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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. Abdullah

    Islam will dominate the world ins'Allah one day... We do anything to fight for Muhammed (PBUH) and Allah

    September 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
  2. RobertC

    I"m a liberal, gay Episcopalian, and have no use for Evangelicals of any stripe. Up until last week I used to parrot the line that most Muslims are perfectly lovely people and the terrorists are a tiny minority. I am sick of it. Somewhere along the line, mainstream Muslims need to step up and demand an end to this kind of outrage. Christians do not riot and kill over cartoons and You-Tube videos, Buddhists did not slaughter innocent Muslims over the destruction of the Bamiyan images. Muslims need to get their own house in order if they want the respect of the rest of the world. I'm done apologizing for them.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • roger

      Yes, I feel the exact same way.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • jamal

      why would you be still gay when u know what happeded with the people of lot and sodom ??

      September 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  3. 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 6:55 pm |
  4. Daniel

    The Reverand Terry Jones just left for Libya. He will burn quorans in protest. He has plans to do similar across the middle east. What a guy!!

    September 16, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  5. roger

    Sorry , this is a load of crap article. I live in a town surrounded by little towns just outside of Frederick MD, about an hour away from D.C. You could call it a red neck haven, the town folk even make fun of themselves. I've never come across anyone , people I know or strangers ever holding any real prejudices against anyone for any religious followings. I mean people are people , sure there is always someone muttering something amongst themselves about somebody. I've never seen anything escalate into anything, especially over someone's religious beliefs. If there is growing tensions, which really I'm surprised there doesn't seem to be. It should come as no surprise, there is an entire section of the planet that hates us and well......... they are Islamic. You can keep telling everyone the Islam faith teaches peace, well that clearly isn't happening.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
  6. Christopher

    Muslims commit mass violence in the name of Islam all over the world, the "minority of extremists" is a joke and a blatant lie.
    So CNN's logic is, being a propaganda network filled with black racists and angry left wing marxists as well as muslims,

    Blame Christians and white people!

    A Muslim murderers someone and it's a Christians fault who lives 1000s of miles away.

    Right...

    September 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  7. Daisycutter

    How much Dhimmitude does an American have to practice to please these Islamists ?

    September 16, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • One one

      How much ? When you bend over in submission five times a day.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  8. scientificpoetry

    The problem is not Islam... it's organized religion. All religions, when taken to their extremes conclude... if you don't believe what we believe what we believe... then you need to go... Get rid of all religions and you'll rid the world of many of it's problems. Religion's usefulness is over. In a modern society with the rule of law you don't need the threat of eternal damnation to keep people in line – which is what the purpose of religion was.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Jim Herr

      All religions is quite the simplistic claim. Religions are simply the framework for practicing a philosophy. To believe the world would be a better place without religion, and replaced by scientific thought is naive. Scientific disagreement would lead to conflicts similar to those of religion. The underlying problem is the lack of behavioral understanding such as was provided by Einstein for hard science.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • borntdings

      Stalin, Chairman Mao, and Pol Pot thought like you, and they managed to murder around 40 million people between the 1930's and the 1970's. That's "roughly" 40 years for 40 million human souls. Clearly organized religion IS NOT THE PROBLEM...unless of course that particular religion demands the death or subjugation of all non muslims.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  9. keith

    after 15 years of this kind of violence when on earth will we accept that we are at war with islam

    September 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  10. Me

    All evangelicals and radicals of all faiths should be locked in a room together so they can kill each other off.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      What room would be big enough for that?

      September 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • whoopitydoo2

      Does that include people who have a faith that disagrees with evangelicals or are you simply referring to Christians? Admit it! You're a hypocrite.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      tom, tom, Hey teach, leave those kids alone!!!

      September 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Susie

      What about the radical atheists like you?

      September 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  11. Bugs

    Disgusting. Why is it that whenever a vile act is committed by violent extremists, certain people IMMEDIATELY and REFLEXIVELY try to deflect the blame onto others – often merely groups they don't like, but frequently the victims themselves. Instead of asking "Why do they hate us?" how about asking "Why they don't act like civilized adults?" or "Why do we hold them to a lower standard of behavior than we do Christians, Jews, Hindus, and other religious groups?" or "Why do we always give them a pass, as if their disgusting violence is some sort of inevitable force of nature?"

