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. Amazing Atheist

    If by "islamophobia" you mean the rightful criticism of violent and misogynous islamic teachings, then please include this atheist among the "evangelical Christians".

    September 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • justice4sarah

      I'm just 'over' organized religions I wish they would learn how to be civilized and live moral like the rest of the world. Not everyone is a member of these groups, thank you, that is all.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  2. Terik Ororke

    A little bit of disinformation goes a long way and takes the focus off the real truth that the American public probably wil never know the truth of the "killing" or our ambassador and others.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  3. Antonio

    If we're going to take away anyone's freedom of speech it should be this guys for the terrible article he just posted. Seriously, these extremist Islam terrorists kill innocent people, and this guy thinks we should be sensitive to their feelings? What about when they say and do stuff that offends Christians, should Christians react in the same manner. I guess every time we see or hear of an extremist Islamic terrorist group acting out violently or speaking out negatively against Christians or the US then we should go over and start bombing and killing innocent people. If that logic works for them then I guess it should for us too. Oh, and when we finish we should expect them to understand and for the world to feel sorry for us. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Everyone can say what they want, argue all we want, but at the end of the day we should all go home unharmed physically. You can be offended, but that doesn't justify murder.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Eric M

      Are you serious? Take away one guy's freedom of speech because he...used it? If you are so willing to remove somebody's rights maybe you aren't as different from these muslims you seem to understand so well.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Antonio

      That first line was sarcasm, genius.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Antonio

      Oh, and I never proclaimed to understand Muslims well. I said "extremist Islam Terrorists". Maybe you should try reading what I wrote before responding. You seem to have trouble understanding what people write, based on your response above, which was, for lack of a better word, an idiotic response to this stupid article that was written.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  4. kevin

    Hahaha this articles makes me laugh. I am Christian attending a Christian school with many Muslim friends. This man makes claims and backs it with little to no logical proof. He says the "protests" were sparked by the movie. Yet he provides not proof. He says that "so called Christian programs" offer up Islamaphobia. WITH NO PROOF. This strictly his opinion and here's mine. There are Muslim extremists. There are Muslims that are not. I have not studied Muslim in depth so I can't say much about them. But I can say that if they "want" democracy then they have to realize what it entails. We have to realize that democracy is not in an extremists nature. Hence 9/11.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Eric M

      Where is your proof? I think his assertion that Christians don't extend grace to muslims is well proven just by the comments on this article. Yours is more suspect.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  5. Rose

    It's who 'they' are and nothing to do with any other religion or people. Actually this does go along with this week, blame their terrorism on other people and blame the 9/11 terrorist attacks this week on a film, instead of it was a 9/11 anniversary and planned. There were other terrorists attacks by al qaeda in Libya in the weeks before and Stephens warned about it and still they weren't more protected. Four hours of being attacked and noone came to help? What was that about?

    September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  6. NotSoFast

    "The history of Christianity that you refer too took place hundreds of years ago." Not really. Most of Western Europe HAS reduced the frequency of religious purges gradually over the centuries, primarily because of the growth of Secular Humanism (the bugbear of Evangelical Christianity) starting in the 1600s. There have been a few lapses, however, such as the Nazi Holocaust lead by a Roman Catholic madman and supported enthusiastically by both the Roman Catholic Pope and Church and the German Lutheran Church. Catholics and Protestants were slaughtering each other daily in all of Ireland until the 1920s and in Northern Ireland until the 21st century. That Jihad had been going on since the time of Henry VIII. The Australian government exterminated the Tasmanian people in death camps with the blessings of the Anglican church, killing the last full-blooded Tasmanian in the 1930s.
    Faith is the root of all evil.
    Religious faith is historically the worst kind, but political faith can be almost as bad when people treat their political beliefs as a religion, not subject to refutation and reexamination. The atrocities committed by Stalin, Pol Pot, and the Kim dynasty in North Korea are the direct result of the Bolshevik religion. It did NOT result from Secular Humanism or Rational Atheism.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  7. Darryl

    Does Brian McLaren even read the Bible? Islam is the most anti-Christ belief system in the world and what they need is a church or Christian that will unashamedly share the Gospel with them.

