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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. CAGUSA

    As is NECESSITY is the MOTHER of Invention, FEAR is the FATHER of so many, Silence, Blindeness, Tolerance, Acceptance, all the things which had their origin as goo, noble things have come full circle to our detriment. He is missing the point of current events totally for Ezekiel 33 "... 6 'But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand.' In my lay opinion it is the duty of all not to sound the alarm, raise awareness and be prepared to resist the infiltration of radical Islam in this country.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  2. E 9a Gnus

    Thank you Brian. There are laws against "Inciting to Riot" and actions promoting hate. I love blogging, but find that too much of it is filled with opinions stoked by false data. My favorite paragraph in this piece is the 4th from the last. 2 wrongs don't make a right.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  3. Julie

    Fanatical Islam IS a threat to the United States and frankly the entire Western world. Recognizing a threat doesn't make you phobic.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • E 9a Gnus

      Fanatical Christianity is a threat to God's Kingdom and decreases those ready to hear from God. THAT is also a threat to the entire world. Picking one hate group to stand out is not good either. We need to keep God's goals as our focus.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  4. Bad Dog No No

    It's time for religious idiots to shut the hell UP already! That's the WHOLE PROBLEM HERE!!!!!!!!!!!
    -------------------------------------–

    September 17, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • jon

      What the heck is an "evangelical" anyway??? At one time, there were just Protestants, Catholics and Jews mostly in the U.S. Then that idiot Bush let the "evangelicals" into the mainstream of the White House. Blame him again for this mess – and rightly so.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  5. Blondie

    You're all freaks.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Huebert

      You're here too kiddo.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |
  6. Bill

    I don't necessarily disagree with this azzhole, but I believe Christian values: charity, goodness, equality, responsibility, do belong in politics, and I believe these are the core values of most religious people.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  7. Steven

    This article is a joke. The Jews treat Mulsims must better than Christians. AND the Muslims treat other religions with respect and understanding. Brian how about doing some inversgiation into the slaughter of Crhistians in the middle east. How about explaining why muslims resort resort to killing the innocent. How the Muslims result no other opinion or belief system, When people complain about Christians they should stay a few weeks in the middle east. MOST IMPORTANTLY, Brian I disagree with your opijnion and decided to write this note. Brian write an article critical of Muslims and see how well that works.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  8. Joel

    Brian Mcclaren who is considered to be a liberal christian makes some interesting points. First he speaks first hand as if he KNOWS what the quran says and teaches by trying to seperate the attacks as some maniacs who are not "really" following Muhammad. HE considers those who are actually muslims who live liberal( I.E. american muslims) actually are more true followers. However this is not the case. I follower of Christ so I do understand That JESUS is the only way and take it with heart his greatest commandments which is love GOD with all your mind,soul and heart and Love your neighbor as yourself. Unfortunately I am considered what's extreme in America...Brian Mcclaren is what most Christian American's are. They tend to be very liberal( all ways lead to God). They disregard the bible as authoritative and have a marshmellow view of Jesus because they really don't like the God presented in the scriptures. Islam at it's core has a view of christians and jews in a negative light. Study the hadith's and people can see for themselves. The Quran's commands contradict the commands of Jesus. Now I don't believe Muslims are the problem. But you can see the type of rage this produces. Christ has been made fun in America for so long by athiest and other relgions for a long time. However, Christians may wine and complain and slowly turn the other cheek. But you haven't heard any calling for the death of those who insult Christ. Judge for yourself. Stop letting the media tell you what a phobia is. I don't like eating tomatoes, I hope I don't get labled as having tomatophobia.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  9. Buhay

    If Islam and Muslim countries admits it is christophobic and ameriphobic, I'll admit I'm islamophobic.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Jonathan

      LOL, how 3rd grade. "I'll show you my hate if you show me your hate first". So, you are admitting you are Islamaphobic but not confirming until...ah forget it you are a waste of time.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  10. Serious Truth

    Why do the rest of us have to put up with the religious intolerance from Christians, Jews, and Muslims? Practice your faith in private. The rest of the world is tired of your BS.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • jon

      Exactly – god, if there is one, must be looking down upon the Earth and saying "What the heck have I done here???"

      September 17, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  11. Frederick Lee

    Brian McLaren encapsulates why Ted Turner calles Christianity "A looser religion."

