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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 • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. Critical Thinker

    Romney is fanning the flames of bigotry in the Middle East. Mitt's stupid comments are daring them to strike the U.S. again.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  2. Pete

    Fellow atheists, all we can do is watch our beautiful planet be ruined by those of blind faith. I resent islam, I resent christianity, both of you add to the destruction of our wonderful planet, if only you didn't exist *sigh*

    September 16, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • RealAmerican

      Keith, Keith, Keith, your fellow atheists are responsible for hundreds of millions of murders:
      Stalin: 30 million exterminated
      Mao: 70 million exterminated
      Hitler: 6 million+ exterminated

      Christian crusdades, Inqusition, with trails ...about 300,000

      Muslims terrorists...hundersd of thousands, still counting

      Atheism has been responsible for countless more deaths and murders than all the religions combined.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • RealAmerican

      Sorry, Keith...my comment was meant for the atheist Pete.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  3. nottolate

    You tell a lib that Muslims hate their guts even more than Christians and they'd swear on their mother's grave that you are lying and they are loved instead. The can't get it.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Kat

      sounds like you hate libs more than you hate muslims, halfwit

      September 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • nottolate

      @KAT, "sounds like you hate libs more than you hate muslims, halfwit"

      I don't remember calling them some derogatory term like you just did. Just a statement of fact. You can't even hear yourself when you argue.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  4. Karen

    I have never been more confused than I am right now. I have read and re-read this article and the only thing I get from it is because I hate, and yes, oh YES, I fear Islam, then I am an islamophobe???????? SERIOUS???? So, if not Islam, then who is the 'enemy' and 'evil' as described multiple times in the Bible. OK, I get it, yes the Devil. but who represents the devil here on earth, now, in this time, and has been, and has generated hatred for God and HIS people==-== I am dumbfounded that CHRISTIANS are saying that we should love islam the enemy of Israel? I saw this article because it was posted on a friend's FB page. I know this person is a true Christian, but I have doubts now as to where her loyalties lie. Calling someone islamophobe because we hate the evil that they represent, sounds like something straight from b. hussein obama's kool-aid drinking camp.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Kat

      thank you for provinh his point about hate and Islamphobia taught in Sunday hate schools.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Stephen

      I am terrified of the notion that a country can be run by a radical and fundamentalist group of religious zealots. The idea of curbing the freedoms of others based on a book written by men and inspired by an imaginary deity confuses and frightens me. I am terrified by bombings and suppressing the rights of the citizenry. I am concerned about the consolidation of wealth by a select group while the masses are left to fight for the remaining scraps. Oh… I’m sorry for the – I, wait we are talking about the religious right of US politics right…

      September 16, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • nottolate

      @Karen

      "I am dumbfounded that CHRISTIANS are saying that we should love islam the enemy of Israel?"

      You shouldn't be. They're not authentic Christians....duh! The author works for Satan and he is used to deceive those who are not Christian. This is a spiritual war, remember? And these are the weapons which are used.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  5. ilovethefalcons

    Muslims so tired of these people.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  6. creek street

    I am an ateist turkish and living in america, one thing i know from my experiences over 20 years, muslim people are so immature and violant and those were not the hard core once as you imagine in other part of middle east. They have zero respect for other peoples bleives and values but they expect those from the others. My suggestion to them is they need to grow up....

    September 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Kat

      sounds more like you're a Zionazi parasite, doing what you do best, spreading hate and wars.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  7. llr

    Author,
    I feel sorry for you that you're not surrounded by true christian friends. Luckily for me, my christian community actually practices "praying for your enemies" and "turning the other cheek". I don't know what Kool-Aid you've been drinking. I'm about as Christian as they get and I don't hate Muslims...and honestly, I don't know any Christians who do. We don't wrestle against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities. Our tools for doing that aren't hate. or phobia. This article is a joke. sorry, but i'm just being honest.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Kat

      the people who made the movie belong to extremist christian groups that teach hate and phobia, and Armgeddon. They support wars in the Middle East to bring about the end of the world and their bloody Messiah

      September 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  8. BARRY Soetoro Husein

    Islam is a murderous cult led by a pedophile prophet. CNN is just a wart on the an us of the liberal media.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Kat

      Islam is a religion of peace and justice. 1 in every 5 people on earth are Muslim. Take that bigot

      September 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Michael

      Yes Islam is a religion of piece!! A piece of you, a piece of me, a piece of her, and a piece of him! Islam is a violent and hateful "religion"! Look at what they have done on 9/11! In London! In Russia! What they do everyday and everywhere there is Sharia law! Kat, you must be yet another subjucated muslim!

