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. DC

    CNN = pro Islam

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

    I think we should all respect others' religions...and that especially Christians should respect others' religions. That said, I think the article is quite heavily slanted.

    It opens up by saying essentially that since Muslim extremists are killing us because of our majority religion, we need to be kinder & gentler to the Muslim extremists.

    It doesn't look at how predominantly Muslim countries rule by suppression of free speech and a lack of freedom of religion, whereas countries such as ours that have a historically higher Christian population have led to free speech and freedom of religion (which freedom should be extended to Muslims as well).

    The article is quite heavily slanted. I agree we all need to respect freedom of religion, but I disagree with the approach taken by this article, and with blaming Christians for all of the religious bigotry in the world.

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

      Of course this article is slanted you idiot. It's an OP-ED.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  3. Over It

    When will we all realize that it's all insane? I reject ALL 'religions' in favor of NOTHING. What good has come of religion, any religion? The muslims are as nuts as the christians. George Bush II is an evangelical and look what that got us into. How many have died? Rapture my ass and 72 virgins my ass again.

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

      Absolutely! Trash, all of it.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Newsflash

      I am a Christian – and I defend your right to choose to worship God, any other gods or no god at all. That's what you will not find in "Muslim" countries. Now, will Mclaren write about Christianophobia in America, or Islamic Christianophobia in the Middle East?

      September 18, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  4. 1234LISA1234

    This is Evolution at work. Those who were christiens in the past and hated moslims are being born moslems to hate christiens. The law of retribution. As you saw you reap. How does one stop the cycle?
    It is up to the person to want to know who he is, and to want to accept what he thinks as true, concerning his own life. Reacent work have shown that with diligence a tiger was turned into vegetarian. This can also be done with humans.
    All a human needs to do is to keep the Golden Rule. I am sure that it is the easiest thing to do. Keep Jesus, Mohamed and God out of your life. and care about your neighbor. Keep the ten Commandments.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  5. Kent

    I vote to put an end to all religion. Problem solved.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Over It

      Amen, Kent.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Christ Follower

      Before my religion, I was a drunk, a thief and violent.........

      Thank You Jesus for your sacrifice!!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Newsflash

      Religion is not the problem. People, like you, who do not believe in a personal liberty, are the problems. People, ought to be able to choose. Often in school and at work, when my friends or co-workers swear using the name of Christ and they apologizes to me, I have told them they need not to. Why? They have the right to say what they will. If Christ or Allah or Mohammed is a myth to them, why must I impose on them my conviction. The bottomline is that neither McLaren, Obama nor the Muslim majority believe in the concept of individual or personal liberty.

      September 18, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Newsflash

      Religion is not the problem. People, like you, who do not believe in a personal liberty, are the problems. People, ought to be able to choose. Often in school and at work, when my friends or co-workers swear using the name of Christ and they apologizes to me, I have told them they need not to. Why? They have the right to say what they will. If Christ or Allah or Mohammed is a myth to them, why must I impose on them my conviction. The bottomline is that neither McLaren, Obama nor the Muslim countries believe in the concept of individual or personal liberty.

      September 18, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  6. Colin

    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:

    (a) historian;

    (b) geologist;

    (c) NASA astronomer; or

    (d) Christian or Muslim

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  7. Mike the American

    This has got to be the biggest Troll by a new media org in the US ever.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |

    Christian Evangelicals are NO moral Authority when it comes to violence.

    Does Anyone remember the 250,000 Iraqis killed during the Invasion of Iraq?? You thought these people were just numbers when you were watching your Shock and Awe on your tv's??

    There will only be peace when US is out of the Middle East and stop messing with the countries in the area.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Mike the American

      War is hell. How did they feel when the WTC were knocked down and 5000+ Americans with them? I don't feel for them.

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

      In essence you are saying McLaren is full of it. This isn't about Islamophobia, This is about American hegemony in the world. The muslims detest that and nothing but the diminishment of America will suffice. Did I capture your thought? Why don't you just move to the middle east and enjoy the peace there for a while?

      September 18, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  9. James

    I'm not sure what's worse-the fool or the perison that argues with the fool. A bunch of lost people that are arrogant and blind. I'm not "religious" I believe in 1 God , 1 truth. Period.

    Have fun getting no where arguing with each other, lost children. 🙂

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

      which god?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  10. GrampaSez

    Anyone familiar with this author's work, KNOWS that he believes in BEING DISHONEST. That is, "preach literally one way" but personally BELIEVE a different way. And when pressed, he "reluctantly admits its ALL A FICTION"...

