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. bradleyscarbrough

    So, not being on board with the delusion that Islam is a peace loving religion that just wants to co-exist in peace with everyone else, is now called Islamophobia?? I don't know if I spelled that right, since my spell checker does not recognize the word! Who are people who despise child molesting priests? Child Molesterophobes? It is one thing to be respectful and try to get along, but it is quite another to go along with a mass delusion of politically correct thinking until one day you get your head chopped off!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  2. East coast

    There is no "phobia" of any other religion by Christans.

    Only the recognition that Jesus is the ONLY way to God.

    God loves ALL mankind. That is why Jesus died for all.

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

      The world-wide gay population would strongly disagree. Don't be so naive!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  3. GrampaSez

    Read McLaren's article about his conversation with his daughter, where he was proud of her for realizing that he had been lying to her all his life, and that he considers Christianity largely fiction.

    He is a PERFECT representative for OBAMA.

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

      he's as sorry as obama

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

      This guy is nothing like Obama. This guy is full of flub and bluster. Obama quietly moves warships.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  4. Roberto Fontanez

    The media suppose to report the facts, instead the media goes out of their way in specific CNN in trying to excuse and explain this whole mess as being cause by some stupid movie when even the goverment of Syria themselves and Egypt are telling the USA that these protest and attack to our embasies were planed way in advance but because this reflect badly on the administration the prefer to blame Romney that is not in the White House and has nothing to do with this adminstration mess of foreing affairs and blunders all because they have to protect their candidate their God Obama, CNN is just a tool of the DNC and this administration and will go to any extent to explain in a favorable way for Obama this whole mess however people are not stupid, people do read and watch other media and the liberal media no longer has the power to suppress the true. Good Luck CNN this president will be out in January 21 of 2013 no matter how hard you guys tried to cover the true and how much you lie. Keep up the good DNC work CNN.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Agnes

      Don't worry Darling! When a Republican president is elected some day, FOX news will have his back. You can take that to the bank.

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

      Ahhhhhh! of course, the Christians they are to blame! Brilliant Mr. McLaren! Is anyone really surprised???? it was only a matter of time before the "Christians" were to blame for all of the evils of the world. Why stop there, lets see, who else can we blame...I am sure Mother Tereas had something to do with all the Islamic Extremists/Terroist murdering, tourturing, etc...Lets see, yes, small children I'm sure must have a part in this as well!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  5. BobbaFett

    CNN – would it kill you to have a piece that didn't tell Christians what to do?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Agnes

      Would it kill Christians to stay out of the lives of gay Americans?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  6. chuck

    Islamaphobia? stop trying to create a condition that doesnt exist! Historical events have shifted the our planets peolpe to dislike them, not be afraid of them. This country will not be bullied, and people like Mclaren will not dictate or create in us what he percieves as a mental illness.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  7. Sorkh Razil

    And what about Americanophobia? Christianphobia? Do you tolerant-happy livers really think you'll exercise your free speech rights under Islamic law? If so you'll be doing it without a head!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Ben

      If Islamaphobia is what it is called, then count me in. Can you imagine 3 or 4 Muslims being elected to your local school board? Can you imagine them controlling a whole school board? They would have the gay elementary teachers fired on the first day. We've proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do not assimilate well into Western culture. I've read about at least 4 honor killings just this year. One father helped his sons manipulate the brakes on a car in order to (HONOR) kill his daughter because she was assimilating a bit too much in America. Now imagine them being elected en masse to the national House and Senate. It is a democracy, it could happen. Especially considering their breeding practices. Just as if Republicans were in office, women and gays would be the first victims of this body with wholly religious intentions.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  8. drb

    The riots in the middle east are several thousand people in cities of millions. Comparing the mainstream Muslim to the rioters is not only wrong, it's damaging. People in the west, (no matter what your beliefs are) had better understand the difference. The radical racial right in this country, can go fight the extreme fanatics from other countries, just don't include the rest of the normal humans on the planet. In fact all of the extremest on both sides could take a cyanide tablet, and do us all a favor.

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

      Americans are not islamophobic....but radical islamists do want to kill us.

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

      Whoever says whatever, I have seen muslims starting war directly from MOSQUE. Islamophobia is real for non-muslims.

