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.
Lets place blame where blame is due. Many of these radical Muslims are poor illiterates who believe anything and everything their religious leaders tell them. They are fed all sorts of lies about the US and about religions other than the Muslim religion. The political and religious leaders of these countries are just using these poor people to try to gain power for themselves and to further their agenda. The US and Christians are not to blame for any of this.
Lets place blame where blame is due. Many of these evangelical christians are poor illiterates who believe anything and everything their religious leaders tell them. They are fed all sorts of lies about the world and about religions other than the evangelical christian religion. The political and religious leaders are just using these poor people to try to gain power for themselves and to further their agenda. The Muslim world and Muslims are not to blame for any of this.
LinCa, let's give credit where credit is due. There are some commonalities between ALL fundamentalists of any religion and fundamentalist christianity is similar in that it has the same "I'm right, everyone else is wrong" position as other fundamentalists. However, that is where the similarity ends. Christian fundamentalists in this country (to which I infer you were referring) are not illiterate and violence is not the method to which they ascribe to achieve their goal, conversion. And you're wrong, muslims and the muslim world are to blame for their fundamentalist views just as much as the christians are. The difference is: all other religions appear to be playing defense and islam is on offense.
Islam is the religion of the poor, illiterate and ignorant (don't take that as an insult, take it as a state of being – poverty and illiteracy breed ignorance). The biggest problem in most of the islamic world is that they are monarchies or corrupt dictatorships with the power and wealth in the hands of the few. The more these monarchies and dictatorships can divert attention to the "evil west" and the US as the figurehead of the west, the easier it is to keep the people under their control.
Lemme guess, you're christian, right?
You said, "Christian fundamentalists in this country (to which I infer you were referring) are not illiterate and violence is not the method to which they ascribe to achieve their goal, conversion."
You may want to take off your blinders. The only reason there is less violence is because it is frowned upon by the more reasonable part of society. If left alone, christians aren't any different. They will resort to violence.
You said, "Islam is the religion of the poor, illiterate and ignorant"
You may want to google some US statistics regarding wealth, literacy, education and their correlation to religion.
You said, "don't take that as an insult, take it as a state of being – poverty and illiteracy breed ignorance"
Don't worry, I'm not insulted. I don't believe in fairy tales. I shed that nonsense when I was 5 or 6.
You said, "The biggest problem in most of the islamic world is that they are monarchies or corrupt dictatorships with the power and wealth in the hands of the few."
The exact same thing is going on in fundamentalist christian groups. Luckily for the sane part of western societies, it is limited to just those groups, and not entire countries.
You said, "The more these monarchies and dictatorships can divert attention to the "evil west" and the US as the figurehead of the west, the easier it is to keep the people under their control."
The same thing is done to keep the sheeple under control in christian circles. It's just that islam is being portrayed as evil.
Rediculous! Phobia's definition is....1. A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.
Ha, This is stupidity. There is no reassurance right now that Islam is not dangerous, and the ball is in their court, they need to police their own!
Depends. It is irrational to believe that any and all Muslims are out to get you in some way, or that Muslims are monolithically pursuing some common goal involving your destruction or harm.
Looks to me like millins of them want to kill as many of us as we can.
Your argument is officially broken.
I KEEL YU!
This is even more simple: Religion IS politics in the Middle East and politics is religion here. How's that separation of church and state going for you?
I keel yooo!
Was the ambassador of Libya an Islamophobe?
7th Century Goat Lovers
This is precisely the sort of doltery that his discussion does NOT need.
This is a well-balanced article and the author presents the facts quite objectively. The issue of islamophobia is not an issue of religious intolerence, it is not a religious issue at all. Islam is a religion that has stood the tests of time: it has survived and is the fastest growing religion in the world, even though it has been fought since the time of its birth. The best way to fight a religion is to understand it and subject it to critical OBJECTIVE thinking. Muslims do not, cannot, and will never change anything in their faith: not a letter, not a sound, not a principle. Everything has been the same since the days of Muhammad. So, the Quran is available to people in many languages, and so are the sayings and practices of Muhammad. People wishing to prove that Islam is a fake religion should try to first know what they are fighting: read the Quran and sayings of Muhammad (www.islamway.com) and then (in a civil, objective way) tell us what your objection is. You will see that Muslims love and respect Jesus Christ more than the Christians themselves. The only difference is that Muslims see Jesus as a prophet of God, sent just like David, Moses, Abraham, and all the others. Muslims believe in the immacculate birth and the virginity of Mariam (Mary) and there is even a whole chapter in the Quran names "Mary". Mary is the ONLY woman mentioned by name in the Quran (and mentioned many times). Jews will be surprised by how much Muslims respect all the prophets named in the Bible. As a matter of fact, a Muslim will not be come a Muslim if s/he denies Jesus or any of the Jewish prophets. The Quran itself invites people to scrutinize and critique it and try to find faults in it. There is nothing wrong with that, if you are really trying to find the truth. The problem is when you attack something that you do not really know or understand: people will see that your attacks are driven by prejudice and hatred, and you will look pathetic. Islam is from the same God who revealed the Old Testament and the Evangeel/New Testament.
