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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. Sabrina Desiree J

    This author USED to have books sold in Christian stores... why not anymore??? Interesting. However he is published here on CNN so bottom line he has already shown he's no longer (if he ever was) a member of God's Children. He said he was 'raised as an evangelical christian'... how is that possible? He may have been raised by CHRISTIANS but he clearly is not one... he is simply someone who went to church on sunday and perhaps still does but he is not Born Again. As for Islam, I have worked in several islamic countries and I despise the religion AND the culture AROUND the religion because of how WOMEN AND GIRLS are treated... like second-class citizens, nay! not even 'citizens' but CHATTEL. Do not be fooled by how the rich people in those countries treat their daughters and wives, they are not representative of the PEOPLE - only of the RICH. I don't fight for the rights of MEN, only of WOMEN. Islam, no matter what it 'says' in the koran is EVIL and a FALSE religion. For this author to say that 'things done in the name of christianity' were just as evil, is absolute hypocrisy, since he KNOWS that those things HAPPENED 100S OF YEARS AGO, NOT TODAY.

    We in the USA are in a BATTLE against ISLAM, not against 'radical' muslims.... the religion itself is murd'rous by virtue of what they believe about people who are NOT muslims. CNN is in league with the devil, its 'writers' belong to the DEVIL, but in the long run, guess what? THE DEVIL WILL LOSE... you can think I mean that literally or figuratively, your choice. Either way it is TRUTH. CNN's 'followers' has been dropping dropping dropping over the years since the years when even I thought it was interested in reporting the news, now it just another rag like the ones you can read while standing in line at the grocery store or while waiting for your bloodsucking welfare check. BAH HUMBUG. If CNN cared about fair and balanced reporting, they'd ASK ME to write a rebuttal, since I AM a 'real' published author (with an agent and several publishing houses, real ones, not 'online', who publish my books and articles. But of course I will never hear from them, and even if I do, they will only be wasting my time if I do NOT write what meets the CNN 'agenda'... the re-election of a weak POTUS and turning the citizens into the SHEEPLE they need for their 'audience'. I also realize that responding to an 'opinion piece' here is helping them to keep their advertisers, but let me go on record to let them know I do not spend money with companies that support CNN. Now let's see if the allow my comment to be published here.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Amniculi

      Now, Sabrina, you need to take your meds and calm down. The nice men in the white suits will be along shortly to take you back to your padded cell.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • sam

      Pretty much all we got out of your post is that you're a snotty, holier-than-thou bitch.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • ME II

      @Sabrina Desiree J,
      "he has already shown he's no longer (if he ever was) a member of God's Children"

      I thought most Christian religions believe that we are all God's children. Have you changed that precept?

      September 17, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Kyle

      So you are the evangelical cancer that the writer was discussing. Do you also care about the gay members of the Muslim society or just the "chattels"? Let's see where your altruistic intentions end.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Daniel Morgan

      Sabrina, I am sure that God still loves you, even while you are doing the Devil's work by spouting hatred and prejudice.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Tom

      Sabrina, here you share your first-hand knowledge of how badly women are treated under Islam, and all you get are insults (immature comments about taking your meds). I for one appreciate your post. The author of this article, like the folks insulting you, has his head in the sand. The term Islamophobia was coined by Islamists as a tool to try and shut people up who want to point out the problems with the Qur'an and the Haddiths. This author is using that tool, but it isn't effective anymore, as more and more people see Islam for what it is: A faith that is 500 years overdue for its reformation. Until Islam purges its writings of all the violence and misogyny, it remains something to be resisted, fought, and yes, feared.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • KC

      The US is not at war with Islam, if you really believe that, then GOD bless you...

