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.

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.

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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. Harrison Bounel


    September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  2. Dave Farber

    Most Muslim countries don't provide electricity in their villages, much less uncensored internet access to their indoctrinated peoples. The idea that a short internet film is responsible for the recent violence and murders is only something that morons brainwashed in political correctness would be dumb enough to believe. These barbarous acts of intolerance by Muslims have been going on since Islam's inception 1500 years ago, and it's absolutely disgusting that CNN and the rest of their LameStream media sidekicks are trying to blame Romney and Christians. These creeps are so in the tank for Obama that they've become criminally partisan.

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

      Hey it's the right wing evangelists that have been complaining about a "War on Religion". But then turn round and support one on Islam. What Hypocites

      September 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Jeff

      Tony you don't see Christians burning buildings and killing people while video taping it. If this was a small crack pot group it'd be one thing. This is encouraged by various muslim governments and encompasses millions of people. Don't even compare the two.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • tony

      Sorry, but wasn't the Salem Witch trial pretty much exactly that for it's time? All the European religious wars, qnd all those burnings at the Stake . . .

      September 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Inge

    Well said.
    It is true you can't serve 2 masters, once you let hate into your life it will take over and you will be serving the master of hate. Just look at what happened to the Jews in Germany, people started to belive that they were evil and it escalated from the flame of hate. I rather die being wrong than to have the blood of other people on my hands. The Bible tells me to love my enemies. In the end my salvation is at stake and I will not take a chance on that.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  4. Sarah

    To even give part of the blame to someone who exercised their freedom of speech for the Islamic violent, ignorant, behavior is ludicrous. With that scenario every time someone said something you didn't like you would be justified somehow in shooting an innocent bystander or running them down with your car, etc. Never criticize anyone is this country for exercising their right to freedom of speech. No one has the right to strike another because they don't like something that was said. So please people stop trying to explain why these ignorant beings did what they did. It doesn’t matter why. It was simply extreme and unjustifiable.
    The other issue is this, we need to get the hell out of their country. It is costing us money and lives all for nothing. We also need to stop spending our Tax dollars supporting them. Let Allah take care of them.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      You and many responders get it! Americans are being herded by a "messiah" president and Marxist control-freak dinosaurs in his administration into invasive government control and less freedom in the form of speech control. Internet restrictions are a first step; Obama wants Google to conform to barbaric Sharia Law – something for people to think about if they laugh at claims that he's a Muslim. Worse yet is that hoards of Obama's creepy followers, including most in the media, are so brainwashed by political correctness or racial favoritism that they'll vote to re-elect this guy and his incompetent, radical administration.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  5. Jake Rockwell

    Islamophobia... Bad article with a single mindset based on the authors opinion.. This is the second full on pro muslim article Ive read from cnn in the past few weeks.. The last one posted on 9-11.. Good going CNN...Right up there with fox!

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

      Yes, it's one man's point of view. That's what an opinion is. That is why this is posted on a blog section and NOT in the news section. Seriously, are you braindead?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Colonel Angus

      Sure there is Islamophobia just as there is fear by every other religion. But would world leaders apologize to Christians if we killed those who burned bibles?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Dave Farber

      Sounds like you suffer from Fox-phobia. Murdoch's gang is far closer to the truth than "the most busted name in news."

      September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  6. petraone

    Brian McLaren does not speak for Christians.
    He is a fake who wrote his own version of the Bible
    to fit his politics.........come on CNN.... don't be
    so desparate to explain away the first ammendment.............................

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

      You are correct. He didn't like hell so he left it out. Convenient.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  7. Dan

    Imagine a world without Islam. It would be much more peaceful would it not?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      How novel...

      Imagine there's no countries
      It isn't hard to do
      Nothing to kill or die for
      And no religion too
      Imagine all the people living life in peace

      September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • God is not real

      same can be said about any religion, to be honest.

      and to say otherwise would be hypocritical beyond belief.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Why stop at Islam?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      No religion, know peace.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • FormerMarineSgt

      Dan – Imagine a world without Islam and how free of violence that world would be? Imagine a world without Christianity – and the result is the same. Regardless of what bigoted fools on either side think, it's the extremists of ANY religion that are causing this 'hell on earth'. Is it not written in the Bible that we should watch for the devil in wrapped in the scriptures – for he would guide us on a path of evil by tricking us into believing it's God's work? I personally beleive that many (if not all) of the CHRISTIAN EXTREMISTS that advocate hate of Islam or any other form of hate are indeed the devil wrapped in Christian scripture. God and Jesus taught us to love – not hate.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jeff

      It is not hate to stand against evil. We should stand against the genocide in Syria and we should stand against the evil of Islamic extremist.

