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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. J G

    This article would make more sense it if it said "It's time for Islamic fundamentlists to choose." They're the ones giving hate speeches here in America, recruiting fools to go overseas and die as "martyrs," and doing whatever they can to undermine America. And even those who claim to be peaceful Islamists do nothing to condemn the violent acts of their "brothers."

    September 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • David H. Piller

      Exactly, Nazis started out as a minority!

      September 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  2. HugoCorv

    Brian D. McLaren should not lie that he's a Christian.

    He's an atheist, out to make a quick buck by selling books. He knows he'd get murdered if he sells out Muslims and that Christians will allow him to sell them out, so that's why he's picking on the victim.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post by 'HugoCorv' is an instance of the No True Scotsmen fallacy.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      September 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  3. J G

    Islamophobia doesn't spring from nowhere. And calling it a phobia, as if it's a disease, is silly. I did not grow up religious. I don't like any religion – I think it's an excuse for group think and that never ends in good.

    Nevertheless, Islam gets its name because it's used as a weapon by so many. And the other believers, who might not be violent, seem to secretly have no problem with those violent actions. They never condemn it, which means they tacticly support it. Islam is the only religion who presently has a stated goal of wiping out all infidels (not that Christians and Catholics in the past haven't had the same goal).

    Recognizing the very real threat that Islam presents (see the reaction to a movie) is what causes people to dislike Islam.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  4. Jack 3

    Islam attacks here and around the world but we have a phobia? It seems today that if you disagree with anything you have a phobia about it. It's not normal to disagree.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  5. Jack 3

    Lets say we get a large population here in the us as it seems may happen. Then we had another person post a video or cartoon offending islams followers. Are we going to have riots here too? I'll bet we would.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  6. Sean

    There ya go! Attack the scapegoat Christian who set up homeless shelters and soup kitchens all over town. If there is a form of free speech that you dislike, it could be "hate speech." The idea of personal responsibility for how much you let things effect you is a foreign issue. If many "Islamaphobic evangelical Christians" stormed your studio and unbiasedly beat you over the daily Christian parodies in pop-culture, wouldn't you be a bit hesitant to associate yourselves with such groups? Especially if it was a world wide phenomenon that numbered in the hundreds of thousands? and beyond...You have to refer to Muhammad as the "Prophet Muhammad," and be sensitive to every shoe shake they may consider offensive. Political correctness's indirect signature motive is to embrace most things that are bad and slander most things that are good. If you ever get injured in a natural disaster, don't ask for those red-cross evangelical humanitarians that you make money by demeaning for help. I can't believe you actually get paid for this useless garbage.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Karen

      If the Christian god existed with the characteristics that Christians boast of it having, we would have no need for soup kitchens.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  7. Willnotsubmit

    This writer is not an evangelical and his claim to being a Christian is dubious in my opinion. He does not spend his energy on promoting the word of God, but rather the submission to Islm. He is a more a spokesman for the democrat party than a spokesman for the Gospel of Christ.
    Was his voice as loud in the face of decades of mockery and persecution of Christianity by the left in this nation? No.
    People fear Islm because of the actions of this cult's leaders and the actions of followers.
    Islm is not a religion. It is a terrorist power structure. It was at its creation and it is now. Just look at what controls our foreign policy: An islm mob the world is too frightened to say "boo" to for fear of their lives and/or the lives of their families.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • R. B.

      Mr. McClaren represents a fringe of "Christianity" known as the "Emerging Church Movement" whose thrust is to point out what they consider to be inconsistencies in Evangelical Christianity.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  8. James

    This pathetic preacher's unfamiliarity with the "No-religion-but-Islam" agenda of the vile Quran is as disturbing as the "Unbelievers" who were unfamiliar with "Mein Kampf"

    September 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  9. Somaia

    It is so sad to see so much gnorance in our nation about Islam. No wonder we are hated. Open your minds and get to know your fellow Muslims in the USA. They are your neighbours, your doctors, your educators and your engineers. They are also your resturant owners, your taxi drivers and they are your students. Stop the blind hate. Yes, I agree that some of the Muslims' actions are unaccepteable, Do not genaralize.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • Willnotsubmit

      You mean like you just generalized?

      September 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Col B

      Since Quaron directs Muslims not to associate with Christians and Jews (infidels) how are we supposed to be their friends? Are they not disobeying the Quaron when they even associate with Christians and Jews? Who wants to be friends with someone whose religion directs them to kill all infidels?

      September 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Daniel Morgan

      Muslim fanatics think all Christians are evil.
      Christian fanatics think all Muslims are evil.
      I think all fanatics are evil.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • J G

      I'd rather they just left. I don't want any riots at home the next time a home movie goes public.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Tom

      If you're Muslim, you need to stop the funding of these hate groups who send money to terrorists.
      You need to disavow the muslim brotherhood, and stop the flow of money to these idiots who harm your peace loving brothers.

