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. Justaman

    Ummm. this has been made headlines for the second day in a row, and RIGHT NOW LSU is being evacuated for bomb threats. Does CNN report it? Noooo. They are to busy bending over backwards to tell us what a peaceful religion Islam is.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  2. American Democrats

    And CNN can't figure out why their ratings continue to drop. What a bunch of tools.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  3. Timparoo

    Now I have no more doubts, CNN is definitely on the side of the radical Islamist and definitely anti Christian. I have noticed the subtle bias during the years, but this takes it to the max and even confirms it. We do not need articles like this at this time.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  4. Lolly

    I agree with most of what you write, BUT, to say "No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate" is moot for Muslims because they serve "Allah" only. You're addressing your words to Christians but you do not even come close to addressing how the Muslim "faith" works. I also think that not enough "good" Muslims DO anything about the fanatics in their midst, and this is a huge problem. Muslims need to take ownership for their part in creating this terrorist mentality in the world today. Without this the human race will be in constant turmoil/hate/fear/loating.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Wes Scott

      I hate to take a dump in your dinner plate, but "God" and "Allah" are the same guy. It never ceases to amaze me how religious people always seem to think that the other guy's god is a different god from his own. If there is only one god, then he is the same one for all people regardless of whatever name anybody calls him. It is so much easier being an atheist because we do not have such concerns or confusions – we think ALL gods are fairy tales.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  5. Angela


    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • dentont

      are you kidding me! read a newspaper, not a history book

      September 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • dick

      go on...........?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Just Me

      Oh, really, Angela????

      So tell me, besides the "Crusade and Inquisition" that happened 1,000 years ago, when was the last time Christians killed thousands for God (RECENTLY) and how many have been killed for not converting (RECENTLY)?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  6. mike johnson

    ... and having said that ... anybody else ever wondered what a world without jews and arabs would be like?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Daremonai

      Likely exactly the same. The land in that region has changed hands many many times, if those two groups were not fighting over it, someone else would.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • dick

      the Britts and their Royal posts around the world would have found someone else to enslave & segregate, I'm sure, creating a different vein of ethnicity that would resent and fight against... for eternity, I suppose, because something IS in the water, it would seem, everywhere Britain has touche. Remarkable, though, how Austrailia has faired so well, given it's primtive prison island begining... now a delightful destination...... flights daily........

      September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  7. Name*Ken

    Lord, Father, Christ Jesus, Yeshua...forgive us of our sins. For we know not what we do. Bless Israel. Protect Her. Amen.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • Just Me


      September 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  8. junaid

    i wonder how many of these haters actually have any real education... my money is on most of them are the kind that sit on their porch drinking beer instead of working- living on whatever conspiracy they hear that day

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  9. DD

    Over 5,000 comments! I think CNN got their money's worth from the article.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  10. TomTom

    Brian D. McLaren has no clue how Islam works. He is a premier example of the libral mindset that thinks apologizing to the Muslims will gain their love and favor. Brian D. McLaren is a tool. Islam will stop at nothing other than total world domination. At least try to read their so called religious text.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • junaid

      and you think you do?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Tony

      Thank you, absolutely correct. Behaving civilly to them makes us weak in their eyes.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • RTUp

      What a load! We are not afraid, we are disgusted.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  11. Anonymous Coward

    Every now and then, someone writes something thought-provoking; whether or not I agree with it.

    Then, I make the mistake of scrolling down to the comments.

    Regardless of religion, or opinion, it seems that America is destined to become the dumbest, most vile nation on Earth.

    My heart is broken.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Just Me

      First of all, you are not a Coward, 2nd, I agree with you 100%.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Tony

      Then leave.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Lisa

      As you post your own comment and sign it "Anonymous Coward". Ironic. The many comments of people, despite the abundance of ignorance, indicates where this country is at mentally. Do we really know what we're talking about and what are our perceptions? There is much to be learned about our people from the things that are being said. The information gained can be used to plan how we should deal with it.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • dick

      well, I know where there are dozens of countries, full of millions of loving peaceful people who will 'help' you through your misery, with their peaceful religion of love.... then they'll teach you how to kill, burn stuff, wreck your neighborhood... fun.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  12. Simon Peter

    Media is trying to persuade that we are wrong for there actions, Are the American people to apologize like the President for the Muslims behaviour ? Times are a changing...... Get ready Christians , it's time for the filtering out period to begin..... See you in heaven

    September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • daud3396

      Because the media is week, scared of the muslims. Disgusting.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Drake

      Simon Peter: Your unfortunate comment illustrates and reinforces my loathing for what passes for religion in this country. Christianity and sheep like yourself have become dumbed – down into polemics and disrespect for diverse opnions and thinking. In short, you and others of your ilk are effectively changing and destroying the message of religion. You and your hated Islamic enemies are the same – you think alike, and are equaly ignorant. How many more victims do you want? How many more good people have to die for you and Islamic enemies to be satisfied?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Wes Scott

