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. Phyllis

    Why is the guy's opinion the biggest thing on your front web page? Can I write an opinion piece for you?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  2. Neo32

    IF YOU WANT TO SEE HOW AMERICAN MUSiLMS FEEL ABOUT FREEDOM OF SPEACH, watch YouTube: "American Musilms stone Christians in Dearbore MI". What is happening to America is sad.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      I'm Catholic and Ive visited my local Mosque many times that didn't even remotely happen to me.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  3. dmaradona10

    I like how the extreme overreaction by Muslims in the Middle East is being taken so lightly by the author then put back on "Islamophobia." This movie was literally unkown in the West until the violent reaction occurred. The film is obvisouly awful and uninteresting. How come people in these countries don't know that basically all of the West doesn't care about this film? Didn't they see The Dark Knight Rises?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  4. Scared

    The author makes an excellent point. Are there things in the Quran that condone extreme violence against non-Muslims? Yep, kinda like the Jewish (&Christian) God commanding the Israelites to kill EVERY LIVING THING in Jerico. Does that make Jews/Christians evil people who need to be eliminated? Instead of looking for the examples of extreme in another religion, read your own holy book and see that Jews and Christians have their commandments to kill others that live right alongside their commandments to love and live in peace...as in Islam? IF you are a committed Christian, you are commanded to always turn the other cheek and seek peace with our enemies – not to hate and revile them no matter what they do.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Finally, a sane post here. God speed.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Timber

      Context, context, context. The command to kill "every living thing in Jericho" was given to JOSHUA for THAT specific time (about 3300 years ago.) It is NOT an ongoing, open-ended command, like the Qu'ranic verses regarding unbelievers.

      Those trying to compare Biblical violence with Islamic violence aren't doing their homework.

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

      But Mohammed unlike Jesus never issued a command that one should love one's enemies, forgive their enemies and pray for them.

      I love it that in order to prove the "violence" of Christianity has to always turn to the Old Testament and they blatantly ignore the teachings of Christ.

      So when a Christian commits a violent act (abortion clinic bombing) they are in fact violating their faith. Muslims on the other hand, are following the commands of Mohammed.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  5. Wilson

    Let's play cowboys and muslims!!!!!!!

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


      September 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Connie in Tennessee

    There are as much killing and hatred in Christanity as in Islam.

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

      youi're wrong honey- maybe 500 years ago 🙂

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

      Well if its 500 years ago then its ok:)

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

      Well, not really....it's actually that there is a lot of hatred and violence amongst people who CLAIM to be christians.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Wilson

      Yeah, christians run around cutting peoples heads off.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  7. aggiemara

    I find this article truly offensive. You growing up evangelical should know better. Evangelical Christians are hardly promoting hatred of Muslims. We are taught to use discerment, to be wise as serpents yet gentle as doves. We are taught to pray for those that persecute us and forgive those for they know not what they do. You are correct that we are not to judge, but you neglect to point out that Christians are encouraged to use the opposite - discernment. we are to means looking at someone's behavoir and then determining whether it is good or bad – based on facts.

    My use of discernment means looking at the number of terrorist attacks that have occurred since 9/11. There is a combined handful of "terrorism" in the Christian corner and in the other corner – Islam – there are over 19,000 ISLAMIC terrorist attacks since 9/11.

    What you are requesting is that Christians and Jews to submit to Islam in a de facto Dhimmitude as though we have already been defeated by Islamic conquerors. This is just one more measure to encourage God-fearing Americans that it is not okay to discuss Islam in any sort of critical manner. That we should not "defame" Islam for fear of hurting someone's feelings. You see, sometimes the truth hurts. And just because the truth hurts someone's feelings does not mean evangelicals do not have a right to speak out against the factual reality that Islam does indeed CONDONE barbaric acts that our civilized society supposedly abandoned centuries agos..

    September 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Thank you for proving the author's point.

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

      @Patrick in Wisconsin...

