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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. Theo

    The same can be said about the Christianphobia by Muslims and their Islam evil believes.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Cassie

      Well yeah. The point the author was trying to make wasn't that Islam is a perfect pure religion and Christians some malevolent evil, but rather that Christians also have idiots in their ranks who need to be told to sit down and shut up.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Akim

      Theo, where the heck did u read any book written by a Muslim or film produced by a Muslim insulting Christian's or Jew's religious people. In-fact in order to be a Muslim one must believe in Prophet Mosos (PBUH) and Propet Jesus (PBUH). The truth of the fact is there is not cure for ignorance. Especially if one is living in Tea Bag.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • skarphace

      Cassie: good response. However, I would argue that those within the evangelical community who think that all Muslims are evil terrorists who want to take over the world actually make up the majority. Unfortunately, there is enough of them that believe this way that they have lately been getting politicians who believe this way elected into office where they influence even more voters to believe this way.

      It is a viscious, increasing cycle which we will not get out of any time soon, I fear.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Akim

      SKARPHACE: "... Unfortunately, there is enough of them that believe this way that they have lately been getting politicians who believe this way elected into office where they influence even more voters to believe this way...." NOTHING BUT AGREE!!!! to get into !!!!! Office !! politics -: )

      September 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  2. Martelrising

    Mr. McLaren is another useful idiot duped by Islamists into stifling legitmate criticism of Islam a.k.a. "Islamophobia. Turkey's Rime Minister Erdogan has called for the criminalization of speech that "offends" religious believers, which is predictible. One of the goals of these riots is to put pressure on Western governments to willingly implement sharia law so that the spread Of Islam can continue with no criticism allowed. What's sad is that there are so many fools like McLaren who enthusiastically support those whose goal is to spread Islam worldwide. Both Islamists and dhimmi leftists are frustrated that they are unable to control the narrative thanks to the internet and other non-mainstream news sources.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  3. HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

    A Purpose Driven Bomber has a certain ring, errr, blast to it!

    September 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Goose66

    "Islamaphobia?" Get over yourself! There is a big difference between fearing something and having no respect for it. I do not fear Islam or Muslims, but I have little or no respect for the religion and its tenants. I cannot claim to have a thorough understanding of the religion, but from my exposure to the ideology and actions of Islam on the world stage as seen through the lens of mainstream media, there is nothing there that deserves respect. You want me to believe that my lack of respect for a culture that holds as its highest order death to those of other beliefs and who treats women no better than cattle comes from ignorance and hatefulness. That simply reflects your own narrow-minded and intolerant view. My lack of respect for Islam comes from the fact that they have done nothing throughout modern history to earn my respect - plain and simple.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • maxmaxwell

      great reply, I too am getting tired of being forced though "opinion" how acceptable islam is, Sorry I don't attend a church, nor a synagog, nor an AA meeting or any organization for that matter but the mainstream media would have us to believe we have to accept islam due to our own fraility, I am sorry, I didn't read where the mussies were at valley forge, nor signing the declaration of independance, I also missed their memorial in gettysberg, matter of fact I don't recall them being part of the civil rights movement or the moon launches. Hmmm and now I am being tapped to lower myself to a level of acceptance for something not a part of our countries history or it's foundation, imagine that.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  5. HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

    A Purpose Driven Bomber has a certain ring, errr, blast to it.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  6. ed pokorski

    If I am an Islamophobic it is because everyday I read About the peaceful and dedicated Muslims the we train and give weapons to shooting our young men in the back. I will never trust them and am teaching my grand children not to trust either. Their lives and future depend on that!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • CMV

      I'm neither a Christian or a Muslim.I'm a Jain.The problem is that you guys think you are helping out ppl in Iraq/Afghanistan etc.Get over.They didn't need you or your help.They were probably better off with Saddam/Gadaffi.
      You guys go and kill civilians in the dead of the night using drones etc sitting somewhere in the US.The problem is that you guys think its a video game.Going out and saying Look I'm sorry I mistook him/her to be a jihadi.Imagine someone else coming to US and doing that to fellow Americans.Hard to imagine/digest?I'm sure how so ever learned or sane one may be reason takes a backseat.Hatred easily overtakes reason on such occassions.
      For god's sake pull out that video.They didn't portray Christ/Thirthankar/Devi/Devata so then what right do we have to taunt theirs.Stop all that rubbish freedom of speech coverup.If its leading to so much bad blood and loss of life it aint no good.Common sense!!!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  7. rik rice

    I think that the treatment Christians received from Islamists during the 7th through 19th centurys and beyond speaks for itself. To wit: the Balkans today

    September 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Follower of Christ

      Rik Rice,
      Have you ever heard of the Crusades? Christians didn't treat Muslims any better during that time period. A true Christian, following the way of Christ, would not have acted the way the Christians of the Crusades did, nor would he act the way that so many evangelicals in this country do toward Muslims. I do not condone the acts of the Islamist extremists, nor do I condone people calling themselves Christians who spread hate. Christ's message for the world is one of love, even to those who would do you harm. "Forgive them father, for they do not know what they do." (Luke 23:34).

