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.

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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. rell

    Islam is a religion of violence and hatred not because of the actions of extremists, all religion have extremists, but because of the inaction of the average musslim. The average musslim tolerates and encourages the violence of the extremists among them. They praise them as heroes and martyrs, support and fund them. Christianity has violent extremists as well, but they are held in check, condemned and prosecuted, by their fellow chrtisitans. Islam will remain a religion of hatred and bigotry as long as Musslims want it to. No one else can change it.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  2. Edge Dawn

    Every morning I take a leak on the Quoran & them imagine I'm taking a dump on the false Prophet Mohammed

    September 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Wow. You need to get out more often.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Phillips'


      Chew and swallow several pages of Exodus each day... that will help with your 'evacuation' problem.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  3. Mike the American

    I challenge you to define what is "evangelical". I'd be curious to know.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  4. zippogeek

    This a$$ hole has never even read the Koran. Read the f-ing Koran, people. It's a real eye-opener.

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

      I can tell... you are real book reader :)))) I wonder If you can make a sentence without using F word :)))

      September 17, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • electrovibe11

      Have you read the bible? The Koran doesn't have a monopoly on crazy.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Richard57

      Please, PLEASE JUST READ THE FIRST 20 PAGES OF THE KORAN. ALSO, read 'An American Style Democracy in Iraq?'. It is FEAR AND NOTHING BUT MORE CONTROLLING, MANIPULATIVE FEAR WHICH ENCOURAGES VIOLENCE. They use our love against us....evil in high places. american culture is fear and terror based. Kennedy had it right.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  5. Jeff Smithson

    There is only one way to address this.. Actions, actions, actions.. It's all about what you do, not what you say. All you have to do is watch the news and you will understand why people feel the way they do. You can sugar coat it, but reality is nothing more than reality.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  6. Cliff

    Cry me a river, tell me all about how we should love them. I seem to remember Oct 23 1983 and a bunch of "Peacekeepers" who passed on to the other side due to this religion of peace. You can keep it! we see all the time the "love" this religion has, for it women, it's children and each other. I have read the koran as therapy to try and understand, guess what, I found a big freaking difference between it and the New Testament. But tell me all about it after your beheaded by your "friends"

    September 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  7. seanster77

    Considering I am not religious, I find the article ridiculous. I am going on the fact that in my 50 plus years alive I can recall a few Christian, and Jewish riots where people were killed. But let's be honest, right now you are going to have a hard sell to anyone with a brain that Islam isn't a hate religion that believes "My God is better than your God so we must kill everyone that is not Muslim".

    September 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  8. Ellen Thompson

    CNN posting an anti-christian article- shocking!!! This opinion piece is actually hilarious!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  9. Tebowing for Jesuses

    "The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge."

    The problem is that the way of Christ is in no way the same as the way of the Prophet.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  10. DPBaldwin

    Then it must be a "fig-Newton" of my Imagination that the Islamists have been blowing up Airplanes, Buses, Discos, Ships and other places for 40 years killing women and children... I also disagree with te statement the it is a "minority". Just because you do not pull the trigger does not make you innocent. These a re "fellow travelers" just like the Germans who benifited from Hitler. They are the enemies of civilization.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  11. Jeezy Creezy

    There is no such thing as "God". It is a human invention to explain anything which cannot be understood. It is pure insanity to continue to promote religions, and the childish "my messiah is better than your messiah" which is the basis for all wars and conflicts.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Josh

      Actually it's about money first.

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

    I'm not a christian or any other religion im an athiest. I still think muslims are crazy and a danger to society. I don't need any book to tell me that.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  13. dr_roberts@msn.com

    I see it like this. We Christians and the Jews are comfortable with our religion. We can crack jokes, make fun of each other. You see it all the time. Watch an oldie like Mel Brooks, History of the World part 2. Thank God Mel didnt pick on the Muslims Muslim go ballistic. No sense of humor, or are they insecure with their religion. Maybe afraid? Also, they seem to need a strong father figure when it comes to government. They, along with a lot of help from the West, have gotten rid of their former leaders.. I'm glad that their gone, but now look. These people can't handle freedom. They all act like a bunch of teenagers, high on hormones. Maybe that's what they need. They have no self control or real sense of self. With freedom comes responsibility. They can't deal with that. They need someone to send them to their room or behave themselves.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Mark

      Dr. Roberts, you really have blinders on. The Jews prosecuted Jesus for speaking truth because their Rabi were losing power with their flock. The Catholics wages war against the Muslims for hundreds of years. And now the Muslims want us to leave them alone and do what anyone in their situation would need to do.

