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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.

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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. VFA

    So according to this story it's not the Muslums fault they were incited into it.Or in other words the old "she was dressed like she wanted it" defence.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  2. GAW

    Most of the atheists reading his article will be convinced that McLaren hasn't gone far enough by denying the existence of God and writing off all religion (conservative and liberal) as delusional.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  3. woodofpine

    As far as (!!!!) and others go, remember that a great deal of (North Africa's and) Israel's Sephardic Jews once resided in what is Spain today. They retreated with the Islamic Moors in the 13th – 15th C because they were rightfully scared to death of their fate under the (re)conquering Christians. At least during that period, the 'tolerance index' favored the muslims.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Chuck

      if your going to bring up the 'olden days', remember that the crusades began because Muslims were beheading any 'non-believer' if caught using trade routes through their territory.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  4. Michael, Chapel Hill

    It is easy to sound unresearche opinions. The author has generalized everything. Every week Muslims are killing Chrisitians in the different parts of the world where Muslims have comfortable majority. The author has a BLIND EYE to facts and the Liberal hate against evangelicals. Till they face jihadist's sword on their throat they will accuse evengelicals.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • rocinante

      "The author has generalized everything." [Followed by many generalizations.]

      Classic.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  5. barrie

    The Obama government should be censoring what these Christians are allowed to say.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  6. Bob

    Nothing more evil than religion – a blight on the human race.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  7. Chuck

    This is more than an opinion piece. It is attempt by a liberal bigot to blame Christians for the ill's befallen peaceful Muslims by radicals of their own faith. Also, the last time I looked, there were more than Christians in the twin towers when those packed passenger jets flew into them. So don't try to single out Christians when it comes to the fear of what the insane might do.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  8. Paul

    Muslims have a long way to go to "rehabilitate" themselves in the non-muslim world. Our perception of them, I admit is wrong, but how often do you see a muslim on TV, happy, laughing and enjoying life, especially muslim women. How are we supposed to feel when we see reports of terrorist funerals where muslims treat them as heroes and where they celebrate at the death of another human being ? How unprotected must we feel when the Koran teaches that "infidels" must be killed..that's you and me folks ? Muslims no need to "re-invent" themselves, show a different side to their religion, one that shows love and respect for their fellow man, regardless of faith....this probably is the true face of Islam, we just never get to see it.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • rocinante

      "but how often do you see a muslim on TV, happy, laughing and enjoying life?"

      Do you watch any sports? Quite a few prominent sports personalities are Muslim. Along with hundreds of other US celebrities.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  9. Frank Gantz

    Reblogged this on FrankGantz.com and commented:
    So McLaren wants to pull the speck out the eyes of evangelicals with the argument that evangelicals shouldn't be trying "to perform first aid on the eyes of others"?

    September 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  10. Barack

    Many Middle Eastern and even Western Muslims are stone age cretans. Show no mercy, give no ground, make no apologies. The world will be better off without them.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  11. Calesta Rie

    When the muslims start treating women like people instead of property I will be willing to change my anti muslium view

    September 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Shi

      I would like to say that I was a christian who converted to Islam, and my Muslim Husband treats me a billion times better than my lazy, womanizing, christian husband did. Not say all christian men are like this but, being a good Muslim man, one of your main duties is being a good friend, lover, and supporter of your wife.... stop spreading your nonsense and go read a book or two from actual scholars... the prophet mohammed ( peace be upon him) last will to his followers were " be good to women"

      September 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  12. Consequence

    Islamaphobia – a condition brought on by a conquering religion which swept Christians away from the Balkans to Anatolia, from Jerusalem to Iberia, a religion which chops off heads, hands and feet in the name of Allah, a religion stuck in the middle ages, a religion which produces tyrants more than democracies, a religion which inspires terrorism and the deaths of innocents...and, frankly, a religion which created the TSA and the Patriot Act, forever changing our freedoms and patterns of movement in America, the Land of the "Free". Phobia, it seems, is a well deserved expression.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  13. GAW

    So what's worse a Qu'ran burning pastor or Islamic extremists who send terrorists into the U.S. and crash planes into buildings that kill nearly 3000 people. I don't care for Terry Jones or Westboro Baptist Church and their like but their is a difference. I;m assuming McLaren knows this.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • rocinante

      A President who makes war on 2 innocent countries that results in over a million civilian deaths is worse.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The only difference is Terry Jones lives in a society that will not allow him to act in the same way. It is not the religion as much as the culture.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • pepsee

      Absolutely right you are. McLaren lives in Lala land. Let people like him try demonstrating even in a silent rally protesting the mistreatment of Christians, Jews, Hindus etc. get in the muslim countries and watch how the mob treats them. Then try they way the muslims are protesting in different countries, then watch muslim majorities reaction. Guess anybody?

