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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. Mike

    In this era of hatred coming from all sides I admire your courage to come out and take a stand which is not "acceptable" by lot of folks here in this country and in the rest of the world. Life is too short to be wasted on hatred and fear.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  2. Paul

    The idea that one or another selected religious sect is "right" is something we need to stop preaching.

    What god told you was right. What god told a muslim is right. The two do not need to be the same. The differences do not make one more or less right than the other.

    So, whatever sect claims that the other sects are "wrong" is reaching the wrong conclusion.

    It does not matter what your sect is. If your sect leads you to hate other sects, you have missed the point. Your sect is no better or worse than theirs, and theirs is no better or worse than yours.

    Fighting about it is the failure.

    Religion is about bringing people together, not driving them apart.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Prime Directive

      Paul,

      There is no verified evidence that _any_ god spoke to _anyone_ - _ever_.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Susie

      So when their religion says to blow me up, I should just take it?

      September 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  3. wassupUSA

    Let me get this straight; acknowledging that radical Muslims are murderous is "Islamaphobic"? Also, being "tolerant" equates to being ignorant.
    The author of this article is as dumb as the person that referred to the Fort Hood shooting as "workplace violence" (it was the president).

    September 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  4. Robert

    This Islamophobia is one reason I am no longer a Christian. I've seen so many examples of people who claim to live by, among other things, the 10 commandments, but when it comes to spreading that very religion, they are willing to tell transparent lies. To give a few examples as far as Islamophobia goes, I've know people who told me about how the Muslims killed all the Christians in Rwanda and the United States is next. Other are certain from the propaganda they've heard that female genital mutilation is a strictly Muslim practice. No, it was practiced long before Islam and in the regions where it is practiced Christians and other non-Muslims are subjected to it. It occurs nowhere in any Islamic teaching from Mohammad's time. And the list goes on. A faith that has to be spread by breaking it's own teaching is not for me. I'm agnostic.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • MemDave

      Good points, Robert. I’m agnostic too;I just can’t get past the concept of “infinity.” Yet, here we are.

      But the fuss is all about religion and God. In 551 B.C., Lao Tzu explained the concept very well:

      There was something heterogeneously formed predating Heaven and Earth in its birth. Soundless, formless it stands solitary and does not change. It revolves without pause. If forced to assign it a name, I would call it ‘Great’.

      It is innate for mankind to question where he came from, why he’s here and what happens when he dies. To address these questions, most faiths have a messenger who brings the word of God to the people. The messenger essentially tells them how God wants them to behave on earth. This is eventually put into writing in a holy book, which becomes God’s law.

      All the major theistic religions have some variation of this theme, and I believe share most of the same morals and principles. They actually share the same God; it’s how His message is applied by man that causes problems.

      To desecrate another religion’s deity is the highest insult. It’s like you are intentionally starting a fight by spitting in someone’s face. Any sane person understands this. But people often behave stupidly and then deservedly get an angry reaction. Thus, on both ends of the current crisis, emotion has trumped reason. Let cooler heads prevail.

      Since there is an obvious disagreement in the east vis-a-vis the west as to how God’s message was intended, wouldn’t it behoove everyone to sit down and talk about how to coexist peacefully? If everyone paid more attention to waging peace, not war, the world would be a much better place to live – and worship.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  5. swin - Pittsburgh

    To sum up this article, WE are responsible because THEY hate us and want to kill us. And when we acknowledge that they hate us and want to kill us, this author says that we are insulting them and are prejudiced against them. Yea, right.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • rzarc

      You really don't have a clue do you?

      September 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • wassupUSA

      Go Steelers!

      September 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  6. !!!!!!!!!

    Taken from the book; "Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat" of Dr. Peter Hammond

    As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given country, they will for the most part be regarded as a "peace-loving" minority, and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:
    the U.S. — 0.6%; Australia — 1.5%; Canada – 1.9%; China — 1.8%; Italy — 1.5%; Norway — 1.8%.

    At 2% – 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs. This is happening in:
    Denmark — 2%; Germany — 3.7%; the UK — 2.7%; Spain — 4%; Thailand — 4.6%.

    From 5% +, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their shelves – along with threats for failure to comply. This is occurring in:
    France — 8%;Philippines — 5%; Sweden — 5%; Switzerland — 4.3%;The Netherlands — 5.5%; Trinidad & Tobago — 5.8%.

