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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. American Democrats

    Is this really what CNN is gonna push on their front page? Muslims kill Americans and this is CNN's response? Unbelievable.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • James

      Just remember they are out to blame america for all the problems!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • American Democrats

      I recognize that. But must CNN always side against America? Which interestingly enough, CNN always sides with the Prez. Libya said Al Queda was responsible and CNN and the prez state it is a protest.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  2. JerPell

    Cnn is not afraid to pick on Christians, but there is no way Cnn will pick on Islam, they are to afraid of the repercussions!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • John

      Yeah, all the violence in the middle East is the fault of Christians, and not the people committing the violence. F-u-c-c-k CNN.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  3. Laurel

    This is a classic example of why there should be a separation of church and state. Relegion has always been flawed by concept humans form that only their relegion is the true relegion, and you won't get to heaven if you don't believe the way they do and don't mind limiting your basic freedoms, limiting your knowledge or killing you to prove their point. Frankly, I don't want to go to their version of heaven.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  4. slaythedonkey

    How about what makes Americans mad as hell? Seeing animals desecrating our flag when they never even saw the film!
    What does this say about ignorance in that part of the Islamic world!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Ayache

      This may be because of this ignorance that you are able to control them all one by one and destroy them one by one by the inside.

      Indeed, with a "normal" intelligence, with their number and they energies they would be respectable and respected opponents.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  5. richunix

    Remove the myth's of all religion and the world would be far happier place. Thw world has grwon up for the beliefs in gods, demi-gods and animals to worship.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Ayala

      You are so corrrect!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • American Democrats

      You sure have to leave out a lot of history to go with that theory. Unless you're suggesting it was the Jew's fault for getting massacred. If only they hadn't been Jews they would have lived.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Gold Finger

      Na.... We would still kill each other.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • masherwould

      Never mind that atheistic communism and marxism accounts for an estimated 100 million deaths during the reign of leaders such as Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Kim iL Sung, etc... Yep, every atheistic communist leaders is synonymous with massive crimes against their own people.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Ts

      see china. don't be blind!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  6. OldMo

    Why doesn't CNN do some real news and cover the persecution and murder of Christians in different parts of the world at the hands of Muslims? Instead they get some fake Christian/wolf like this McLaren fraud wagging his finger at Christians. Hey, as a Christian I know persecution comes with the territory, even moreso as we reach the end of the age but do we have to play dumb to what's happening on top of it? Keep burying your heads in the sand fools, Christians aren't going to be the only ones persecuted.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • MJL

      Your comment was exactly what the article is about.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • David Meyer

      CNN or any of its contributors say something POSITIVE about Christians...or point out how many Christians are killed by Muslims around the world. Come come OldMo...this is CNN, you know, the people that produce programs almost monthly about Muslim this and Muslim that, and do everything in their power to pander to the Muslims. Don't get me wrong...I don't dislike CNN completely...I like some of their programming and they have some anchors that APPEAR to be neutral. For the most part however, (99.999% of the time) you know exactly where they stand, and that isn't with the Christian community.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  7. David

    Wow, now they put it on the home page. CNN is doing their part to keep the video talking points memo alive instead of looking at the president's ill-conceived foreign policy. Weren't the hippies railing against the military-industrial-media complex back in the 60's and 70's. Now they ARE the military-industrial-media complex. It couldn't be more obvious after seeing the coverage of this past week's events.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • awasis

      So what's the Repud policy? I know GWB round 2. Gee that went real well. You chicken hawks have only one plan, war. For your most recent handy work take a look at Iraq and Afghanistan. You guys made a mess of things.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  8. David

    If "they" the tiny fragment of Muslims who carry out the attacks are not representative to at least a major portion of that demographic, then why don't the rest of the Muslims denounce their actions and socially isolate these "few".

    September 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Ayache

      As all people are composed of isolated individual, it is extremely dangerous to fight against these people: "The extremists".

      The risk is to be slaughtered anywhere, anytime, even while you sleep.

      The people are afraid of these extremists.
      Because they are so convinced of their religion they can take a baby by the feet and smashing his head against a desk or against the corner of a wall.

      So these people are mentally very late, then their view of the situation is not quite clear

      September 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  9. Samsdad

    Too bad this guy wasn't making this flawed speech while on board one of the 3 fateful airplanes that changed the meaning of "9-11" forever!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Phil

      How very Christian of you.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  10. Christian Humanist

    How can we disprove our preconceived notions when muslims give us every reason to believe them? A movie comes out and violent riots erupt killing innocent people, the oppression or women, education, theocratic ideologies that promote hate, injustice and violence. Someone idiot makes a movie, so what? That is his point of view....if someone slams Jesus and his teachings or that of his church then so what. It is one point of view...not mine. Unless of course your visceral reaction means that in your heart you believe them to be true and therefore offended.

    Democracy is a reflection of the people within that society. What if that society is evil? The Arab Spring I thought would bring the hope of freedom to the people but what if the people are more evil than the dictators they replaced?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Gold Finger

      But all that proves is humans are stupid.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  11. Disgusted

    Quite frankly Mr. McLaren, your article is so much more than a slap in the face; during these times your indirect fueling or justifying of the Muslim rage actually endanger Americans' lives.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  12. ReasonableXX

    No religion is "better" than any other. They are all equally ridiculous and made up.

