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. bobjones

    CNN = truly mentally ill.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  2. Jim

    Why is being concerned about a group of people that consistently produce a bunch of loonies called "Islamophobic"? We should focus on those in denial of the problem.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  3. ChuckD

    Ummmmm......You are kidding us right? You are going to defend people who protest in public carrying signs calling for the death of Americans and then tell us they are just misunderstood. Please, by all means, feel free to move to the middle east.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Thank You!

      Thank You, ChuckD, you're a voice of reason! I could not believe what I was reading with this article! Islamophobia wouldn't exist if they didn't act like this!!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  4. Sal

    Well said Brian. I enjoyed reading your article. Interesting to read the opinions and comments to your article. So many of us here are still close minded, and don't want to see the bigger picture of what is really going on in our world. Keep up the good work Brian.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  5. gg

    If it walks like a Muslim, and talks like a Muslim, I am pretty darn sure its a terrorist. Islam is not a religion of tolerance and peace.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • timinfla

      ...but it has to have bombs strapped to it and a knife to slit ones throat........THEN its a moooslim

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  6. bobjones

    CNN: Killing journalism one article at a time.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  7. Thecentrist11

    The real difference between them and us is secular education. If you were brought up solely by the bible (to believe that men are superior to women etc.), we would be a lot more like them. There are people trying very hard to put "God back in schools". If we had strict biblical education instead of secular since our founding, what do you think our country would be like today?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Mark Hartley

      Sorry Mr. Centrist but the bible does NOT teach that men are superior to women. In fact, it's one of the only scriptures that holds women up and even represents them in history as playing vatal roles, having important relationships with Christ himself (no man in-between) and acting in faith even when the men that were supposed to be the leaders cowered behind locked doors. Just sayin...

      September 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  8. Seriously???

    Man this article makes me mad! First, it doesn't matter how juvenile, hateful or disrespectful the film is, the film makers where exercising their freedom of speech! Freedom of speech and differing opinions don't seem to be something Islamic countries seem to be able to get their head around. Imagine if Christians acted this way each time their faith was mocked (such as on Family Guy, South Park etc.) But Christians know to take the moral high-ground and not behave like animals the way Muslims do. Just maybe there would not be a problem with Islamophobia if they could act like human being and not kill, bomb and set fire to stuff every time they disagree with someone – Sheez!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • GrampaSez

      Yeah. Try watching "The Last Temptation of Christ", then make a case for "intolerant Christianity". The author, McLaren is a dishonest self-avowed "Progressive for Social Justice".

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  9. ggrieser

    Yeah, well, so the way of Christ is to do nothing. "The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge." What is this, poetry class? What a wind bag.

    It's funny how a "christian" has to write and article to tell other "christians" what millions of normal, reasonable people of all beliefs already know.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  10. tom

    I got it!
    How about a religion that is based on leaving everybody the hell alone.
    Oh wait. That's Libertarianism.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  11. Paul Gregory

    Well said. Well said.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  12. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Honey Badger, you cant take the scriptures out of context. There is a new covenant where the same God, has made possible the savings from our sins.

    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.

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

    You are all so full of carp. A “perfect” being cannot by definition change.

    So you are saying that your perfect being changed his mind halfway through the story? So he F’ed up the first part? He decided to make it better? And you don’t see why people think that this garbage is the silliest stuff every made up by man?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Holy Joseph Army Thea

      Right on you gay basher. Lets burn an embassy and cook some foreigners

      September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  13. Susan Laws

    Oh PLEEEEEEZE Mr McLaren. Get real. It's hard to embrace people who want to destroy you. Did you happen to notice what happened on 9/11 or were you too busy writing this kind of politically correct dribble?

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

      Exactly. Blame anyone, especially Christians, for the faults and evils of others.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Conrad Murray

      It's drivel and you're a moron, They're not all against you. The same way Christians acted in the crusades and during the holocaust.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • rahul

      gandhi did exactly that – embraced people who were bent on destroying him – and look where it got him.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Akim

      Susan you are just example another example of "ignorant" tea-beggar-fox-news-lies-victim. Sorry to say but nobody want to destroy no-one. These are only those hypocrite who ignite and play these haters among different religions to get votes from the ignorant..

      September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Akim

      Rahul .. don't mislead .. Tell the truth that Ghandhi was murdered by his own Hindu extremist (suicide bomber) fellow...

      September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  14. BobG

    CNN = MSNBC Lite

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

      I agree with this post. Something seems so backward in this country when Islamic extremists who follow their book which says to kill Jews and Christians do so and succeed while authors like this one verbally attack Christians with the condescending pseudo-wisdom which is so characteristic of the left.

      I guess Obama was right when he said (first U.S. President to do so) that we are "no longer a Christian nation."

      September 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  15. CommonS

    The only reason the United States is the main target for these Islamic Extremists is because we are still number one in their minds. We have all of this stuff, they have very little, so they need someone to blame. First it was Mubarek in Egypt, now it is the United States, and then it will be some one else. But it will always be something or someone else that they will blame for all of their problems.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Maybe if we stopped invading their countries then they wouldnt hate us so much.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Pat

      Honey badger is a moron. Stopped invading their countries...what a joke. These people, yes people, want you dead unless you are a believer in Islam. There is no rosy picture for mutual existence. We are all infidels to them regardless of whether we are good or bad to them. They will eventually bring their war to your doorstep if ignorance continues. I don't want anyone destroyed but to live in denial is just plain silly.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Spoken like a deciple of the first retarded president in US history, George Bush.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Louretta Hale Mary

      A good bunch of nukes from Algeria to Pakistan would do the trick. Follow Moe Hammit and we shall cleanse the world! Then we can wear our shoes and carry our mouthwash back on the airplanes.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Louretta Hale Mary

      HOney Badger forgot the other handicrapped prez HUssein "aint no muz" Obombah

      September 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  16. chupacabra

    I don't like moslems and no amount of cnn white washing is going to change me, and thats that!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Holy Joseph Army Thea

      they are like wild dogs killing like wild on impulse no civilized control Moe Humid would be embarassed

      September 17, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  17. Damon

    Really, name some chistians that would kill people because someone made a movie they didn't like?

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

      Martin Scorcese got quite a few death threats from Christian extremists when he directed "The Last Temptation of Christ".

      September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Pat

      Misfit, death threats by a few, btw they liked it or the media attention, is not rioting and killing. Get a clue.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  18. 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. (second time)

    September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Sam A.

      Quite obviously, you did read, much less to say, understand, the first chapter of the Koran.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Marty

      I agree. This guy writing this misinformation about the true nature of Islam is an idiot. He has no clue, apparently, what Islam is about. Islam is bent on world domination and there isn't anything that will divert them from it. The Muslim will sweet talk everyone about their religion, but it's either pure lies or complete naivete about the true nature of Islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • netanyahu

      have u read the jewish talmud? Very hateful to christians. Just pure evil.


      September 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  19. Thor

    CNN Editor; I like your disclaimer: "The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren." Great "cop-out"!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  20. Lori

    If they loved and admired their Prophet Mohammad as much as they say they do, they wouldn't be acting this way. They need to practice what they preach. There's ALWAYS radicals in every religion and I've seen lots of Muslims who do not support their behavior.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Michael Johnson

      If Christians really admired Christ why have they murdered Jews in Europe and over 100 million Native Americans? What kind of cursed religion has brought so much death to others.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Sam A.

      I agree, except that "they" are a few outlaws that are also armed and live in specific countries that are undergoing chaos. This does not sanction a generalization to 1.5 billion humans.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
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