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. Bill

    The U.S.A. is such a great nation that Mr. McLaren can express his opinion without censorship. My prayer is that all nations would afford their citizens this right of free speech. Our freedom in this country comes with a price, our military defends our freedom and most importantly Jesus Christ paid a price for our freedom that we could never pay.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Mark

      No – our military is not out there defending "Jesus Christ". Try selling that to ANY of the kids on the front lines. I'm sure you'll just be a super hit!

      September 16, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Primewonk

      My country is a constîtutional republic. Neither your version of a god, nor any version of any other god has standing in our secular nation.

      Perhaps you need to review Article VI, Section 3 of the constîtution, as well as Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • MalcomR

      Bill, your post is ripe with exactly the kind of thinking that spawns the ignorant hatred we see in "extremists" in every religion. Wake up and see just how poisonous your post is.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • John

      I was agreeing with your comment until you had to bring up your invisible nonexistent desert sky god friend who paid some kind of price for my benefit.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  2. jason

    Islam has been cursed from the beginning – check out the curses of Esau and the curses on Ishmael. This is what we see today in the world. Look to the NT when it talks about the son of the slave – Ishmael is against the free son – Isaac or those who live by faith. Religion is the great murderer of the free in Christ. Any worship that isn't worship of Christ, is demonic, we need to have compassion for people trapped by the forces of darkness. = our battle is not with flesh and blood (people) but with the spiritual forces of wickedness. Many converts from Islam, will be murdered by honor killings from even their own family. It is sad, but that is the weight of Glory in the world we live today – we cannot be the aroma of life to those who are being saved, and at the same time not be the aroma of death to those who are perishing

    September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Mark

      I think you should focus on keeping your 'aroma' to yourself. There are many, many, many of us who don't want nor need you thrusting your mental whackiness into our lives. Go get on your corner, holler and scream, so that you can fully convince the world you are completely and fully mentally unstable.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  3. R Lanken


    September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am |
  4. Alienative

    Calling Evangelicals, or any one else, Islamophobic is like calling bathers swimming with sharks Sharkophobics. It is a very justified fear, not an illusion. Mr. McLaren is either being paid by Muslims, an ignorant or a very narrow minded person.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • simple

      Right, except the sharks are on the other side of the world and can't possibly get here except on VERY rare occasions, like 9/11
      Otherwise there would be suicide attacks by muslims here all the time. And there are not, so you are wrong.

      Besides a real Christian would "turn the other cheek" Clearly you are a FAKE Christian.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Alex

      Alienative, how does it feel to live your life in FEAR?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  5. dugcat11

    Typical ... the US is attacked, our diplomats murdered, our embassies sacked ... and CNN uses this as a pretext to publish an attack on American 'Evangelicals'. Shows the depth of the anti-christian bias there ... sad, hypocritical, sanctimonious, preachy – CNN you've set a new low.

    It is time to close ranks and provide a united front against tyranny – period.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • simple

      The US is attacked? Shows how stupid you are.
      Perhaps if the "diplomats" had any damned sense they wouldn't have been there in the first place.
      Natural Selection I call it.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • MalcomR

      Anit-xian bias? You mean you aren't anti-Islam? As a xian, I imagine you have all of the tolerance in the world for other religions, right?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  6. MalcomR

    It's time for this disease known as religious "faith" or "belief" to be targeted and eradicated from public life, just like smallpox or any other terrible human affliction. Anything that religion does can be done far better by secular means, and without all of the hateful and destructive side effects. Individuals can believe whatever they want, and celebrate whatever level of childish or ignorant fantasies they have, in the privacy of their own homes.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Ken

      So you want faith banned? How about we also ban free speech and we start by gagging your stupid mouth?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Ignacio

      Right, because secularism never killed anyone. AHAHAHAA! Sounds to me that you're just as self-righteous as those you purport to criticize, or just plain ignorant.

      September 25, 2012 at 6:16 am |

    I obviously know more than the rest of you under-informed.
    So there!

    September 16, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  8. msadr

    A fear is only a phobia when it has no basis in reality. Muslims all over the world just screamed their hatred of us. It sounded pretty darned real to me.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • One one

      And it didn't appear to be a "tiny minority"

      September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Primewonk

      But it's still OK when you ignorant, fundiot, Christian, nutters, scream your hatred of Muslims, right?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  9. MD

    No other religion would behave so violently to a stupid film. I'm agnostic so I don't have a horse in the race, but it's clear that there is one religion in this world that is violent and intolerant of other beliefs. Stop closing your eyes, covering your ears and chanting to yourself that Islam isn't a violent religion. Tolerant, peacful Muslims are the definite minority while the violent and intolerant are the majority, the complete opposite of every other major world religion. The West needs to stop being so politically correct and blind to reality, otherwise what we've seen happen in Australia this week will become the norm everywhere.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  10. Mark

    If I were to stand on a street corner shouting and screaming the virtues of religious repentance – with required Jesus placard – I would be regarded a fanatic – and mentally unstable. (You've seen it – and you thought it!) Now, let's have our President step in and say the guy was a foreigner. Could somebody tell me how that dismisses the event?

