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.”

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. Chester

    You believe now is a good time to blame Christians for the violence that is spreading in these Muslim nations. I thought it was the Muslims doing the killing. Give me a break.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Go ahead and release a movie in which you call Jesus a pedophile (the movie does this and far worse about Mohammed), see how the xtians react....

      September 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Katie

      Fred Evil, do you know anything about the Muslim culture? Little girls get sold into marriage as early as 1. How is that not being a "pedophile?' Jesus never even married. If I knew any better I would say you have something against Jesus.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  2. ninio

    Whoa, an article that takes the side of muslims? Sorry CNN, this isnt the type of writing that the american public wants to see. Please post more articles demonizing islam and muslims. Anything that shows them in a different light is just plain wrong.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  3. Katie

    It doesn't take a scientist to see how the Muslim nations hate Americans. Real Evangelical Christians are not saying let's hurt the Muslims, they are saying, "Protect yourself!" Wow, this guy.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      No, Xtins want to try and keep America FOR TEHMSELVES. They don't understand the concept of a MELTING POT.
      So they make movies that are offensive in the extreme to Muslims. How well did the American public react to 'The Passions of the Christ'? I remember plenty of boycotts and calls for action. American xtians are only SLIGHTLY more civilized than extremist Muslims. Wonder what would have happened if they'd called Jesus a pedophile? Do you wonder? You should.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Katie

      Fred Evil, What movie are you speaking about? "The Passion of the Christ" has nothing to do with Muslims. How about the other movies us "radical" Christians have made like "Courageous" about helping families or "Fireproof" about keeping marriages strong. How many of us "radical" Christians give to the poor, travel to foreign countries to help the needy and risk our lives trying to show Jesus's love to everyone. Yes, yes, I can see how we are juuuust like "radical" Muslims.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  4. Steven

    I'm not afraid of Islam, I simply hate it. Too much of the media believes that only Evangelical Christians oppose Islam....no, that is not the case. Islam is an oppressive religion and it is the foundation of many theocracies where human rights violations are abound and terrorists plenty. Do Christians, Catholics, Jews, Bhuddists, Sihks, etc strap bombs to themselves to kill innocents? No, they don't. There are peaceful religions and Islam is not one of them.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Rock Maker

      agreed 100%
      not afraid of Islam

      September 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • timinfla

      the radical islamists are rabid dogs ready to slit your throat over that goat herder muuhamidam. the worst we can come up with here is the wellsboro church wackjobs.
      islaaaam is a cancer, it is a religion of violence and hate

      September 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      Tim, you and a certain wacko preacher make FL look bad. What an un-American comment.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  5. rochdoc

    The columnist is obviously critical of people who critcize Islam. But the real truth is that people like him are AFRAID of the unrest.. Fine. For sure any change in this religion will need to come from inside. Any pressure from outside will only make this worse. They need leaders like Ataturk who tried to modernise the culture. The West and the corporations will rather help out these uneducated Sheiks to stay in power so they can control them easily. May be we should just wait for democracy to bloom in mideast.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  6. mrsnj29

    I think this is a great article. I have seen many people who have been so brainwashed that they can't tell truth from fiction. Do some research for yourselves. Don't believe hate speech, no matter where it comes from.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  7. NooYawkah

    This is the biggest load of crap on the biggest load of crap website on the internet. Raise your hand, Christian, Jew, Atheist, whatever, if you ever thought twice about muslims in a bad way before they started being royal pains in the a..ss. To write an article this stupid while the very "stereotypes" you rail against are happening in real time just makes you look foolish.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  8. Simon Peter

    Another indication, off the start of liberal media turning against Christian's and blaming them for what is happening.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  9. junaid

    lets blame a whole religion for what a few extremists have done... if we call all muslims terrorist then what do we call all christians for ted kaczynski, george metesky, the KKK, timothy mcviegh?

    Look at yourself first before you blame others

    September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • NooYawkah

      Christians DENOUNCED the people you listed and you know it. So called "moderate" muslims want it both ways, they don't get involved in the violence but they fully intend to reap the "rewards" of conquering the West. You're quick to compare Christians to the KKK and all, have you ever written a comment denouncing Islamists? I seriously doubt it. Believe me, if they EVER get the upper hand, they ain't gonna spare you just because you're "on their side". Jerk.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • junaid

      Just as many muslims denounced any terrorism by so-called muslim... you need to get out more often... I live in maryland, the governor of maryland mourned 911 victims with us at our mosque.