    Stop trying to deflect the blame for this heinous crime! It lies in the hearts of the criminal political Islamists who perpetrated it. Their choices, their acts, their responsibility, and – God willing – they'll pay the price for it. Same as Evangelical Christians would have to pay if they perpetrated such an atrocity.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • cigarlover6

      Well said bugs!

      September 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  12. Cody K.

    Just wanna say, I appreciate the comment of "small." However, hearing the comments that say the attackers were from "outside," ya gotta wonder who's pulling the strings. It's not true Islam believers, but still thing the source of the problem should be triangulated and dealt with on an equal, unforgiving basis.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • borntdings

      Ummm "Cody K", true islam is violent. The video was actually very accurate. And these attackers most certainly were true muslims.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  13. Lauren

    it's not "islamophobia" when they really are trying to kill you

    September 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  14. Samuel Bar

    I have met and worked with nice Muslim engineers, and have nothing against them. I am however, aware of what their book teaches about Jihad, infidels...etc. It seems to me that this author is writing an article from his ivory tower without being familiar with Isalmic doctrine, which is insane. The liberals still think we live in Mr. Rogers's neighborhood. Wake up and smell the coffee sir.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • PBCousineau

      Have you ever read the Bible ? Plenty of blood and murder, and adultery and polygamy and plunder to keep one busy for eternity. How many wives did Solomon have ? What does one do with an adulterer according to Leviticus ? People who live in glass houses should never throw stones. The Abrahamic religions are the bane of humanity ! How much blood has been shed in the name of God ?

      September 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Jim Herr

      Nice people in a civil work setting is not an indicator of what people do while away from the job.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • borntdings

      PBCousineau, your comment is based on pure ignorance and moral equivalency. You do realize that this outrageous article target Christians aren't you? Do you realize that in order to placate and apologize for these muslim terrorist you used the Jewish Torah, aka the Old Testament, to attack Christianity? I bet you are entirely clueless to this fact.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  15. Eric

    I have met and worked with nice Muslim engineers, and have nothing against them. I am however, aware of what their book teaches about Jihad, infidels...etc. It seems to me that this author is writing an article from his ivory tower without being familiar with Isalmic doctrine, which is insane. The liberals still think we live in Mr. Rogers's neighborhood. Wake up and smell the coffee sir.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      At a faculty party last Thanksgiving a young Saudi post-doc asked our department chair what he thought of Islam from the perspective of his own religion. Given that Islam reveres Jesus and all that, he felt that a Christian would see some common ground – room for mutual understanding. "My religion tells me that your religion will send you to hell", he said.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • borntdings

      When mohamid began preaching islam he attempted to con the Christians and Jews into converting by inventing similarities between the three faiths. Whenever the quran refers to Jesus it is always in a subservient and submissive role to mohamid. moslims even deny, in the quran, that Jesus was the Son of God.
      Don't put any faith into the "alleged" respect muslims have for Jesus, your being coned.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      tom, tom, Hey teach, leave those kids alone!

      September 16, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  16. Daniel

    I don't share any of the organized religions. I do, however, respect them all for, in essence, trying to guide people to a greater faith and better place in their lives. I also don't think any of the major religions are 'violent' in their message. I must say, however, that I am both a bit puzzled and a bit alarmed that we aren't seeing a near unanimity amongst Islamic clergy and leadership in strongy denouncing ANY violence supposedly based upon their religion.

    Of the 'religions of the book' (sometimes referred to as Abhramic relgions) Islam seems to have the greatest challenge in this area. Christians and Christian leaders around the world have soundly denounced and condemned the issues with child molestation in the Catholic church. Huge uproar in the predominantly 'Christian' countries around the issue (and rightly so).