      Christians don't fund militant armies and preach violence from their pulpits, and if they do, they are taken to task for it or otherwise dealt with by the law. (Inciting Violence against anyone is a crime in this land.... USA)

      We expect you to play by the same rules. Stop the flow of money to people who would kill us.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • whyshouldi

      in the usa you do not go around asking people what their religion is generally, so there is no real way of knowing their religion unless it is obvious for some reason, like maybe wearing a robe, or a cross, or something similar. but that doesn't happen to much, cuz noone really cares what religion people are – unless the person makes it an issue for some reason – and then most are fairly tolerant and good natured about good naturedly things and not so tolerant about intolerable things – which really doesn't have anything to do with the religion to begin with – but about the person and their actions or affects on things.
      I think religions assume too much if they think others are doomed if not like them – all are doomed by sciencific facts of nature – it has something to do with iceages from what i hear.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • ME II

      @Somaia,
      I agree with your point, in general.
      However, "No wonder we are hated", seems extreme. I don't think people who are ignorant should be hated. Ignorance itself, perhaps, but the ignorant, nor so much.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  10. R. B.

    Eli Cabelly,

    It is sad for me that you think Christians worship the cross. Yes it was a tool of Roman execution and torture for non-Roman peoples in conquered lands. Christians worship Jesus who was willing to suffer this death to pay the price for the sins of all people. The focus on the cross is not rejoicing in the cruelty in his death, but the love of self-sacrifice by Jesus.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  11. Allah

    Look Christians, you need to realise that you ain't all that and a bag 'a chips.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • coyotewise

      Not only are Christians all that and a bag of chips, but they get a free bottle of living water that never goes empty. Give it a try. You may find it a life changing event.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Willnotsubmit

      Yes, if only we Christians could be so peaceful and loving as islm. I am watching to peaceful and loving nature of islm on the TV for the past week.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Fastrack

      Amen to Allah's statement. Didn't we read about the same thing during the Crusades? I'm sure that God doesn't care whether Her followers are Christian, Jew, Muslim, or don't participate in organized religion. Surely, what She cares about is that we live in peace.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  12. Egyptian Girl

    You are blaming people because they are scared of Islam? well, are you scared of these Quoran versus? cause if you are, then please GIVE US ALL A BREAK and RECONSIDER YOUR POSITION!

    9:29 Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low

    Based on this verse what is called now the Muslim World was conqurred by the sword allover 1400 years and all minorities in those countries suffered prosecution and discrimination till today!

    9:12 And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief – Lo! they have no binding oaths – in order that they may desist

    This verse is a command from God to kill whoever dare to "assail" (criticize) Islam, that explains the violence you see from Muslims allover the world everytime there is such an instance like the Cartoons 2006 and the movie few days ago.

    [2.190] ...fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you...[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

    [193]...fight with them...[194]...whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you...

    [4.74] Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world's life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward. [4.75] ...fight in the way of Allah... [4.76] Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of the Satan. Fight therefore against the friends of the Satan... [4.77] ...when fighting is prescribed for them...Our Lord! why hast Thou ordained fighting for us?...

    [4.89] ...take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back [to their homes], then seize them and kill them wherever you find them... [4.90] Allah has not given you a way against them [Allah supposedly does not allow Muslims to fight people friendly to Muslims]. [4.91]...seize them and kill them wherever you find them...

    [2.216] Fighting is enjoined on you...[2.217]... fighting in it. Say: Fighting in it is a grave matter...persecution is graver than slaughter... [2.218]...strove hard in the way of Allah... ...fight in the way of Allah

    [2.190] ...fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you...[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

    K 3:169 Set 11, Count 32 ...reckon not those who are killed in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord [meaning they are enjoying their 72 virgins in heaven];

    September 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Violet

      I would strongly suggest you reread Revelations today.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Primewonk

      You do realize, don't you, that I could post an equal number of verses from the Christian bible that are just as sick, twisted, and psychotic?

      Seems to me that you are upset that your fundiot Muslim nutters have the balls to obey they commands of your god.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • I wonder

      Violet,

      You don't even have the ti'tle of your book correct... no wonder you believe that fan.fic/horror stuff that's in it.
      (Look again)

      September 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  13. Jack 3

    Why is everything a phobis in the US today? I have a concern because red flags are being raised about this relifgion. the red flags are based on Islams recent past actions in this copuntry and around the world. To dismiss this as a phobia would be foolish. This author misses the point entirely. We don't fear the nice muslims you may know. we fear the power this religion brings to it's followers. The Quaran lays out the agenda for islam, the imams and clerics preach it and in a strict way. It's a known fact that as islam populations increase so does the violence. The muslims not only bring this strict religion they bring radicals that follow them and are born of them. This is not a phobis, it's a rational concern.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Tom

      Scott,

      You are spot on.

