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. Sirned

    The point is not your reality but the reality in other countries. Regardless of the religious argument the new reality for Americans in other parts of the world is very dangerous and getting more so....This silly video that Americans find pitifully crass and poorly done have thrown gas on a smoldering but contained fire....If this video is found to be politically motivated to hurt the Obama administration by funding and helping the Anti Islamic groups here in its making and sending it to Egypt days before 9/11 then we have even greater problems than the protesters in the middle east...

    September 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Tracy

      I'm thinking you're right! I broke down, finally, and watched a few minutes of it. Whoever made this had a really expert idea of what would tick them off. Way more knowledge than most normal Americans. I have seen videos warning Americans about Muslims...and those vids are designed to be watched by Americans... This thing was not meant for our eyes,

      September 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Ted

      Reliable(?) sources such as CNN say the video has been out some 6 months. It was USED not by Republicans, but by radical Islamist. Forget your paranoid poor little Obama ideas!! LOL Much of the above article IS on target. Love over hate, etc. But as a mainstream Christian evangelical I think the author is talking about less than 1/10 of a % of evangelicals, ie he is verging on hate mongering himself!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Shamoononon


      Stop dipping into the koolaid.


      I am not evangelist and I agree with your point about the author.

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

    This author obviously has issues with the religion he was brought up in, and that's fine. It's actually fairly typical. Maybe a few hours in therapy would be of benefit; surely blaming America for the chaos that is the Middle East is absurd and counter-productive. I can't believe CNN published this. This "Belief" section of their website is just bizarre, there is never anything remotely relevent here.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Chris

      Very solid point and as you said very common. My question is would an article like this, flipped, to putting the religions in reverse would be hate speech? I am not a super religious person, but defend everyone's right to their religion, as long as it isn't harmful to others, but even I can see that Christians are attacked just as much or more than any other religion in this country. Again, an article like this about other religions, might not be accepted and in fact cause problems.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  3. David

    Phobia ?? The Ko'ran tells us that if we are not muslim, we should be put to death. Phobia ? Yup.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Just an obsever

      First off have you ever read th Quran from cover to cover? Secondly The bible/Torah exemplifies the same teachings.....if you believe the Quran indeed states infidels should be put to death.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • sonic

      Where does it say that within context?

      In Luke Jesus says bring the non believers before me and slay them all.

      Oh noooo I can take things out of context and twist them around to make my point valid. *fart sound* You FAIL. You are ignorant. Go down to your trailer and take care of your inbred children that you support on that welfare check. Whoopie !!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Roy

      So does the Bible. Moses tells the troops to kill without mercy, including the children. You really should read the book YOU PRETEND to base your religion on. And in case you didn't know the Koran includes stories from the Old and New Testament. Moses, Abraham, Jesus are all a part fo the Koran.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  4. Jerry

    OK, so I examined the plank in my own eye and came up with this: I've never beheaded anyone, I've never rioted when someone insulted Jesus, I've never looted and burned houses, I don't treat women like cattle, I don't hate others for their religious beliefs and I've never advocated for the death of someone for not believing my religion. It appears to me that Muslims have the plank in their eye and I have some specks.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • maimonida

      Well said. I also never met Jew, or Hindu, or atheist who would engage in those activities.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Ted

      Amen brother Jerry. Also, the comment a couple of entries above speaks of a passage in the book of Luke. Such passage dopes NOT exist in ANY known translation or old manuscript! It is here say, passed on from one atheist to another.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  5. Just a man...

    This isn't a phenomenon confined to our fear of Islam. Really, the issue is more about xenophobia. Average Americans are quite simply afraid (read paranoid).

    September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  6. Brendan

    Muslims appear to be very lucky people. They're the only religious group whose members can terrorize and murder innocents, then have CNN and MSNBC publish articles defending them...

    September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Horus

      Can you list the paragraph and line where the author defends the actions of muslim extremists? thx....

