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. Reality

    Only for the new members:

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on religion to include Mormonism:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    ضع kibosh / "جوجل" على أساس الدين لتشمل المورمونية:

    • ربما لم يكن هناك أي أسس إبراهيم اليهودية والمسيحية والإسلام هي غير موجودة.

    • ربما لم يكن هناك أي موسى دعائم اليهودية والمسيحية والإسلام ليس لديهم قوة العزيمة.

    • • مشكله في بلاي
    ظرف: بالتأكيد تقريبا، بقدر ما أحد يعرف أو يمكن أن أقول.

    • لم يكن هناك أي فشل غابرييل الإسلام كدين. فشل المسيحية جزئيا.

    • كان هناك أي فشل أي عيد الفصح المسيحية كدين تماما.

    • لم يكن هناك أي موروني المورمونية هو ليس أكثر من عبادة الأعمال.

    • المقدسة / التبجيل الأبقار، الآلهة القرد والطوائف، وبالتالي التناسخ الهندوسية كدين فشل.

    • الدهون بوذا هنا، جسد جديد نحيل تماثيل بوذا هناك، في كل مكان يجعل بوذا للا على البوذية.

    وأضاف التفاصيل المتاحة بناء على طلب خطي.

    بحث سريع وضع kibosh على أي مجموعة أخرى تطلق على نفسها دين.

    على سبيل المثال الطاوية

    "أصول الطاوية غير واضحة. تقليديا، يعتبر لاو تزو، الذي عاش في القرن السادس ومؤسسها. الأسس الفلسفية لها في وقت مبكر والمعتقدات والطقوس في وقت لاحق طريقتان مختلفتان تماما من الحياة. اليوم (1982) الطاوية يدعي 31286000 أتباع.

    تقول الاسطورة ان تصرف بطريقة صحيحة ولدت لاو تزو بواسطة نجم اطلاق النار، وقاموا في بطن أمه ل82 سنة، وولد

    September 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • JWG


      September 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • pmclean1319

      You don't understand anything at all about religion.

      September 26, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  2. JXC

    I've nver met more hateful people than those associated with American Evangicals and the right-wing Catholics. And they are so deluded that they don't even see that everyone else thinks that they are bat s**t crazy.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  3. wow

    Wow, seems like a strange article. You mean to tell me those uprisings over their god is better is non violent? Tell Christopher Stevens about that. Please, tell him how he was murdered by non violence. I am sure that will make him feel better. Islam is the religion of peace. Ya, good one. Any other jokes?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Um....Christianity, the religion of peace?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • wow

      Hmmm, can you show me where I said that? Christians are idiots too, but that doesn't make Muslims any less murderous and evil.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Amniculi

      You asked for any other good jokes...

      September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  4. DK

    This article is a complete crock. In writing plain and simple in the Koran is the right for Muslims to kill non-believers or lie to them because they are non-believers as well as a whole plethora of other disturbing violent behaviors. The majority of Muslims in America or more developed countries left to escape the infighting between the different sects of Islam that were oppressing each other. Yes here in the US there are 'peaceful' Islamics but most of them turn blind eyes to others trying to recruit more people for their extremist views. This makes it difficult for the average American to figure out who is who, thus making it harder for Christians to become friends with Islamics. This has nothing to do with evangilicals decrying all Islamics as evil. Clean up your own house of Islam before saying how repressed you are or segregated from the mainstream people. Plenty of Christians, Evangilical or no, are friends with Buddists, Jews, Athiests, etc.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • JWG

      well said

      September 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  5. Jagged



    The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the search bar above.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    September 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Tebowing for Jesuses

      You forgot "Readily perverted"

      September 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Proven to be useless.
      Caused by superst.ition and Powerful brainwashing.
      Overly Pervasive.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  7. danthefisherman

    Pick a place, anyplace in the world where there is mayhem and wanton violence and I'll show you Islam!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Grand Ole Party of Christian Taliban

      And the United States has the highest crime rates.....X-tians are just as violent and ill behaved.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  8. H2O

    Again one writes attacking Christian evangelicals for Islamophobia. Seriously?? Apparently, the writer, hasn't lived in any of the Muslim countries as a minority or as woman. Had he lived there, he would actually lived that phobia? this phobia isn't created by the evangelicals, though I'm not one of the evangelicals, yet i can only say the evangelicals have articulated it. The fear of Muslims is a global thing, it is felt by the Jews and any minority group that lives in the Middle East or any of the Muslim dominated countries. This writer has seriously lost it blaming a completely different party on all that has happened.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  9. Jack

    SHAME ON YOU CNN'S CHIEF EDITOR! Even more shameful if you are an American. What is this garbage propaganda Pro-Islam that has been taking place since September 11, starting with your article "Muslims Live in Fear in America Since September 11"... are you kidding me? To post such article on the 11th Anniversary of the attacks? Shame on you... and you continue to post this pro-ISLAMIZATION garbage. WHEN MUSLIMS LEAD BY EXAMPLE and stop acting like the animals they are then TALK TO AMERICA.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  10. Deployed Again

    Valiant attempt at a 1500 year problem. Anyone reading these blogs, including the author, must watch: Islam – What the West Needs To Know before you comment on this barbaric religion. Oh yeah, how about a few of you coming over to Afghanistan to see how corrupt and barbaric this religious culture is. The only saving grace to the world not totally being in dissarray are Christian and Buddisht values. Prove me wrong...

