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.
Money and power is all these clergy crave. Mega churches in the U.S. are as corrupt as the Imam's in the middle east. A life believing this crap is a life wasted. How bout them Mormon,kids riding bicycle's all over the world talking folks into donating 10% so they can buy shopping Malls, a religion started by a weirdo pervert who needed a few wives. Shame, shame shame. A bunch of sheep not facing their own mortality. I'm mad, damn mad...
Islam is not a religion it is a regime. The movie is not the cause of this violence. An ambassador is dead along with three of his staff. Where is the outrage and leadership to deal with this? I have lived in muslim countries, the people are hypocrites.
I've lived my whole life in America. Its people are hypocrites too. So are most Christians.
A movie about a historical figure who lived over thousand years ago is hate speech against some people living today ? I am not following. Is Braveheart hate speech against English ?
Finally, a voice of reason in the " Christian " community who recognizes that the term Muslim does not equate to "terrorist", and that Christians too are capable of spreading hatred in the remarks.
It's time to face the real reality... we are not afraid of Islam. We just find it a violent and oppressive religion, and we don't want that kind of filth in our country. Stay in the middle east, and blow yourselves up over there, don't come here. It is further the wish of most Americans that we stop sending aide to the middle east, and that we should close our diplomatic missions. We have our own problems at home anyway. The best thing we can do is contain the disease of Islam to the middle east, and prevent it from spreading like the cancer it is.
We are not afraid of Islam. In fact, many are ready to take up arms to defend our country from it.
I honestly did not think it was possible to find a group dumber than evangelical Christians until I had a bit to do with Muslims. Wow, just wow. The way they let their pedophile-prophet and their primitive superst.ition govern every aspect of their lives is frightening.
Your average Muslim activist makes the likes of Jerry Farwell or Pat Robertson look wordly, sophisticated and peaceful.
have you met any Marxist-Leninist atheists yet?
they blow away any other ideological group in the history of man for evil... and foolishness..
Believe in Me, or else!
Raised Southern Baptist, yep, a dunker. When I was a small child I figured out that the speed of sound was pretty fast, somewhere around 600MPH and realized that there was no way Santa could pull it off with a bunch of deer...even if they could attain those speeds.
500 years ago the general consensus was that the world was flat, yep, you could simply sail right of the edge in to oblivion. The universe as we knew it rotated around the Earth, we were the center of the Universe.
2000 years ago we weren't much more advanced than the first upright humans but along comes religion and solves any and all problems. Kind of like Unions at the beginning of Industrialization, possibly the right thing at the time but not so much today. Sure, thou shalt not kill is a good thing but doesn't seem to stop said killing very well.
Man has always had an issue with concepts he can not comprehend. Things like infinity, or even that life is finite, so we create answers to those concepts to satisfy our inner fears and lack of understanding.
I often ask this question in these types of debates. "Just how big is the universe?" Some will say I don't know, some will simply say very large, some will say infinite. Truth is we don't know. But if it's X size then it must have a limit and if so, what is on the other side of that?
The truth is probably more fantastic than any of us can remotely comprehend in our relatively limited understanding of the universe. Personally I think we sell it incredibly short.
But I have to ask this. If there is no afterlife would you or anyone else be so quick to risk your life for something as abstract as religion?
The question is not "If there is no afterlife would you or anyone else be so quick to risk your life for something as abstract as religion?" The question is ""If YOU DID NOT BELIEVE there is an afterlife would you or anyone else be so quick to risk your life for something as abstract as religion?"
Two very different things.
Actually, its surprising how sophisticated some tribes were 2000 years ago.
It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't?) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.
Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!
Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species.
Of course Islam is a crazy religion. But look at Christianity. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. I don't buy any of it.
Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god (something you know nothing about), fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind. That's where, in your mind, you are inheriting the division and hate from ordinary politicians, lobbyists and salesmen from long ago.
Can I have an AMEN!
I bet there are fewer Islamophobic white supremacists among the atheists. Afterall, once you understand how crazy the Christians are, its relatively easy to look at the Muslims and simply see it as another crazy religion.
AMEN here too!
ATHEISM: The belief that there was nothing, and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything, and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinasours. Makes perfect sense, right?
@Atheism is Great for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!
State atheism is the official promotion of atheism by a government, sometimes combined with active suppression of religious freedom and practice.
Examples of states with official policies of atheism:
Cambodia under Khmer Rouge
those atheists governments have killed in excess of 250million people
care to reconsider your moniker?
Islam is nothing but a political movement hidden under religion. The movement was a fork of the Jewish and Christians, but around 600 years after Christ. Jewish and Christians, gave them the trick on how to use religion to recruit people for hidden purposes, business or political.
ArchieDeBunker said – "ATHEISM: The belief that there was nothing, and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything . . ."
I guess you didn't read what I wrote. I am agnostic about deities. I only claim that NO ONE knows anything about any creator if he/she/them exist. What you are describing is an atheist regarding deities. I suggest you go back and read what I wrote Mr. Archie debunked.
To ArchieDeBunker: No, a ghost did it all (some sort of spirit). You are so right. Pretty realistic isn't it? And you are a genius...