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

      The musliums are mostly extremists. They have taught their children to hate Americans from when the were small. They had no chance, we feed lies and this is what they have become. And this man's mission was to attack Christians when the world knows what the middle east has been. that is why the live in the dirt. Look at Isreal, same land and so much further advanced... an money is not the issue. They are filthy rich over there and have keep their people locked away

      September 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Observer

      Except for those 3 little things, hmmm .....what were they called again, oh I remember, THE CRUSADES!

      Oh and that other little "incident" with the Conquistadores. Should I keep going?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  7. Youssef

    Although I have read so many hateful comment . I would like to say : salam to all of you and may Allah remove this hatred from your heart.

    From your Muslim brother

    September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jerry

      Thank you Youssef. And may the Lord God, through His Son Jesus Christ, remove any anger and hatred you may have towards others. It is through believing that Jesus is your Lord and Savior you are welcomed into the family of God and salvation is yours, by God's Grace.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Tracy

      Jerry, you are a 1st class tool.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • MyViewOnThis

      Youssef...that is a vain prayer to no one.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Andrew Johnson

      What about the hatred that is promoted by your religion? I don't need Allah to do anything for me, sir. If this Allah of yours says to kill other humans if they don't agree with you, or draw a cartoon of your prophet. How about having Allah do something about followers who are murdering people?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Allison

      Thank you Youssef... Please understand that not all Americans are as hateful as these commenters, just as I understand that not all Muslims are as murderous as the ones we see on TV.
      Bless you

      September 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Ted

      Thanks Youssef for your comment. If rational forgiving heads would only prevail!

      and an aside to "Observer"; check your history book (if you have one) for the dates of the conquest of north Africa, the conquest of Spain, the invasions of eastern Europe, the Balkans, Greece, etc. and compare to the magnitude and timings. Check it out!
      Its way past time for arguing over the distant past! Forgive others, and forgive your own cultural heritage too.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  8. Joel

    What about the Ameriphobia that is firmly entrenched in virtually every Muslim country today?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  9. Seoras

    Most wars are not caused by religion, but by rulers greedy for the resources of other lands. Religion is just a convenient excuse for kings and extremists to justify their wars of conquest (eg. the Crusades)

    September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Shamoononon

      Of course, but isn't it just easier to blame Relgion for the world's woes?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  10. MyViewOnThis

    Mr. McLaren just does not get it.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  11. Shamoononon

    The article is stupid and only seems to cause more anti-religious hatred, this time focused at christians. If you've read any of the negative anti-musltim comments, you would see that a lot of the hatred is focused at religion in general with extra emphasis on Muslims. I would gather a good deal of comments come from athiest just as much as any other denomincation.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  12. lawsquire

    Seems like poor timing for such a piece, but putting that aside I think Mclaren is ignoring one important fact: our religious nutjobs here are far less likely to go on these murderous rampages than Muslims around the world, especially in poorer middle-eastern countries.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  13. flambeauxfire

    Suckaaahs! Its funny watching what introverted silly Christians actually decide to get all riled up about. Please -anyone becoming influenced by Evangelist Christians out there......... Please know that its this kind of propaganda that it runs on.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  14. Realy_RU_Serious

    This is the most stupid false idea to come from such an educated man. Stop writing your letters, take no security and go walk the streets of these places to understanding islam. Talk to them make your case. Quit disparaging any one you dont agree with to ease your fear. This is written from a position of fear, not of the christians, but in an attempt to tell the islamist you are his friend. You lack an understanding of your own faith.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  15. rick

    When was the last time a Christian beheaded a convert to Islam? When was the last time a Christian was accused of a suicide bombing? You poor people- you're playing hot-potatoe with a stick of dynamite!! The Islamic agenda is to wipe out Jews and Christians. If you don't believe- don't complain later- you've been warned!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • LindaMae

      AMEN TO THAT RICK! It seems people are walking around with blindfolds on- Why do I keep hearing, "Death to those who do not believe in islam". What kind of religion forces your beliefs?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Chanel

      Christians don't do suicide bombings, they think to highly of themselves, they will take others out, because God told them to. And in response to your questions; Hitler was a Christian doing God's work (according to him), Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, all the Christian idiots bombing abortion clinics and killing doctors, nurses and others. Do I need to go on, or do you get the point? Would you like for me to start naming your biblical prophets who killed in the name of the Christian God?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Shamoononon


      TOTALLY WRONG! By ALL accounts, Hitler hated all organized relgion. Look at his buddy Stalin. They were going to rule the world together. Both of them had very little reguard for Religon and felt it just got in their way. Sure the German people were mostly Christian, but that was a matter of happenstance.


