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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. Arne

    McLaren, your timing is way off. The crazy, insane reactions of the muslim protesters who stormed embassies around the world is that they those societies are not compatilble with internet, youtube and the free flow of information and opinion. Christian fundamentalists, as misled as some of them might be, are not to be blamed for this. The muslim conspiracy theorists, and hate speech mongers have the same opportunities to put out their own content on cyber space as the talentless amateurs behind the "Inoccence of Islam". McLaren, if you are a liberal, if you posess a critical sence, get to the core of the issue at hand and tell you readers about THAT.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:53 am |
  2. Laila

    Thank you for this article. I can see by most of the comments that so many didn't really get what message you were trying to portray....it's because people are human and they have fear and not enough faith in god. It's really sad that we have forgotten that so many of us really are brothers and sisters and that giving into emotions and fears does nothing to repair and improve relationships, and I think that's what Jesus and Muhammad would have advised. Peace.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:47 am |
    • AtheistJoe

      You havent read your bible have you. Jesus himself said he didnt come to bring peace but the sword and to pit Father against son and mother against daughter. MOMO was even worse and used the sword on people.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:01 am |
  3. AtheistJoe

    Nothing makes me happier than to see religious nutjobs killing eachother!! But seriously where has this guy been for the last 1000 yrs or so. Islam makes Christianity look like a bunch of preschoolers and the Nazis and the communists look like amatuers. I cant think of another religion that thrives on the wholesale slaughter of the innocent and tramples on basic human right as badly as Islam. From what Ive seen this guy is just buttering us up for the slaughter and should not be trusted.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • Laila

      Booga Booga...congratulations, your religion is fear-mongering and cynicism.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:38 am |
    • AtheistJoe

      If you mean by being connected to reality and not beleiving in some fairy in the sky is telling me to conquer the world and kill those who dont beleive the same as I do than yes.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:43 am |
  4. DocReality

    Until I see evangelicals flying planes into buildings and going on other types of suicide missions, I'm completely okay with them - and with anyone, really - having a case of Islamophobia. I think that's a VERY good thing to have.

    Judaism is a religion. Christianity is a religion - they've done some very violent things in the name of their religion, but they've since stopped. Islam has not. Islam promotes violence. Any religion that does so isn't really a religion at all; it's a hate-group.

    And THAT's what Islam really is. I don't support hate groups. I don't like any of them. And if any members are going to threaten my way of life in the manner that Islam does, there will be repercussions. Life is short. There's no time to be bullied around by evil people. You can say you hate Jews. You can say you hate Christians. You can say you hate America. But you don't get to kill or harm anyone in doing so. That's when self-defense comes in; and most of my fellow Americans will gladly use it.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:30 am |
    • GMC123

      I totally agree. I've worked with many muslims, and of all that I've known, I think I may have come across two, that were worth knowing at all. Most religions are against lying, but the ones I've known lie all the time. I don't know whether to be offended to think they think I am stupid enough to believe them (outrageously stupid lies) or they're stupid enough to think what they are saying is plausible. There is no respectible religion that teaches that the ones who do not believe as you do, should be put to death.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:50 am |
    • NotSoSure

      What about evangelicals murdering physicians that preform abortions or the evangelicals that beat and murder gays? How is that different?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:08 am |
  5. Emergent what

    Murdering Christians = true atheism in action.
    "for thy sake we are killed all day long" – Apostle Paul

    September 17, 2012 at 4:29 am |
    • midwest rail

      That's absurd.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • Emergent what

      It's true. Your atheism is pretense.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:37 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Ekmergent: You're an idiot!!! We don't kill christians nor do we wish to. Christians on the other hand have killed many in the name of their imaginary friend. Try reading a history book that is not your buybull!! An education past grade 5 might be useful also!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      jim111506: Pseudo?? Not sure where you came up with that...we believe in things based on factual evidence...guess that make christians pseudo-christians (belief without an ounce of care as to whether or not it is true). Atheism is not a fad. We simply do not see evidence to support the imaginary friend that christards or any other believer has. Belief without evidence is faith (completely irrational and quite damaging to society). Atheism is the norm and will continue to be...numbers are rising as more and more people realize exactly how bat shit crazy a belief in any god is...once all religion is gone the world will know peace!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:12 am |
    • sam stone

      yeah, as an atheist, i lost count on how many christians i've killed....must be 30 or 40....at least

