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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. dinkusmcgee

    The biggest problem with Islamites is where should we dump their heads after we behead every last one of those suckers!

    September 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  2. stan

    This is racist tripe. But hey, it's alright, it's only racist against the whites.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  3. hmm

    phobia, really? try "religion of mass destruction"

    September 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  4. Daniel Morgan

    The evangelicals and hate mongrels (yes, I mean mongrels) who spew racism and hatred in videos, pulpits, and in comments here, are the direct descendants of those "Christians" from 200 years ago who preached that slavery was ordained by god.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • dinkusmcgee

      I hate Islamites and the nation for which they stand....one nation under Allah....blah, blah, blah....should have its ballz cut off!

      September 16, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  5. dingusmcgee

    All pratictioners of ISLAM need beheading! It is as plain and simple as that. The biggest problem with them should be where to dump their heads after they are sliced off from their bodies!

    September 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  6. muslim2012

    September 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Veritas

      Not sure what this has to do with islamic delusions? What this silly bearded guy says is the same stuff the christian pastors preach, I'm sure. We don't need silly adult fairy tales, just rational minds.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  7. Chris

    This bigoted article is pure christianphobia. Where are you so scared of Christians?
    They aren't the ones rioting and murdering people all over the world in the name of their religion, Muslims are.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  8. A nation of sheep

    Typical left approach. 4 dead Americans, and immediately the warnings about Islamophobia???? As Marc Steyn points out, add a "phobia" to the end to insinuate that the "phobe" has a type of mental illness. Enough of this BS. If the left doesn't wake up to the real threat and danger of radical Islam, we're in existential danger. The way Obama has coddled the Muslim world has only emboldened the radicals. But Obama is so smart, he surely knows what he's doing. Damn, can you imagine Obama in charge at other key moments in history? I think Obama is a reincarnated failed Roman emperor from the 4th century. The barbarians are at the gates.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Veritas

      If Obama is cuddling with the muslims, aka thinking before he acts, then how do you explain the killing of bin Laden, more drone strikes than ever, etc etc. You are just propagating ignorant tea bagger propaganda.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Captain Obvious

      And why are there 4 dead Americans? Oh yeah, because a few extreme evangelical Christians made a hate video that horribly offended Muslims. Try reading this article again. If you can't understand it, ask someone to explain it to you.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Chris Rowland

      Couldn't agree more. While it is true that we have to always keep an eye on our own behavior foremost, the reality is that we Christians tolerate constant attacks on our religion, even in our own country. Am I offended by someone like Bill Maher? Of course. But I wouldn't think of rioting over it... and if I wanted to I would have to work REALLY hard to find 100's of other people to riot with me. But in Lybia finding a few hundred people to riot with is no problem.
      There is a real difference between the Christian and Islamic outlook.
      And I do know Muslims, and the ones I know are kind and intelligent and excellent people. But I also know Christians that have lived among Muslims... they are terrified of them. It's not because they don't know them... it's because they do know them.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Charmin'

      actually, CNN had an article about Islamaphobia 24 hrs after the attacks. This is the 2nd/3rd. I agree with you on everything except the Obama comment. That's a stretch.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  9. sfcmac

    Newsflash McLaren, it's not "phobia" if they really want you dead.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  10. riabm60

    Why do we believe that religion is so great, he has caused wars all over the world, for thousands of years.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  11. darius7777

    Thank you for the article. It boggle my mind how ignorant and misinformed haters blame a great religion that was made 1500 years ago for today's social and political conflicts. Third world country governments are incompetent and extremely cruel. Everything is sensored. So when common folks hear about anti Islam propaganda in US, they beleive that the government is behind it. They don't know there is freedom here and the acts of a few sick haters is not a government conspiracy.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • sfcmac

      I've read the koran. It's one of the most misogynist, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-infidel screeds ever written. The muzzies are simply carrying out what their crazy prophet proscribed.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Veritas

      What is so great about a religion like islam? It's just a religion, i.e. a man-made hodge podge of supernatural mythology.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  12. The Myth

    Whose responsible for the safeguarding of the U.S. Embassies and their personal? Whose responsible for selecting these personnel who safeguard these embassies? Whose responsible for electing these ambassadors to their posts?

    Obama.

    I just hope those hippo's (hippocrates) who chastised the previous administration for failing to protect our citizens abroad, take the same road and lay into this fool(s) (Omama/Clinton) in action(s).

    Democrats can't......their narcissistic, remember?

    September 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • riabm60

      The host countries take care of that.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Barb in tx

      All embassies, US, Great Britain, Israel, etc. are protected by THE HOST NATION. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomatic_mission.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • esteban

      Why is it that the most virulent haters among you have such poor grammar? Did you all attend the same lousy high school? Please take time to review your posts, as so many times they are barely intelligible. And yes, Democrats and liberals have stronger rhetorical skills; we tend to stay in school longer and get more advanced degrees, while you are out chasing the bucks. That's why your Super PACS are so loaded.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  13. greg

    This irrational article is from the same cnn whackjobs who have Richard Quest (who was arrested in central park on drug charges) and Fareed Zakara (who was fired from time for plagerism). Cnn this is why your ratings suck and why nobody takes you seriously anymore.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  14. sirock

    Food for thought except you Liberals, I don’t want you to hurt yourselves. How about Al Qaida finds a video that no one is interested in Dubs it in Arabic and sends it to Muslims everywhere to stir things up on the anniversary of 9/11. Great diversionary tactic ya think? It wasn’t dubbed until just before the whole Muslim world found it.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  15. Ron

    Islam doesn’t have any philosophy to stand on his own like other religion. People mock every religion in all democratic countries but there is not a single violent protest especially in US. Since Islam doesn't have any philosophy, it has only mechanism for controlling people, that's why you see, Muslims getting violent for trivial things which has nothing to do with religion because these religious leaders think they will loose control and Islam will be dead. That's why Prophet Mohamad made sure in Quaran that it is non-Debatable and words are from God. So no Muslim can question its validity even though these Muslims know its wrong.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  16. BobRayTalbot

    Take your left-wing dogmatic blather and shut up. We have radical Islamists killing our people in various places in the world, including a full Ambassador in Libya, and you want us to play nice. YOU are what is wrong with America.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • DC1973

      How many innocent Muslims – women, children, elderly, and non-combatants – did the United States kill in Iraq? Over 108,000, that's how many. In Afghanistan? Over 3000 since January.

      The question is: why would they ever want to play nice with us?

      September 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • nkrempa

      Right, because it makes so much sense to blindly view an entire religion, followed by almost 2 billion people, in the same way as one views the minority of extremists that perpetrate violence. Nice generalization there, Jethro.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  17. pepsee

    Can someone tell me how many WORLDWIDE riots/attacks sparked by the muslims and how many sparked by all other religions taken together in just last fifteen years?

    September 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  18. BMC

    Religion does nothing but tear people apart and get people killed, it's worthless. For all these gods being so great, they sure do get a lot of people killed in their name...

    September 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • riabm60

      We need a new God, an universal God.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  19. bob

    no, truthhurts, just a real one.

    September 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  20. Atheism is Great for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

    It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't?) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.

    Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!

    Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species. Of course Islam is a crazy religion.

    But look at Christianity. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. I don't buy any of it.

    Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god (something you know nothing about), fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind.

    mama kindless

    September 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
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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.