    At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.
    -------------------------------------------------
    When Muslims approach 10% + of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris, we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam, with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam. Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections in:
    Guyana — 10%;India — 13.4%;Israel — 16%;Kenya — 10%;Russia — 15%.

    After reaching 20% +, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in:
    Ethiopia — 32.8%.

    At 40% +, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:
    Bosnia — 40%;Chad — 53.1%;Lebanon — 59.7%.

    From 60% +, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:
    Albania — 70%;Malaysia — 60.4%;Qatar — 77.5%;Sudan — 70%.

    After 80% +, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is on-going in:
    Bangladesh — 83%;Egypt — 90%;Gaza — 98.7%;Indonesia — 86.1%;Iran — 98%;Iraq — 97%;Jordan — 92%;Morocco — 98.7%;Pakistan — 97%;Palestine — 99%;Syria — 90%;Tajikistan — 90%;Turkey — 99.8%;UAE — 96%.

    100% will usher in the peace of ‘Dar-es-Salaam’ — the Islamic House of Peace. Here there’s supposed to be peace, because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and Quran is the only word, such as in:
    Afghanistan — 100%;Saudi Arabia — 100%;Somalia — 100%;Yemen — 100%.

    Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% Muslim states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons...

    September 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  7. LWJR

    Better to quote Dr. Mark A. Gabriel, author of "Jesus and Muhammad". Dr. Gabriel graduated from the most prestigious Islamic University in Cairo and converted from Islam. Seems to me, a liberal evangelical that slid into humanism is not exactly someone who represents Christianity, but CNN, loves to keep up their antiChristian, anti-Conservative Christian ways. Great YELLOW Journalism piece.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  8. Steven Smith

    It used to be a secret how entrenched the hatred of Muslims was among evangelicals. Not any more. Think of Germany 1938 and you have a good picture of the situation. There is no sense of compassion or understanding of Muslims whatsoever in the US evangelical community. It really is sad how far they have strayed from what Jesus taught.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Mkat2

      I am Agnostic. I have no compassion for the Nazi's, nor, for the Islamists. By your actions ye shall be known! Both groups a scourage on mankind & this author is of the type that gets us laughed at in the Islamic world. They would LOVE him!

      September 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Steve1959

      Really? Was it the Jews that took our embassy in Tehran and held our people hostage for well over a year? Was the the Poles that bombed the US embassy and marine barracks in Beirut in 83? Maybe it was the French that hijacked Kuwait flight 221 in 84 and murdered all the American passengers on board. Or maybe it was those Czechs that bombed the disco in Berlin killing US servicemen in 86. Of course there's no doubt it was the Italians that blew up flight 103 over Lockerbie in 88. Was that the British that bombed the WTC in 93 killing 7 and wounding over 1000 people? Let's not forget that 9/11 was most certainly an inside job. Yep, Muslims are as pure as the driven snow, you poor brainwashed child.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  9. Tom

    A phobia is an irrational fear. There is nothing irrational about fearing Islam. Therefore, there is no such thing as Islamaphobia. Islam is a fascist ideology with no place in the modern world, or any other world for that matter. While there may be moderate Muslims, there is no moderate Islam.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  10. We are not stupid

    Oh no, they PROVED this week Muslims are cold hearted KILLERS because their book tells them to......
    Sura 9:5: The Ayah of the Sword

    May 5

    But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (Sura at Tawba 9:5).[1]

    Although there are over a hundred ayat (verses) in the Qur’an that that pertain to jihad and warfare against the unbelievers, Sura 9:5 is perhaps the most well known among these. For this reason, it has often been called the “Ayah of the Sword.” This comes right in the heels of Sura 9:1-4, which declares the cancellation of any treaties between the Muslims and the Pagans (except those who cooperate with the Muslims), as shown in the preceding four verses:

    A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Apostle, to those of the Pagans with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances:- Go ye, then, for four months, backwards and forwards, (as ye will), throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah (by your falsehood) but that Allah will cover with shame those who reject Him. And an announcement from Allah and His Apostle, to the people (assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage,- that Allah and His Apostle dissolve (treaty) obligations with the Pagans. If then, ye repent, it were best for you; but if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject Faith. (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous (Sura at Tawba 9:1-4),

    September 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Allah does not love anyone. Allah does not exist. You are stupid for believing in Allah.

      ..

