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.
uh yeah, a few of my muslim friends in Dearborn have been standing up for the right of the filmaker. Which is the correct answer here. Quit making excuses for these clowns who are essentially trying to deflect that they are murdering pigs.
I am phobic about all religions! However, what is the catchy used to describe and group the people that kill others because of a stupid movie or comic........ "freespeechphobics"?
After decades of islamists murdering people around the globe, our fear and hatred for them is pretty well justified. But if you as a muslim want to cry about being represented by the jihadis, first you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and blame yourselves for supporting them all these years. At worst, many muslims are little cheerleaders for these guys. Considering it "justice" or "payback" when they murder people. Sending money to charities they KNOW funnel money to jihadis, and pretending that they are really just fulfilling one of the five pillars with their charity. And then there are the rest. The majority. Those who keep silent when jihadi's murder people. Neither praising, nor condemning. When you do that, you need to understand that the abscence of condemnation is nothing but support itself. The muslim world has down everything in the world to make the all of the rest of us hate you, and you have nobody to blame for it but yourselves. If you don't believe the jihadis represent you, it's time for ALL 1.5 billion of you to stand up nad say so, instead of letting them decide for the world who you are.
If someone down the street insulted a stranger, and that stranger reacted to the insult by walking up the street to your home and suddenly smacked a member of your family upside the head for the insult, would you be the bigger man and offer him a cup of coffee or would you protect your family? It is much easier to write a perfect response, much harder to actually get off your soft rear and live it! CNN just can't seem to grasp reality in their quest to describe their version of current events. We don't have to accept inept government and news reporting. We certainly shouldn't accept Americans being brutally attacked and murdered. Wake up America, its too late for CNN, but there is still time for the rest of us!
Islamophobia is real. The mouth-breathing comments posted here prove it out even without the author taking Christian evangelicals to task.
Every one commenting that there is reason to fear Muslims for the actions of a minority of their religion is just as guilty as the next person of rampant generalization. So... you're going to fear EVERY. SINGLE. MUSLIM. on the face of the earth (all nearly 2 billion of 'em) because of the actions of the minority. Brilliant.
I could, if I were of a similar mindset, say that I fear every single Christian evangelical on the face of the earth based on people like Jim Jones, David Koresh, the moron who shot up the Sikh temple, and the idiots who burn and deface mosques. How many did Koresh and Jones take with them when they crashed and burned?? How many Sikhs died because some dork THOUGHT they were Muslim? How many would you evangelicals kill if you thought you could get away with it?
don't see christian evangelicals burning embassies or doing suicide attacks. You are comparing apples to oranges, and showing your ignorance. It's the difference between someone saying something you don't like, and someone trying to kill you because you don't think the way they do. That you can consider the evangelical blowhards in the same context as these murdering thugs tells me you are rather foolish, and lead way to safe and shelterd a life.
"don't see christian evangelicals burning embassies or doing suicide attacks. You are comparing apples to oranges, and showing your ignorance. It's the difference between someone saying something you don't like, and someone trying to kill you because you don't think the way they do. That you can consider the evangelical blowhards in the same context as these murdering thugs tells me you are rather foolish, and lead way to safe and shelterd a life."
First, in countries with large numbers of Christian evangelicals, we have laws that prevent that sort of stuff... we are not newly emerged "democracies" or nations teetering on the edge of meltdown because of instability. False equivalency at its best.
Second, evangelical blowhards HAVE murdered. They have murdered in the name of their god, they have murdered in the name of their religion and, just because they think legislation is a sanitary way of doing it, it doesn't mean they won't be murdering again, repeatedly.
They have murdered the brainwashed flocks that looked to them for salvation. They have murdered those who were "other," not like them, the ones that their religious leaders warned them against. They have murdered on the basis of looks, on the basis of color, on the basis of religion. How on earth can you think that your evangelical "blowhards" are so much different than the brainwashed masses rioting in Muslim nations today?
"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."
Matthew 5:22 "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell."
Yes, Jesus would not condone insult to those who ridiculed what he was saying, yet how many defenders of the Faith here on this board can say that they follow his example in this?