    September 17, 2012 at 11:07 am |
  12. History Bear

    Islam is the vehicle by which a group of people stuck in the dark ages rally support for their own ideas and desires. It's an attempt to be "players" in the world and reshape the world in their image because they are an otherwise ignorant, powerless group of men. Islam is their perfect tool since it is an intolerant religion based on the idea if you don't believe like us then you are not worthy to live and can be mistreated however we want. As to Christians, many of them would do the same for their god if they thought they could get away with it. It's all about power and control.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • forward

      Islam.....the only religion that kills you if you don't see the blessings of the wonderful God they serve.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  13. Gwin

    muslims burn down our embassy and kill our ambassador and I am furious with them and yet CNN is telling me that I should have respect for Islam – no CNN – stop pushing islam on americans, we do not respect it or CNN for not standing up for USA.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • karl

      apparently there is no difference between a radical islamist and someone who simply lives a different lifestyle than yours. As an atheist ill be the first to use logic but to condemn a whole religion based upon extremists without relizing your own religion has had its own extreme philosophies is ridiculous.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Mark

      Gwin, you are an islamophobic pure and simple. It is your use of the word "them" that gives it away. A small group of extremists who we are at war with caused this, and trying to generalize that behavior as if it applies to the entire Islamic world and their intentions is idiotic at best. I dare you to seek a friendship with a Muslim person. From your hateful perspective I doubt you'd ever go there, but if you did you'd find that people of Muslim faith are loving, honest people who care about others. Not monsters like you've made up in your head. Extremists are less than 1% of the Muslim community, and all other Muslims condemn these actions under the strongest possible terms. Join them, don't push them away, and help make a difference together.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Trish

      Gwin, I understand your surge of passion concerning the needles death and violence of those most affected by this continuing episodic violence but I think you missed the point of McLaren's editorial. Becoming what you seek to destroy is not a riotous path. Fanatics exist in every religious spectrum and neither the Islamic nor the Christian faithful should tolerate or perpetuate violent hatred. No singular faith should be judged or determined by the actions of a few who claim they act in the name of God while hiding their hatred beneath a mask of riotousness. I was terrified and saddened as were people throughout the world on 9/11 but I did not allow my fear to over-ride my ability to recognize that it was not a single effort of all who adhere to the Islamic faith. There is nothing more UN-Godly than a wish for war or the celebration of human destruction.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. Realityblowz

    The world is getting too old and the resources are drying up while we try to drag barbarians into the fantasy hope to become an intellectual species. We gave it a good attempt. They refuse to evolve. Vaporize them so that the rest of the world can finally move along.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  15. Bill

    Will all of the Muslims and all of the Christians please just shut the hell up and let those of us who are grounded in reality enjoy the world?

    September 17, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • this guy

      AMEN!!! Hallelujah!

      September 17, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Marc

      Christians? I havent seen any christians killing ambassadors or protesting violently at embassies or blowing themselves up. Christians have nothing to do with this.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  16. De Odorizer

    Only goes to show that religious fanatics are the same, the world over. Also, could we not just get along... without religion, perhaps? That's what stirs the hatred in the first place, while they all claim to be peaceful and saintly.

    That said, I do not have one ounce of patience or tolerance for those I.diots of the muslim orientation. If western countries took out their frustration on embassies of islamic countries every time they burn our flags, insult our lifestyles, our religion, our women, our laws, our secular society, our inventions, our freedoms, then I say to them:

    go back to your hell hole deserts and dry up, Dursley, you prune...

    September 17, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • this guy

      a Potter reference? lol

      September 17, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      You think that it is religion, but really these people are radicals period. If you take away the religion, they will find something else to use to spew hate.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  17. AZN

    A phobia implies an irrational fear of something like arachnaphobia because spiders aren't really trying to kill you. Can you call this Islamaphobia when muslims do really try (and suceed) to kill you?

    September 17, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  18. mlb

    To hear directly from the people of Libya and elsewhere about the protests, to see what happens when we actually get to communicate with each other directly instead of hearing what the News Agencies tell us (sensationalism and ratings), please check this out, it is eye-opening and important to see:

    http://www.facebook.com/TheSorryProject

    September 17, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  19. Nicco

    McLaren's opinion only speaks about Christians. Christians are supposed to turn the other cheek, Christians are supposed to let God be the hand of judgement. However, the crowds are not rioting against christians Mr. McLaren, they are rioting against the United States, a country tied to no-religion and every religion, and we were born from an extremely violent revolution. We have the most extensive and powerful military the world has ever seen. To think that the United States is a peaceful nation is a joke. The United States is not peaceful, will never be peaceful, and will answer any violence with violence seven-fold.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      It's actually the pale horse, AKA the diverse Beast. It will thrash about.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Maestro64

      Exactly, peace though strength is the only remedy for the middle east. Sad, but that s the way in the middle east and everyone knows it. Likely you are only upset because the middle east is not strong enough to wipe out the western nations, right? I like your point though regarding the US responds to violence 7 fold. the solution is to not start anything then, right? Easy.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  20. Dott

    These nations have NO respect for the USA until it is time to get that check every year. Stop sending these care packages to help these people- use those billions instead in this country. Clean out all those here illegally and tightening up the visa program. Why are so many Muslins coming to this country anyway? Shocking. I am retired but do go out occasionally and see all these women with their berka's. What are they doing in the USA? Why would they be allowed to come here?

    September 17, 2012 at 11:01 am |
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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.