      September 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  2. Ted Ward

    The entire history of Islam is full of Muslims attacking other faiths. Because that's what Islam tells Muslims to do. As Mohammed himself said, "war is deceit" and Muslims attack non Muslim lands by any means they have at their disposal, especially by deceit. So let's not deceive ourselves about the goals of Islam. It's an awful and almost incomprehensible reality. It just plain sucks. But the fact is even though we have done nothing to deserve it, Muslims are compelled by their religion to hate and seek to forcibly "convert" or kill or enslave all non-Muslims and that includes us. So it isn't "islamophobia" if they really are trying to kill us, they are. We should definitely be afraid, and we should definitely take steps to protect ourselves on all levels: military, cultural, political, spiritual, and intellectual. Most of all, don't be deceived.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Daniel Morgan

      If a billion and a half Muslims all wanted you dead, you would be dead. Your very existence proves how ridiculous your paranoia is.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  3. Jake-413451

    Wouldn't find it in this sotry, but from another on it:

    Monsignor Thomas Sullivan, chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester, also a defendant, wrote in an email to Rodriguez-Pagan, included in the court filing, that "because of the possibility of gay marriages there, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they're shaky anyway. Just tell them we will not accept their revised plan."

    That would be what they call a smoking gun. He didn't want to sell to them because they are gay. Oh, and he thinks they are shaky. Well that latter part is just fine. Perhaps he should have kept his personal hangups to himself.

    But there was never an agreement. They were offering to buy a piece of what they were trying to sell. The church may have been obligated to deal with them is they had been offering ot buy at a price the church wanted for what they were trying to sell, but that didn't happen.

    A bit like if someone showed up trying to buy a one foot wide strip of your property. If that isn't what you're selling it really doesn't matter why you tell them to pound sand. They are trying to buy what you aren't selling.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  4. wow.....

    This was hands-down, the WORST article I've ever read.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  5. bobby

    American dudes get the girls...no pretty virgins for the farm animal perverts...something really wrong with them ...oh..don't forget,your buddy Bin Laden,is dead and on the bottom of the ocean,next.....

    September 17, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  6. George H

    Why is it that anytime some group or category of people decides they don't care all too much for another group the left labels it a phobia? Call it distaste, hatred, or something else, but phobia certainly doesn't apply unless an individual has a morbid fear of something.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Daniel Morgan

      It is called islamophobia because these individuals have an irrational morbid fear of something imaginary.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  7. alan

    Time to send in the Drones

    September 17, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  8. Just Sayin'

    Why doesn't the author mention the intense "Humanophobia" exhibited by the Muslim hoards? That is much more rampant than the convenient "Islamophobe" label used as a tool to silence critics of anything perpetrated by Islamofascists.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  9. thomas

    The maker of the film was a Coptic Christian. Not normally known as "evangelicals". Why are they trying to change the focus from the Coptic's, to evangelicals? No hidden agenda here huh?

    September 17, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Daniel Morgan

      Read the article before spouting nonsense.
      The author is talking about the hatred in the groups that he is familiar with.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Amniculi

      Because evangelical Christians are the largest religious group in the US and much of the problem of islamophobia is rooted in that segment of the population.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  10. Mark

    This article is basically trying to take attention away from whats going on: Islamists are killing people and causing property damage over a damn film. They do not believe in free speech and think its justifiable to kill over an opposing opinion.

    Do not try to throw this back in Christians faces. We have every right to fear for our safety and free speech rights.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:27 am |
  11. Jake- NYC

    This article is awful. It is time to call a rat a rat. Statistically, Islam is far and away the most intolerant and violent religion. Yes, Christianity can be very intolerant and cause violence as well, and I am no Christian, but let's not kill ourselves being overly PC here. It is FACT that Islam is the biggest problem in the world today, and just looking at the number of atrocities they commit proves this. Ignoring this and always trying to show respect will only allow for more danger.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  12. steve

    First, the killings going on now that are being blamed on this movie is rubbish. They were only looking for an excuse. It would have happened anyway. When was the last time you saw any other religion up rise like this because it took offense to something?

    September 17, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  13. open400

    I know conservative hate to hear this, but it is true: You can blame a lot of this on Bush. It was Bush that invaded Iraq when there was need no for it. It was Bush, a religious zealot himself, who had to turn the clock back to the Great Crusades of Christendom vs. Islam. It was Bush that refused to acknowledge the right of the Palestinians at all.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Paul

      Really, I don't remember Bush declaring war until the twin tours, pentagon and the united flight were destroyed. I don't remember Bush (who was in office less than 8 months at the time provoking muslims to kill 3000 americans on US soil. I don't remember Bush (who was not in office at the time) causing the attack on the USS Cole and the 1st WTC bombing (both under Clinton's watch). I really don't even like Bush, but I couldn't stand by and read this nonsense.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • PoqVaUSA

      So, I suppose it was former president Bush who orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, both in 2001 and in 1993? Bush was in office from 2001 to 2009. There truly are none so blind as those who will not see.