    This "approach" is as disgusting as a PRESIDENT and ADMINISTRATION (for which McLaren is an apologist), telling us intentional "fictions" designed to futher their LIB AGENDAS.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  11. Reality Check

    Another BIASED CNN article! ARE YOU GUYS WATCHING THE MIDDLE EAST? Peaceful religion lolololol

    I'll agree that some Christians don't show the love of Christ (I question their transformation to begin with) BUT the reality of Islam is being lived out currently.

    SHAME ON CNN and Brian as you continue to disrespect the US and the memory of 9/11

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  12. Onslow

    It's shamefully amusing, all the words that are wasted in attempting to label one religion or another as good or bad; and which set of imaginary deities are correct. Hint – they're all quaint, historical drivel. The sooner this planet grows out of the need for primitive religious beliefs, the better the odds the planet will survive. Have you noticed what a high percentage of the conflict in the world is purely based on differences of religion. It's absurd.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  13. LOL

    Christians and Muslims are equally evil religions.

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

      do christians- IN 2012- strap bombs to themselves or slit your throat if you dont agree with them. the worst we have here is the wellsboro church wackjobs

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • the wise one

      christians and muslims are followers of a religion, not a religion get educated plz

      September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  14. neastsider

    It all goes back to the old addage that a lie repeated enough times will begin to sound like the truth and that's what these so-called christian evangelicals and fanatical Zionists have done for the last 12 years repeating the mantra that all of Isam is bad, none of it is good. Conversely that causes the other side to say that all of christianity /Judism is bad, none of it is good.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  15. Colin

    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am

    (a) A failed psychologist

    (b) A fraudulent geneticist

    (c) A sociologist who never went to college; or

    (d) A Christian or Muslim with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Complete Story

      And why are pedophiles the only ones sleeping with kids?? Are you defending their actions as well?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  16. Pragmatist

    I agree with the author. Many evangelical and charismatic groups are sowing the seeds of hatred in subtle manners. I am a christain who grew up in a multi-religious society. I am a US citizen and have lived in the US 32 years. I quit being a member of a christian church and have stopped attending church services because I cannot stand the hypocrisy I see in these churches.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  17. pbernasc

    Monotheistic Religions: tale story for suckers.
    Real Basis for almost all religions:ignorance
    Purpose: control people
    Proof: call for war in name of God. all religions did it, there where this is apparently not happening today, it's not because of the religion (see the christian abusive power within the US air-force for instance), but rather it's because the secular society has replaced ignorance with education, which eliminate the ability of the church to keep telling stories to the people.
    There were irrational beliefs survive, you find a lot of ignorance, see creationists, fundamental Jews, Christians and Muslims.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  18. mp

    Brian Mclaren you are an Idiot. Your promoting double standards, typical american liberal TRASH, close you a hole we dont wanna hear from it.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  19. shell24

    How absurd to say that we need own up to Islamaphobia. Are you for real dude? They HATE us, period end. All of them. I don't care what they "say" while living here, bottom line is they hate our way of life. Everyone should be on guard all the time.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • timinfla

      they are rabid dogs- look at the protest pictures- islaaaam is a cancer

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

    The above subject story is a good example how distorted things have become in society with the media industry as the main culprit.

    The local media, including CNN, Fox and your local TV stations and newspapers are a very important element of social and political behavior, as society is shaped by what it sees, hears and reads and it is conditioned by the events that influence the mind of every person. You reap what you sow.

    To allow anyone to be directed by public opinion is dangerous because most public opinion is the view of the media. If the media does not like something, their bias taints information getting to the public, and this forms public opinion. Public opinion is never based on research and facts. The public uses the media for its sole source of information and for this reason social behavior will continue to deteriorate and wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).

    For a better understanding of the role of the media we invite you to read the articles ‘Influence of the Media’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    The media does not provide accurate information on ‘Religion’ as it continues to ignore the truth and the history of deceptions (John 14:17). They only report how they want you to hear things. They have created the big chasm that now exists without offering any solutions.

    Consider the truth about Mormonism, Judaism, Evangelicals, Christianity and Islam and all other religions and ask yourself the following question.

    Are so-called Mormons, Israelites, Evangelicals and Muslims and all those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8)?

    For a better understanding of the history of Mormonism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘World History and Developments in the Middle East’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Mitt Romney’s faith does not stand in the teachings of Christ but rather in an image of the spirit and the god of this world and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8).

    For a better understanding of the history of the Mormon Church and Mitt Romney’s quest for the Presidency of the USA, we invite you to read the articles ‘Mormon Church – Cult and Spiritual Harlot’ and ‘Barack Obama – President of the United States of America’, listed on our website.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • shell24

      Ok, you are a nut case. Go drink some kool aid please.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:39 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.