      Just because you didn't see it doesn't mean it didn't happen.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Not to point out the obvious...

      Not to point out the obvious, but of the people/organizations listed, only one - the KKK - had even marginal religious motivations. Even with the KKK, arguments could be made that they were more motivated by xenophobic and racist intent than anything else.

      Not the best comparison.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  10. Cliff

    Oh yes and I forgot to mention all the wounderful celebrations that were held on 9/11 in islamic countries, even CNN taped and showed a few for a couple days. I know, according to the author they were not celebrating the attack on America and the Death of so many, They were celebrating cuz they are such friendly happy people. (Beleve that and I have some oceanfront property to sell you in Navada.)

    September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  11. Manny

    The bible also preaches to marry your rapist if impregnated and just as much so, treating women as second class property to men, slavery. I don't see here how Islam followed strictly by the Koran is any more evil than Christianity followed strictly by the Bible. The problem is not religion specifically however. It is 'religious people' who feel they have to force their beliefs on others and tell them how to live and want to live in a world that "coexists" but favors their beliefs over others. Every religion has its extremists. Christians just make it so taboo to admit that theirs do too. And just like everyone from any other religion, they never analyze their religion outside of their box. These people are called bigots. Nobody ever talks about it but Christians do that more than any other religion. They take their beliefs outside of their church into public into everyone's faces, into the voting polls, and into our government politics.

    Only religion I have any respect towards is Buddhism. At least Buddhism admits it must change if there proven wrong by science and logic according to the Dahli Lama. Still world peace will never happen and we will always have a conflicted world so long as people who just cannot admit when their religion preaches something wrong exists, and people can't ACTUALLY coexist with others beliefs even if it means compromising or changing theirs in favor of peace.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Cliff

      Yeah if your going to spout off old testament issues, but many things were replaced by the covenant Christ has with mankind. Big Difference, get yer facts stright.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  12. sarge325

    This editorial is on its third day and CNN has put it back on the top of its headlines? What is their agenda?

    Yes, some Christians have exaggerated some of the bad things done by some Muslims. Take away the exaggerations and you still have a lot of seriously bad things done by a large number of Muslims. Certainly, many Muslims are peaceful people. But there is no denying that large segments of Muslim society are prone to violence against "infidels", are opposed to many of the basic human rights we cherish in the west (like freedom of speech and freedom of religion, obviously), and subjugate women (restricting or even banning education, restricting movement without a male family member, murdering girls and women in the name of family "honor").

    It is time for Muslims to come out of the Dark Ages. The moderate Muslims need to demand that the others clean up their act. Unfortunately, they are afraid they'll be killed if they make such demands, with good reason.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  13. scott

    total propaganda brainwashing article for the sheep generation. welcome to the new world order.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      I take i truth scares you?
      There is no bigger force against a religion, than ANOTHER religion.
      Muslims don't like Xtians, and Xtians don't like Muslims. This is not new, this is not news,it IS hard for Xtians an Muslims to admit however.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  14. Andy

    CNN, why are you still playing this story? This is an amazingly twisted view of what's going on in the world right now. Rioting in the Middle East is the fault of Christians? Give us a break!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Fred Evil

      If Xtians keep making movies like the one recently released, you bet your bippy THEY are responsible. If you throw a lighted match into a group of people standing in gasoline, whose fault it is when the gasoline erupts?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Ken E.

      Andy, you are RIGHT ON! This article is trwisted and conviniently forgets the events in the 90's and early 2000s that led us to the point we are now, which is; attacks on our "non-believing" way of life by "peace loving" Muslims (their word, as they attest to the REAL contents of the Koran, not mine).
      In reality, as the leader of Hezbollah announced today; "...World dominance, if not through peace; there is nothing stopping war. We are not afraid fo War".
      This @ss-clown who wrote this article should be right at home in a Muslim dominated America...