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

      i would say that Islam is the most Jesus honoring faith even more so than Christianity itself in many respects. No person can be Muslim without believing in Jesus, his virgin birth, his miracles, his prophet hood and his ministry. Muslims believe Jesus to be Christ, Word of God, Spirit of God, prophet of God etc. So how can Islam be anti christ?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Kevin

      Have you read the Qu'ran or the Hadith? You'd be shocked at the similarities between Christianity and Islam. Did you know Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qu'ran? Jesus (Isa Ibn Maryam) is in the Qu'ran, too! Surprises abound!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  8. John M Fremont

    Dear Muslims: Ever wonder why Americans (Christians, or otherwise) have no fear of Bhuddists? Think about it.

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

      that is a GOOD point.

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

      How many Buddhist country is USA occupying?

      September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • John M Fremont

      There is no Bhuddist country or Bhuddist law. Just Bhuddists. Like Christians or Jews or Taoists or Shiks.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • jusbel

      I guess the author of the article isn't listening to what the Arab world is saying about the West and lthe "infidels". They HATE us. We are Christian and Jewish here. Well the poor are Christian...the rest are Jewish. Butnone the less, they HATE us. If you don't understand that by now...then you haven't been keeping up on thigs....for the past 60 years.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  9. ted


    Do me a favor, go to a tent revival meeting in rural south some where, and tout your views, then go to an Islamic country and do the same. IF and this is a BIG freakin' IF, you make it back from Islamabad on your craptalking tour. Then you can tell us what you think.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • McCave

      Can I get an "Amen?"

      September 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Jack

      ted, I could not agree with you more.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Eric M

      I think he would be in just as much danger in the tent...

      September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Jack

      How would Muslims feel if we were to start showing up at Mosques and yelling anti muslim sentiments? How about the embassies of these countries, what if thousands of Americans showed up on their doorsteps blaming them for verything wrong in the world? So tired of seeing these extremists and their anti American, anti Western behavior. We should understand them???? How anout them understanding us and be a little more compassionate to the everyday Joe out there that is not conencted to goverment or the military in any way? It's quite alright for them to say and do whatever they want but an EGYPTIAN Coptic Catholic makes a video and its eveyone's fault in America. So by that logic Osama was Evil so every muslim is evil.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  10. felix1877

    So, now do we have enough right to attack Iran? Perfect Job!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  11. Religion of Piece

    We need to cut loose of all gods and religions now before they kill us all. Its painfully obvious that there is no higher power....these people are rioting over nothing.

    Is alarming that people will go berzerk over 2000 year old religious garbage but cant trust 21st century science (and simple logic and common sense) that have painted the truth in screaming orange neon.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • John

      "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." Psalms 14:1

      September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Religion of Piece

      LOL ... and the bible is true cause the bible says so right? ..... ok...nevermind which religion got it right..... answer this John, Which version of the Bible got it right? which Christian denomination has it dialed?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • Tom

      It's simple really. Quit religion and military spending. Realise we are fighting for humanity, for mankind. Spend our resources on education, food, medicine, clean energy, any and all new technologies that can and will benefit the human being. Spend wisely so that we and our children have a chance to get off this tiny rock. Only then will we as a species be able to say "we have and will continue to make a difference". If we can't find it within ourselves to do this we will just return to the stardust from which we came.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Religion of Piece

      Tom – exactly.....all the lives and time wasted on this utterly useless construct.... all because a few got addicted to the money and control over others.....some might make the argument that some of the leaders in these cults are addicted to the blood and violence as well.

      Is a tragedy the road humanity has taken..... it all could have been sooo much better across the board.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  12. mk

    reading few of these responses below proves the author's point in this article.