      September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  16. Dave in IL

    Yep, it's islamophobia that causes all those riots in the US where they burn down mosques and kill Moslems.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Tracy

      we don't do that in the US... Instead we Shock & awe 'em in their own countries... Costs more...

      September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  17. Joel

    Uh, isn't it weird that every time Muslims go on a murder and pillage rampage, we get a surge of articles about how "Islamophobia" is the problem? "The tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence"…yeah, right. So tiny that it happens every day by the thousands in Muslim countries around the world. Give me a break. If it was like a weirdo compound of Muslims in Texas, yeah, that would be a tiny minority. When it's thousands of Muslims worldwide KILLING people because the don't like a stupid movie that an EGYPTIAN made?? Yeah, that's not a tiny minority.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  18. B1ased

    No surprise -This article is so typical of the random liberal BS we are suppose to believe- People around the middle east rioting and killing because a stupid video made them mad – and I am suppose to understand thier \"hurt feelings\" cause after all it\'s really America\'s fault. Get real. I don\'t need to be tolerant of stupidity. I have no sympathy. My 5th grader acts better than this. \"they said something I don\'t like so now I am going to kill people\" Absurdity. It makes me want to burn the Quran on youtube just out of spite. You want to know what really causes \"Islamophobia\" – having to watch a small number of extremist do stupid things, and then hearing thier leaders SAY NOTHING, Random lip service about how violence is bad, but over and over again not focusing on horrible violence and instead continuing to act horribly wounded by a stupid 3rd grade video. We have people say stupid things in the US all the time, but the difference is the majority of people and our leaders immediately stand up and say how wrong it is. As long as the 99% of peaceful Muslims around the world continue to let thier religion be defined by radical zealots, Islamophobia will continue to rise. True muslims need to take a stand against these ridulous displays of violence and when that happens they will see the world stand up against stupid videos–

    September 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Bill

      Agree – lets end this mess by burning all religious material! Religion was created soooooo many years ago to guide people because they were evil. Example, the 10 commandements – these are simply rules. Today we have proof and science that are FACT against religion. Why don't we focus on this and teach a new begining. Lets just all get along!

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

      @Bill “Today we have proof and science that are FACT against religion” Umm so what are these facts against religion? At the heart of all religions it says humans were created by an “all powerful being” not of this earth. Today we know there are billions of stars and planets in this universe and statistically there is probably intelligent life somewhere out there, unless you expect us to believe humans are the only intelligent life in this universe. So science is proving that there likely is other intelligent life out there which is exactly what religion says. Now science has not 1 single proof, mathematical equation, reason or explanation that evolution occurs naturally and without design. For all the Facts you claim to have I only ask for mathematical model of spontaneous, random, undersigned evolution. I’d also like an explanation for Chirality naturally occurring to form life- seeing how science currently says that is impossible yet needed to form the double helix in DNA. I’ll put it to you this way if you take the scientific method and compare 2 theories- one that life was created by an intelligent being, and the other that life just randomly happened there would be more evidence toward a creator simply by the shear improbability of things happening naturally. Everything about life screams for a creator- dna being nothing more than information, yet information only comes from intelligence, and all dna has the same language- pointing to 1 creator not randomness.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  19. Bill henderson

    You can't serve God or Mohammed. It's one or the other.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Horus

      ....or neither....

      September 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • sam stone

      ....or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Zeus, or Horus, or etc etc etc

      September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  20. Agnostic

    What a surprise, an Islamic apologist saying it's the Christians who are the bad guys. It's not the 1300's dude.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
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