophobes, Jihadis, Shabiha, Sectarians, etc.

    They are like a bucket of crabs, and none can climb out!

    September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  3. CommonSense

    More ridiculous false statements from the money making Religion business representatives.
    He presents the idiotic "Islamaphobia" word again. As if fearing Islam and it's horrible dictatorships around the world is irrational. No, fearing Islam and religion is not a "phobia". It's a real fear based on the actions and living conditions in societies which are ruled by the primitive, sadistic intolerance of Islam. Places, where freedom of speech is considered a crime and little girls are still sold to middle age men.

    Middle eastern countries are mostly all Islamic dictatorships. That's right, they are religious Islamic dictatorships where people are executed for their opinions and for things such as "sorcery"!
    Of course the evangelicals Christian are hypocritical criminals and fools. But they really worship money more than anything, so they aren't killing anyone in the streets of America yet.

    "You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate."
    Yes you can. This is exactly what religion does. God and Greed is Christianity, God and Hate is Islam. Or, switch the words around. It's all the same old religious hypocrisy and greed and lack of responsibility.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  4. Rob

    You won't see this POS defending christians against constant hollywood attacks. This oxygen thief is too busy apologizing to muslims.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Reality Check

      Thanks for a breath of fresh air

      September 16, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • dm

      @Rob – thank you for writing the truth!

      By the way, has anyone seen all the garbage the Muslims have created and posted on YouTube about the Jewish people? You don't see the Jewish people going crazy killing people and burning down building, know do you??

      September 16, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Seyedibar

      @dm, Ever hear of a region called Palestine?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • dm

      @Seyedibar – well, if you read any history books, after WW11, the Jewish people were given back their land (small piece of land) in the Middle East by the UN (and rest of the world). Instead of the Palestinians living in peace with their new neighbors they were greedy and demanded to go to war – which lasted 7 days. At the end, Israelis end up with more land. So, what's your point??

      September 16, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  5. Peter McKenzie

    Could have picked a better representative of evangelicalism than Brian McLaren. While he makes some excellent points, and I agree with much of what he says, he also is know for many false doctrinal beliefs.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
  6. No religion thank you

    Imagine there's no heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people living for today

    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people living life in peace

    You, you may say
    I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
    I hope some day you'll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people sharing all the world

    You, you may say
    I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
    I hope some day you'll join us
    And the world will live as one

    -John Lennon

    September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • anonymous

      If there was a corrupt dictator who wanted to gain power and authority of several millions of people. and he used christianity as a ploy to get people to do what he wanted by brainwashing them for centuries then the social disorder that would result from that would have nothing to do with the religion. it would be the oppression and just overall culture.

      IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION. the middle easterners don't have a concept of reasoning and logic!

      how about learning and educating yourselves about the history in the middle east from an UNBIASED source?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • takawalk

      anonymous> I agree. I am coming to the conclusion that this is more about government systems being controlled by theology than religion in and of itself.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  7. Angela Dashiell

    Associating all Muslim's with terrorists is like associating all Christians with Westboro Baptist Church. Stop it already!

    September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Reality Check

      You must be married to a turban head

      September 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Christian

      We should be open to the idea that some are not going to do what the Qur'an says. Right.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Dinesh Sharma

      Stop the false accusations already! No one is associating all muslims with terrorists. Everyone here knows that its always a percentage of loonies who cause problems. HOWEVER, two problems. ONE – Among muslims that percentage is very large compared to other sects, religions, cults, countries. TWO – The problem is not just fringe elements but the state itself is abusive and intolerant in muslim countries. Just look at what Pakistan did to a young illiterate, christian girl for blasphemy before she was thankfully exonerated. Others have been lynched for blasphemy without a trial. Just look at what Saudi Arabia does to people who worship other gods in public or try to convert someone. You must be blind if you cannot see the danger this religion poses to the things that we hold dear – freedom, tolerance, equality. Islam is the most intolerant of religions. Read the Koran sometimes. Its full of references to what should be done to non-believers. Keep your mind open, but not so open that your brains fall out.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • dm

      @Dinesh Sharma – When I read that article about the little girl in Pakistan, it broke my heart. The sad thing is, there are many stories like this daily coming from that region but the media will never run the stories. People have to research and find other sources outside the US media for information.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  8. anonymous

    These are some seriously brainwashed and oppressed people that have had leaders/dictators that utilized religion as a ploy to gain power.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  9. Reality Check

    Many people have no understanding of Islam and just think of it as another harmless religion like Buddhism. Learn Arabic and listen to the Hate that is spewed out every Friday after "prayers" to the moon god.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • dm

      To add to your point, I would encourage everyone to take a few minutes and review a clip on YouTube created by Dutch filmmaker about the truth of evil Islam that is spread all over his country (Netherlands). The movie is called Fitna. It's an eye-opener.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  10. Victoria

    Why when Islamic zealots attack to we roll out other belief systems to blame...? An offensive film is no excuse for murderous intolerant behavior. The film maker had every right to express his beliefs and he did so without resorting to violence. It's ok to poke fun at the Buddha, there are countless Jesus jokes. We're allowed to criticize out religious and political leaders in this country. It helps to keep them in line. The world is being threatened into tiptoeing around one belief system – or else.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Issie

      You had better walk the mile and see the short then make your comment. It is comments like yours that are ill advised and indicate that you are not your own thinker.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • dm

      @Issie – I've personally seen the movie (twice) and it was quite funny. The filmmaker didn't portray mohammad in a bad light, but only spoke the truth. He had many wives and his youngest wife was ONLY 6 or 9 years old... that is gross!!

