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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 11:29 am |
  2. Scott

    Last time I checked Christian didn't sack Egypt's embassy. I am tired of guys like this apologizing and bending over for those who would kill innocent people. The last time I checked Islamiphobia didn't pour acid on girls at the beach for wearing bathing suits, killing the Isreali olympians in '72, intentionally targeting innocent women and children on buses, crashing planes into the twin towers and petagon (and then dancing in the streets afterwards), beheading people on video, killing school Russian school children, killing ambassadors, etc., etc.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • jetskreemr

      Ummm, hello, Christianity has it's own long line of murder victims.....the Holocaust, the Salem Witch Trials, the Inquisition, abortion clinic personnel, the list is just as long!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  3. Brian is a dirty troll

    Garbage opinion piece.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  4. DKinimod

    CNN really? Silly idiotic movie that I could not even watch to the end (trust me it is that dumb) provokes globally people of Islam religion to murder and destroy and CNN brings this character to say Christians are Islamophobic. Wow! Maybe Christians should stop watching CNN.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Jay Los Angeles

      I saw the Trailer. It was funny as hell!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  5. Mohammad

    Evangelicals are behaving towards Islam just like Jews when Jesus brought to them the divine message of God. Putting a side the sad fact that many Muslims today don't reflect the true message of Islam If evangelicals are truly Christians they don't have any excuse anymore not to embrace the message especially when the Quran supported by scientific facts corrected them on many of what they know about Jesus and other messengers of God. As an example Jesus was born in the summer unless you think dates are ripe in late December. The Quran says about that. "So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place . And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date-palm. She said:
    'Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!' Then a call unto her from bellow, said:
    'Grieve not! Your Lord has provided a water stream under you; And shake the trunk of the date-palm towards you, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad, and if you see any human being, say:
    'Verily! I have vowed a fast unto the Most Beneficent so I shall not speak to any human being this day.' " (Quran 19:22-26)

    September 16, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • beedizzle

      I would like to hear your justification of the killing of people that had nothing to do with insulting your belief system.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Jay

      Who cares when he was born? What a foolish point.
      One of the Islamist terrorists leaders in Libya said, "How would Americans feel if we insulted their religious prophets or Abraham Lincoln?" . We wouldn't give a crap! We are bigger than that and are not so weak and insecure to go and kill, terrorize and murder innocent people for what they say. That is the thinking of Mohammads post.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Mohammad

      There is no justification to that except to say according to Islam teachings the people who kill an innocent person can face the death penalty unless the family of the victim plea for their lives and forgive them.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Jay Los Angeles

      Who cares when he was born? What a foolish point.
      One of the Islamist terrorists leaders in Libya said, "How would Americans feel if we insulted their religious prophets or Abraham Lincoln?" . We wouldn't give a crap! We are bigger than that and are not so weak and insecure to go and kill, terrorize and murder innocent people for what they say. That is the thinking of Mohammads post.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • beedizzle

      "Innocent" is relative to your point of view. From my understanding, Islam seeks to "convert" those they deem as enemies, and if unsuccessful, "destroy" them. What determines an "enemy" could be a complicated matter, but typically stems from a basic fundamental difference of belief. That being said, being an American in a nation ruled but Sharia law is a dangerous thing for that person. Especially when a mob mentality is prevalent throughout the Muslim world when it comes to uproar over a video someone else made that they most likely don't agree with.

      I would refuse to accept your God because it isn't what I believe. That makes me an enemy of Islam? And I should be converted or killed?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  6. Ifred

    Thanks for a well balanced article.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  7. bob lien

    imagine there's no countries....it isn't hard to do. nothing to kill or die for...and no religion too.
    i love jesus. but the jesus i know is definitely not a christian.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • takawalk

      bob lien> I think you are saying that Jesus is not religious, and in that you would be correct. Or maybe saying that he doesn't condone many things done in the name of Christianity. That also is correct.

      September 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  8. beedizzle

    Someone else pointed out a big fundamental difference between fanatical muslims and EC's. I think this could be best illustrated by an example. Remember when the movie Da Vinci code came out? Lots of EC's found the movie/book to be blasphemous. I don't recall hearing about EC's pulling Atheists out into the streets and killing them over it though. That's a distinction fanatical Islam has earned all on it's own.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  9. Alex

    There are few things dumber than an evangelical Christian, but a radical Islamist is one of them. What is a shame is all these people living their lives based upon fairy tales and hating each other because of fictional books.

