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. payjturner

    For all those who have reading comprehension problems, let me make this simple to understand. The author isn't BLAMING christians for Islamic extremists' actions. He is saying that, as christians, you should have a level of tolerance since that's supposedly what christianity preaches. You know, do unto others, judge not that you be not judged for with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged and with the measure you use it will be measured to you, & so on & so forth. He is also making the point that it is hypocritical to judge since christianity is not perfect & has a history of violence and its own minority of extremists, just like all major religions.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  2. Laleh Bakhtiar

    Thank you so much Mr. McLaren. You spoke the Truth and just like Messengers before, many of the email responses have been from people who have forgotten God and the Christian command of Jesus to love thy neighbor as thyself. May God continue to bless your journey.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Chris

    Is there's problems on both sides with spreading fear and what not? Yes, there is. But one of the faiths actually straps bombs to one another and then detonates them so they can serve their God. I have no problem with either religion, I wish and hope that they can one day coexist but you can't say that this Islamophobia isn't warranted. Right now the entire Muslim world just about is rioting and going crazy and you tell me there isn't anything to fear from a religion like that?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • payjturner

      It's not the entire muslim world. Its a small percentage who are extremists.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  4. pjoe

    Muslims are very nice. But its hard to feel comfortable around them. Somehow, I just can't help but wonder when they are going to cut my head off.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  5. LB

    This is the article that CNN publishes and highlights on CNN.com in the wake of the killing of one of our ambassadors and two other brave Americans and the storming of multiple American embassies? Anyone involved with this article should be ashamed of themselves in light of recent tragedies highlighting islamic extremism using religious insult as an excuse to condone killing. Perhaps that's Americas problem with Islamic extremism – we die at their hands.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Hiram 3

      Excellent !!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • TPM

      You're forgetting the thousands of Iraqis that died of America's hands for no reason other than American oil interests.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  6. statman29

    I'll say it again: Islam is a cult that should be eradicated from the earth. It is not a religion in the truest sense.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Common Sense

      It is the epitome of religion. The kind of religion Jesus hates. See gospel of Mark.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • TPM

      Any evidence for that??

      September 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Abrasive Angel

      Neither is American Christianity with all of it's fluff, lies and BS.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  7. TPM

    If these moronic Evangelicals would just learn to distinguish between the majority of muslims trying to live a peaceful and tolerant life, and the few who are misguided by some extremist interpretation of the Quran. Or maybe the media could start portraying Muslims in the proper light. But hey, people don't tune in to watch Ali-Sixpack do his daily business, just like they wouldn't watch me perform on American Idol. People only want to see the really good, and they also watch the really bad make a fool of themselves. Anything that has extreme emotions attached to it. Unless it makes you really happy, very sad or completely terrified, you don't care. The media exploits this shamelessly, some others find more ways to make money out of this (by preaching and generalizing the expressions of a few to imply that ALL Muslims hate us), with no regard for the truth or the lives and social standing of all those who have never done anything wrong except believing in Allah rather than Jesus.

    And then there are the idiots who think that just because the Koran says something, it means that all Muslims strive to execute this command literally. Yeah right. Just like we kill anybody who speaks out against God, we sell our daughters as slaves if the price is right, and we would never ever eat pork - that is all in the bible. But of course it's perfectly ok for evangelicals to interpret the Koran (and just repeat whatever terrifying (and completely made-up) stories they hear about it), but what if a Muslim was giving them an interpretation of the bible?!?

    How can so many people be so stupid not to realize this?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Bob

      Do you actually read the news ? Just asking, you seem to be lost in a fantasy world.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • mv

      Actually Bob I am wondering what land you are coming from? Is it deny land? Disneyland? Can't see the light land? Which is it?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  8. Tom in San Diego

    You are absolutely correct in this article..but its the MEDIA that keeps this garbage alive..they are like Paparazzi destroying a celebrities life...

    September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Derek

      Not really a good analogy. If not for the media, many so-called celebrity wouldn't have a life. Furthermore, celebrities USE the media in order to sell their films and products...so don't be shedding many tears for them when you read about them in the tabloids.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  9. DJR

    A proclaimer of Christianity speaks, but misses the BOOK and what is said. The end of days is an attack on Israel, by it's enemies. The promise of the bOOK was about a birth to and old lady Sarah, not the handmaiden from Egypt. It is here the story begins. Palestine is the older serving the younger, for ever, after selling the birthright for a few crumbs of bread. Mohammed is the christ of the moslem even though Muhammad never declared himself so! Jesus did, and it's obvious pious self centered man is in great need of forgiveness. And the world is following the text Even this great worry of Israel, smaller than Rhode Island . Of Jews, for Jews by Jews! GOD says so. Isn't that the articles proclamation? Islam is the enemy of Jews. Jesus was a Jew, blessings come to those who protect and stand for Israel. That's why the enemy wants it so!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • mv

      We thought the Indigenous Indians were crazy for worshipping fire and animals? Haaa, If you think this is reality you are far crazier.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  10. Common Sense

    Speaking of someone who needs a change or perspective....