      September 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • aLLAH exists and it is called satan
      September 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  11. Susie

    When polls are conducted in Muslim countries and more than half of them side with groups like Al Qaeda, I think we should certainly cautious about these groups.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  12. Umboogamubooga - the prophet

    Karl Rove, the Light of the World will save your sorry souls. Get in line for your sixty nine virgins.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Veritas

      What happened to the other three virgins? As I write this, I cannot believe the kind of nonsense adult humans actually believe in! Religions like islam, judaism and christianity are bizarre and mind boggling...

      September 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Ralph

      You need to get your mind out of the gutter, it is 72 virgins, not 69 virgins!

      September 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  13. Bodacia

    Who are paying the protesters??? Ai Quaeda? Republicans? Mormons?

    September 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  14. LOWELL

    Appeaser and a danger to WESTERN CIVILIZATION. Hopefully, when the ISLAMIC CALIPHATE is established due to your
    subverisve work to undermine the West, you will be one of the first INFIDELS to be beheaded.
    ALLAH AKHBAR

    September 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  15. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Prime Directive-–Read reports of LR2 Atom smasher for proof of truth absolute, ALLAH, hindu, ignorant.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Proof of truth absolute: LALAH LALAH LALHA! You can't catch me! You idiot Muslim Hindu wannabe.

      .

      September 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  16. Tigrr

    Maybe there are reasons the muslims are angry.... though it does not justify murder....
    see youtube - CIA Asset Susan Lindauer Can Now Speak 10 years after 9-11.
    Yeah the Bush WH did it... and lied about everything. Stil do.

    Americans should be out in the streets protesting until the Bush WH Gang (and Israel Mossad) are arrested.
    See Veterans Today for more.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  17. Rob

    All religions are equally responsible for the problems in the world.... Religions, ALL religions are equally carcinogenic and should be seen as the root of all evil.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  18. Iqbal Khan

    September 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Copenshaw

      Waste no time on this. Another conspiracy theory to wean US from Israel.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  19. Copenshaw

    Another attack on evangelicals who have committed no violence recently to be in the news, trying to appease some violent muslims. Stockholm effect?

    CNN needs to explore how much critique it has done on a violent religion, causing mayhem around the world, compared to Christianity recently. Assured no retribution, the attacks keep coming. May be violence is working for islamists.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Someone

      No, the author did not talk about evangelicals as a whole – he refers to those who have made the fear of Islam a centerpiece in their words, which helps to unite a flock – fear of a common enemy.

      The reality is that these were attacks started by a relatively small fraction of people in extremely poor nations. Things are quiet in other cities in Egypt – Alexandria was peaceful for example. In the US, there are cities with relatively large Muslim populations – LA and Detroit to name a couple – and we haven't seen much, if any, protests out of them because they understand what this was – a stupid video posted on the open web.

      The fact is these protests are taking place on 9/11 is probably more significant. We have been viewed as the Great Satan for a number of reasons – invasion (remember Iraq?), our support of Israel, and a general view that our values are polluting the world.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  20. jamilahk

    People who brand all Muslims as violent or Islam as a violent religion have no idea what they're talking about. I'm an American who converted to Islam 32 years ago. In the 31 years we've been married, my husband has never raised a hand to me, and not only does he "let" me drive, he's bought me cars over the years. He also worked in fast food for two years after finishing his doctorate so I could finish mine. We've raised six sons, all non-violent and well-mannered. And don't tell me I don't know what the Qur'an says. I wrote my dissertation about Islamic jihad. When conducted properly, jihad is much more humanitarian than anything that passes for war these days. No civilian deaths. The problem is that most Muslims have forgotten what jihad is. I'm working to remind them.

    September 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • hmm

      what is jihad?

      September 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Prime Directive

      When you provide verified evidence for your god (any god), we'll talk.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Would that be no true Muslim or no true jihadist would seek or condone "civilian deaths".

      September 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      They are Dumb, deaf and blinded, hindu's, deniers of truth absolute.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Veritas

      Maybe you should try living in an islamic nation also, like Saudi, Iran or Pakistan...

      September 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • timetogetreal

      Try moving to the middle east and see if you have those type of freedom. Just a thought....

      September 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Susie

      So what you are saying is that it is okay to start wars to force Islam on other countries as long as no civilians are killed? And I would love to see your definition of civilian., because I keep seeing dead children in the streets due to "jihad". I would also like to see a war where no civilians are killed, it is pretty much impossible.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:11 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.