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

      Attribute John Lennon, if quoting his song lyrics!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  8. Loqman

    Thank you for the article. Some hope

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

      are you serious??

      September 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  9. Greg S

    This article is a disgrace. While Muslims are chanting "Death to America, Death to Israel!" on the streets and in front of our embassies across the globe, this author thinks the problem is evangelical Christians. It takes a very warped mindset to pin the tail on the wrong donkey here. So called "moderate" Muslims will never be able to engage in serious dialog with western culture because they are committed to Sharia law. Only a fringe minority of Muslims reject the desire for Sharia law. The so-called moderates may disagree with the means to the end, but they all want the same end: state-imposed Islam. My recommendation for anyone who wants to criticize evangelicals is to seek conversations with Muslims and ask if they support Sharia law. Then before you criticize evangelicals, explain why we should treat this world view as acceptable or morally neutral.

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

      YOu did not read the article. Only a tiny bit of crazy people calling themselves Muslims are calling fo the death of America

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

      There are 10's of 1,000's chanting it. Is your head in the sand?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Jim

      Now WAIT!! You KNOW that Christians are FORCING muslims to strap suicide vests on and kill people Christians are responsible for muslims beheading people. Christians are the ones who burned the US flag and killed and sodomized the ambassador..

      It is ALL Christian's FAULT!!!! Oh, and GW Bush, too.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • FormerMarineSgt

      Greg S – you are the very type of Islamophobe that the author of the article is speaking of.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Ryan

      2 Responses:

      1. Why does McLaren sill think he's in the evangelical circle. He's a heretic. He has no authority to speak on behalf of evangelicals.

      2. The quotes below show he is inconsistent in his thinking. The first quote has him saying Islamophia is a mainstream idea in evangelicalism. The second has him saying it is a tiny group. Which is it McLaren? McLaren is just bitter because so many evangelicals have declared him a heretic and have stopped printing and selling his books as he mentions in this very article.

      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.

      We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Guest

      @Jeff, (I do not like religion, any) that said. 10s of thousands of more then a billion! Now you compare that with 100s of thousands of religious Christian exteremists.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  10. Potion4

    Amazing you all have some interesting thoughts!!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  11. Chad

    The 1st amendment exists to protect what you dont want to hear. Everyone remember this since it is national consitution day.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Tom Hartman

      Too bad the murderers who attacked our embassy didn't understand free speech, huh?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Martin

      The First Amendment protects from the government stopping you from saying whatever it is you want to say. It doesn't mean that a) you should say you it just because you have the right (think basic decency) or b) that the people you say it to have to like it (avoid getting punched in the face).

      Class dimissed.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  12. blinky

    I'm not Christian. I'm not Muslim. I'm not atheist. For the life of me, I don't see what's advantageous in Islam to Christianity. Christians put love, humility, forgiveness and (by Jesus's example) tolerance at the forefront of their principles. That's why the West owes so many of its positive values to its religion. But I don't see a whole lot of any of that coming from Islamic faith; it all seems geared toward fanatical obedience, not toward peacemaking and redemption.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Cool Hand Luke

      blinky....well said.....

      September 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  13. Steve

    Honor killings...ever heard of them? Pretty much exclusive to Islam and widely accepted by Muslims. Enough said.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  14. Brisso

    I am assuming the mussie countries don't have a lot of comedians? Seeing as most, if not all comedians in the western world take the mickie out of Christian religions and live to joke another day. It's no wonder they don't smile much:)

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  15. AlienShark

    I bet when the people around Noah lied about him, called him a fraud and plotted against him and his followers, they had no clue that their names would be synonymous with disgrace for the rest of eternity. Muslims believe in all of God's prophets and books without question. Do you? Or are denying any of his prophets and books?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • ed mann

      The question is what is true and what is not, which requiers more than a paragraph or two, but you bring up something interesting; the Koran does claim Christ as a prophet but any cursory look at what Christ professed is counter to Islam. ie. Jesus claimed to be God, That he claimed to be that one and only priest (intercessor) , that he came to serve us by dying on the cross for our transgressions, to turn the other cheek,etc... He would probably be subject to death for blasphemy according to Islamic law, and just that one example literally invalidates to Koran as inspired scripture...