      Whatever else is true, it is also true that there are Moslem extremists who will not accept Western nations and cultures until Sharia Law becomes the law of the land, or until dhimmitude is established. Short of that, there really is nothing that the West can do that will satisfy the extremists. Ultimately they don't hate us for what we do so much as for who we are.

      Ignoring that background won't make it go away. Separation of church and state is an entirely foreign concept for Islam. The religion IS the state. Multiculturalism is a foreign concept, as is respect for other religions. Equal rights for women is foreign. Free speech and freedom of thought and expression are foreign. Those who seek tolerance for Islam are mistaken if they expect any positive reciprocation for those Western, Christian, sentiments.

      Do Christians hate Moslems? No. God calls for Christians to love all people, even those who call themselves our enemies. Do Christians fear Moslems. We shouldn't. Should people in the west consider that underneath it all, we all have the same wants and desires? We shouldn't kid ourselves, but should rather have our eyes wide open.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Daniel Morgan

      Paul,

      You are absolutely right that not every attack is Bush's fault.
      On the other hand, listing all the things that are not his fault does not mean that he is not guilty of some very serious mistakes – or even crimes.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  14. EdL

    I gather then, that 'suicide bombers' are not all that bad, we must not over criticize them, they are simply advancing their time to go to heaven. In contrast we Christians do our best to delay our going there.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Nikolas

      I quote "Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own." The suicide bombers are a minor group of people that have been brain-washed to think they will go to heaven. Majority of Muslims know that is not the case, as the suicide is a great sin (written in the Koran) It is really amazing what one person can learn if they take the time to read and educate oneself. (Angry and to Hate is the easiest thing to do)

      September 17, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  15. John Q. Public, Sr

    I agree with most of what has been written in this essay, but I seriously doubt that anyone who is Jewish would subscribe to this kind of Islamophobic rubbish. In the past Evangelists crusaded against Jews in this country, and no one I know would help support those Evangelists who disseminate this kind of offensive hatred about a religion they know nothing about.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Joe Smith

      You funny man!

      September 17, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  16. Mohamiss Shafik-Kaddir

    Inshallah Allah will have revenge upon the unbelieving Kafir and the Infidel !
    Kuffar blood will fill the the streets to wash away the shame of American filth from the Earth !
    Allahu Akbar ! The World belongs to Allah , and Allah alone !

    September 17, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • LB Colorado

      Your virgins are waiting for you.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Aman Syed

      Yo Dude – take a chill pill – I dont know what boat you are on – and which Allah(God) you pray to – but I'll tell you something, you are going straight to hell.
      Allah does not condone such acts of hatred that you write. The quran states that – Killing one innocent "human being" is as if you have killed the entire human race – and thus will get the punishment. So do not mis-represent a religion that teaches you peace more than anything else.
      The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – were he alive today – would never condone any such violent acts – especially in his name.
      Let us all regardless of our beliefs – understand that we are one human race – and brothers and sisters in humanity.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Steven

      Donkey. Christians, Jew and Muslims all worship the same god.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • qanerd

      Hurry up pal. There's a 72 year old virgin waiting for you

      September 17, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Diane Treider

      But Islam is a peaceful religion, right?

      September 17, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • marilyn

      No, my friend....Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the anointed of the Father, the promised Messiah. One day you will know this fact to be true. Jesus said to "love your enemies." Your prophet wants you to murder your enemies. How can your Allah compare to the Heavenly Father who is a God of love?

      September 17, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • bobby

      blah...blah...blah...no pretty virgins for you and your other farm animal abuser/pervert pals,American dudes get the girls :)..oh,your buddy Bin Laden,he's dead,down on the ocean bottom... :) blah blah blah

      September 17, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • stacyintexas

      Pssst... your intolerance is showing Mohamiss. Why don't you and your bomb vest take the first plane back to whereever you came from if you dont like the USA. Nobody is making you stay and enjoy our freedoms while you try to impose your own views at the threat of death if we don't agree.