      September 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Kat

      with all those events you refer to, over more than a decade, have not harmed as many people as the 12,000 murder cases in the US every year. I must conclude Americans are hateful and violent from that? Also, the US has killed 100 times more muslims in its wars (including the iraq blundr) than those killed in 911 since 911

      September 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Michael

      You must be delirious! Murders in the US are not based on religion or religious beliefs. This this a major difference! You are such a misguided muslim that you can't seem to differentiate between murder that is sanctioned by islam and prmoted by islam versus common murder, yet both are eually bad! Wake up and take off your blinders (or head scarf or back chador), you sound like a truly indoctrinated and sad individual!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  9. nottolate

    How come unbelievers have yet to apprehend what is and what is not a Christian? Ok, I actually know the answer to that but it is a hard thing to come to grips with. It is a most difficult thing to know that those who are perishing have no capacity to id you correctly and observe the accompanying gross error.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • I wonder

      Must be "God's" will, @nottol. 'He' just likes you better.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • nottolate

      @I wonder,

      "Must be "God's" will, @nottol. 'He' just likes you better."

      That's was your immediate thought? If I were in your shoes I'd been quite alarmed at such news. I'd also start wondering am I really dead?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  10. Kat

    All they talk about is their freedom and resistance to the US hostile policies in THEIR region (wars, invasions, military bases, economic sanctions that impoverish them, veto's UN and diplomatic resolutions to bring justice in Palestine, blind support to Israel and its wars, colonies, and nukes, double standards, assasinating their scientists, supporting puppet dictators, sabotaging their factories and power stations)...it is ONLY the Islamphobes who keep saying to us that ALL Muslims want to take over our counties and rule by Sharia (laughable because not even most Islamic countries are ruled by Sharia)

    September 16, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • BARRY Soetoro Husein

      Just more CNN / Soetoro propaganda for left-wing consumption. Lap it up like dirty toilet water, libs!

      September 16, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  11. john

    Islamophobia???
    Mr. McLaren....I want you to go to a Muslim country and walk around telling everyone that you are a Christian from the United States and then tell me that people's fear is unfounded.

    Oh.....that's right you won't be able to because you're dead!!!! You've been beheaded by those that you defend.
    Mr. McLaren you're a fool if you believe what you have written.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Kat

      you should do the same, you would be surprised and ashamed of your ignorance and hate.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  12. Stephen Secaur

    you posters are morons. McLaren has it exactly right. Evangelical Christians have been led down the primrose path of hatred for Muslims without any evidence. Please, get informed.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Chad

      @Stephen Secaur "you posters are morons. McLaren has it exactly right. Evangelical Christians have been led down the primrose path of hatred for Muslims without any evidence. Please, get informed."

      –>oh my goodness..

      US Cole
      World Trade Center
      Beirut Barracks Bombing
      Innumerable terrorist attacks around the world

      serious question: what color is the sun on your planet? Seriously??

      September 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  13. Chad

    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

    =>you are distorting scripture to make it sound like Jesus never challenged someone who was doing something wrong. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    I have to tell you, distorting scripture is really, really, really bad..

    Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. 5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” Mark 3

    Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’[e] but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’[f]” Matthew 21

    Jesus confronted those of the pharisees who were being hypocritical.. right?

    You are free to hold your own views, but dont attempt to distort scripture to support it. I see you dont directly quote any scripture, and your paraphrases are inaccurate..

    September 16, 2012 at 10:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Chad surfaces like a whale during a titanic struggle in the depths. After a breath the horrid tentacles drag him below once more.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Translator

      I like your quotation of a selectively translated medieval version of a text which you have never seen. If that's not worth quoting, then what is? <–sarcasm because you base your life on a boring ("boring" is my opinion) work of fiction.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  14. Bibi Netanyahu

    "Let's you and him have a fight!"