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

    There are 2 separate issues here. First the Bible clearly indicates that Jesus said he was the ONLY way to God, anyone who disagrees is showing ignorance as to what the Bible says.
    Second, as much as possible we are to tolerate others, this is for their benefit, as it gives them time to repent. We are however allowed to defend ourselves if attacked, if other religions want to live in peace with us that is acceptable, if not, it is perfectly acceptable to kill them in our own defense. Muslims take note, if you do not reign in your own fanatics you will force us to deal with you. And you will find that you will regret messing with us.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Get This

      The Bible is nothing.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      Eff the bibile.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • ed mann

      I disagree; Christ said turn the other cheek, so defending yourself on the basis of Christianity is false!!! what is true is that Christ separated the moral law from the civil law, and we are to follow our civil leaders and the laws of the land which in turn we should protect... Christ died on the cross, he did not kill or hurt anyone!! he was not a civil ruler..

      September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Dave

      You absolutely missed the point of the New Testament. Or, more likely, you did not read it. Very sad.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  17. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Either believe in all of the bible or none of it.

    Death to Followers of Other Religions
    Whoever sacrifices to any god, except the Lord alone, shall be doomed. (Exodus 22:19 NAB)

    KiII Nonbelievers
    They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. (2 Chronicles 15:12-13 NAB)

    KiII False Prophets
    If a man still prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall say to him, "You shall not live, because you have spoken a lie in the name of the Lord." When he prophesies, his parents, father and mother, shall thrust him through. (Zechariah 13:3 NAB)

    KiII the Entire Town if One Person Worships Another God
    Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. "The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him." (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

    For me, I'll believe in none of it.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Jerry

      Honey Badger, you cant take the scriptures out of context. Cross examine scripture with scripture. See why the Lord was saying these things, and laying down rules, and the law. There is a new covenant where the same God, has made possible the savings from our sins. Please don't cast away your eternal soul, because you disagree with some of scripture. Search the entire scripture.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Jeff

      Then you miss the part where Jesus came to fulfill the law and ushered in Grace and Mercy.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Reality Bites

      The difference is (drumroll)....the muslims still practice these absurd things from centuries past, by the thousands, but other religions do not. Thanks for highlighting the problem.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Barney

      Dude, you need to understand that the Bible is a love story between God and man, culminated with the arrival of Jesus Christ. All things were made new, including the old testament. All of that stuff you just quoted was replaced with Christ's ministry, period. Do unto others what you would have them do undo you. Pray for your enemies. If a thief takes your jacket give him your shirt too. If someone hits you, turn your cheek and let them hit you there too. For all those who want to manipulate the Bible and call themselves Christians, beware. Revenge is the Lord's. And those who claim to follow Jesus Christ as "Christians" that do not follow the Lord's message do not know God. If you do not know God, you do not know love. And if you do not know love, you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do not know the Lord, He says when the time comes He will say He did not know you, and you will not enter heaven. Change your heart brother. The Old Testament is about God trying to discipline His people and to show them how to Love God and teach them God's ways. However, the new testament was God's way of saying "I cannot force you to love me or each other, I can only show you how to love and wait for your love". True love isn't forced. True love is all powerful, and the way to finding it is through Jesus Christ. Those are the ones that know Jesus, the ones that chose Love and grow towards righteousness, peace, and joy.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Evangelical Rule of Thumb

      Evangelical Rule of Thumb:

      If a bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally.

      If a bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is an ancient cultural anomaly; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; Is a mystery of god or not discernible by humans; or is just plain magic.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • ed mann

      Clearly you don't understand the purpose of the Old Testament, and that of the New Testament; and you should research that... Neither Christ nor his followers called for the death of anyone, OT scripture is also true but it had a purpose which is no longer valid, Christ covered once and for all... First was the law, now there's Grace. We are no loger bound by the law, unfortunately many Christians don't get it either, and only because it's easier to live by the law.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  18. Regnad Kcin

    “With or without religion, you would have
    good people doing good things and evil people
    doing evil things. But for good people to do evil
    things, that takes religion.” –Steven Weinberg

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Mei

      Christianity has done the majority of the good and charity in this world–from running hospitals (first with religious orders) and homeless shelters and taking care of the poor (remember Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity who still work for the poorest of the poor). Christians are NOT to blame for extremist Muslims for violence. CNN does way too many articles on Islam these days.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  19. ManyPeopleAreIgnorant


    People complain Muslims dont do enough.

    Maybe you need to look closely. It is just not covered by media here in the USA. Peaceful people in these countries are suffering too. Nobody likes bloodshed and violence. All human beings want security and peace for themselves and their families.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Guest

      That was a great link to read, thanks! Thanks for educating the dark western world!

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  20. huffinpuff

    A good Jihadist is a dead Jihadist We kill 'em all before they kill all us Christians. This " Islamophobia " canard is a threat to our security. We are at War. It is a Jihad. We intend to win this War. This writer can go to Hell.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:24 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.