    Brian McClaren is a leading spokesman for the "emerging church" movement. This movement is a false teaching that goes against the teaching of scripture that denies several longstanding church doctrines, including but is not limited to the following:: Denial of the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, the acceptance of hom.ose.xu.ality and the denial of such se.x.ual behavior as sin, Universal salvation, pluralism etc.

    This man is not a spokesperson for Christianity in the least, and should not be taken as such in any public forum.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  11. John Geheran

    Nope, no pattern here!

    1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by:
    2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:
    3. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:
    4. During the 1980′s a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:
    5. On May 13th, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by:
    6. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:
    7. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:
    8. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a US Navy diver trying to rescue passengers was murdered by:
    9. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:
    10. January 25th 1993, shootings/murders at CIA headquarters in Virginia committed by
    11. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by:
    12. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by:
    13. October 12th 2000, the USS Cole was rammed with a boat full of explosives off the coast of Yemen — killing 17 American sailors and injuring 39 others — by:
    14. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:
    15. In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against:
    16. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:
    17. In 2009, 31 people were wounded and 13 American Soldiers and one unborn infant (whose pregnant mother was one of the 13 soldiers) were murdered on base at Fort Hood by:
    18. On May 1st 2010, a crude car bomb made from gasoline, propane, fireworks, and alarm clocks was rigged to explode in Times Square by:
    19. Federal agents prevented SOMEONE from blowing up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and murdering dozens of people in Oregon in December 2010. Who was the would-be bomber?
    20. In Sydney, Australia SOMEONE went berserk behind the counter of a KFC restaurant when a customer asked to add bacon to his chicken sandwich (in a KFC restaurant that advertised the availability of adding bacon to its chicken sandwiches).  That berserker was:
    21. Less than a half hour into the New Year of 2011, SOMEONE set off a bomb outside of a Coptic Christian Church in Egypt just as mass was letting out. In the chaos afterward, SOME people were stomping on exploded body parts of the murdered dead in the streets while cheering:
    22. On November 2, 2004, who murdered Theo Van Gogh for producing the film Submission, which was critical of the treatment of women in Islam, by shooting him eight times, attempting to decapitate him, and then left two knives implanted in his torso, one attaching a five-page note that threatened Western countries, Jews and Ayaan Hirsi Ali?
    23. On June 30, 2007, who drove a dark green Jeep Cherokee loaded with propane canisters into the glass doors of the Glasgow International Airport terminal and set it ablaze while screaming “Allah!”?
    24. On September 11th, 2012 the American Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and several Marines were assassinated at the consulate in Benghazi by:
    25. After Democrats repeatedly “spiked the football” at their September 2012 Convention in Charlotte and made numerous references to Barack Obama having Osama bin Laden killed, the American embassy in Cairo was besieged and its flag was torn down and set afire by:
    26. On September 14th, 2012 the American Embassy and an American School in Tunis, Tunisia was set afire and ransacked by:
    27. In March 2012, SOMEONE in Toulouse, France, murdered three French soldiers, injured another, and then days later, murdered four people (including three children) outside of a Jewish day school. He reportedly shouted “You kill my brothers, I kill you,” and “God is good,” in Arabic while shooting the soldiers. This person is:
    28. On May 1, 2010, SOMEONE left a bomb in a parked car in New York City’s Time Square. The bomb had been ignited but failed to detonate. This person is:
    29. In February 2012, SOMEONE was arrested on his way to the U.S. Capitol carrying an automatic weapon and a suicide vest laced with what he believed to be explosives. Fortunately, undercover FBI agents had provided him with his explosives and gun to carry out his attack. During his trial, he told the judge, “I just want to say that I love Allah. That’s it.” This person is:

    Nope, no pattern here!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Sabrina Desiree J

      Thank you, Sir!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • schwarzey

      Do you prefer reynold's wrap?

      September 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Tom in San Diego

      very good point

      September 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Jason

      Do you have ANY idea how many Christians you could put on a list like this? Islam is the second largest religion in the WORLD. Just by pure law of averages you're going to have rotten apples. This kind of simple minded ignorance is exactly what the author is railing against. You did two things by posting this...1) Proved the author's point, 2) Wasted waayy too much of your time...but then again your probably don't have much going on.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • mv

      That is a little biased don't you think? How many innocent Muslims are killed in their own backyard by American bombs and wars that they had nothing to do with. Just herding their sheep one day and boom. Of course we don't hear it, or see it because are media is "highly" censored so that you can believe that you are the victim. Come on try a little harder to see reality. Of course the way the Mulim radicals are acting is a perversion to what the majority believe and act, but so are the actions of our radical Christians who pervert the very teaching of Jesus Christ.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Anonymous

      You know what they say. You're not really "paranoid" if stuff IS really happening to you

      September 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Heidi


      Just proves the point of the author.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  12. Cryst65

    What's sad that no one is pointing out is that the evangelicals who preach hate/intolerance and spread falsehood about another Islam and Muslims in general are doing the exact same thing the muslim extremists do....the message is the same but the audience is different. When you rile up enough hate and animosity towards a group, eventually a tipping point gets reached that allows those who are easily manipulated to act/react with violence. Time for each side to taked a good long look in the mirror.