      Image if your neighbor came into your house and told you that you are not allowed to let your kids know Jesus or that you are not allowed to speak at all with your wife? Wouldn't you want to fight to keep your personal rights? They want to live in the manner their culture says. They do not adopt, nor want to adopt, our American way of life. A life where coruption in the government is ignored, people do not hold themselves accountable for their decisions, and people decieve others so they can get what they want. That is what our society does, whether we want to admit it or not.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  14. Pakeret

    One way to ensure that Islamophobes learn how peace-loving Islam is, is to drag the dead body of an ambassador through the streets in protest of a video insulting said peace-loving religion.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • JECD

      Nobody dragged the body of Chris Stevens thru the streets. His body was carried to the hospital by Libyan's who tried to protect him. Further lies do not help........

      September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Mark

      Same way we force other countries to have democracy in the name of Freedom.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  15. junaid

    Ah...look at the pure ignorant hatred towards people like me who happen to be muslim. Chances are i probably am better for the US unity and economy then many of you who try to spread hatred and turn each of us americans against each other.

    I doubt many of you have any real education- please focus on yourself before you start blaming others for you lack of progress in life.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • seanster77

      Oh yes obviously you are a superior human being. We should have recognized that immediately, nut job.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Mark

      I am not a Muslim. I am a catholic. It is time that all religions stop preaching hate. Each religion needs to accept there are other faiths and it is not their job to preach how evil or good they are. Judgement is reserved for God (Jehova, Allah, etc.) only. The old testment notes that, the Kuran notese that, the New Testimate notes that. In this they all agree. So why can we not let God judge people and do what he asked, "pray to God to help them", "respectfully tell them they are doing wrong", and "tell them you will be there for them if they decide to do the right thing".

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

      Tell that to the barbarians in the middle east.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Mkat2

      Perfect example of........"just not getting it"!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  16. Jon

    Many evangelicals, such as myself, have been confronting and speaking against those who self-profess to be followers of the Lord-i.e."Christian"-yet in word and deed behave in a manner that in no way is Imago Dei (in the Lord's image). This article, although welcomed, is long overdue. Just as medical doctors, laywers, etc...must police their own ranks, so too much the religious person. For the Christian, these are our Lord's Words: In 1 Corinthians we read "we are called to preach peace" (in 7:15); and in 14:30 that God is the "author of peace"; and in the epistle to the church at Ephesus that He (Jesus) "came and peached peace" (see 2:17); and in the letter to Rome we read "How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the Gospel of peach" (in 10:15). More than 100 verses in the New Testament alone speak to the nature of peace; i.e. Go in peace, Teach peace, Preach peace, Be of peace, etc...and when the Lord was about to be executed, rather than start war, he took the path of peace. What evangelicals do not understand of those verses or the Lord's teachings on this matter is not just insightful, it is both sad and shameful. Jon Parker, BS, MAR, MRE

    September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  17. Stacy

    Niave and prejudicial.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  18. c. glen

    Sounds like Brian has a Christian phobia. What of the "honor killings right here at home? Are they extremist? You are nuts! The Arab world in general has no respect for human life. That is not a phobia. Its history.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Christlink

      Well said. This guy should spend time with the Taliban

      September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  19. Ronen

    Yeah, Islamaphobia my a__ss...


    September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  20. Adam

    This is not a "phobia". Muslims are IN FACT, killing Americans and American officials abroad. A phobia is an irrational fear. Given that they're protesting, vandalizing, and attacking American embassies across the world – I'd say it is quite rational.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
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