      In the words of my favorite poet Stephen Crane... ""Think as I think," said a man,
      "Or you are abominably wicked;
      You are a toad."

      And after I had thought of it,
      I said, "I will, then, be a toad."

      Ribbit!!

      September 17, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • bobby

      blah...blah...blah...no pretty virgins for you and your other farm animal abuser/pervert pals,American dudes get the girls :)..oh,your buddy Bin Laden,he's dead,down on the ocean bottom... :) blah blah blah :)

      September 17, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • is

      Is that really a name Mohamiss (mohammed miss maybe?). Is your real name john smith or john doe. Whatever it is, it is not working.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
  17. JFF

    What a load of malarkey. Christians in various countries throughout the world are martyred to the tune of about 160,000 per annum! These are people who are martyred BECAUSE they're Christians and in most instances at the hands of Muslim zealots. Americans, those of us in the West, we really need to wake up and throw of the politically correct mumbo jumbo. Islam is a totalitarian system under the beard of a "religion". The notion that we suffer from Isamophobia is laughable in view of the facts. As a famous Rabbi said recently: "No Jew was ever killed by a Christian on his way home from church"

    September 17, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Isabel

      I agree so much with you JFF. Phobia, smobia – the emperor is not wearing any clothes - my eyes are firmly on their hateful actions and their lying mouths.... I would rather live with freedom of choice and learn tolerance than be under tyranny and hate. I pray that in their anger, arrogance and smugness that every effort they make to carry out their hate falls flat on their face. I focus on the true love my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the father of Jesus Christ, my Savior –I focus on that love, because #1 I know God's promise to protect and guide is believers is true; and #2 I trust God; and #3 I will wait while on alert and watching, for God's mighty hand. Or as in my own dad's words, "Shut Up and Go to Bed!"

      September 17, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  18. LB Colorado

    I won't go into their countries if they will just stay the heck away from ours. The muslims that live here are not a happy people, they do not smile they are never polite, not even the slightest bit of appreciation for being here. I don't think I could walk down in their towns and not feel fear – really. You call it whatever the heck you want, you can't change them as they do not wish to be changed. It is what it is, muslims live here but we do not welcome them with open arms. If I am not welcomed somewhere, I don't think I would want to live there, OMG, I don't live where they live, but yet the live where I live – still not a happy people – happiness is not the focus of anything that they are. It definitely does not show on their faces. Stop shoveling this crap down our throats – they really do not belong among the FREE. As they refuse to be free.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  19. gita

    Well said Mr. McLaren and very timely too. It is not possible to push newly elected Governments in the Islamic world ,born out of the Arab Spring, to control unruly mobs targeting the West, if we don't admit that there are fault lines in our own society. There is a strand of Islamophobia thet derives from a certain righteousness amongst Christians. This is extremely unhelpful in dealing with the current situation. Whether we like it or not, Islam and Muslims believe that they are right and their religion is the best. This will not change, no matter how much the west tries to convince Muslims that there is a better way. But, to brand this as being uncivilized, bigoted and backward will only fan the fires. The world cannot afford this protracted war against 1.6 billion muslims

    September 17, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  20. BeFaithful

    pho·bi·a /ˈfoʊbiə/ [foh-bee-uh]

    A persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.

    The question is this: is it irrational to fear people who hate you?

    September 17, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Kay

      Yes. It actually is.

      Being "afraid" of someone because you believe they hate you is silly.

      In the first place, you are making assumptions about how other people feel about you. For all you *really* know, they aren't thinking about you at all. Or at least not thinking about you until someone brings you up.

      In the second place, why should someone hating you mean anything more than they are wasting their own emotional energy on negative feelings inside themselves? How is their hating you going to hurt you?

      You're reading FAR too much into this so-called "hatred". Indeed, it's this fear that's all your own that leads *you* into making poor decisions and supporting inappropriate reactions.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:44 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.