      September 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  14. volsocal

    Can't see into everyone's heart, but what I do see tells me that the percentage of moslems that "turn piety to violence" is not so small. If it were, and if the rest of those populations did not condone it, then it should be easy for them to suppress the violence.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  15. observer1776

    This is nothing but Jihad of the pen. This write has the gall speak of a tiny number of violeny muslims. That is a lie.
    He speaks of evangelical hatred. That also is a lie.The write is a secular humanist trying to paint Christianity as bad and Islam as good. The big lie technique. He is disgusting. Islamophobia?? Islam has been at war with us for hundreds of year and id=s still at war with us. The Muslim Brotherhood is the founder of the modern jihad. The writer is a subversive.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • The Federalist

      Christian fundementalist trash you are sir.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  16. Sharron

    It's Radical-Jihadist-Islamophobia, nothing against Muslims who practice their faith peacefully every day. I, too, have been offended many times by non-Christians who do disgusting things with the Cross and call it "art," but you will never find me rioting in the street, demanding a change in laws, killing foreign diplomats, or God forbid, beheading anyone who disagrees with the Gospel! So don't call me an Islamophobic.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • The Federalist

      Your mindless adherence to your version of the one true faith, attacking all other forms of faith as unworthy and beneath you is what needs to be purged from our great nation.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  17. Ed from Chicago

    Fantastic.

    Now that you have it all figured out, you should leave the land of these radical misguided evangelicals and go the the land or the poor victimized Muslims.

    Saudi Arabia I am sure will welcome you with open arms.

    But wait, maybe you should give even more to the peace loving Muslims and move to a less fortunate place like Somalia or Yemen, where you can help these poor folks, being the noble peaceful soul that you are.

    While you're at it why don't you save some of those Muslim victims right here at home and take them with you to the land of the pure and peaceful, take as many Muslim with as you can please. We wish you and all your buddies well.

    After all according to the Muslim book, every Muslim should live under Islamic government and Sharia law. The US is the last place that fits that description. You can always come back when this country is fully transformed.

    Oh by the way, Satan is over rated too. He is just a nice guy who is misunderstood. C'mon be nice to others, don't always think that everything you know is true. Satan is really a nice guy, just give him a chance.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Sharron

      Well said.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Dawkins

      Well articulated.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • pepsee

      If they hate the non-muslim ifidels so much maybe there should two territories on earth – one exclusively for muslims and one exclusively for rest of the non-muslims. Strictly no crossing the boundaries unless you truly become a non-muslim or a muslim. We will get rid of a lot of violence.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Shi

      Yo Ed,

      This great country was built by hard working Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Buddhist, Lesbians, Gays, Etc.... how about you go back to what ever hell hole in Europe your Ancestors came from.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  18. rocinante

    Until the content of this article is preached from the pulpit – I don't think you have the ear of any evangelicals.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  19. rick

    there is a difference between the false invectives thrown about by crazy evangelical christians and crazy evangelical muslims: the muslims call for jihad i.e. the killing of those not muslim and the christians just preach their paranoia to the already paranoid without calling for the killing of those not christian. a major difference.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • rocinante

      Well, we did go to war with 2 innocent countries, because Bush said "God spoke to him". Those wars killed over 1 million civilians according to some estimates.

      Fyi, for any readers who ddidn't know:

      Saddam Hussein didn't have nukes nor did he have anything to do with 9/11.

      Osama Bin Laden was never in Afghanistan.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • mjbrin

      this why America has seperation of church and state

      September 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  20. GAW

    I still don't know what to make of McLaren's article. Still he wants to be a liberal Christian and just cant bring himself to admit it. At times he ends up with a wishy washy kind of Christianity that try to make everyone happy.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Nodack

      Unlike the unwishy washy Christians that know for a fact they want to "kill them all" for Jesus.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:27 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.