    Very nice and honest article i believe, it is never easy to say whats right...takes a lot of courage

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  13. High Way

    I encourage people to read the first chapter in the Koran. You will understand alot of things that could scare people that are not of islamic faith. Find the section where it says from the moment they outnumber the infidels they have the absolution of Allah to purify the land. The "part purify the land" is very open ended and very scary if interpreted by the radicals. Don't take my word for it, read it for yourself. Its better to read it yourself and see it for yourself than to believe anything you read hear.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  14. Mrs. D

    I started laughing as soon as I saw this opinion piece was written by Brian McLaren. I shouldn't laugh though...it is very sad that someone who purports to be a Christian is so wishy washy and unversed in what scripture really says. I'm done reading this site's religion pieces. These things are all based in what Christians who are in the emergent church WISH the scriptures said.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Golden Rule trumps all else

      Mrs. D., stop doing what others tell you to do and start thinking before you decide on a course of action. If God wanted blind obediance only, he would have stopped creating after the animals. Use your brain. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That rule is paramount in Christianity and includes love thy neighbor.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  15. slouise

    I have to say that I do not agree with your article. Americans , specifically Jewish and Christian Americans have every reason to be phobic about the Arab world. This is a group of people who have said over and over again that we are the great satan and have vowed to fight us. Jews in Arab countries have experienced pograms, expulsion and persecuction for thousands of years. Christians are also being persecuted by muslim majoritie in Arab countries. I think as a reporter, you are not doing your homework or are simply biased.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  16. Colin

    If there really was a god, why would he have made the atheists the most intelligent, the agnostics the next smartest and the firm believers so fvcking dumb.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • gonetopot

      Colin, you'll find out one day the real truth and the real God.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • GrampaSez

      And why would the UN estimate that there are only 16% of YOU ELITISTS? Such a minority. Are you the FUTURE? Or the past? Hitler was a RELIGION-HATING Socialist. As was MAO, Stalin, and Lenin.

      It is YOU who may be the dinasaurs.

      September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  17. Kevin

    From what I understand what islam is. It's a religion based off of the prophet Mohammed that condemn without really investigating the facts. Even if they were to investigate the facts they still are influenced by prejudice because their religion makes them blinded to having a true open mind and seeing matters as God would. Any religion that cuts the noses off women and kills them for stupid infractions is not a religion of God. In fact there is no true religion of God on this planet they are all perverted. I think Gandhi was the only person I know who had a close representation of what God was. He wanted the British out of India but he wanted them to leave as a friend not an enemy. Yet look at all the atrocities the british put on the Indians there. So Islam. NO they are no better then christians or hindu or any other stinking religion!

    September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  18. /B/tardHer0

    CNN is a pathetic excuse for a news source. All the trouble in the world, a puppet as president, the deficit, ect, and you feature this? Seriously, just put an image of obama in your damn logo and get it over with. Phobic means fear, and in no way am I afraid of islam. I don't care what god you worship, kill Americans, and we should kill you right back. But oh, wait. The current administration would rather apologize to you.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • who me?

      Perhaps you might prefer a more fair and balanced web-site on which to comment.May I suggest FOX ,as then you wouldn't have to lower yourself,and pay attention to the lame-stream media.They DO have a comments section,don't they?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  19. AmericanJustice

    Finally an article that calls Christians to task. The reality is- extremist Christians and extremist Muslims have the same end-goal in mind; to bring about the end of the world which they both believe will usher in the second coming of Jesus.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  20. Paul

    On my studies in history I understand that the arabes were killing each other in bloody wars and Mohamed saw what was going on and invented a religion using pieces of religions that already existed. To avoid the killings Mohamed understood that they needed a common enemy. If you have a common enemy they would stop killing each other. Mohamed created Christians and Jews as the enemies so they would get unified. It is a artificial religion created to destroy a Christian enemy.

    September 17, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
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