      September 17, 2012 at 5:40 am |
    • sam stone

      emerget what: what do you feel atheism is a pretense for?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:42 am |
    • sam stone

      atheism has been around longer than christianity.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:44 am |
    • Emergent what

      Pretentious atheism is just another brand to gain acceptance into tribal circles. Some of you actually use real stickers. And you deny the tribalism.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  6. Michael

    It is not Islamophobia to look at history and see a pattern that Islam has always spread by the sword beginning with Mohammed.
    It is not Islamophobia to compare the Koran to the Bible and see there are many similarities, but where they differ the Koran teaches compulsion, not free-will, and it teaches violence and hatred.
    Old Testament Justice – an eye for an eye
    New Testament Love – Love your enemies, love your neighbor as yourself,
    Koran Hate – If you meet your enemy you must kill him, death to the infidel
    Islam is not a religion, it is a way of life that is not compatible with a civil society.
    But, the way to stop it is not to say my book says this and your book says that or banning the building of mosques. Hatred must be fought with Love.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:18 am |
    • Laila

      Stop lying to people trying to say you've read the Quran, you clearly have never.....remember, you will also be judged by God for your lies – and we are all creations of God. Shame.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:51 am |
  7. NoPunIntended

    I think it's perfectly OK to be scared of people who have stated openly that they want to cut your head off so they can have 72 virgins in the afterlife.

    Crazy, violent lunatics SHOULD be feared.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:16 am |
    • Laila

      I think you completely missed the point of this article, the point is that it is not ALL MUSLIMS....anymore than the Christians haters are ALL CHRISTIANS....we all have to be better than the hate and rise above it. Don't buy into what you hear or read so much, most of it is false and exaggerated. Stop giving into hate and fear – give in to God and you will be on the better path.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  8. Emergent what

    You can't cram god into your jar of justice. God is the one who mandated death and hell to all of humanity. He then entered into death and hell to demonstrate his absolute anger towards sin. He is the sole exception to ALL rules. He is holy.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:13 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No evidence to support your imaginary friend...simply your grade 5 intellect and gullibility. Time to grow up and leave your imaginary friend with your childhood!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • sam stone

      god mandated death for everyone? he is a vindictive, petty punk

      September 17, 2012 at 5:48 am |
  9. Frank

    I don't think that it's so much Islamophobia , but rather having my head cut off or some other "appropriate" punishment for being an infidel that concerns me. How many Muslims in this country have died for practicing their faith? Perhaps the author should visit a predominantly Muslim country and walk down the street reading a Bible. Then he could let us know how that goes.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:12 am |
    • Laila

      And have you done this? I am an American living in a Muslim country, what are you talking about? You are doing exactly what the author of this is encouraging others NOT to do, stop buying into the hate, stop buying into the rumors....your head getting cut off? Did you even read the article?? Is this what Christianity has sunken to?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:40 am |
    • Frank

      Laila, I hate no one. As far as beheading, does Richard Pearl ring a bell.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:17 am |
  10. 2worlds

    Great article. I have lived for 15 years in the middle east, and 15 years in the US. If I were going to summarize my 30 years of experience and research into the root of the problem in ONE word it would be:

    Education

    There is extreme ignorance and false information on both sides of the planet. It's actually ridiculous what people believe these days. Even a majority of the most "Educated" and accomplished individuals running Fortune 100 companies that I have interacted with actually believe some of the Islamophic nonsense they hear. Guys – if its too crazy to be true, then it ain't. Same goes for people in the Middle East. Sad, but I'll just keep doing my best to educate.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:55 am |
    • Laila

      I completely agree. I've lived in the Middle East going on about 7 years now, I couldn't agree with you more. Education is the key word, and understanding and travel and people (both sides) breaking out of their shells and experiencing each other for what we all really are. I loved this article, as well, I am however troubled at the numbers of people (you can see from the replies) that just absolutely did not get it. Fear will consume and so will ignorance.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • 2worlds

      jim111506 – whether I wrote their paychecks or carried their luggage doesn't matter and is irrelevant. I am trying to portray a real example of the magnitude of ignorance on the matter.

      Laila glad you see it. I hope with globalization and people travelling more, things do get better!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  11. kenpoist

    Jews

    Oddly enough there were not enough Jews killed in jihad to significantly affect the totals of the Great Annihilation. The jihad in Arabia was 100 percent effective, but the numbers were in the thousands, not millions. After that, the Jews submitted and became the dhimmis (servants and second class citizens) of Islam and did not have geographic political power.