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

      True talk

      September 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • James

      You are funny!!!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      The commie school teachers must spread this way of 'thinking'. It's the flip side of, 'kill em all, let God sort it out!' I've seen it over and over on here.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Ayache

      Bravo, we have the same religion No religion.
      This is the best of religions.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  13. Jon

    The author thinks he has found the answer which is in his mind to be executed by others, naturally. He has not the answers, but I would like to see him go to the middle east and clear this up with the responsible parties.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  14. Blake

    Phobia is on display in the form of murder and destruction. That concerns me a great deal more than a tawdry film.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • anchorite

      So Bush going on a crusade to kill 655,000 Iraqis isn't murder? Obama killing more than 4 Muslims every day in Pakistan and Afghanistan isn't murder?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  15. Gold Finger

    I see it in church every Sunday. Preacher goes off on every other religion and gets most of his facts wrong. He hates it when I meet him at the back of the church and correct all his mistakes. My favorites are: Sunday is the Sabbath and if the bible was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Kanageloa

      So you go to church every Sunday so you can correct the preacher on his mistakes? This is the only reason? Why not start your own church if you're so rightous? Apparently you have all the answers and would save the entire world. Good luck with that one.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Jakob

      You don' have to lie to make yourself seem superior. I have been in Sunday churches all my life and I can tell you that by and large, churches don't talk about other religions all that much. Not to mention, I've never been in a church were I met one person whose sole purpose there was to contradict the pastor.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  16. Bobby

    I grew up in a muslim country (my family is European, however my parents worked in Libya). They hated us back in the 80's before Bush was a president and before the movie was made. America was referred as the Big Satan... They hated us because we were Christians and still do. The idea that we somehow caused this problem is no crazy. I remember to this day the fuel track being parked in front of the British embassy in Tripoli, waiting for an order to light it on fire. Anyway, I am sure that the evangelicals in England really ticked off the peace loving arabs with something they did. I guess breathing and being a Christian is offensive to these people.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Gold Finger

      Yeah, I'm pretty sure something happend in the 50's to cause them not to like us.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • To Bobby.

      It's time we understand this truth.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  17. Wade

    The fundamental difference between the teachings of Christ and the teachings of Mohammed is Jesus is against violence and self defense. Jesus says to turn the other cheek and pray for your enemies. Jesus said if you live by the sword you will die by the sword. Now with that said there are many Christians who have been deceived by the media and false teachers to go to war and kill in the name of God. Whereas Mohammed gives Muslims permission to fight back and calls non believers "losers"

    God is love. God love's all people and violence and fighting is not what the Lord wants us to do. He wants us to have peace. In times of terror we must pray. Our battles is not between flesh and blood but demonic forces. Prayer is the answer and those who put their faith in the loving God will be provided for.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Gold Finger

      Actually Wade, Islam says to surrender to God's will and peace be on your enemies.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • William1956

      Does this "Live by the sword, die by the sword." thing also apply to Muslims?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Kanageloa

      Wade you've missed something here. Jesus said turn the other cheek when you are insulted. Jesus said you CAN defend yourself from violence. If necessary you can sell your robe and buy a sword on your travels comes to mind. Anyway, the old turn your cheek is about insults. You have to study what the verse implies in the living days of Jesus. I do agree with you that islam is all about violence and all about man. Women and children are only likestock. Women are for beating if needed to get them to obey.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Joseph Nazarene

      The fact is 'Christianity' can be every bit as evil as Islam, and fundamental Christian faiths are kept in check by a Bill of Rights that is thankfully 'godless.'

      September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  18. dudeuloose

    Brian, you really need to open up your eyes and see what is going on in the middle east. Countless times you can read about Christians being burned, killed for their belief. Pay attention to all the killings happening in muslim countries and you defend it, while you attack Christians.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Kent

      And we don't persecute Muslims in this country (Guantanemo) and we don't do evil things to those of other religions. Grow up!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Karen

      History of Christianity includes burnings and torture of non-Christians and pretty much anyone who was an obstacle to the church. 2 wrongs don't make a right but you are a pot calling a kettle at least a very dark shade of charcoal.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Brian

      I'm not so sure about that. I've traveled through the Middle East during my undergraduate years and I, surprisingly, didn't see a single Christian burned or murdered. I was treated incredibly well be everyone I met. The issue isn't religion, it's politics. Our country has meddled in their business for the last several decades. We'd act the same way in their position because it's human nature.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  19. scranton

    Go ahead and bend over Brian.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • sevresblue

      Just making Scranton look like a loser place...

      September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Craig

      Christ put it a bit more elegantly, "turn the other cheek." Yes...that is EXACTLY the right and Christ-like thing to do. Brian is exactly right on theology.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Brian

      You are truly a reflection of Christ. You tool.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  20. CGBaron

    The article is on the money and so is Mr./Ms.Truth.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • HAVE MUD WILL TRAVEL

      Follow the moolah.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
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