    As for those who say that Christians would never resort to violence, it's time to review history.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Sabrina Desiree J

      Again, someone who is clearly an atheist attempts to explain away islamic evil by comparing it to the middle ages Christian Crusades. Since you either do not know what you are spouting off about or are a cnn 'plant' or MUSLIM, S T F U.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Bob

      Who have they blown up recently ?? Oh yeah, no one.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • TPM

      You are right: Evangelicals don't blow up people of different religions who haven't done anything to them. They ask their country's soldiers to do that.

      Or have you forgotten about the unprovoked invasion and bombarding of Iraq?? And now the same pattern emerges with Iran. And who is yelling the loudest to send American troops back out there? Evangelicals!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  13. George McHenry

    When Muslims commit atrocities on behalf of Allah, than Islamophobia is warranted. Mr. MacLaren seems that Islamophobia justifies acts of terrorism. What a buffoon.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  14. L.A. Rob

    Weve all heard of CNN's liberal and left wing agenda. I've been a consistent viewer of their channel and their website nonetheless, whenever I do turn on the national news. HOWEVER, THE FACT THAT THIS OPINION PIECE FROM A SELF-HATING WHITE AMERICAN IS THE MAIN STORY ON THEIR SITE IS UNBELIEVABLY APPALLING! Even after another 9/11 themed event is attempted, though hopefully not successfully, our Politically Correct culture will resist the only safe measures available to us – Profiling! The # of non-Arab / non-Muslim terrorists are so minute, that we know them by name (Tim mcveigh, Anders Breivik)...can't say the same about the disgusting animals whom are back at killing Americans and burning our flag...ENOUGH!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Sabrina Desiree J

      THANK YOU !!!

      September 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  15. Uncle Onyango

    'Hope and Change' has evolved to: I GAVE 2 BILLION TO THE ARÁB SPRING AND ALL I GOT WERE 4 DEÁD DIPLOMATS AND SAMUEL L. JACKSON. Note to Brian McLaren: How many Islamophobic evangelicals have brought RPGs to a demonstration? A: Zero.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • aash

      So because your extremists are somewhat less likely to use violence than their extremists, your religion is pure and their religion is morally bankrupt and should be destroyed? Hasn't anyone ever told you that two wrongs don't make a right?

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

    very well said sir. We need to have more of these articles on CNN. He is not apologetic he is pointing to some problems within ourselves

    September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Sabrina Desiree J

      The author is a liar and clearly not a Christian. I have worked in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and a couple other islamic countries. Islam is a 4th-world, middle ages 'religion' that is 'pro' MALE 'benefits' and treats women and girls like CHATTEL. If the men in here won't fight against it, I WILL and so will MANY OTHER INTELLIGENT AMERICAN (AND MIDDLE EASTERN, ETC.) WOMEN. DEATH TO ISLAM EVERYWHERE.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  17. John M Fremont

    Dear Muslim extremists. Many commenters here do not like the article and find it hideous and insulting. Yet we voice our opposition, frustration, or disgust using our words. We're not storming into CNN bureau offices or inciting violence. This is how we do it. Now, why do we have phobia of Islam? Think about it.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Bob

      Well put.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • john m smith

      probably because the only followers of Islam you ever see are the extremist on the news. Do you judge all cultures from the TV and comfort of your home? I will admit to certain prejudices but I usually find that stereotypes are based on people that act like idiots. Most people just like to go to work and provide for their family. When I meet these people on an individual basis, I usually find out that my prejudices are wrong.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  18. CJA

    Kind of sounds silly. Most people of all religions are non-radicals. The radicals are people who have made up their minds and then after the fact use their religion to justify.

    What we see is the result of very uneven distribution of wealth. That is what is driving this. Such un-even distribution is very much a problem in the middle east. It is becoming a problem in the US. But in the US there is a safety valve not available under more repressive governments.

    Maybe what Republicans need to learn is that middle class people do not start rebellions. They have to much to loose. They really have to watch that there remains a middle class in the US. Demographics are trending the wrong way for them

    September 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  19. PersonalResponsibilty

    Personal Responsibility... no film or book burning caused any life lost on the planet.. it is the person(s) who took the life of others who must take personal responsibility for that ACT alone. Until we have those own up to their lack of person responsibilities.. they will continue to blame others or the acts of others for these acts of violance they are doing...

    September 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  20. dm21865

    Why don't we ever get front page articles about how Muslims need creep out of their bigotry and intolerance and try to understand everyone else? Why are they always the poor little misunderstood ones?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
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