    It doesn't matter what religion it is – it IS an altered mental state. And maybe, just maybe, all of the current events are about a good look in the mirror. "Religion" doesn't hold communities together – it tears them apart as one-by-one NO ONE is able to live up to every rule, commandment, or what have you that was conjured up 1000's of years ago in a completely different language and mentality. Christians can't point the finger at Muslims and Muslims can't point the finger at Christians as to do so would also be pointing the finger at themselves. So they try to feign tolerance and acceptance – when in reality what they see is the mentally unstable 'repent' screaming freak on the street corner. And they know it.

    Religion does nothing but separate the peoples of the world. And, man oh man, it sure makes them all look pretty stupid when their mental state slips to full tilt frenzy. And as long as everyone sits back and waits on some magical spirit to come save us all – we won't get around to doing it for ourselves.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • MalcomR

      Amen brother! *applauds in a secular show of complete support for this post*

      September 16, 2012 at 8:50 am |

    All religion is BS and you know it!
    All religion is pure fantasy that causes men to be mad and insane.
    Look at the history and you will find my knowledge unassailable.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  12. Rogue

    I'm glad this opinion piece is readable. So many writers cannot write well, but this guy is pretty good at writing clearly and I appreciate that.

    On the other hand, he makes several humongous errors in his thinking and logic, which are common problems among religious-oriented writers. Probably because religions are delusional belief systems and this bleeds over into all facets of thinking...

    September 16, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Anna

      At least he had the courage to come out and do some self-examination. He should be credited for that.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  13. Rainer Braendlein

    Happy Oktoberfest considering Muslim suicide bombers.

    The Good Being which has created us wants us to love each other independent from distinct belief, nationality, color, social status, etc.. We simpy should respect our human dignity. A true Christian will love his Muslim neighbour despite his false religion Islam, he will also love his Catholic neighbour despite his false religion Catholicism (of course, this refers only to ordinary Muslims and Catholics; criminal Muslims and Catholics are a case for the authority; actually it should be beyond imagination that a true Christian committs any crime but it is possible, and then he is also a case for the authority).

    The great difference between genuine Christianity and Islam is that you can justify no killing of infidels by the genuine Christian doctrine but you can justify the killing of infidels by the Islamic doctrine. Hence, Christianity is much better than Islam, or Islam is a criminal religion innately because Jihad (killing of infidels) belongs to its core tenets.

    Muhammad spread his demonic nonsense by using the sword which is a historical fact, in contrast, Jesus spread the divine truth only by words.

    A great problem in the Western World is the crowd of nominal Christians, that means people which call themselves Christians (mostly they are Catholics or Cheap-Grace-Protestants but also Anabaptists) which don't really live as true Christians in daily life although they are baptized, and pretend to believe.

    This regretable state is perceived by the Umma (Muslim community), and I guess that they perceice us as nasty hypocrites which have to be punished in the name of Allah. It is true that we have to be punished but this is not the task of the Muslims or Umma but God's own task. God is the only being which has the right to judge (the authority has a divine mandate to judge criminals). The Muslims committ an unforgiveable crime when they presume to be our judges (even the Holy God Jesus did not judge us but offered grace; first after the period of grace he will judge).

    The Muslims err when they assume the Christian faith would be the reason for the corruption of the Western World, that is a very nonsense. The Christian doctrine is very good in itself, yet the problem is that too less people really believe in the Son of God Jesus, and follow him in daily life which would mean suffering and rejection but happyness of the soul.

    The great dark mystery of Muhammad and the Koran is that they regard us as infidels. Shortly before Muhammad started to preach the Islam in Arabia (around 610 a. D.) the Christian Eastern Roman Empire Byzantium had experienced a great crisis under the rule of the usurper Phocas (the worst tyrant of all history) who was an ancient kind of Hitler. Possibly the "Christian" soldiers of Phoca's armies committed terrible crimes in Near East, and Muhammad became witness of that because he as a merchant stayed in Palestine very often. Yet, Muhammad made a mistake to conclude that Christianity was the reasom for the misbehaviour of the "Christian" Roman soldiers. The reason was the criminal leader Phocas whom Dr. Martin Luther called an incarnation of the devil. By the way, Phocas also introduced papacy by making the Roman See the highest one on earth.