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

      They are winning thier new "democratic" elections by large numbers
      Tell me again your lies about "the small minority" of who ?
      MOst of them go along with the anti-American sentiment

      September 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jack 3

      if we had a larger population of muslims in the us do you think they'd be rioting?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  9. AmericanLiberal

    We trash on Christians bigtime and what come of it ?
    Jesus Christ Superstar – remeber that movie – they didn't like it, but what – nobody died
    How many other movies, you know – he was gay, he had relations with mary, he did this, he did that
    How many full-on hollywood productions have been made baggin' on Jesus and Christianity ?
    Calling this obscure video clip "a movie" is a twisting (or spin) of reality.
    Not to mention comedy skits like saturday night live, the news media, and movies/tv in general.
    All at the expence of Christians – no riots – no dead diplomats – NO COMPARISON

    The world should be wiped out by now then... if christians were anything like muslims

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

      What about the crucifix in pee and the statue of Jesus made out of poo? And Jesus is considered a prophet in Islam, and is mentioned many more times by name in the Quran than mohammy. I wonder what's up?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  10. ESL

    This guy needs a reality check. Chastising American Christians for our rhetoric (and some of it is over the top, big time) while giving the peoples of Islam a pass on their actions. Let's review: Primarily one imbecilic hateful Christian makes a stupid movie about Mohammed, and "many" Muslims protest and attack multiple embasseys while terroristic Muslims use it as cover for a 9/11 anniversary bombing attack in Libya, killing 3 Americans including an Ambassador. Now, which mass of people protested, burned out vehicles and the like, stoned building breaking windows and doing all sorts of damage, and carried out planned attacks–Christians or Muslims??? And which people universally condemned the outlandish creation of a single idiot. So which group has a phobia that needs to be brought back to earth and their God?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Jack 3

      He's a christianphobe!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Grand Ole Party of Christian Taliban

      Results from prayer are a matter of perception. ....it happens in all religions

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

      Grand, you hypocricy and CNNs runs a riot. Look at your bigoted name and comment...... CNN is dangerous in how they are trying to twist the issue around. How can your lot attack Christians whose forefathers died to create a free Nation like ours. Unlike what is found in the Muslim World. Thea supposed movie in question has little to do with the riots worldwide. Your lies are created by the biased MSM to deflect attention from Obama and his Arab Spring gone wrong. Helping Extremist take over Egypt, Libya and soon Syria will only lead to WW3 when they turn their attentions to Israel! Liberals are led around l9ike sheep by their limousine lib leaders. You guys are the end all of America and leading the simple minded off a cliff of economic and social demise.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Bonnie Gramlich

      That is an ignorant, hateful statement.. Am wondering what you base it on, if not prejudice. Check out the book: Good without God. Many, many atheists or other non-Christians are folks with good and kind values. Please open your mind a bit more.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  12. McLarenSucks

    This guy's a moron.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Bart Hawkins

      I must say I agree. 99%+ Muslims (of whatever sect) are calm, quiet, and relatively peace-loving: approximating the number of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and members of other faiths who exhibit the same characteristics.

      1% or so.....not so much, and these are the Muslims that seem to forget – rather conveniently – that Christians are called out in the Q'uran as "people of the Book," as are Jews and others, and therefore are deserving of the "Protection of the Faithful," in all matters.

      This constant, and ludicruous, attention these idiots pay to some OTHER idiot publishing a silly "film," (really a You-Tube clip) seemingly mocking of the Prophet is in itself Prophet-less, as that same Prophet would argue – as Jesus did – to let bygones be bygones.

      The real difficulty is rather simple to understand – the average radical Muslim is capable of reading exactly ONE book (and has read only ONE book in his lifetime); has a working vocabulary of a few hundred words; and approximates a peasant in her thinking.....complete and utter obedience to her Lord, which in this case is a Mullah or Imam....rather than a secular governing body, teacher, or even a policeman.

      The idea that these morons would be rioting in response to an Internet message they can barely understand can be laid directly at the door of their leaders.....who ARE educated, have read MANY books, and in most cases received that education in Great Britain or right here in these United States.

      Their aim? The same as Castro's....Chavez'....Stalin's...Hitler's....and (sadly)....Obama's...domination of the ignorant through overarching supression of opossing views. Each of these men, by the way, had (or in Obama's case, has) outlined his Plan in great detail.

      "Dreams from my Father," in so many ways parallels another famous book...."My Struggle," written by a man named Adolf Hitler (as "Mein Kampf,")....and it is these books the leaders of the Islamic fundamentalists are using to control their peasantry!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  13. Stephen

    While Rev. McLaren makes some valid points about our need to be accurate in our reportage - and that should go for Evangelicals, Emergents, Muslims, and CNN equally - and also the importance of not giving into fear or hate, I am nonetheless disappointed in the skewed perspective that he presents here. Rev. McLaren, it is not hate or phobia to outline the very real dangers of radical Islam or to highlight the very real persecution that happens against Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and any other "non-believer" in far too many Muslim-dominated nations. It is not hate or phobia to detail the very real threat of Sharia Law, and it's rapid advances in many nations, including in Europe. Like the Obama Administration, Rev. McLaren is quick to point the finger at those who issue warnings, while ignoring the actual danger itself. Rev. McLaren has demonstrated before a proclivity for politically-correct expediency and Church-bashing in order to curry favor with the culturally chic. His drive-by attacks against Walid Shoebat, Janet Parshall, Michelle Bachman, WORLD Magazine, and CHRISTIANITY TODAY, among others, reek of his own Leftist bias as opposed to any serious personal investigation of the merits of their claims. And for him to say the "crucifixion" story has been "thoroughly debunked" is utterly bunk. McLaren could accurately say the story has been questioned, but he cannot say it is been debunked, much less thoroughly. I could go on, but it seems McLaren is a lot more interested in shooting the messengers who warn of Islamic extremism than he is examining the terrible results of that Islamic extremism.