Matthew 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
I guess I take it back, Jesus really could be insulting.
"The biggest problem with Islamites is where should we dump their heads after we behead every last one of those suckers!"
And this makes you better than them how ???
My Take: It’s time for Islamofascists to choose- You can either stop acting like barbarians or you can finally push the civilized world a bit too far.
To an old atheist like me, nothing in this article or the comments makes any sense. Did I get teleported to another planet?
No....you are a fool.. and your mind got teleported into believing that there is no God. Fool!!!!!
Theism never made any sense, and these grown-up fairy tales and the importance they seem to have to so many people never cease to amaze me. Theism is bizarre!
@truth: Free thinking is a great thing. Try it some time, you might like it :-D
The problem is with THEM not with US you moron.
Look, christianity and islam is essentially the same basic delusion, but islam is currently more vile, intolerant, and violent than christianity. Christianity was just as bad a few hundred years ago. Most Americans want our nation to adhere to the basic principles on which this nation was founded, at a time when christianity was just as threatening as islam is today, keep church and state separated!
when Islam has taken over the US and banned women from voting, driving, holding a job, etc. CNN will still be talking about how great they are. OH I forgot, journalist will be the first to be executed.
@Ben: That is not going to happen. 1) Muslims are a small minority in the US, less than 5%, and 2) most of those who are muslims in the US can be assumed to moderates.
Over time, religion will lose its grip on western societies as people become more educated and dare to think and act freely.
At current growth rates when will Islam take over the USA? In 150 years? Ever? The Muslim take over of the West is a myth and you know it.
Verita, how was Christianity 'threatening" 235 years ago?
We should not ignore that Christianity was very important to the development of Western Civilization.
A) This video is from a Professor at a University speaking. Take note of what he is saying!
It is called a video all westerners should see.
This video clearly demonstrates using simple math the threat from the changing demographics of Britain and Europe.
So how special is America that it cannot fall?
Muslims around the world condemn violence and terrorism but it rarely make it to the news. Below is the link of ISNA condenming embassy attack.
Stating that "their religion instructs them to lie" is the worst form of hate propaganda. It behoves you to not question what is fed to you and don't even listen to other point of view as they are lying.
I actually see plenty of evidence that Christian creationists think that "their religion instructs them to lie".
The murder of Ambassador Stephens is hardly defensible. But perhaps the ISNA should be speaking to their co-religionists.
I am wary of the behavior of anyone over nine years old who still pretends to believe in imaginary friends and enemies and engages in imaginary friend games. I never know what they're going to do next.
That is the most frightening aspect of these "grown up fairy tale" worshippers, reason and logic need not apply to their behavior.
It always amazes me that people ignore the God who gives you your very next breath. Stunning ignorance.
But how do you know which god gives us our very next breath? With over 10,000 religions on earth, the one you choose is very likely wrong.
I hate to tell this guy, but a phobia is an unreasonable fear. Maybe he didnt notice the giant hole in the middle of Manhatten 10 years ago, where Islamists murdered almost 3000 Americans, or the thousands of Islamists that are now burning our Embassies. Perhaps he hasnt noticed the continued forced conversions of populations to Islam. Perhaps he missed the whole history of Islam which consisted of the conquer and forced conversion of millions of people.
Islamophobia is an irrational fear of ALL Muslims. It IS irrational to fear almost 2 billion people because of their religious beliefs.
well put to Susie that is.
Right. Every religion gets ridiculed in some form but only that religion starts WORLDWIDE destruction and attacks people from all other religions from all other countries (even those who are in some other country.)
So terrorism by Timothy and Breivik is Christian terrorism? Should we lump all Christian with them
Ever heard about crusades?
ModMus – the difference is one of degree. The Crusades were hundreds of years ago and B was mental case. The vast majority of Muslim countries are violent, dirt poor sh.it holes with absolutely no freedoms.
O hello Ms/Mr ModMus! Which century do you live in? That's right, you muslims still live in the middle ages and continuing that barbaric act.