    But we're talking about people being killed here in large numbers due solely to the fact they aren't 'Islamic' by supposedly 'Islamic' people. Where is the utter moral outrage? Where is the 'pulpit pounding' amongst the Islamic clergy denouncing these people and both their actions and almost more importantly their viewpoint? We don't seem to be seeing it. It seems more we frequently see a 'yes, yes the violence is abhorrent, BUT if xyz weren't doing what they are doing these people wouldn't be so angry'. Angry is fine. Not liking someone or some country for their behaviour and actions is fine. Killing people for someone else's completely unwelcome, to those SAME people, and offensive behavior seems madness. They aren't trading 'eye for an eye' or even 'insult for insult'.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  17. Jay

    At a time a time when some muslims are murdering christians, he thinks that is cause for the christians to look at what's wrong with themselves? If I was locked in a room with an ignorant man and a murderer, I would be more concerned about the murderer.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • dale husar

      Wow... what a perfect example of the pathetic fantasist who walked calmly into the gas chambers at Auschwitz thinking they really were there to take a shower. Very simply, Islam is a cult of murder and female slavery. It is there in black and white in the Koran. All people who do not convert to Islam are to be killed, and all woman are cattle. This man can only appear like this through the cnn hatemongers who's only purpose is to kill all christians and destroy the United States

      September 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • borntdings

      Thank God for you Jay. Your common sense is very refreshing! The author of this absurd article is nothing but an apologist.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  18. An Atheist Here

    My solution to world peace is to eradicate all religions.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Jay

      Right, 'cause human beings couldn't come up with another reason for conflict. Religion may have been used as an excuse for violence, but it's not the cause. Stalin didn't need religion to kill millions, neither did Mao. Taking away all religions won't change human nature.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Derick

      Jay has an excellent point. Some of the worst dictators in modern history: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, were all heads of atheistic governments and they caused massive loss of life in deranged fashion. Yes, there were the crusades and yes, people still kill each other for their ideas of deity, butthe wrong answer is to give it all up. There are millions of peaceful followers. You only hear about the violent ones.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Susie

      So your answer to those you disagree with is to murder them. Then everything with be lovely. I guess you like to be alone, because thats the only way you will ever achieve total agreement.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • bob

      Including yours

      September 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  19. gus

    I am sick and tired of fools writing about why Americans are in danger and it is their fault Arabs are killing them!
    This author is a jerk, a fool and a liberal idiot. How dare he forgive Islam, and condemn Christianity. If it isn't clear, I will say it out loud, Man this crud makes me mad.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • borntdings

      Excellent Gus. I will also add that the apologist, the appeaser, the Dhimmi who wrote this article has obviously never read the quran. In fact, the video he is ridiculing is actually very accurate. Most of it can be confirmed by anyone willing to read the quran. The rest of it can be confirmed with the Sahih Bukhari Hadith, except for many the talking donkey, that might be found in the Abu Dawood Hadith.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • PBCousineau

      Abrahamic religions, Jews, Christians and Muslims are all a bunch of barbarians. They are bane of civilization and the sooner they kill themselves off the better we'll be ! Leave us alone ! It's a mental illness this religion of yours.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  20. Donald Wlodarczyk

    Trying to squeeze compassion out of right-leaning Americans is like trying to squeeze orange juice from a brick. There just isn't any in there. The ignorant will remain ignorant, that is their role and purpose in life. Stop focusing on them, they are plebians and simpletons, as were their fathers and mothers before them.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Joe

      Yeah, it's not like there's Christian charities or anything...

      September 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      Are you qualified to be a judge? That's delegated to the least in standard Christian doctrine.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      '1Cr 6:2-4 Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.'

      September 16, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Scott

      Poor little Donald. Obviously Donny hasn't read Arthur Brooks' book Who Really Cares In the book Brooks produces the data that shows that religious conservatives are the MOST giving in time and money to charitable causes. He goes on to point out that religious conservatives also donate the most blood.

      Go to Amazon Donald and search on the keywords: arthur brooks who really cares. It's $11 or better yet, go down to your local library and check it out.

      Scott

      September 16, 2012 at 8:48 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.