Looks like someone has been drinking their own Kool-Aid ...
Nice rebuke however pointless. This should be directed to the million of Muslims hell bent on killing the world in the name of Allah. Now how is that objective, (Please notice my name)
Objectivist5, I believe I dealt with that in the earlier post I made.
Afterthought! My dear Dr., perhaps you should be reading Ayn Rand and learn objectivism instead of the Koran learning , well what ever the hell it teaches because it sure is not peace.
Dr. – Assuming that you are sincere, you are misguided. Or you are a deceiver. The Koran disputes that Jesus is the Son of God. The Koran disputes that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One. The Koran disputes the fact of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Koran states that salvation is through "good works". Now, what part of salvation ONLY through the death and resurrection of Jesus – the clear and unambiguous message of the Bible – does Islam accept? Of course, it does not. The Koran calling Jesus a "prophet" and being lesser to Mohammad is blasphemous. Therefore, there is only a false pretense that the Koran worships the same God as the Bible as the Koran rejects the Son of God for Who He was and why He came.
Nice try Doc, but the world is watching HOW islam behaves and could care less of about what the accurate interpretation "should" be. Molly mentioned it above, "poor illiterates" who believe what they are told. In fact, many elements of the muslim world try to keep girls illiterate because, hey, what better way to get them to go along with the kind of treatment they often receive as a member of islam. I honestly don't know how anyone with one iota of intelligence could even stay in any religion that is built on a foundation of violence.
For what it's worth, I was brought up christian but I have really decided that branded religion is flawed because the doctrine and dogma, ostensibly the "word of God", nevertheless comes from a writing utensil that was in the hand of some man somewhere. Man rearranges the world according to his needs/desires/wants and it is not always pure and honest. Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in God and feel his presence, so don't peg me as some faithless atheist. So don't try to tell me that if I just read the Quran that I'll somehow become enlightened to the "true" islam, as if that will make all of this nonsense better. I just wake up every day and look in the headlines and see what everyone else does.
Well you seem to be telling me I am misinformed. I appreciate the link and I will take a look at it. The following was in response to a different post>>>> "You are overlooking something, I know Christians want to influence the laws of the nations they live in,however that being said, as far as I know no nation on earth is controlled by Christian theology. A growing list of nations have codified their version of Islam into law. Since this is what it is, the subject is no longer religion, but it becomes more about governing systems. Since their version includes many nasty things like dominating the world. Well an Atheist, or person of any believe, might want to give this a thought or two. Throw in a few nukes and the fact that all countries will take sides due to economic reasons and other things. I think that is highly probable that the folks saying " religion " will destroy mankind might have a valid point. Jesus considered religion to be a evil thing, and religious zealots proved that when they nailed him to the cross.
I do not think spiritual faith or lack of faith should be banned from public policy influence, in fact I would consider that a breach of freedom . But the danger of any religious theology controlling aggressive governments is a very real danger"<
At this point in history we have to look at Islam in a different way than we do simple religion, I appreciate your post and realize I have much to learn about your faith. However if the Muslim religion promotes peace and coexistence, many Muslims that are in power are abusing it to a point that it threatens world peace.
Islam-Christianity-Judaism is all apart of the same Religious deity, yet still they fight and kill. See Jesus Sermon at the White House!!
Thou shall not murder.
Love your enemies.
Love They Neigbour as you would yourself...Some People do not love themselves..so this statement is mundane!! But i do understand that it is with great hope. that we let others be and try our best to give peach a chance !!
Everyone has seen those bumper stickers that read "Coexist," with the letters being symbols of different religions. Well, the big issue is that radical Muslims don't want to coesist. They want to dominate. You can't negiotiate with them, you can't reason with them. And then you get articles like this where the author is bending over backwards to be apologetic to the poor Muslims who were offended.
Yes, they are exactly like the Christian right.
I keel yoo!
It isn't Islamophobia when they really are trying to kill you.
Some of the reasons for the Islamophobia:
From the koran, the operating manual for Muslims:
http://www.muslimaccess.com/quraan/arabic/005.asp et al
o "Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends." (Surah 5:51)
"Believers, when you encounter the infidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons...he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home..." (Surah 8:12-)
"Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme." (Surah 8:36-)
"...make war on the leaders of unbelief...Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them..." (Surah 9:12-)
"Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]...until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Surah 9:27-)
"It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it." (Surah 9:31-)
"If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men." (Surah 9:37-)
"Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (Surah 9:73)
"Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them." (Surah 9:121-)
"Say: 'Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom..." (Surah 17:111)
"'How shall I bear a child,' she [Mary] answered, 'when I am a virgin...?' 'Such is the will of the Lord,' he replied. 'That is no difficult thing for Him...God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!...Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood..." (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)
"Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him...He has given you the name of Muslims..." (Surah 22:78-)
"Blessed are the believers...who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)...These are the heirs of Paradise..." (Surah 23:1-5-)
"Muhammad is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another." (Surah 48:29)
"Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?...Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents...They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets...Blessed be the name of your Lord..." (Surah 55:52-66-)
You did a good job! Thanks, this is the reality of a terror called Islam!
