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. Oneslydragon

    "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"

    While evangelicals, specifically the author of this article, may feel guilt because of their similar inability to see another's beliefs, the majority of society see people willing to blow them selves up just to kill a Jew or christian, and for no other reason than they are a Jew or a Christian, yes these are the 1% of the religion population

    So it is not Islamaphobia, it is simply that there are a bunch of fringe wacko Muslims that would nuke the world or release a biological pandemic on the earth just to kill a few Jews and Christians, unfortunately there are a lot of these fringe wackos and the moderates stand by and watch saying this is not Islam.

    Well for the moderate hypocrites, stop standing by letting a bunch of fringe wacko ruin you religion, well of course, maybe this fringe is doing what you are in fear of doing yourselves, but truly support since your Koran does state it is ok that infidels should be killed, you words, not mine. Verse 9:123 Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  2. JJ

    I don't understand why this article was written. Why are we pointing the finger at Evangelicals again? As a person of faith, I would never mock another's religion and I do have Muslim and Jewish friends. I don't see evangelicals in the US burning down their own towns in protest of a movie that no one has ever even seen.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  3. ..

    Mr. Brian read up on the 'peace of the quraysh', a jewish tribe who unfortunately were neighbors of mo's tribe. See what appeasing muslums got them.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  4. johnny

    Hare dare you imply an illness or individual intolerance by coining this Islamophobia? Tell me where is the phobia when Islamic men, women and children strap explosives to themselves, walk into a crowd, scream Allah and blow the bits out of people.

    You sir, have no right to tell anyone about your own thoughts (or perhaps better said, issues).

    September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • jude

      Aren't you using a broad brush to pretend that most Muslims are party to the behavior of the radical element among them? I'm a liberal, progressive Christian and have very little in common with fundamentalist Christians. Much like Christianity, Muslims are a very broad spectrum of believers. Also, remember, that historically, many Christians were willing to kill others randomly in the name of their religion.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • johnny

      Hey jude (no pun intended)

      I am obviously talking about the Muslim extremists and also talking about the HERE AND NOW. I am well aware of the Crusades and the atrocities they committed in the name of god. By the way, I am atheist and proud of it. I do not need an imaginary divine being to direct my life.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  5. M

    still running this joke story, for like the 3rd straight day now. Clinton News Network is getting like TMZ – anything to grab headlines and attention.
    yeah, blame the Christians. don't blame the crazy Muslims. what a disgraceful piece of journalism and editorial restraint

    September 17, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  6. April

    Wow so we are supposed to get rid of our "Islamaphobia" when people were killed over a movie? Hmm shouldn't we be looking at the people who took American lives? I am sorry but I will always have "fill in the blank" phobia over any people who get offended enough over a movie to kill. So does this mean next time there is something I find offensive about Jesus in the media I can kill over it and the producers of such "hate speech" will be shamed into ridding themselves of "Christianaphobia"? Cool

    September 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • johnny

      Mr. McLaren has no right to "tell" us that we are suffering from a "phobia" towards Muslims. Ignore the man people.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  7. ..

    Mr. Brian read up on the 'peace of the quraysh', a jewish tribe who unfortunately were neighbors of mo's tribe.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |

    This guy is typical sick self hating american. We had 3000 killed on 9/11. How many mosques did we burn? How many Muslims did we kill? How many violent demonstrations did we have. Recently one obscure film was made and look what happened all over the muslim world! This guy is a typical self hating american who takes things out of all porportions. What a complete J–erk.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • sam

      I know, we hardly did a thing at all! All we did was... go to war.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Taylor

      Well, we invaded 2 countries in the middle east, that probably counts for something...

      September 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • solex

      You do realize that almost 1/3 of the people killed on 9/11 were Muslim right?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • blid

      In the wars if Iraq and Afghanistan, you killed more than 20000 Muslims. Kids, women and elderly. I agree 9/11 is wrong and I'm ashamed that an extremist from my religion killed 3000 innocent people. Nobody agreed on that, killing a person no matter the religion is still wrong. And those minority of Muslims don't represent nothing about Islam. As a matter of fact they don't know nothing about Islam. But offending a prophet even Jesus pbuh is wrong and it is low as being an animal.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  9. Brad

    What about "Islam Christianaphobia" being taught by Islam to KILL anyone and everyone – even their own?? Amazing story CNN – nice try!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • andrew

      I love your childish response ... Well they do it too! great philosophy for forgiveness

      September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  10. chris

    if your sick of cnn lies about christins tell them to shut up and stop going to web site or tv
    this is a bad joke
    cnn wart a jork

    this my last time on cnn look just read the islam holy book most libery has it. it say in the book many time kill all christin,s nd all Infidel here a wed site http://www.jihadwatch.org/2006/07/islamic-dictionary-for-infidels.html