@Chad- That was totally improvised. Some sort of historic Jazz I guess.
Mr Chad – I've heard this claim before. Governments that are not democracies remove religion and many other rights of individuals to maintain strict control over their populations. But nothing is ever done "in the name of" atheism since atheism is the absence of belief. Sometimes, some of the world's most ruthless leaders have not even needed to worry as much about religion as a threat to their ultimate agenda – maintaining strict control over the people. Hitler would be an example of that. He was a Christian through and through. So you have what most people realize now as a very poor misconception about atheism.
What is more concerning for us to realize is that, over hundreds of years, murder and all kinds of disenfranchisement have occurred specifically in the name of various religions – and Christianity is by far, no exception. The various inquisitions are just one example of that. And today, we are more than ever under threat of religion invading our bedrooms, limiting women's rights and many other things. So I'll stick with my "moniker" thank you very much.
CHRISTIANITY: 2000 years ago, a cosmic Jewish zombie screwed his own teenager virgin mother so he could get her pregnant with himself. He did this so he could sacrifice himself to himself in order to save the world from himself because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake with legs to eat fruit from a magical tree.
In fact, he loves us so much that he will send the majority of humanity to hell for not kissing his aѕѕ the right way. But if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, he will forgive you for the rib-woman's mistake so you can joyfully spend the rest of eternity...kissing his aѕѕ.
p.s. "dinasours" - is that a new flavor of Skittles?
@mama kindless "But nothing is ever done "in the name of" atheism since atheism is the absence of belief. "
@Chad "State atheism is the official promotion of atheism by a government, sometimes combined with active suppression of religious freedom and practice"
not sure where you are getting confused..
Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot were all atheists, with an official state doctrine of eradicating religion, persecuting churches, killing members for no other reason beyond their belief in God..
Atheism is great etc. I will go with skepticism. Atheism follows naturally as we take a critical look at the beliefs Chad and his kind try to foist on people. Other sorts of cults don't fare any better under a critical eye than does religion. See them clearly. Oppose them.
@Tom, Tom, the Other One "See them clearly. Oppose them."
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. Karl Marx
over 250million dead..
"We have forgotten God. That's why all this has happened." Alexander Solzhenitsyn
I don't think we can put an end to death, Chad. I know that's the principal hope you have in your God, and I am sorry that it most probably won't work out as you imagine. AMDG
phobia = abnormal & excessive fear. fear of islam is neither. it is foolish and dangerous to think that islam is a benign religion. it preaches & practices intolerance and violence anywhere it exists. it is therefore just as or more dangerous than hitlers fascist nazi party. unless people stop appeasing it it will continue to grow by using forced conversions or or killing of all the other religions and atheists, gays, woman, british , americans etc etc etc
Sounds a lot like Christianity. Sounds a lot like any religion. Brain-washing is pretty much always bad no matter what you call it.
The world is far more concerned about Muhammad's creation, INFIDELPHOBIA!
It only took one paragraph to know that this was one dumbest articles cnn.com has ever posted. I work with more Muslims in one day than many people will meet in their lifetimes, and I promise you "islamiphobia" is not our problem. The uninformed masses are our problem.
Eddie, that is because people fear what they do not understand. I have known and worked wiht Muslims for about 4 decades now. Based on that experience I can tell you (as you will probably agree) that they are just like everyone else. They laugh. They cry. They love their families. They get disgusted when members of their religion committ hate crimes against others. Pretty much sums them up as human, if you ask me.
When I worked in the Middle East, I had to accomodate to the Islamic work week. When they work here in the States, they have to accomodate to our work week. Big deal. You learn to adapt. It was interesting, though, finding a copy of the Koran in English in the hotel rooms instead of the Gideon Bible!
All organized religions are disease to humanity and Islam is the cancer .... Period !!
fully agree. don't forget some cancers are curable or treatable but islam is neither. it is the most virulent form of the disease.
Ryan, no religion can be blamed for what their followers do! Whether you belong to Christian, Muslim, Jew or an atheist, there are good and bad people in each group so its people who make look religion bad and is not other way around. All religion say love and do good to other people......I know its tired argument in support of the religion but its very true! Secular and liberal societies also have plenty of bad people who do awful things to others. So constantly spreading false rumour and hatred towards any one group of people will solve nothing! No one group has any spremacy over others......to me it is more a cultural clash and other prejudices rather religion. As an immigrant myself to North America 37 years ago, I have seen it all......at that time nobody disliked me because of this or that religion but they certainly shown displeasure for me being a non-white person......but my host country is overwhemlingly of Christian faith. Should I blame to the Christian religion now or the people who did not like my colour of the skin? I only blamed to misguided individuals not the religion!
Ekram, you belong to a religion where your forefathers were probably Hindu and were forcibly converted to Islam. Now few generation later you are apologizing for that perverted religion.
Also you would never blame christians because the reason is clear. Your religion follows the line of prophets that Christianity follows, so just do the math. Telling them bad makes you look bad.
"Islamophobia" is a consciously invented thought crime specifically designed to hush any criticism of Islam or Muslims. Offer the throats of your own children to the scimitar if you must, but don't try to shut up the rest of us who see the danger coming.