    This gives a rough estimate of 270 million killed by jihad.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:46 am |
  12. kenpoist

    Buddhists

    Buddhists do not keep up with the history of war. Keep in mind that in jihad only Christians and Jews were allowed to survive as dhimmis (servants to Islam); everyone else had to convert or die. Jihad killed the Buddhists in Turkey, Afghanistan, along the Silk Route, and in India. The total is roughly 10 million. [David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2200, William Carey Library, 2001, p. 230, table 4-1.]

    10 million Buddhists

    September 17, 2012 at 3:45 am |
  13. kenpoist

    Hindus

    Koenard Elst in Negationism in India gives an estimate of 80 million Hindus killed in the total jihad against India. [Koenard Elst, Negationism in India, Voice of India, New Delhi, 2002, pg. 34.] The country of India today is only half the size of ancient India, due to jihad. The mountains near India are called the Hindu Kush, meaning the “funeral pyre of the Hindus.”

    80 million Hindus

    September 17, 2012 at 3:45 am |
  14. kenpoist

    Christians

    The number of Christians martyred by Islam is 9 million [David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2200, William Carey Library, 2001, p. 230, table 4-10] . A rough estimate by Raphael Moore in History of Asia Minor is that another 50 million died in wars by jihad. So counting the million African Christians killed in the 20th century we have:

    60 million Christians

    September 17, 2012 at 3:44 am |
  15. kenpoist

    These figures are a rough estimate of the death of non-Muslims by the political act of jihad.

    Africa

    Thomas Sowell [Thomas Sowell, Race and Culture, BasicBooks, 1994, p. 188] estimates that 11 million slaves were shipped across the Atlantic and 14 million were sent to the Islamic nations of North Africa and the Middle East. For every slave captured many others died. Estimates of this collateral damage vary. The renowned missionary David Livingstone estimated that for every slave who reached a plantation, five others were killed in the initial raid or died of illness and privation on the forced march.[Woman’s Presbyterian Board of Missions, David Livingstone, p. 62, 1888] Those who were left behind were the very young, the weak, the sick and the old. These soon died since the main providers had been killed or enslaved. So, for 25 million slaves delivered to the market, we have an estimated death of about 120 million people. Islam ran the wholesale slave trade in Africa.

    120 million Africans

    September 17, 2012 at 3:43 am |
  16. kenpoist

    What a bunch of garbage. This is why I don't watch CNN anymore.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:39 am |
  17. kenpoist

    16 Reasons why Islam is not a religion of peace. http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/09/sixteen_reasons_why_islam_is_not_the_religion_of_peace.html

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  18. Bushman

    I am an Evangelical Christian and have about 5 Muslim friends, With my work I work with some Muslims. I would say most are all right, however some that I have met scared me. They got in fights with management and told them I am a Muslim and I am prepared to die, all this over a dispute over prayer time. This is a way to common occurrence, and these are the Muslims who come to America to flee their countries. Then you see on TV a our people getting killed over a You Tube video that no one has ever heard of. We do not have an Evangelical problem, we have a radical Islam problem, If you think Christians do not know the difference between radical Muslims and normal then you are ignorant. Christians would not be fearful of Muslims if they would stop flying planes into buildings, blowing themselves up, rioting over You Tube videos that no one has ever seen, treating their women with respect, or women in general. You all need to stop going after Christians we are a good and decent people maybe instead of protesting us, you should get to know us.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:34 am |
    • kenpoist

      I agree, this OPINION piece writer is ignorant. I can't believe CNN would even print this garbage. http://thereligionofpeace.com/

      September 17, 2012 at 3:36 am |
    • sam stone

      yet, ken, you took time to comment on it and increase their revenues

      September 17, 2012 at 5:53 am |
  19. kenpoist

    The reason it's called the Muslim world is because the Muslim killed all the Christians and Jews. WAKE UP McLaren You sound like an i d i o t. http://thereligionofpeace.com/

    September 17, 2012 at 3:33 am |
  20. kenpoist

    OH PLEEEEEZE!!!! IS CNN FOR REAL? http://www.politicalislam.com/tears/pages/tears-of-jihad/

    September 17, 2012 at 3:32 am |
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