      Really? How is what I said hate speech? I dated Muslims. I spent four years studying Islam in order to convert, but never did. Why? I started reading the Koran. It's interesting that liberals are so quick to defend Muslims, but are quiet when it comes to honor killings, FGM, forced conversions, church burnings, murders of missionaries, etc.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  8. Chewbacca

    The problem is both Muslims and Christians in general.

    Both these religions worship Yahweh, a bronze-age, middle-eastern, genocidal deity who is one of the worst fictional characters in the history of man.

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

    It is beyond me why any rational person would believe even a single word of the Old Testament.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  9. iamacamera1

    Really? How many ways can you spell stupid? This guys name would be one. First, the riots weren't because people saw this idiotic video. Do you really think Ahab the camel driver saw the video on his i-pad? Seriously. People in that part of the world are so poor they are worried about food. Do you seriously think any of them saw the video? They rioted because they were whipped into an anti-U.S. anti- Israel frenzy by cleric in a dirty bathrobe. The video was co-incidental to the whole thing. There was a story on AP today that in Libya there was no riot before the attack. The first indicator of an attack was 125 people charging the consulate at 9:25 in the evening. The riot happened afterwards. Do you really think they need a video to hate the U.S.? Do you really think it was just coincidence that the attack coincided with 9/11? What foolish prattle.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • john monfredini

      Brian McLaren is right and most of America is wrong. It was really Evangelical Christians disguised as Muslim terrorists who flew those planes into the WTC.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  10. Mohammy

    I wonder when CNN is going to rename this site to the Muslim News Network?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  11. John

    Mr McLaren,
    You must either have your head in the sand or have some other reason for hiding the truth. Crazy to be calling the Christians phobic/intolerant of Muslims when it is the Muslims that are murderiing, slaughtering and endeavouring to eliminate Christians and other non-Muslim groups in support of their beliefs. How many Christians are being murdered in West Africa by Muslims – do you know or are you just ignoring the facts?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • tdee

      more like head in his ass!! death to america and we are 10 million osama's is no real reason to be alarmed

      September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      do YOU know or are you just ignoring the facts? You clearly have never met an American Muslim.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  12. X00marine

    I think when our 4 fathers were building this Great Nation of ours when they include Freedom of religion perhaps they were talking about Westerner's Religion. I don't believe Muslims were intented to make it easily here back in those days since they didn't have a fly from Mecca to New York City. If they should be burning embassy, why don't they burn the Israelis embassy and Leave the U.S. Alone. I think the whole MOVIE thing it's just another excuse for them to keep spreading terror across the World.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      If you really think that's what they meant I think you should look at the Bill of Rights a couple of more times. It didn't say "freedom of western religion" nor was it ever meant as such.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  13. 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 4:06 pm |
  14. bobjones

    CNN = they would kill you and all journalists first. You do know that right?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  15. Reality

    Only for the new members:

    Putting the kibosh/”google” on religion to include Islam:

    • As far as anyone can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • Ditto for Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    Using Google Translate for converting the above to Arabic for our readers in the Mideast:

    ضع kibosh / "جوجل" على أساس الدين لتشمل المورمونية:

    • ربما لم يكن هناك أي أسس إبراهيم اليهودية والمسيحية والإسلام هي غير موجودة.

    • ربما لم يكن هناك أي موسى دعائم اليهودية والمسيحية والإسلام ليس لديهم قوة العزيمة.

    • • مشكله في بلاي
    ظرف: بالتأكيد تقريبا، بقدر ما أحد يعرف أو يمكن أن أقول.

    • لم يكن هناك أي فشل غابرييل الإسلام كدين. فشل المسيحية جزئيا.

    • كان هناك أي فشل أي عيد الفصح المسيحية كدين تماما.

    • لم يكن هناك أي موروني المورمونية هو ليس أكثر من عبادة الأعمال.

    • المقدسة / التبجيل الأبقار، الآلهة القرد والطوائف، وبالتالي التناسخ الهندوسية كدين فشل.

    • الدهون بوذا هنا، جسد جديد نحيل تماثيل بوذا هناك، في كل مكان يجعل بوذا للا على البوذية.

    وأضاف التفاصيل المتاحة بناء على طلب خطي.