Pretty much correct. If you want to see what the organized religion have done, look no further than Sudan/Nigeria or even India. The islamists have stretched their tentacles in all forms of life and at some places subverting the progress of country from within. For that matter the christian right is not far behind in destroying things...
This is possibly the most inane article I have read on CNN. It doesn't matter if we are phobic or not. There are a lot of Muslims who want to kill anyone who they feel blastphemes their sacred cows, namely Mohammud or Allah. This kind of sensitivity is more phobic than how I might react to a bunch of religious zealots senselessly killing people for an opinion they might possess and express. Where are all of these "good" Muslims when the crazies at out doing their thing, ie, killing innocents for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I'm MUCH more afraid of crazy American Christians than Muslims. Muslims kill a few hundred of us a year. Christians pollute our country on a much larger magnitude.
Yeah, dumb Christians pollute this country with all their charity that makes up for the well-known lack of it from the non-religious.
LOL, what is your point? We only need charity to clean up the atrocities caused by religion.
Newsflash: All religions are insane. Is it really surprising that people who believe in a magic invisible man do crazy things? The only thing crazier is that American Christians are too dumb to realize that they're just as idiotic. As long as you believe in fantasies instead of using your brain, this stuff will continue to happen. Don't blame Islam, blame RELIGION.
Yes, if those kids cannot play nice with their imaginary super-heroes, it's time to put them ALL up on the shelf before they burn the house down.
Well said, I must say 2 religions in particulat, Christianity and Islam are the violent types.
Where are Budhhists, Hindus, Jains, shintos & SIkhs are running amok and killing or converting people? These 2 proselytize religions are the biggest destroyer in this world as they want to take over the world by hook or crook.
The truth is, there is no phobia, we are not afraid. We do fear that we might have to kill them all so the rest of us can live in peace.
Are you seriously that dumb?
So RickV, you want to kill 1.6 billion people? That would make you the winner of the blood thirsty awards. You could be your own god.
See folks this is where much of the New Atheism is leading us to. In order to achieve a better society there must be bloodshed and elimination of those who stand in their way. I guess that's what radical Muslims believe as well. I guess you become what you hate.
@GAW, You have me totally confused. I didn't get the feeling that RickV is an atheist. It also seems that you are a bit confused about we skeptics. Please go Google the humanists manifesto. It is much more specific and dare I say, humane, than the 10 commandments.
It is not a war of religions. If you count the people, more people were killed in the two world wars. Were the killers Muslim?
Believe me spreading hate is not the solution, it is actually the problem.
If only the crazy religious Americans realized that. Unfortunately, they thrive on hate.
@ DJ, as long as hell exist, there is no free will. @ Naz and Open your eyes; you two have not read the old testament lately. Lot's of permission to murder those who don't believe as you do. @LOL, I keep waiting for you to say something intelligent, but I guess I will have to wait till hell freezes over.
But you realize hell doesn't exist, right? I mean, ignore science as much as you want, but does anyone actually still think that if we dig into the middle of the earth, we'll find the devil? Seriously? I'm just so tired of pretending that religion is anything other than completely insane!
@Jake; that was, I thought, a clever bit of sarcasm. I guess you missed the meaning of my post. Or, I suppose, I wasn't that clever. I'm non-theistic and teach science, including evolution with great relish. I'm with you about being a bit fatiqued with the carrying on of the extremists. By the way, I'm a big fan of Dawkins and Hitchens.
Jake , quit pretending. You know the def of insanity?
A fanatic of myth makers?
Evolutionists know how to work a crowd. Darwin, a man for his racist times and Leakey, looking for the ol' common ancestor if he gets another 30 years! How many humans does it take to do the ol' crossover?
I recognize the author's point; as a Christian I do acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims are decent people of faith, who neither condone nor participate in these extremist and nihilistic activities. Yet, also as a Christian, I have trouble wrapping my intellectual view of Muslims, around the fact that the faith they follow was founded by a man who – not only denied the basic character of Christ – but who also taught that he was, in fact, greater than Christ. Now that kind of declaration can come from only one of two sources: madness or evil. IF the former, then Islam, as a religion is no more fundamentally dangerous than Mormonism or Scientology; that is, annoying but not really dangerous to humanity as a whole. If sourced by the latter however, well.......
It also doesn't help that Islam has no centrally-recognized authority, like say the Pope or the Dali Lama, to clearly condemn this wrong behavior, and that, in the lack thereof, the recognized leaders of the disparate factions do not enter into some sort of joint action to stop this, for the benefit of their faith, as a whole. Lacking that, I believe that there may, indeed, come a day when the fear of the radicals – that the West seeks to "destroy" Islam – may actually become a tragic reality.
Islam is the only religion besides Christians that respects Christ. There is a whole chapter in Quran about Mary. Muslims are required by their religion to respect Christ, Moses, Abraham and all the other prophets. Therefore, Muslims can not not use bad language or in any way insult Christ. We are the only people besides Christians that love Christ.
This can be easily checked with Quran translations widely available on the internet or by visiting any Muslim family or Mosque.
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.