You got that right! I don't see Christians going around killing people all over the world! This guy is naive and dangerous with this message that so many people are foolish and believe
Ever study why the Crusades happened? Because Muslims had forcefully taken over Jerusalem and were slaughtering and robbing pilgrims who were travelling to visit the Holy Land.
Shouldn't we feel some compassion for people who have to live in "violent, dirt poor sh.it holes with absolutely no freedoms" instead of fear and hatred? I mean, are you looking for solutions, or are you just basking in your superiority and then feeling offended when people resent you for doing that?
Yes muslims are going through the same phase that christians went through.
Muslim do have fair share of extremist but its not due to religion but because they are illiterate, never study their own religion and buy into hate propaganda.
I am not defending the barbaric actions of extremist muslims. But spreading hate is not answer to hate.
There are many moderate muslims who condemn terrorism and violence.
Mod Mus, the Crusades were a response to 500 years of Islamic conquests of Christian lands.
McVeigh and Brevnick carried out their attacks because of their political beliefs. And you'd be hard pressed to find any support for what they did among Americans or Swedes. Contrary to that, in the years after 9-11 the most popular name for baby boys in the ME was Osama.
Maybe you haven't noticed the mass killings of innocent people by your soldiers in the middle East. All I see here is ignorance by both sides
While acting violently is wrong and there is no excuse for it, people must realize that to Muslims religion is everything. don't be so surprised with regards to their reaction, different cultures draw their cultural tolerance lines at different places. Some will be unable to control their anger and take it to the extreme which is WRONG, but I can assure you that ALL will be offended. *** IF a movie came out making fun of Jesus, however instead of calling him "Jesus" just call him "Eisa" as how Muslims call him, you would get the same reaction from the Muslim world with regards to being offended and angry (the violence is restricted on the stupid few – percentage-wise). Think about this for a second, not all cultures are the same. In addition to that, many people in the Muslim world, while sad and insulted, do not take part in the violence (this is the overwhelming majority). The mistake they are doing is that many do not speak up! I'm sure, like me, many have grown sick of politics... its so easy to point your finger at somebody else and call out their mistakes, ... yet its very hard to understand what is really going on, especially if you have never lived in these places, and met these people. Have an open mind, and give your thoughts some time to understand what is really going on
Actually movies such as the Last Temptation of Christ and art offensive to Christianity have been produced and guess what, nobody died.
when Islam has taken over the US and banned women from voting, driving, holding a job, etc. CNN will still be talking about how great they are. OH I forgot, journalist will be the first to be executed.
You must realize that to me (Phil), my religion is everything.
My religion calls on you to give me your wallet. Then strip naked and dance like a duck.
If you do not comply with my faith, I will become enraged and kill you.
Yeah, no, I think I'm not going to accept this kind of behavior instead.
Ben, except for muslim journalists like Fareed Zakaria – sympathizers of islamic causes.
Life of Brian?
We happen to live in a secular society that doesn't condone religious violence. Take the fear of the law away from our faithful and then just watch who gets hurt.
Have you ever seen so many thousands of people from any other religion barking like mad dogs in a worlwide scale?
Not in a violent sense, but if you watch any large evangelical gathering, they are just as drunk on the Jesus-juice.
It is not Islamaphobia, it is rather Islama-reality.
Coorect. Here is the reason –
The fundamental difference between islam and rest of the world religions lie at the origin. In all other monotheistic religion the main messenger (e.g. Jesus, Buddha) left personal life and desire behind to spread their message and never used violence to accomplish it. We all know mohamed used severe bloody violence to spread his message and exercised his carnal desire. Generally that's exactly what we see among the followers of these respective religions – in today's world.
Nope. It's a phobia all right. Almost 2 billion adherents to Islam... and you're gonna be deathly afraid of every single one of them merely because they are Muslim. Yup... irrational as heck.
Krempa – there are more than 1 Billion Christians as well as Hindus. How many WORLDWIDE riots/attacks sparked by the muslims and how many sparked by all Hindus and the Christians taken together in just last fifteen years?
pepsee – still a minority. The Muslims perpetrating the violence are still a tiny minority compared to the whole. Should I hate evangelicals based on Jim Jones, David Koresh, or their ilk? See what I mean? A m-i-n-o-r-i-t-y... you cannot hate the whole based on the actions of the few.