      This article is ridiculous. To assert there is a missaligned phobia in the face of the US Ambassador's murder, is less than journalisticly credible.

      I'm changing my home page from CNN to something else.

      I'm sick of it.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      The Given Up Ones AKA gays, etc, made the phobia concept popular. Thanky you GUOs.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  14. Ed

    I am much more interested in the affect this may have on young muslim sympathizers who live in the United States. The potential here to cause harm may be very real. What are these people saying, what are their plans, are they speaking out? CNN does not really showcase these areas of interest that represent hard-nose journalism. But instead, look for opportunities to denigrate Christianity. I have never thought one could watch CNN and receive a balanced view of the muslim world or Christianity. The network and this article continues to prove my point.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Ed

      Get real! Christians have many phobias that they need to check.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Avalon

      If someone has any kind of dissent, it's labeled as a "phobia." Please.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Tom

      Ed,

      You couldn't be more correct.
      I have begun to turn to more and more alternative sources for news, as I've encountered less credible reporting from the major media outlets.

      I'm really sick of it.

      And the Dude says it well below.

      American's need to wake up and realize that Obama's policy of appologizing for stuff he's not responsible for.... hurts his credibility. So much that they are burning effigy's of him. He's our greatest American Fool for thinking he could appologize to them because his middle name is Hussein. Simply ridiculous. And they have proved him wrong by their sincere actions.

      Vote this idiot out. Please America.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • theCayce

      Yeah, Avalon... that's it, isn't it? You can't have a legitimate, solidly grounded distaste or disagreement with anything anymore, that it doesn't get categorically dismissed as 'phobic'. (more in general discussion...)

      September 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  15. Dan

    Another propitiator like the timid apologist weasel, Obama, whose foreign policy now has 20 Muslim nations hating America. What's new?

    September 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Tina

      Just as the Occupy Wall Street protesters did not represent all of America, the illiterate, young and unemployed who riot in the Middle East do not represent those countries governments. Unless it is Iran.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • pauleky

      Dan – stop watching Fox News. Please!

      September 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Kramer

      Maybe Christians should work on their gay phobias also. They are two peas in a pod with Islam when it comes to suppressing the lives of gays.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • kamanakapu

      Another racist put-down, huh, Dan? Brace yourself! November 6 is fifty days away.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Captain Canuck

      Do you think, perhaps, that Dubya's foreign policy of "You're either with us or you're getting blown to kingdom come" may have something to do with middle eastern resentment of America?

      September 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  16. Bobber

    You can kill a Muslim with less repercussions than making fun of Mohammad. A religion that uses fear to keep their members or to force conversions, it is really a religion that needs handcuffs. The future will see a total freedom of religion. It's just going to take a while for the world to put these religious wacko criminals out of action.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  17. Dude

    I have a cure for Islamophobia. Are you ready? Sit down. Here it is -
    Don't Fly Planes into Buildings. Don't Back Suicide Bombings. Car bombs are right out. Also...no more beheadings. Seriously cut back on stoning people. Oh yeah, no female genital mutilation. Rioting is also frowned upon. Dial it back a notch. Blasphemy that warrants death is better met with an eye roll and good works that set an example for all the world to follow. That's it. Good luck.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • ME II

      Sounds like more of a cure for radical fanaticism of any kind, thanks.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mary

      I agree, we should love these people BUT we do not need to condone what they are doing. Jesus is the way and they don't believe in Him as a Savior. The Bible clearly states, "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me." God have mercy!

      September 17, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • J G

      Mary, give the Bible junk a rest.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  18. Really?

    Hey everyone, Brian D. McLaren is stupid and thinks he's so smart. I can't stand smug people like him.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  19. Mfunk

    Did any of you anti-muslim people actually read this article!! He gave great examples of why we shouldn't be hateful to combat their hatefulness....but I guess you had to hurry to the bottom to give your incredible insight. What if people looked at skinheads in the South, who a lot of the time profess to be christians, and said "Oh, so thats what a christian is"?? Any rational responses??

    September 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      BM is dross rising to the top if he EVER was a Christian.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      Why do people think CNN has the capacity to know the difference?

      September 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  20. Jeremiah Melvin

    Dear Brian McLaren. "we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia",I am a 23 year old college, evangelical christian. I've watched the Madrid train bombings, 9/11, and the attack on the US Consulate. In fact, I've seen more attacks than these all committed in the name of Islam. My fear of Islam is more than justified. I've never seen so much senseless killings in the name of a religion, and I don't believe that you have either. The problem is not us. The fear of Islam has been more than justified. Instead of condemning the attacks; you condemn the fear resulting from these attacks. You're speech is nothing new, I've heard many experts, politicians, and well-meaning individuals shove the "Islam is not the problem; you are" philosophy down my throat every time a radical islamist kills someone.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:02 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.