    September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      chris: spelling correctly will make you sound less like an idiot

      September 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • chris

      and all none Islamic members

      just read you can google and read there holy book or listen to

      September 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • chris

      and all none Islamic members

      are order to be behead

      September 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  11. Logic

    The prophet was a marketer ahead of his time. Unbeatable product. The ignorant went along willingly and the wise would be fools to go against it and risk death. Buy our product or die school of advertising at its peak.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  12. Dennis

    No doubt it is the fault of Christians that Muslims have honor killings,maim women,force women to marry their rapists,kill gays,give a death sentence to anyone that leaves their religion,kill innocent people when they take offense at something,bomb Christian churches,refuse to let churches be built in Saudi Arabia,and on and on.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  13. Horus

    Religion is the problem. It is divisive and bigoted by nature. Which ever version you happen to follow you just "know" has to be the right one; and those that follow something else, or dare I say none at all, are somehow wrong, uninformed, immoral, etc..... How arrogant the religious are.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  14. Really

    The problem is not Christians or Muslims. The problem is a cultural difference. In the US we have the all of the wonderful rights like freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We are the only country in the world with these kinds of rights. Even countries that call themselves democracies don't have the same rights as we do. As a result, it is very difficult for someone who is non-american to understand our culture and our freedoms. In other countries, there is only one religion. It is unheard of to speak against the religion and if it were done it you could be maimed, put to death,or put in prison. Even if you wanted to practice another religion you would have to do so in secret or leave the country. The recent events highlight this. An Egyptian American Chrisitian made a hateful movie about Islam. Something he certainly could not have done in Egypt, but because of our freedoms he took the opportunity to put exactly how he felt to film, and even posted it on facebook for the whole world to see. The Muslims in other countries, not the Muslins in the US were outraged and resorted to violence, as this was highly blasphemous. The American Muslims, while sickened by the film, only denounced it. Why? Cultural differences! That film to the Muslims in other countries was akin to murdering someone in their family. It simply does not happen. Thanks to technology information can now travel the world in a short period of time, and what you have is time bomb that unfortunately exploded.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  15. thelongshorttrader

    The thing I don't understand about many Christians (as a christian myself) – you can cite all the scripture you want, invite others to argue with you.. yet.. what of the breaking bread with Muslims? I say let us break bread together, on our knees.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Realy_RU_Serious

      you are mistaken, moderates are killed in Islam. We do not suport the moderate muslim, so only the fanactics are left with power. On your knees is where the islamic fanatic will take your life. Not only are you wrong in your approach (if only I could talk to them they will listen) but you lack the contxt of history.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  16. Paul Levy

    Oh please. This religion is a joke.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      i think they all are

      September 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  17. John

    Another person that is clueless about what being a Christians is. Just because someone labels themselves as a Christian or goes to a Christian denomination doesn't make them a Christian. I can wear my favorite sports teams shirts but that doesn't mean I am on the team. Matthew 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves"

    September 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • confused

      So Jesus would to do whatever it is you want to do but not what the writer of the article wants? Are you sure?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  18. Neo32

    It is evident this guy has never been over to live in the Muslim world. He lives in a dream world. And yes, I've been to Kuwait, Iraq, Qutar and worked with them.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • TomTom

      Same here, this Brian guy is an idiot.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  19. Sean

    As always CNN is more concern about political correctness than being right. Islamophobia is made by Muslims and their teaching. Look at what is happening this week, a piece of garbage movie excites Muslims worldwide and makes them destroy lives and properties. Is that enough reason to be wearied about Islam and its Teaching of violence, hate and resentment.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  20. Tom


    It is sad to read you covering up such evil in times like these. All you have to do is pull your head out of the
    sand and look at what is going on in every muslim country. The Muslim nations are about to make war with
    Israel and you would have us believe that it is a peaceful religion. You say you are a Christian, but your
    work does not line up with the Bible says about the last days. If Islam was peaceful, they wouldn't be killing
    in the name of their prophet.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Sean


      September 17, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Nicky


      September 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Kevin

      Last Days? As in when we are told when we walk past a house with a man holding a pitcher of water that the "End of Days is near? Jesus is a representation of Pisces and "The end of an Era" refers to when we enter the age of Aquarius, and nothing more. We are still over a hundred years away from that. Any prophecy can come true if people work hard enough to ensure it does. After thousands of "End of the World" predictions, and dozens of middle east flare ups it is safe to say these recent events could mean nothing as to the end of the world unless this time we let religion blindly guide us to destruction. Listen to your savior Jesus Christ and seek a peaceful life, where you fight poverty, corruption, and take no more than you need.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
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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.