      September 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  8. botrytis

    This is a thoughtful and realistic assessment of what is going on in the world. People must also realize many of the Muslum countries, although supposedly more democratic, control what people hear and read through the media. They are not used to the idea of 'freedom of expression', where a person defends your right to say hate speech but also abhors it. Muslims are not used to thinking that way, hence they ask the President to have the 'perpetraitor' arrested. That is not our way but it is also NOT OUR WAY to allow hate speech to go on as truth. We need to voice our opinion with other religions that ANY religious intolerance will not be accepted.

    Please get to know others form different religions and you will see how much you have in common, not how much different you are.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      Trying to spread demobocracy worldwide is equally idiotic.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • homeschool23

      Christians do not bomb you into belief, nor do they enslave their women and children. The Bible does not instruct it's follower's to kill anyone who does not convert. Christianity has nothing in common with Islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      homeschool23, the reason that fundamentalist Christians don't do that is because we live under a secular government that doesn't allow it. History shows time and again that Christians are equally capable of that same behavior under the right circumstances. Maybe you that part of history was brushed under the rug in homeschool.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends," Yes, that's the problem, isn't it? Like bin Laden, they already know it all. Why are you even trying? They hate you as much as they hate Islam, "libruls," and people with accents. You are missing the point about these people, which is that they are not good people.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  9. Steve O

    Selfishly, I'm glad some of the hate rhetoric has been taken off us atheists. The reality of it is by to compartmentalizing groups of people, we dehumanize them. And by dehumanizing them, we give ourselves permission to treat them inhumanely.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • ed pokorski

      Steve O, Have you ever been i a combat zone where the people you thought you could trust are shooting your friends and relatives in the back??? Just for your information, the only way you learn to shoot in combat is to really be scared enough that it makes you learn to fight back!!!

      September 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      People that don't even consider their own soul can't be trusted very far.......'Mat 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?'

      September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  10. CGBaron

    Right after you have a talk with the other side of your religion, Patrick.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  11. Observer

    This article is right on the money.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  12. politico

    Is it a HATE crime to HATE those that kill our countrymen? That they all happen to be Muslims seems to be a coincidence.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Is it a HATE crime to HATE those that kill our countrymen?" It is an insult to Jesus to find hate in your heart for anyone, or so I'm told by Christians.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • homeschool23

      definitely a Bible Clown. Don't quote what you don't know.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Observer

      Let's all just hate hate hate, I think that's the way to progress, don't you? I think hate is definitely what we need to end the cycle of violence. I think more hate will also help race relations in the US too, don't you? Why don't we just cut the BS and go right to an all out religious WAR! For all the tea in China, NO SURVIVORS. One religion wins, everyone else dies. You know I think the founding fathers, AND JESUS, told us many times to always hate those that are different. We should follow their advice. Remember, hate is always the answer and violence solves EVERYTHING!

      Vote Romney in 2012 (jk)

      September 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  13. Soaring Humanist

    "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." Yes, the author is right, except he conveniently forgot how God prefers wiping out entire race of non-believers or people who had done him "insults".

    September 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  14. Frederick Mann

    This is a thoughtful and insightful article. Thank you! The hate rhetoric and resulting bigotry have put us in a truly tight spot.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Violet

      Christians have many phobias. There is one phobia directed at an entire subgroup of Americans that the censors here will not allow my to type. It is high time we stop thwarting the lives of these Americans if we want anyone at all to believe in the new victimhood of Christianity.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • I wonder

      " There is one phobia directed at an entire subgroup of Americans that the censors here will not allow my to type."

