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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. Sbul

    The behavior of the Muslims brings islamaphobia onto themselves. All extremist are the problem.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  2. reader10

    As a good Christian he should walk among the demonstraters with a cross around his neck.
    See how far he gets.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  3. Steve

    I'm NOT phobic – I think all the Radical Muslims should die & I would be more than willing to 'help' them get to 'Paradise' early!

    September 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  4. JohnK

    The ultrareligious individuals that are the biggest Islamaphobes aren't too bright to start with, so the propaganda that the right-wing is putting out there now fits right into their narrow little world view. When you think that your religion is the only true faith and and that any other beliefs will send you to hell, it doesn't leave much room for logical thought.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • LOL

      I'm so bright ya gotta ear shades. I'll throw down my brightness against yours any day, Mr. Left- winger egomaniac.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  5. chuckmartel

    This guy is an idiot. I have nothing to do with evangelicals, have no use for their beliefs and I would never have any muslim friends. At least the evangelicals don't riot and kill if someone says something bad about Christianity. Islamaphobia is the most stupid PC word around. Phobia my butt. .

    September 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  6. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    where is my Mohammad?

    September 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Steve

      In the 'Head' with allah giving the same, LOL

      September 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • Michael

      Islamphobla? Or disgust of religion that breeds intolerance and ignorance?
      I am sure there are many intelligent Muslims but the ones that cause the
      problems are what we see. And from what I see I don't like.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      DUST, and waiting on his judgement.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  7. DJ

    It is never too late for Muslims to convert and believe in the One true God and be saved, but unlike Islam, we will not force you, or punish you if you don't.

    Please give us the same respect to practice our faith, and to share it with others. We are secure about our faith, and not affraid to let you share your faith with others, its called freedom of choice. Try it, don't force your faith on others, give Christians and Jewss the same respect as you would,want.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  8. GoldenGirl

    I think it's okay to be concerned about radical Muslims while being aware not every Muslim is a violent jihadist. That concern shouldn't be classified as Islamaphobia. I would say Islamaphobes are those that believe all Muslims are capable of the same violence that some are. There may be some Islamaphobes but I don't think many people have such a narrow view.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  9. Dude

    The US government and nation wants the muslim and other nations to not teach anything the incite hate against the west or Israel. They launched a media assault on saudia Arabia and Pakistan to close the Madrassa and on countries like Jordan to alter the teaching to avoid offendeing US. However, the US media, movies, and evangilical christians are openly teaching hate with a green light from the US government.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  10. gango

    Islamophobia: That's a pejorative term that Muslims use in ad hominem attacks to discredit anyone who does not share their agenda, religion, and world view. If we in the West were not constantly reminded by Muslims how "ignorant" we are, there might actually be room for a dialogue.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  11. Open your eyes!

    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 5:01 pm |
    • MilkMan

      I think this is similar to the Nazi stats of the jews, and the white American stats of blacks in the early 1900s. This is speaks more about the author than you. Why don't you compare the era of 700 – 1300 when muslims rules compared to the current era where the west rule. for the past 200 years, this country has been in a major war every decdade. Very peacful loving nation indeed.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Alex

      Spot on!

      September 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  12. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Operator: 9-1-1
    Caller: Please help my Mohammad!
    Operator: what is his emergency?
    Caller: He is burning, I smell his burning flesh. Please help.
    Operator: What is the address? I am sending ambulance Sir!
    Caller: I think he is in HELL, please send help.
    Operator: stop making prank calls Mohammad.

    September 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  13. Seeker

    Why don't more Muslims actually respond discuss the Quran and their theology? Why do they come in, write a couple of innocent sounding verses and then go away, never bothering to even attempt an answer to other parts of the Quran and Hadiths that are not so nice? If normal people can read the Quran and see incitement of violence, then how do they denounce that in their communities? Do they? Or do they make excuses as they seem to here by blaming other countries and religions?

    September 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Tolonder Gremloousstien

      What's the point? Religious people will not listen to reason, not at all. They are caught in a loop of circular logic impregnibly defended inside the most closed minds imaginable. Christians will not listen, Muslims will not listen, and tehre is no amount of logic that can change that ignorance.

      You can point out the horrors of the sword verses or Deutronomy, and they won't listen at all. There is no point.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  14. Pastor LN

    I recently returned from a trip to Zambia. This morning a member of my church asked if I saw "any of those anti-Christian Muslims" while in Africa. My response: "not nearly as many as the anti-Muslim Christians I saw when I got home."

    September 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • LOL.

      Shut up. Go to Sudan and make sure they know you're a Christian. By the way, you deserve what's coming if you're dumb enough to actually do it.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  15. HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

    BM sayz, '....It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common.....' BM, you do realize Arabs are Semites, too? The Semites are anti-Semitic. Hatfields and McCoys. Get it? The term anti-Semitic was stolen by the McCoys and now can only be applied to them. Why?

    September 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  16. Naz

    This writer is ignorant or acting one. READ what is Islam, see with your own eyes what are they doing around the world, get yourself familiar with the sharia law and then start writing about Islam ... Here are some Quran verses for you to consider:
    Qur'an:9:5 "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war."
    Surah 47:4 says:  Therefore, WHEN YOU MEET THE UNBELIEVERS, SMITE AT THEIR NECKS; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly.
    Listen to what their imams call for in mosques, the problem is we are so peaceful people and they are taking this advantage, I have very nice Muslim friends but their issue is not are not religious, so it is not about Muslims it is about Islam!!!

    September 16, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  17. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Islam is hinduism, religion but Three, Tres, Tran Allah, consti tution of America truth absolute and foundation of every consti tution on earth.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  18. Boris Babakov

    One way to cure Islamaphobia is to have Islamic clerics call for riots and murder and then have the follwers take to the streets murdering people amd burning buildings. After that thye should shout, "we're a peacefull people. Our clerics and leaders agree"! Imagine if a white supremecist group rioted because some made a derogatory remark about the KKK, or Jews in NYC rioted because someone said something bad about Isreal at the UN, or NASCAR fans went on a killing spree because somebody said something negative about Dale Earnhart. Give me a break.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • LOL.

      Hahahahahaha. A little ridicule never hurt anyone.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  19. DJ

    Sorry to disappoint Muslims, but there is only One true God and His name is I AM, not Alaah. He has one beloved Son Jesus Christ who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born without sin from the virgin Mary, a simple Jewish girl. He died for the salvation of all mankind, including Muslims. He was reserected and assended into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father along with the Holy Spirit reins in heaven, and He will come again to judge the living and the damned.

    God is the father of Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, and David.

    He is not a tyrant that forces anyone to worship Him. He gave us free will to
    chose him. Christians and Jews do not force anyone to believe in God, or have a plan to force anyone to believe in Him, nor do we punish or hate you because you don't. We don't condemn others for believing in Islam.

    There are no virgins waiting for you in heaven, there is no need for such things.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • rhondajo3

      @DJ True! There is only One True God, and His name is not Allah! It is Jaweh! The name Allah is no where to be found in the Bible!

      September 16, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  20. VCMD

    Some people are terming Islam as religion of peace and tolerance! If this was true, why would Islamic countries have most violence! Look at the history! The Islamic rulers invaded countries after countries and slaughtered people who did not convert to Islam and raged their places of worship! Koran clearly says that! These guys will say that Koran preaches peace and tolerance and when you refer them to pages where Koran clearly preaches violence and intolerance, they start arguing that you don't understand the true meaning! Koran is just preaching to kill the bad spirit the person is controlled by instead of killing the person!!!!

    September 16, 2012 at 4:55 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.