And right on cue all the haters step up to prove Mr. McLaren's point. It so so disheartening to see America descend into more and more ignorance as education is gutted and the "media" is more and more devoted to bread and circuses.
If you want to stick your head in the sand and ignore the entire history of this religion, fine, But dont call those of us who want to keep our eyes open haters.
Nope, Susie, I don't call you a hater... I call you a phobic. Irrationally scared of the "other" – just as your caveman ancestors were. I guess your gene pool hasn't evolved quite as far as others, huh?
I suppose you are too uneducated to understand that ad hominem arguments are irrational.
Look at the history of your religion and its followers and I'm talking about the time from crusaders to colonialism and from Christopher Columbus to Adolf Hitler and Jorge w bush and count who has committed more evil and racial discrimination against others
A quick five question test that every aspiring candidate for public office, Republican or Democrat, should be required to pass.
Q.1 The best theory we currently have is that Universe was created about 13.7 billion years ago in what is (somewhat misleadingly) called the Big Bang. To understand this we should:
a. Simply declare that, because we don’t know what caused the Big Bang, the Hindu god Brahma must have created the Universe.
b. Simply declare that, because we don’t know what caused the Big Bang, God or "Allah" must have created the Universe, depending on where we were born.
c. Adopt the Australian Aboriginal belief that the Universe was created by a great snake in the Dreamtime; or
d. Accept the limits on our current knowledge of the origins of the Universe and just stop there, without invoking a magic act by any god to fill the current gap in our knowledge.
Q.2 Likewise, we know that life on Earth evolved over the last approximately 3.5 billion years and likely began in a planet wide “organic soup” of complex organic chemicals in the primordial oceans, in an increasingly well understood process. As such, we should:
a. Look for any limitation in our knowledge and, when we find one, jump up and say “aha, scientists cannot yet fully explain (for example) how DNA synthesis first occurred, therefore the Judeo-Christian god did it.”
b. Look for any limitation in our knowledge and, when we find one, jump up and say “aha, scientists cannot yet fully explain (for example) how DNA synthesis first occurred, therefore the Hindu god Brahma, or Allah did it.”
c. Simply read our Bibles or Korans and find the answers there; or
d. Continue our scientific research and experimentation and not make the bald faced assertion that any god, ghost or goblin must have conjured up life through some inexplicable act of magic.
Q.3 The statement “I believe in God because the Bible tells me to and the reason I follow the Bible is because it is the word of God” is:
a. The reason 99% of Christians believe what they do;
b. Circular reasoning at its most obvious;
c. Specific to the Judeo-Christian parts of the World and totally rejected by all other parts of the World; or
d. All of the above.
Q.4 Probably the most fundamental tenet of Christian faith is that God sent his son Jesus to Earth to die and save us from the original sin of Adam and Eve. We now know that Adam and Eve was a myth. As such, any thinking Christian should:
a. Honestly and courageously question this and any other aspects of their faith that don’t make sense.
b. Make up some euphemistic nonsense like “well, we didn’t mean that literally” after having done exactly that for the last 1900 years until science comprehensively disproved it.
c. Just ignore the blatant contradiction and sweep it under the mat; or
d. Hold on to the myth because it makes them feel good.
Q5. Please choose your favorite Catholic superst.ition from those below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Catholics swallow and give an example of a non-Catholic belief which is just as stupid.
a. Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.
b. When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.
c. You can pray to a dead person for something. This dead person will then ask God to fulfill your wish. If this happens twice, this dead person becomes a saint.
d. A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.
The only way we'll have peace in the world and any freedom in science is if religion is finally shown for the fraud that it actually is. There is no god, there is no proof of a god, yet so many people use it to explain how they are here and why they do the things that they do in life. I wish people could see beyond the church, beyond what they see every day and question everything in their life vs accepting what people tell them day in and day out.
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.