      Wake-up, Islam is evil.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  11. mtr300

    I'm a catholic so on a micro basis I can turn the other cheek, but I am also a part of the warrior class and with that comes responsibility in a macro sense. Now I am forced to fight extremest muslims for the rest of my natural life to ensure my great-grandchildren will never live under anything even close to Sharia. How sad...as a kid all I wanted was world peace, yeah–real stupid of me I know..as an adult I realize it will regretably never happen.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Seyedibar

      no, not while religion exists.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  12. CGS

    Yes. CNN, blame the Christians!

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Seyedibar

      Just blame religion period. It's all fiction.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Issie

      No blame that part of religion that has become a cult.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  13. Christian

    Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Issie

      I believe that but that still does not excuse this type of action. It is like calling your spouse a ho. How would you react.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Old Sailor

      and the monkey said – why do I want to go to heaven – all my friends are down in hell!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • dm

      @Issie – your statement does not make sense. What does your statement have to do with what Christian wrote about Jesus? The filmmaker produced a movie that spoke the truth about a false prophet. If you read history books, mohammad was supposed to be a thief, a murder, a illiterate... should I go on?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  14. AnotherAnnie

    The real problem with this opinion piece is that it buys into the notion that an obscure, unprofessional YouTube video is actually the catalyst for all of the violence and mayhem we've seen this week. Al Qaeda has publicly put that lie to rest by announcing that the unrest and attacks are in fact retaliation for a US drone strike that killed their #2 man. Furthermore, there is much evidence that the attack in Benghazi was planned and organized in advance (spur of the moment protestors don't show up with professionally printed signs, there are reports that some civilians were paid to protest, the Egyptian government says the Embassy was warned about the planned attack 3days in advance). The only people duped into believing that the video is responsible are those who rely on MSM for their news, as the truth is not likely to be revealed here because it might be damaging to the president's reelection campaign. Good thing there is NO bias in the media.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  15. cnn catering

    I think I get it.
    A small percent of muslims are troublemakers, who are justified for being upset at western civilization over a "b-" movie no one has ever heard of?

    I feel morally superior now. Thanks CNN

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • midwest rail

      As soon as you typed the first two words, you were wrong.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Issie

      Yep the first 2 words said it all.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  16. John

    This is the reality of Islam, if you don't believe what Mohammed said, they're told to kill you. If you don't believe Islam, they're told to kill you. If you question what Islam teaches, or point out the bad stuff, they're told to kill you. If you try to leave Islam, they're told to kill you.

    This is the reality of Christianity, Jesus himself said to turn the other cheek and do as he did, and to walk away if they don't believe you.

    Even with those two realities over centuries, Christians are still being blamed for Muslim's not liking their own Quran being discussed and killing anyone questioning it, or rejecting it. Muslims just can't accept blame for what they do, someone else has to take the blame. That's the hallmark of ignorance.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  17. Don

    Religion will destroy the world.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  18. John Geheran

    Another example of a "leftie" opinion being bought and paid for by our petrol dollars. "Islamophobia"? How about being denied entry to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia if one has a passport showing a visit to Israel? Want to take your bible with you on your trip to Saudi – forget about it! So much for the "tiny minority" myth.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  19. Amy

    Read some of the comments here and it becomes abundantly clear why there is coflict among these religions. I love members of any religion denegrating another, without knowing the history or beliefs of said religion. Judaism, Christianity and Islam ALL stem from Abraham; thus, worship the same God, but call him by a different name. All believe in the old testament of the Bible. Extremist Muslims and evangelicals/neo-con Catholics are two sides of the same coin. What you hate about them, is what they hate about you. "Christians" fear sharia law (laws based on those written in the Koran) yet want to pass similar laws based on their biblical teachings. Each group clings to the most extreme of the the teachings in their religious books, yet ignore the kind and loving teachings that are just as prominent. All 3 of the "great religions" acknowledge Jesus Christ as a figure; they differ about what his role is. Christians believe he is the son of God, Jews believe he was simply a man, and Muslims believe he was a prophet. To deny there is Islamaphobia is to deny the sun rises in the east. And for the record, I am a life-long Christian. You cannot spread vitriol and hate and proclaim to do it in the the name of "your" God. God is not a personal possession. He created and loves ALL people. You cannot serve two masters.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Christian

      Wrong. Your guess is wrong. Allah is not our God.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • anonymous

      Just so you know, Christians and Islam do not worship the same God. While Abraham is claimed by both Christians and Muslims, Christians believe the lineage of Christ came through Isaac, while Muslims believe the lineage came through Ishmael. Very important differences- hence both their claims to Israel.
      Also, our laws are different- I believe you confuse the Old Testament with the New Testament. Christians no longer follow rules such as stoning because there is no need to atone for sins anymore as Christ already did so. Christ fulfilled the law and so Christians are no longer subject to that law.
      I feel that people need to be informed about Christianity- there are a lot of myths but no one actually bothers to do research. I agree that there are misconceptions about Muslims, and I believe people should read the Koran for themselves and make an informed decision.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • takawalk

      anonymous> thank you for your post you said what I wanted to say but much better than I could have. Simply put, Allah is not the Christian God. One other point you made> the old testament is relevant but does not define Christians. Jesus was about grace not law.

      September 27, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  20. deb

    I am not a Muslim but this video is absolutely breathtaking.

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

    September 16, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Who me?

      I couldn't bring my-self to tears,but I do admit,it's a moving voice.Too bad it's wasted on worshipping a delusion.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:22 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.