      Strip-pers? Ho-oters? :)

      September 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • I wonder

      Violet,

      cuc-umber lovers?
      nightwa-tchmen?
      salt-water fishermen?
      soft-ware innovators?
      spi-cy meatballs
      co-cktail waitresses?
      National Lamp-oon?
      Po-rgy & Bess?
      therap-eutic providers?
      trap-eze performers?
      bodysn-atchers?
      J-apanese tea servers?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  15. Truth

    The problem in a "nutshell" is that the Islamic world believes we in America should have laws against blasphemy but we don't. They believe that I should be killed for saying something like "Mohammed was a fake and a liar and misled the ignorant masses." The fact is, I can say that and have the American military to defend my right to say it without me being violently attacked. The Islamic community needs to grow a much thicker skin if they want to join the rest of the world community and they cannot claim some exception for their deity that allows them to say terrible things about other religions but then claim blasphemy when anyone badmouths their own. The criminals around the world who are engageing in violent protests are just that, criminals and are no better than the evangelicals shooting at abortion doctors.

    Faith shall never be illegal in the US.
    Works, if violent in nature or is taking away someone elses rights shall never be legal in the US.
    The problem is many of the faithful believe "Faith without works is dead." So often, for the mentally unstable and ignorant religious zealots, they decide to act upon the rhetoric and take theocratic law into their own hands, apparently not having enough faith to allow God to judge others and decide to get the judging under way becuase they just can't wait on God anymore. This is the most dangerous sector of society, whether coming from Islamic extremeist or Christian extremeists or even Zionist extremeists.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Reggie

      That's the best comment that can be made in response to this opinion piece. At worst, the "Islamaphobes" use only words. At worst, the zealot Muslims kill those who disagree with them. Big difference. Both are intolerant, but one's intolerance is tolerable.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Agnes

      A religion that needs protection at gun point is no religion at all. This religion is built on a rickety foundation, supported by a house of cards.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  16. Patrick

    CNN IS A JOKE!!!!!!! BOYCOTT CNN

    September 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Truth

      So what are you doing here Patrick?

      September 17, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Violet

      Protect the hopes and dreams of gay adolescents: Boycott Christianity and Islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Akim

      Patrick, yes, it looks/sounds joke when u watch CNN sitting in Fox-news-lies-box.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  17. Patrick

    Islam Murderers....Period!!!! If you are islam and peaseful you should have a talk with the other side of your religion...

    September 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Duh

      If you are Christian and peaceful you should have a talk with the other side of your religion...

      September 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • politico

      Islam and peaceful – a contradiction of terms.

      Proof is in the headlines.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  18. JoeSeattle

    Islam is a creed of world domination. The real threat are the non-jihad Muslims, who are commited to the take-over of the world by peaceful means. The goal is to infiltrate, achieve positions of power, and ultimately impose Sharia Law. The terrorists are an obstacle to them, as they ultimately only stir up opposition.

    The greatest threat of is to women, who are mere chattel according to Islam. But according to the author, any objection to the oppression of women is mere "Islamophobia".

    September 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Muslim

      I have no idea where people get this information from??? Control and infiltrate the world in peaceful means? Yeah right, look how Muslims are controlling the world..!!
      Women treated badly in Islam is the biggest myth and lie, I have no idea where its written in the Qur'an, I'd like to see it. Islam puts women at the highest level and in a special status. Unfortunately, some Muslim countries and some societies treats women badly, but that's not Islam's fault, its people's faults, they simply don't apply Islam. Take Saudia Arabia as an example, there is nothing in the Qur'an that says "Women should not drive or vote", that's totally a culture decision that has nothing to do with Islam.
      Concur the world???, when was the last time you've seen a Muslim country invade or occupy another? or preemptive strike another?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Musli....What about the Iran Iraq war? What about the continent of Africa today. What about Pakistan and Afghanistan? You need to take a good look at you religion from the outside looking in.

      October 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  19. Bruce

    A phobia is an irrational fear. When large crowds of Muslims in just about every corner of the world are out rioting, burning, and murdering people they see as insufficiently respectful of their prophet, and are continually sending suicide bombers out into the civilized world as part of a campaign to subject the whole world to their religion, fear, mistrust, and extreme dislike of such people is only rational.

    I don't fear and mistrust all Muslims, but the ones who are ready to kill at the slightest hint of insult or disagreement are all too common.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Iowan

      As are those willing to condemn all Muslims based upon the actions of a few.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Bruce

      If it were only a few, we wouldn't be having this discussion. As these riots continue to snowball it's only plain that while the hyperviolent fanatics may be a minority, they are a very sizeable minority, a minority of millions.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  20. Truth

    "large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse."

    Now we know where all the greenhouse gasses are coming from... the evangelical community opens their mouths and the sea's rise.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
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