      September 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Nam Hoang

      Andy, you are an idiot that I have ever met. you must be the type of Muslims who like to kill. You have lived in this civilized world, but your eyes are blinded and your ears are deaf. Good Muslims don't kill, hate or avenge. Don't swear the religion of Muslims.Do you get that?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  15. So

    Islam is good and peaceful.

    Unless you say otherwise in which case we will kill you.
    Imagine if America rioted every time one of them burned a bible...

    September 17, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • ninio

      America doesnt riot.. they just send the war machines and drones when it serves their interests.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  16. Laurie in Spokane

    I don't have a problem with the Religion of Islam. I have a problem with the fanatics within the religion, and, like everything else in this world, Islamic women get the really short end of the stick. I also don't understand, why, when the majority of Muslims do not agree with the actions of the fanatics – murder, mayhem, etc. – they don't DO something about it.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • LiberalChristianSuicide

      You poor ignorant Westerner. What may seem like fanaticism to us Westerners is their Mainstream. As a society America weeds out and shuns it's Extremist, in the Muslim World they celebrate and elect their Extremist. So don't you see what makes Fundamentalism in the Muslim World most dangerous is that it really isn't Fundamentalism at all.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Nusrat

      because when we do the media does not consider it news worthy, put yourselves in our place, some idiots thousand of miles away riot and because you both are called muslims you better be afraid here.Who is going to read a piece on how we are a part of the community, its like every kid in asia grows up believing that all of america is like the MTV grind show, you believe what you are shown and you like to see what you like to believe in. Its kind of a catch 22 in'st it

      September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Quest4justic

      Lauria, most terrorists have been arrested or killed in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia my Muslim Police. Most causalities of terrosit attacks are Muslims (if you review the daily toll in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq...). Muslim authorities are after terrorist cells but it is not an army that you can face an defeat in a battle.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  17. crush

    hate is hate, no matter which church you attend. If you have hate in your heart for a person you haven't even met, (goes for muslims, christians, jews, everybody) the problem starts within your own soul.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  18. Ciscokid

    What religion runs into the streets to Kill in the name of their god, Muslims, period......Besides, I don't see Christians killing people when the Bible is burnt, ripped apart or pictures showing Jesus Christ......They belong to stay in the stone age, where they belong. They don't know what living in peace is unless there's turmoil in their countries.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • goodasyours

      so true cisco kid - when will the west open it's eyes to the islam murdering thugs

      September 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  19. Wise Eagle

    Always safe to criticize and offend the Christian community – but never, ever criticize the Islamic community on penalty of DEATH!

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  20. Bay Area Native

    What does this mean?? "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".
    How are we associated with it?? I am not associated with it. I had nothing to do with its production. I do not adhere to what it states and shows. This article is completely ridiculous on almost every level.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • masherwould

      Don't you dare deny the narrative that the MSM is offering.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Susan

      I'm a Coptic Orthodox Christian, like the producer of the film. I agree with you. While I think American Christian Fundamentalists do some stupid things, they can't be blamed for this one. Only the Muslims causing the violence can be blamed for what has happened. This editorial is yet another attempt at white washing the sins Muslims by trying to place blame on Christians or some other group. For some reason, the media is unwilling to hold Muslims to the standards of culpability and responsibility to which all others are held. Only when the world stands as one and demands that Muslims be held accountable for their violence and lack of civility toward others do we have a chance of seeing an end to the type of violence that has been perpetrated in the past week. If we continue to treat Muslims like irresponsible babies, they will continue to act like babies.

      As for the producer of the film, I don't blame him either, assuming that the film is, in fact, the cause of this week's violence. I truly understand his dislike of Islam. Any group who has suffered as much as the Copts at the hands of Islam would dislike, or even hate, Islam. As an American, I also vigorously defend his right to freedom of speech in making the film. I do, however, think it was an incredibly stupid thing to do, given the politically correct media and the Muslim tendency to violence. Sadly, in addition to all of the horrible events of this week, I'm concerned that this film will now be used both by Muslims and the media to justify further violience agains the Copts. From this day forward, the ongoing violence against us, which is centuries old, will now be the fault of the film and Muslims will get a pass for killing Christians and burning churches.

      Not only is the author of this editorial wrong, he has not done anyone any favors and may, by making excuses for Muslims, be passively sanctioning more violence.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165 166 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 184 185 186
About this blog

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.