    Now I condemn the violent acts and killing, but to me, it is the same as the guy who said his dog was telling him to kill people, just insanity.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  10. rabbitone

    this article is dumb as crap and evasive – it is the dag gone muslims who are killing folks at the current moment – account for that and stick to the dag gone facts monsieur

    September 16, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  11. HM8432

    When the Islamofacists give me a reason to appreciate them, I will; as a people, they're neither very endearing or likeable.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • deep blue

      I think the 7 Libyan security forces that sacrificed their lives trying to protect our ambassador should be commended. Shouldn't you be a bit more specific in your condemnation. Why associate the victims with the aggressors? Why can't we condemn senseless violence, instead of a religion?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  12. Ajl260

    Clearly this is propaganda is aimed at stirring emotions to justify retribution and american values. This is not about beliefs this is about money and politics. Without even addressing how many misreferenced biblical verses are mentioned in this twisted article, to avoid opening pandora's box, it is probably just best focusing on what this news means. More war, and conflict. Considering that America does not have the man power or resources to police the world. The US is clearly spreading itsself thin and will collapse just as the Roman Empire did if it continues at this rate.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  13. drumprof

    All relifion absolutely poisons everything. As a species we must get rid of these ridiculous god(s) ideas.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Scott

      Didn't the Chinese say the same thing when they slaughtered the people of Tibet (the peace loving Bhuddists). Go watch the movie "Seven Years in Tibet", you'll love it.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  14. Jay Kim

    What a backwards article. It is more the fact of Christphobia and Ant-Semitism by Muslims. Where in the world do muslims in the name of Islam not have problems with their neighbors?

    September 16, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • ohioguy

      In Toledo Ohio where my friends are muslims and i am Christian. instead of hating one another we respect each others beliefs and enjoy discussions on politics and religion.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  15. Davalio

    Religion kills.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Ajl260

      Religion doesn't kill. The fools using religion's name in vein do.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Scott

      Last time I checked Billy Graham wasn't calling on people to behead the infadels.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  16. Jay Kurian

    What a backwards article. It is more the fact of Christphobia and Ant-Semitism by Muslims. Where in the world do muslims in the name of Islam not have problems with their neighbors?

    September 16, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  17. Sam Cohen

    Shame on you CNN for posting this nonsense on your front page. Another failed attempt to appease the Muslims and somehow equate all religions and share the blame among them all. Well guess what, its muslims who are responding to every insult with violence and murder not anyone else. Go read the Quran and get some education and then tell us how you fell.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  18. Ken

    Look, time and again we have seen demostrations that fundemental Islam is inherently wrong. I'm not speaking about Islam as practiced by many followers in Western nations. That westernized version does what other religons in the west has done, eliminating many of the aspects which could be viewed negatively to concentrate more on specific core goals and beliefs. No, I'm referring to fundemental Islam - you know, the one where women are treated like second rate objects because they believe Allahs has said so. The one where followers carry out acts of violence (such as poisoning the water of young girls going to school in Afghanistan) because they believe Allah encourages them to do so in order to protect the true faith. The one which is basically a religon of hate as anything not within their beliefs is considered wrong and should be removed or changed, and getting the change or removal done no matter the means (such as suicide bombers blowing up buses) will get you into heaven with the thanks of Allah. That is what you see in the Middle East today. And until all of the Iman's who preach this hateful version of the religon are silenced, this problem will continue year after year, and eventually war after war.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Truth Hurts

      I agree, we should not only stop there, all of the preachers in the US who preach hateful religion should be silenced as well, right?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  19. Josh

    By the way, should we talk about the money we are giving to a country, Egypt, that is now official y an enemy of the United Stares? Perhaps we should use those "kiss a-" funds to help our own people. Once again I say, let's shut off the middle east to the rest of the world and patrol that region with weaponized drones.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  20. grumpymedic

    Religion is a disease.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Old Sailor

      Actually, life is a disease – and we're not going to survive it.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Reality

      But we will enjoy our life while it lasts.

      Some other observations:

      What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

      3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode catalytically at any time ending life on Earth.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:27 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.