My Lord, why didn't I realize that I was being unjustly tough on muslims.
Maybe 9/11 was merely a failed attempt at gett pilots licenses.
Maybe the explosive-laden children are because they didn't make it to the free clinic in time for the abortion.
Perhaps it was the burning of Americans and dragging their bodies behind vehicles was a failure to imitate backyard barbecues.
The widely distributed beheadings were actually training videos from barber schools for those with impulse control issues.
And the failure of "mainstream" muslims to condemn these animalistic, subhuman acts was simply because they didn't watch CNN that day and missed the whole thing.
Nope, sorry, I am not buying it.
I once had great respect for the arab lifestyle and the muslim religion. In fact, I even harbored the thought of converting to islam.
Thank God I did not make that demonic mistake.
By their acts they have marked the,seles as nothing more than rabid beasts running from slaughter to slaughter.
The middle east can go to hell and burn in their own fire. Humans do not behave in such a manner.
Terrorists striking people who have nothing to do with their grievances are nothing more than serial killing cowards who are attacking those who have no chance of fighting back.
I have no respect or tolerance for cowards. They will not eat pork, but behave as diseased boars attacking anything that looks like an easy mark.
Not another single cent of American money should go to an islam ruled (not governed, RULED) country ever again.
If we are indeed "the great Satan" then surely these pious, self righteous degenerates do not need our evil money.
Islam seems to be divided into two groups: those who wish to murder anyone who does not bow to their will and those who are unwilling or unable to see and protest what madmen are doing to their faith, which in many ways makes them worse.
The Quaran say it is a grave sin to spill the blood of innocents.
Muslim Hell must be gowing double the speed of our national debt.
I agree! Every religion has its fault, but this one is way beyond.
very well written. CNN has very soft corner for Islam. Why they can not do some real resarch and have atleast one article
for what happens to minorities in Islamic majority places. If they don't know i can point some location. Brahmin in Kashimr, Hindu and christian in Pakistan. Coptic Christian in Egypt. Also minorities can practicse their religion in any middle east country. CNN wants see the world as they want people to see not the way it is.
sybaris>>> people are dying everyday, if you look at the whole picture you will realize that given time to gain power, the Jihad movement which has gained and continues to gain control of governments . Well I will stop there. No need to dramatic.
Christians often forget that they are not without fault. Let those without sin cast the first stone.
The truth is, when comparing the entire history of Islam with the entire history of Christianity, Christianity has a more negative past. At the end of the day they are both horrible religions.
Agreed but its seems that Christians may have learned the errors of there ways while the Muslims are going down a dangerous path
Thats just pure ignorance. Go back in time to villanize Christianity if you must but surely you can see who is throwing acid in young girls faces, decapitating people, and flying airplanes into buildings. Are you really that simple. Do you really hate Christianity that much.
"Thats just pure ignorance. Go back in time to villanize Christianity if you must but surely you can see who is throwing acid in young girls faces, decapitating people, and flying airplanes into buildings. Are you really that simple. Do you really hate Christianity that much."
This isn't ignorance at all. In fact, it is the opposite. It is ignorant to believe that vilifying a new religion is going to help it change. It was stated that Christianity learned from its mistakes. Yes, yes it did...after more than 800 years of screwing up. Islam isn't even 800 years old.
You ask if I really hate Christianity. Yes I do. I hate all religion. They are dumb relics of the past that breed hate and intolerance. They are unnecessary and insensible. Do not see my post as defending Islam...I'm just pointing out that Christiantiy is worse.
I never see this kind of protest when an "artist" does an "inspired" piece that has Christ covered in some bodily fluid. In fact, the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art supported it.
Christians are so quick to ridicule other religions but brainwashing their own is acceptable.
That is not typical at all. If an Atheist commits mass murder does that mean that all atheist are mass murders?
While putting this together did you consider your own brainwashing. Get real, get truth. Love this country or get out.
Someone should tell her that gluttony is a sin.
That's not acceptable you stupid stupid dirt bag, that's what we call a cult...cults have never been accepted here ever and never will.
Uh, ok Vacation Bible School is the more acceptable form of christian brainwashing
mtr300 you need to look up the definition of cult. Well here, I'll help you:
1. Formal religious veneration : worship
2. A system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
3. A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
4. A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator (Jesus heals)
5. Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work
Hmmm, I think you belong to a cult. All "religions" are cults for that matter.
No, the tipping point happened on 9/11
I cannot believe this apologist article. You are now calling on CHRISTIANS to be more understanding as Islamists kill US citizens and riot over not liking a MOVIE. Christians are supposed to just take it when WE are offended by various items and NOW we are supposed to be accepting when the blow us up?
Well isn't that the Golden Rule?
No sybaris, the golden rule is do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It is not to accecpt evil and look the other way.
Isn't that what the bible teaches? Go back to Sunday School please.
Fear of a violent terrorist organization such as islam isn't irrational. McLaren is an islam apologist who is adding to the dangerous assumption that islam isn't a violent, murderous, criminal organization.
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.