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. Justin

    Brian McLaren's article negatively portrays the main stream Christianity. The film does not reflect the heart of the gospel nor the main message of Christianity at large. There is no phobia or fear in the mind of Christians, but you have to admit that there were many burning of the church buildings by the Muslims in the recent past in the countries like Nigeria and Indonesia and other parts of the world. This is a plain fact that can be supoorted by the substatial evidences. For those who live in such world, fear of Islam is real and the people who live in the US share the sentiment with the victims.

    This article is poining fingers to Christians for what happened. This is totally biased and unjust. Brian McLaren's agenda is to confuse the issue and a sheer propaganda. His integrity and CNN's are subject to scrutiny on who is behind them. Obama is in the same vein. Who is he? Who is behind him?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  2. Nick

    Seriuosly Mr. Brian?? Are you waiting for another 9/11 to know what is islam?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  3. AmericanLiberal

    We tarsh christians bigtime and what ?

    Jesus Christ Superstar
    he was gay
    he messed around with mary the ho
    he did this, he did that
    How many full-on hollywood productions have been made baggin' on jesus and christianity ?
    Not to mention saturday night live, the news media, and movies/tv in general
    The world should be wiped out by now then... if christians were anything like muslims

    September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  4. Luis Wu

    All religious people scare me. They're wacko. They actually believe in invisible supernatural beings. They're delusional.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Robert

      Me too, Luis

      September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  5. Kachina

    Muslims, Islamists are a violent people and we have given far too much to those that want US dead! Give NO MORE MEDIA coverage to the Middle East, please. It is just fueling the fires. CUT ALL FOREIGN AID! Cut all ties! Leave them to their barbaric ways and let's rebuild America!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • A Muslim

      When Mel Gibson left remarks about Jews every one got upset . Who says we have freedom of speech in US if you have dought call some balck dude with N word and he will show you your rights right there. Some words hurt and must not be spoke laudly. Islam is peace & peace for every one.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • who me?

      @ a Muslim..I keep hearing it said that Islam is religion of peace,but it sure doesn't look like one.I know most of your religion is peaceful,but you would be stupid if you didn't see that your religion is headed in the wrong direction.What really ticks people off,is the fact that the-so called-peacefull Muslims seem to be unwilling to admit the problem.It's high time you got off your buts and started to openly denounce these extremists.This would take great courage,but you have no other choice.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  6. deb

    Why is it when people disagree with CNN views it becomes a phobia??? What happened was a horrible terrorist incident! 9/11 no accident on the date! I don't believe the lies,Even the Libyan president stated that it was due to Al Queda.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  7. juiceybgc

    all religions taken seriously are a bit of a joke... theyre stories told from the dark ages about mythological gods and goddesses... theyre meant to be looked at as a guide, not to run and rule ur life... its pathetic tht pple fall back on it as a reason to murder and maim each other... hence y the last post is perfect, im phobic to all religions!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  8. Gary

    Seeing some of the responses here makes this article ring true and foretelling of a larger storm coming. Sharia law is adopted by the extreme, not the moderates of Islam. The nations currently chanting 'bla bla bla' are in many cases young democracies who don't understand free speech and prescribe the trash video as a product of the US at large. They are making the same nonsensical mistake that many on this board are making. Any religion can be distorted and made to sound evil. They are not. Those who are on the fringes who cite the name of their religion in their quest for power, piety, justification, etc. are indeed perpetrators of evil acts. I can only hope that cooler heads on all side prevail and we can live together peacefully despite our differences.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      Uh, that's why the muslim brotherhood won the elections in Egypt, BY A LANDSLIDE !


      HELLO AMERICA, anybody out there

      September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  9. Ohboy911

    Musllims have to chill, this shows how un educated these thugs are, Movie is made by an American Man and here they are burning down their own towns..

    September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      are you sure he was American ?

      I heard he was from Egypt, the clown who made the unknown never-heard-of-it-till now video clip
      Calling it "a movie" is exageration, sir

      September 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  10. More MO

    I'd like to write a response to those defending Islam / its tenets (incluiding Anti Jewish / Anti Chrisitan hated: calling for the death of non believers). But I thought I'd post a picture, since it's worth a thousand words.

    Oh wait....that's a problem for Isalm as well.


    September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  11. MightyMoo

    As of late I'm getting the backside of any organized religion. Wither it's evangelicals going bunkers of womens reproductive issues here in the US or Muslims in the middle east going all holy war over a stupid YouTube movie. The invisible man these people claim to is looking pretty shabby by their examples.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  12. tony

    It's not possible to insult Atheists as such. They won't they believe in anything not reasonably provable.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • GrampaSez

      That was laughably false. A LOT of ATHEISTS live every moment of their lives "insulted" about something.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      "If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."

      Bertrand Russell

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


      September 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  13. Bob

    Islam is first and foremost a politcal ideology, albeit with religious trappings. Talking about "Islamophobia" is like talking about "Capitalismphobia" or "socialisitphobia" or "Fascistphobia". This is what confuses everyone so much. The apologists for Islam want people to feel ashamed if they're afraid of it, as if they were afraid of an ethinic or religious group. But there is no shame... at least no more shame than you should have being afraid of socialism or fascism.

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

    Totally agree with newsflash, this has nothing to do with that video and everything to do with 9/11, and the failed foreign policy of the Obama administration. Hillary Clinton looked like a simple minded fool making apologies to Muslims for this video the US had nothing to do with.

    When are people going to stop drinking the Obama koolaid? He doesn't have a clue. He has made the US a laughing stock displaying weakness in dealing with these Islamic terrorist, and affraid to use the word "terrorist" as if were the N word.
    We need a president with a strong foreign policy and rebuild our relationship with our only true friend in the region, which is Isreal. Obama has left abandoned them, and playing into Iran's hands.
    He has destroyed this country, and has the aid of the liberal slanted press to help him decieve Americans that he is a great man. Wake up before it is too late!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  15. Mary

    Given what has been going on in the Muslim world for the last 1500 years, I'll keep my Christian beliefs and my democracy close by. Not all countries, especially Islamic ones, want or appreciate democracy. We may have a phobia regarding Islam due to what's been going on in that part of the world for centuries. Please don't bring it here. Our Judeo/Christian society has worked fine; we're inviting more problems than it's worth when Islam gains a foothold in the U.S.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Yes it does. It makes you a delusional fool.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  17. Steve

    I'm finished with CNN. They take the side of that murderous cult. Time to find a new news outlet.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson


      September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      Bubye, don't let the door hit you in the @$$

      September 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Colin

    Science and math too hard for you? Try religion.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Chewbacca

      Is simple logic to hard for you? Try religion.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • contrarymary

      Is society too hard for you? Try bigotry.

      Seriously, what appalling arrogance and, yes, bigotry. Typical of people who take the easy road and puff themselves up not on their own virtues but on an adopted, pretended superiority over whatever group they find socially acceptable to hate and despise at the moment.

      Today you find it socially acceptable to despise religion and those who adhere to it. They're uneducated, incapable of logic, can't grog math and science. Why, they're not even human beings. Today it's the religious. Tomorrow...?

      Idiots like you made Nazi Germany and death camps not only possible but inevitable.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  19. Chewbacca

    As religious people tend to be one of the least educated and gullible segments of any society, religious people are the bane of this world.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Albacheeser

      Bill Maher defamed Islam in his movie. I don't recall any demonstrations then. The POTUS is covering up that this was a terrorist attack.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes thing .

    September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Canadian Liberal

      Perhaps you could cite one example.ONE.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:18 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.