      Just because some RepubliKKKan Fascist claims that the President has apologized to Muslims that does not make it truth or fact. In reality, it is most likely the exact opposite since those who claim to be such good Christians seem to always resort to lies whenever they are getting their tails kicked by others. Nothing new there! It is what Christians have ALWAYS done ever since stealing a Jewish guy and making him over into something he never was because they needed their own godhead and were too lazy to invent a new one.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  13. daud3396

    When will you stupid Americans realize that the policy of appeasing islam and muslims will not get you anywhere. The reconsiliatory language is seen as sign of weekness. Look at Israel, they say you hit us we will hit you back 10 times harder, do you see any muslims retaliating outside their embassis. Mosques are being burned in countries like China, Russia, India etc, do you even hear a mention of it or anyone protesting. It is the weekness of American goverment and people like Brian Mclaren which will encourage these fanatics to act in this manner. Wake up American people, militant islam only understands the language of authority and power, if you do not take on a strong posture they will very soon take over you country and your way of life. IT IS NOT TOO LATE! TAKE STRENGTH AND TAKE THIS MENACE OF MILITANT ISLAM HEAD-ON

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

      “to go on this journey only after avenging the blood of the crucified one by shedding Jewish blood and completely eradicating any trace of those bearing the name 'Jew,' thus assuaging his own burning wrath.”

      Crusaders killing Jews.

      Different era, different G-d, same story.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Wes Scott

      When you're right, you're right! Muslims know that Israel will retaliate, so they would NEVER launch rocket attacks into Israel!

      Oh, WAIT! Yes, they would! They do it all the time. So much for your theory.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  14. geraldo

    CNN = muslim news network

    why doesnt CNN get upset at all the anti-christian films and bigotry? they promote anti-christianity if anything

    September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • daud3396

      So true!!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  15. Craig

    If we are being attacked in the name of Islam and I get upset about it.....you call that Islamophobia? Can your author name me some good things that Islam is doing for the world right now? Something like the peacecorp.....the only thing I see Islam doing is destroying, killing, enslaving anybody who is not muslim.

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

      Good point! Muslims place their faith at the top of their lives, with little room for education/human rights/respect for humanity or freedom!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  16. Jackie

    this, coming from the same country where random 'phobes' attacked HINDU temples right after 9/11 because they could not tell their brown people apart, nor could they bother to educate themselves on the difference...America is built on ignorance and racism. Free to come and Brave to stay. No thank you.

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

      Did you think you are wanted here? You are not.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • daud3396

      This coming from a most likely a Hindu whose entire social structure is based on raceism and caste. Stop preaching man!!!

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

    If we overreact to every Islamic incident, then we are no better than the militants that are running screaming into the streets because they believe foolishly that they or are God are being personally attacked when the truth is this film, the "cartoon', or the Rushdie book were pure trash and not even worth considering as a threat or whatever.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  18. momzna

    You can analyze religious scriptures until hell freezes over. Philosophers have never reached any conclusion. What really matters is what people do. That's how people build relationships and interact with each other. I don't care whether you are an evolutionist or believe that the Earth was created 10,000 years ago as long as we can agree on verifiable facts and logic. To put it bluntly, as long as your cash register has 100 cents in a dollar and 2+2=4, you can believe whatever you want.

    The problem with zealots of all confessions is that they place their holy scriptures above reality. It is impossible to argue or interact with such people in any meaningful way.

    I once spoke with a young Muslim immigrant. He told me that if somebody commits a murder, it means that Allah wanted it to happen, and that if the God tells him to kill somebody, he will kill, even if it is somebody he loves. In other words, the book supersedes all other thoughts and feelings. That quite explains those "honor killings" and other bizarre atrocities in the Muslim world. I personally don't see how can civilized society accommodate such mindset.

    It is true that Christians were on that level 500 years ago. However, even back then, some of them did not confine their consciousness to the Bible and as a result Christianity evolved into something more or less reasonable. I am sure that there are Muslims who think different. It just takes many generations of believers for a religion to evolve.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  19. Sandy in Georgia

    I'm getting a little tired of this. I have heard no one criticize Islam, except the Egyptian-American man who made the infamous video. Nothing to suggest Islamophobia. But what I am witnessing is an American ambassador killed along with three other American embassy employees all in the name of Islam. I've seen news videos of other American embassies stormed and invaded. I've seen the American flag that flies at those embassies, US property in case we forget, torn down and burned all in the name of Islam. We, as Americans, are all trying to deal with this. But now I see an article charging Americans with Islamophobia? This is beyond too much. This is ridiculous. I suspect I'm not the only American getting a little tired of this.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  20. Ann

    Saying all Muslims are vengeful terrorists is like saying all Christians condone killing abortion doctors and bombing abortion clinics. Even pro-life Christians I know, do not believe in that.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
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