    And also today the reason for the misery of the Western World and all its moral doom and loss of culture is not Christianity but godless leaders which are greedy for honor, power and riches, and to a large extend the unholy pope (successor of Judas Iscariot according to Luther) with his wrong doctrine.

    How to solve the Islamic issue?

    Simply when we call ourselves Christians we should really live as Christians. God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, Jesus for our sins, and raised him from the dead for our justification. If we believe that and get sacramentally baptized (or remember our infant baptism) we become righteous. This righteousness is not only a status but through faith in Christ we behave righteous in daily life. If we do so, God will be with us, and protect us from our enemies.

    Concerning the Oktoberfest in Munich/Bavaria:

    Don't go there, it is only a question of time when the first Islamic fool blows himself up there. You may respond that half of the population of Munich are policemen, and could protect the visitors of the great Binge but I tell you that the police of Munich is not even able to catch bicycle thiefs; how then should they be able to protect us from the Islamists?

    In the name of Jesus Christ.


    September 16, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Mark

      and you are as much a crack head as the other side is.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      What is wrong about my comment?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Luis Wu

      All that just sounds like blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. What a load of ignorant nonsense.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • One one

      I'm sorry, I fell asleep while reading your post. Would you please repeat it ?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Jose

      The only thing that your nonsense and drabble proves is that indeed religion poisions everything; It is a scourge on modern society that deparately needs to be left behind in the catacombs of history!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  14. squirt

    The universal problem with ALL religion is the men who claim it and profess to be believers in it—yet, not truly practice the tenets of it. In my experience, those who preach about a God, any God, are the lesser of the blessed and more likely to be sinners—even criminals!! They do this for some intrinsic sense of gain—they've got to prove they're better than others—and they spew their poison in both rhetoric and acts! We need to get away from these charlatans and their venemous speech—hypocrisy—and truly live by the priciples we profess. We need to get to a time when we can judge by each and every one's deeds, lest we are doomed as a society, as a civilization, as a world of humanity!

    September 16, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Jose

      No, the problem with ALL religion is that they are total BS and that to a greater or lesser extent, it's followers are brainwashed into believing foolish fairy tales.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  15. Pravda

    Some great comments on here denouncing this piece of garbage article. Sad that CNN will remove all the comments that don't agree with the author or CNN's twisted view.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • One one

      The article isa eespay of itshay

      September 16, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  16. Martin

    People should realize that zealotry leads to intolerance and, ultimately, violence. For that reason, secular is the only way to go in society. Live your life according to your religious beliefs, but don't try to thrust them on others and don't try to inject them into laws and policy. That means YOU, American Jews and Baptists and all the other pro-Israel fanatics who want our 21st century foreign policy to be based on ancient myths. That means YOU, Evangelical Christians who want your beliefs to influence health care and marriage policy for everyone and academic curricula for everyone.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • GoatRoper325

      Feel free to pack your bags and move to Libya.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  17. erik

    Okay, I get it ... the author is evangelicalphobic. Evangelicals have not flown airplanes into the twin towers, attacked jewish athletes at the olympics, or chanted "behead all those who insult the prophet!". Muslims have blown up more mosques than evangelical christians have. And yet, somehow christians are the evil ones. Unbelievable.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Pravda

      I agree, you've gotta watch those Christians with suic1de vests and those that attack embassies and sodomize ambassadors.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • triciaplumley1

      Amen. Well said 😉

      September 16, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Anna

      Aren't you forgetting minor details like the crusades, the inquisition, the war in Iraq etc.!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Alex

      Dont forget the great piece of advice from Exodus 21:15 "Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death."

      September 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  18. Patrick

    When your number is up, you will know the truth, but it will then be too late. There are tons of ways to Hell, but only ONE way to Heaven... through Jesus Christ

    September 16, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • sbp

      Says who?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • Mary

      So, in your mind, all other world religions are wrong?? This is exactly what leads to violence and intolerance. How about accepting and respecting others' religious beliefs instead claiming that your way is the only way??

      September 16, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  19. Rami

    Most of you missed the point. How sad, just a bunch of idiots. You will never learn, keep showing your hate and fear.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • lewtwo

      The point is that ISLAM is a vile and disgusting thing. Humanity will not have peace until islam's filthy tentacles are destroyed.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:46 am |
  20. kflanigan

    Crazy is crazy. Doesn't matter what you call your religion.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:40 am |
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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.