    بحث سريع وضع kibosh على أي مجموعة أخرى تطلق على نفسها دين.

    على سبيل المثال الطاوية

    "أصول الطاوية غير واضحة. تقليديا، يعتبر لاو تزو، الذي عاش في القرن السادس ومؤسسها. الأسس الفلسفية لها في وقت مبكر والمعتقدات والطقوس في وقت لاحق طريقتان مختلفتان تماما من الحياة. اليوم (1982) الطاوية يدعي 31286000 أتباع.

    تقول الاسطورة ان تصرف بطريقة صحيحة ولدت لاو تزو بواسطة نجم اطلاق النار، وقاموا في بطن أمه ل82 سنة، وولد

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

      ROFL. Blind man says, "I don't see it. Therefore NOTHING is there." Except if they're really, really ELITE, they can use a LOT MORE WORDS to say it...

      September 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      wow, write us a book on your hate for religion...

      CNN will publish it for sure – that is thier religion too !

      September 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Reality

      Only for those who are reading challenged:




      September 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  16. Dean

    Atheists (i.e. those guided by reason and science) carry the light that humanity needs.

    Don't worry about offending different religious groups. They are willfully ignorant and their ignorance imperils our collective future. But be nice about it. Reason and logic, over time, will triumph over Iron Age mythology. Be patient. Nobody wants to be confronted by an uppity atheist.

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

      If I were to learn atheism only by what I read here on these boards, I would know it to be hard hearted, unforgiving, inflexible and closed-minded, pushing forth the belief in unbelief by way of harassment and ridicule. I thank you for putting forth a much more reasoned (and kind, which is what atheists routinely say they are without the need for faith) statement.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm giving odds: Uppity Atheist using reason and logic vs. Radical Islamist with AK-47. Any takers?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      That's hillarious Bill...

      good on ya

      September 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  17. American

    This video is a profound provocation, knowingly intended to elicit violence, which makes the video and its release a willful act of of extreme criminal endangerment ending in fatalities and an ongoing risk to innocent lives worldwide, as well as an international security threat of epic proportions to americans here and abroad, a serious violation against the majority of innocent Muslims, a destruction of peace everywhere, and a wasting of resources which we've poured out and have been at war over for the last decade. Freedom of speech or expression does not give anyone the right to endanger another, not EVER. This is exactly why it is illegal to yell fire in a theater just for fun. Those who provoked this violence and those who react with violence have the same blood of innocents on their hands and both are equally evil and criminal, and they are all responsible for what they've done. Peace is a choice EACH of us makes...or not, and if not, harm will result.

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

      The 1st Amendment protects insulting language–too bad for you (but good for the rest of us). You're equating of a stupid movie and the murderous actions of the fundamentalist muslims only shows you to be a complete fool.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Timber

      What you have just typed is about as fundamentally anti-American as it gets.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  18. Guy

    The proof is in the pudding. The current mindless, baseless, illogical riots are evidence that something is wrong in Islam.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • I agree

      Brian McLaren is basically condoning violence with this article. It's pathetic!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  19. seaspirit

    nice try. No way. We are not confused. You would need a script and a playbook to keep all these stupid sects straight and who really cares. We are at war. I don't want them in my country, We have lost thousands of men in the Middle East and I really don't care about anything else except getting them out of the Middle east altogether. Let them kill each other over there and I don't want them in the US. This stupid poltically correct respect everyone's religion is bs. Two of the piliots of the planes that smashed into the towers were trained here at Venice Airport in FL. that shows you how stupid Florida is.

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

      Well said. I don't want them here either – let them kill each other. We should close our embassies in Arab spring nations and get our troops the hell outa there! Stop aid too!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  20. ali abdelaal

    it is nice to hear the voice of a fair ,knowledgable and honest scholar

    September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • More MO

      it is nice to hear the voice of a fair ,knowledgable and honest scholar

      When you find one please let us know. This guy is an Islamic apologist....and should be relgated to the dung heap that is foundation of CNN.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • I'm with more MO

      To say these violent thugs are just misunderstood caring souls is absurd. This "journalist" is off his rocker!!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
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