    Really, if Israel wants someone to take on Iran on their behalf then let them turn to China. Iran is fairly close to China and the prospect of yet another nuclear armed mini-state in their neighborhood must make them nervous.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:01 pm |
  15. SempreFlamengo

    Oh please Mr. McLaren........its all our fault. Muslims have every right in the world to kill us (infidels) anytime that we utter something negative about their religion, or even if we refuse to convert to their religion according to the Koran. I'm Jewish and if I went around killing everybody who ever said something derogatory about Jews I probably would have killed a few thousand people by now, but that is not how civilized, reasonable people (re)act. Stop apologizing for this cult/religion, their actions speak louder than your words.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • Joel

      Really? Because Muslims are againsts missions and forced conversion. How many times have Muslim missionaries knocked on your door? How about Mormons, Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses? Yeah, that's what I thought.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • Jim

      Here here!

      September 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
  16. Michael F

    Amen.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  17. Maurice C

    The fact that this twisted opinion story was on CNN top stories earlier today says it all about the US media.
    Instead of standing up and saying "Yes people of Islam, "This movie may be offensive, wrong or misleading and it's not the opinion of most people in America, we have the right to free speech without the threat of death", we have this kind of warped thinking shoved in our face by the liberal media. If the movie was criticizing Christianity or any other religion there would be no deaths, no controversy. It would be perfectly ok with the media. Take this hateful story for example. (If McLaren wrote something this venomous about Islam he'd be a death target)
    What if in our quest to separate church and state regarding all religions, we banned using the word Ramadan, Hanukkah or other religious words in any public place or reference? (Let's see what Islam would think of calling Ramadan Happy Holidays instead of Ramadan) What if we stripped the word from any public reference or prohibited their prayer in public? There would be outrage in the media, but there is silence if the attack is against Christianity. Instead of supporting religious tolerance and freedom, which are the cornerstone of America's values, we get this type of political correctness on steroids.
    Yes, I do have friends and acquaintances who are Muslims but they don't believe or support this radical version of Islam. (Islamoextremism). McLaren claims we have a phobia of Islam. Well the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines phobia as an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. There is nothing exaggerated, inexplicable or illogical about fearing a group of people whose religious beliefs say that it is not only ok but necessary to murder any and all people who don't believe in their warped ideology. How can he (McLaren) and CNN support a group of people whose radical religious beliefs and ideology would have me beheaded for writing this if they could get to me.
    Wake up! Most religions exist to promote peace and love. Any religion or ideology that supports, promotes or takes part in harming others in the name of their cause is a terrorist organization. Period!
    Let me see, fire, bloodshed, hate, murder. Does this sound like the work of a God or the Devil?
    McLaren, you and CNN are promoting terrorism and supporting hate against the US and Christians with your bizarre, deceitful and hate filled views. Of course this is America and you have a right to your opinion, but why don't you take a walk down the streets of any these counties where riots are taking place and see if despite your obvious Stockholm Syndrome and lack of Islamophobia that they wouldn't cut your throat in an instant.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Logical thinker

      Very well said!!!

      September 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Translator

      Atheist, and mostly agreeing with your post.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  18. Jay

    If the world fears Islam, if there is growing unease about the increasing violence being perpetrated by Muslims in the name of their religion then surely apologist articles such as this are redundant. There is no paranoia, only a realization that we are indeed facing a very real threat.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • Critical Thinker

      You are a bigoted simpleton. Your bigtry is justification for them fighting back.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • maria

      'NATO admits killing civilians in Afghan strike' (By the CNN Wire Staff.)

      September 16, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • Jay

      Critical Thinker is very light on the thinking part. Fighting back?... Murdering unassociated innocent people as a response to some video uploaded by a random individual who happened to be in the USA. These frenzied attacks are not justifiable.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  19. John Damascene

    Once again, CNN liberals are judging Islam and Judaism as if they are a race of ethnic origin; something you are born as and beyond criticism. Islam is a RELIGION, a collection of IDEAS. Any philosophy is subject to criticism, no matter how many Muslims whine and become enraged over it. Islam, more accurately the Quran, is the heresy of Muhammad, an adventurer having happened upon an Arian Monk. Knowing the Old and New Testaments; and the teachings of Zoroaster he derived his own heresy, giving concessions to Christianity in the Prophethood of Jesus. Muhammad was the son of a Camel! Look at his teachings in your own eyes and not in the eyes of those simultaneously seeking victimhood and domination. See the teachings of John Damascene
    http://orthodoxinfo (.) com/general/stjohn_islam.aspx

    September 16, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  20. xnay

    I guess better to be politically correct than worry about being the victim of a Holocaust – signed 6 million Jews

    September 16, 2012 at 9:53 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.