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

      Only Christians themselves could ever believe the narrative of Christians as victims. Christians can dish it out and point fingers, but they can't take the heat in the kitchen themselves. While Muslims will chop off your head, Christians are more nuanced and will vote for a conservative shrill to do their dirty work for them through the proper avenues of democratic dissent. Either way, they both have their own agendas and subgroups that they would gladly deny – one uses Christ as justification for their monopoly on the pursuit of happiness and the other uses Muhammad as their justification for denouncing anyone other than.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  14. GOD

    Ya know sometimes I wonder why I bother

    September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  15. Dorian Kerr

    What a load of crap. Why doesn't anyone hold these murders and fanatics accountable for their actions. Attacking Christians and Christianity will not fix this problem. Wise up progressives.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  16. janet bond

    Stop blaming the victims. Blame islamophobia for muslim violence is like blaming the victims of domestic violence for the violence. Your kind of thinking perpetuates the problem. You don't see Christians burning cities and embasies, do you?
    Why are you rewarding bad, unacceptable behavior with "compassion". No, people like ARE the problem, not the solution.

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

      Hmmm... Let's see. During the Thirty Years War some 4 million were murdered by Christians. During the Spanish Inquisition...roughly 160,000. Christians killed millions during the Holocaust...in the 50s and 60s both Christians and Muslims in combat killed 500,000...on and on and on....The history of religion is a dark and bloody one on all sides. Grow up.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • TheMacTech

      "You don't see christians burning embassies"

      I guess you missed the whole "crusades" part of christianity. I guess slaughtering everyone who does not believe in your god is acceptable as long as it's your god, and not the one for the other half of the "believers".

      I have never read, or heard of an atheist killing someone because that someone refused to believe that "there is no god".

      I know religion brings some good thing to some folks, but so many bad things come with it as well...

      September 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  17. myspaceyourface

    Anti Christ is what this guy is... Plain and simple. Don't hold the perpetrators accountable, blame evangelical Christians.

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


      September 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  18. Calvin

    McLaren is a proven idiot. But thanks for sharing.

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

    Don't judge millions of Muslims by a few thousand misguided zeolots. That's like judging all of Christianity by the Ku Klux Klan or David Koresh.

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

      Those who claim to be "christians", but commit violence in the "name" of "christianity" are acting IN OPPOSITION to that which they claim to believer.

      Those who claim to be muslims and commit violence in the name of Islam are acting IN CONCERT to that which they claim to believe.

      That is the basic, fundamental difference between the two.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Patrick in Wisconsin

      Timber, I've visited my local Mosque a couple times and not once did they encourage ANY of the violence that is happening overseas. You can't say all of Christianity is evil because of what Adolf Hitler did.

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

      @Patrick in Wisconsin

      Please don't be so disingenious. All you need to do is ask them about Israel and ask them if they will denounce Hamas, and then watch them hem and haw around their answer.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  20. Tom

    Mr. McLaren's ideas are the predictable end product of 50 years of brainwashing Americans with politically correct dogma. In this never never land, everything can be explained by looking under the bed for evil white people, such as evangelical Christians who like many of us don't like what they see happening in Islamic countries. Instead of wondering whether something might be afoot in the Muslim world that would explain recent outbreaks of mayhem, arson, violence and murder, all we need do is ask ourselves which white persons amongst have sinned. If it weren't for those nasty hone-grown Islamophobes, the Twin Towers would still be standing and our Ambassador to Libya would still be alive. Mr. McLaren: I suggest you go spend a few weeks in an Islamic country so you can get the real skinny. Your current ideas are a sad mixture of naivete, stupidity and arrogance. If you want to look for answers, I suggest you look at Wahabbi doctrines, Saudi petrodollars being pumped into extremist madrassas the world over, and the transmogrification of a once largely moderate (and noble) religion into a force for true evil that advocates murder, violence, intolerance, and the complete subjugation and debasement of women the world over. A few misinformed Islamophobes in this country are hardly the problem. Extremist, and now for all intents and purposes "mainstream," Islam is the problem. It is obvious that Islam must heal and reform itself (which only Muslims can do). I see very little in the press about what has gone wrong with Islam, despite the fact that it has clearly been hijacked over the past 20 years or so by radical and extremist elements. Until Islam has reformed itself (which everyone knows is highly unlikely), I'll keep my guard up and respectfully request that my government not spend one more penny or waste one more precious life on a sea of ingrates who will always hate the West no matter how much treasure and blood we might spend in their behalf, and who we now know also hate our core principles of liberty, justice and democracy. Never the twain shall meet. Leave the Islamic world to its own devices until they decide to grow up.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
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