    September 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  11. WTC

    Blame it on Christians or blame it on America...we are tired of that lie more than any other. How pathetic is CNN is for giving this foolish man a voice? What lies?? Try going to Africa...pick your country...and be openly Christian and see how that goes. Every war from Bosnia to Africa and everything in between has the Muslim religion involved. A 9th century religion that will not adapt to the modern world will either fail to survive or remove anything that threatens it. No one is safe...especially women.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  12. TimBits

    May be the muslim men should start agitating on how offensive it is for men to go to the beaches as it offends them to see western women... Let us check this authors opinion... Has he ever gone to Saudi and walked with his wife without a hijab there in public...?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  13. AMP

    I do agree with this author in certain terms. He is very right that many Conservative and Orthodox Christians and their Churches are tryiing to misguide non christians around the world by television-radio media, bribes and sometime even black mailing by them. They won't give admission in christian schools or hire as a teacher unless they convert themselves to christianity. They have only one goal and that is to force everyone on this earth to be Christian which is completely uncivlized and unethical. The Govt. & moderate christians must ask these organizations to stop using their malicious intention and let the people decide themseleves. This is the biggest problem and that is why we innocents are being killed in the name of religion everyday. REAL HUMAN BEINGS MUST STOP FUNDING FANATIC RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS BOTH CHURCHES & MOSQUES. SHOULD RATHER HELP NEEDY PEOPLE BY THEMSELVES.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  14. Undeniable99

    CNN has never truly reported the intent of Islam. But they are very quick to denounce Christians, who's message of love is far different than the Sharia-intent Muslims. We saw Muslims peace at work last week across the middle east. When was the last time a group of Christians showed their lobe of God by looting, killing and burning? Of course simply stating this simple fact reveals my "prejudice". The "Tolerance" preached by liberals is conveniently excluded from the required list of practices for Muslims. The double standard continues.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Citizen

    Dear CNN , Brian McClaren, & muslim apologists.

    Go F yourselves.

    the 21st Century

    September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Amniculi

      You might as well include all other religions in that list too, especially Christianity. Bronze Age mythology just doesn't cut it any more. Science is the true god.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  16. ChesterL

    I have been to Egypt several times. I know many Muslims (both overseas and here in the US). Most of them are racist and hateful. While they are somewhat nice to me and my co-workers (because we are doing business with them), in general they do not like Christians nor the US. I do believe the true meaning of their religion is peaceful, but most of them do not practice what they preach. Same for Christians, at the heart of our religion is love, peace, and forgiveness, yet many Christians are hateful and judgemental.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  17. Paul Kelly

    So, when the sacred months expire, kill the unbelievers (infidels) wherever you find them, and catch them and besiege them and sit in ambush for them everywhere. Then, if they repent and establish Salah and pay Zakah (tax), leave their way. Surely, Allah is most Forgiving, Very-Merciful. – [Qur’an 9:5]

    Muslims are commanded to kill all, unless they are Muslim. Islam is the most violent religion ever. Although other religions have had moments or periods of violence, Islam's birth was in violence and is fed violence and demands it's followers to kill all those who do not conform/convert to Islam. There is no freedom in Islam. Do not be misled people. Do your research.

    Also, Allah is not the same god as Yahweh. Instead of reading a post about Islamphobia from a non-Muslim or someone who has never worshipped Allah, perhaps we should learn about Islam, from a Christian who converted from Islam. Ask an Imam if Allah is the same as Yahweh. He will tell you no. They are different gods. Think about that. If a Muslim says, 'There is no god, but Allah", what god are they worshipping?

    Another good study would be Islamic prophecy and how it correlates to Jewish and Christian prophecy. Jewish and Christian prophecy state in the end times, there will be 2 people, an AntiChrist and a False Prophet that, together they will deceive millions of people to worship Satan. The False Prophet will point people to worship the Anti Christ and many will worship him. All those who do not will be beheaded. (Revelation 20:4)

    Islamic prophecy states that in the end times, there will be 2 people, The Messiah (Mahdi) will appear with the Prophet Jesus (The Muslim version) and together they will convert millions of people to Islam. The Muslim Prophet Jesus (not the Jewish Jesus) will point the world to worship Mahdi and those who don't will get their heads chopped off. (Qu'an)

    September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  18. sparky91

    Who is phobic about Islam? A fear of Islam? The only thing to fear from Islam is those who fight for it. The most dangerous enemy is one who is ready to die.

    72 virgin dating service, please see a Marine to set up your first date.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  19. Ray

    Mr. McLaren, Can you name any predominantly Christian country where people are butchered simply because they are Muslims? Can you name any predominant Christian country where you are subject to death for "insulting" God? Can you name any Christian country where women are treated as 3rd class citizens simply because they are women? I don't think you can come up with any Chistian nation but we can name quite a few predominantly Muslim nations where such acts are a daily occurrence. So don't stand in your soap box and try to tell us that we are the ones with the phobia or intolerant. I'm sure that you know that in places like Afghanistant, Egypt, Somalia, Yemen and Iran Christians have fled in the thousands to preserve their lives.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  20. Qadir Hamid Qureshi


    September 17, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
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