My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose
September 15th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

Editor's Note: Brian D. McLaren  is author of "Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World" (Jericho Books/Hachette Book Group). 

By Brian McLaren, Special to CNN

I was raised as an evangelical Christian in America, and any discussion of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relations around the world must include the phenomenon of American Islamophobia, for which large sectors of evangelical Christianity in America serve as a greenhouse.

At a time when U.S. embassies are being attacked and when people are getting killed over an offensive, adolescent and puerile film targeting Islam - beyond pathetic in its tawdriness – we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia.

Many of my own relatives receive and forward pious-sounding and alarm-bell-ringing e-mails that trumpet (IN LOTS OF CAPITAL LETTERS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!) the evils of Islam, that call their fellow evangelicals and charismatics to prayer and “spiritual warfare” against those alleged evils, and that often - truth be told - contain lots of downright lies.

For example, one recent e-mail claimed “Egyptian Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents."  Of course, that claim has been thoroughly debunked, but the sender’s website still (as of Friday) claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing" Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy "naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

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Many sincere and good-hearted evangelicals have never yet had a real Muslim friend, and now they probably never will because their minds have been so prejudiced by Islamophobic broadcasts on so-called Christian television and radio.

Janet Parshall, for example, a popular talk show host on the Moody Radio Network, frequently hosts Walid Shoebat, a Muslim-evangelical convert whose anti-Muslim claims, along with claims about his own biography, are frequently questioned.  John Hagee, a popular televangelist, also hosts Shoebat as an expert on Islam, as does the 700 Club.

Many Christian bookstores that (used to) sell my books, still sell books such as Paul Sperry’s "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington" (Thomas Nelson, 2008). In so doing, they fuel conspiracy theories such as the ones U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, promoted earlier this year.

In recent days, we’ve seen how irresponsible Muslim media outlets used the tawdry 13-minute video created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists to create a disgusting caricature of all Christians - and all Americans - in Muslim minds. But too few Americans realize how frequently American Christian media personalities in the U.S. similarly prejudice their hearers’ minds with mirror-image stereotypes of Muslims.

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Meanwhile, many who are pastors and leaders in evangelicalism hide their heads in the current issue of Christianity Today or World Magazine, acting as if the kinds of people who host Islamophobic sentiments swim in a tiny sidestream, not in the mainstream, of our common heritage. I wish that were true.

The events of this past week, if we let them, could mark a turning point - a hitting bottom, if you will - in the complicity of evangelicalism in Islamophobia. If enough evangelicals watch or try to watch the film trailer that has sparked such outrage in the Middle East, they may move beyond the tipping point.

I tried to watch it, but I couldn’t make it halfway to the 13-minute mark. Everything about it was tawdry, pathetic, even pornographic. All but the most fundamentalist believers from my evangelical Christian tribe who watch that video will be appalled and ashamed to be associated with it.

It is hate speech. It is no different from the anti-Semitic garbage that has been all too common in Western Christian history. It is sub-Christian - beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass.

Islamophobic evangelical Christians - and the neo-conservative Catholics and even some Jewish folks who are their unlikely political bedfellows of late - must choose.

Will they press on in their current path, letting Islamophobia spread even further amongst them? Or will they stop, rethink and seek to a more charitable approach to our Muslim neighbors? Will they realize that evangelical religious identity is under assault, not by Shariah law, not by the liberal media, not by secular humanism from the outside, but by forces within the evangelical community that infect that religious identity with hostility?

If I could get one message through to my evangelical friends, it would be this: The greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate and who promote hate camouflaged as piety.

No one can serve two masters. You can’t serve God and greed, nor can you serve God and fear, nor God and hate.

The broad highway of us-them thinking and the offense-outrage-revenge reaction cycle leads to self-destruction. There is a better way, the way of Christ who, when reviled, did not revile in return, who when insulted, did not insult in return, and who taught his followers to love even those who define themselves as enemies.

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Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own. But the way of Christ requires all who claim to be Christians to examine our own eyes for planks before trying to perform first aid on the eyes of others. We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.

To choose the way of Christ is not appeasement. It is not being a “sympathizer.”

The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Brian D. McLaren.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Islam • Opinion

soundoff (8,500 Responses)
  1. billy inmon

    Islamiphobia.???? Look around and see the eastern part of the word burn because of them. Freedom means free speach not murder if they can't act civilized tell them to go back to the desert .

    September 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  2. Rs1201

    As a Jew, I cannot find it in my heart to have anything to do with Muslims. They have managed to inflict immeasurable pain and suffering on the entire world. I don't feel like being politically correct anymore. I almost lost my son and my nephew I the WTC. Muslims have burned their bridges with the civilized world. They don't deserve any consideration because they would probably interpret it as a sign of weakness on our part.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Mojonaamdi

      FYI – Muslims did not kill 6 million Jews in WWII. Now, look up the Golden Age of the Jews in their entire history and and you will see that it was while they were under the rule of the Muslims in Spain. In fact when the Jews were kicked out of Spain by the Christians, most of them went to Muslims countries, because those were teh only people who would accept them. To this day, their arrival in Turkey is commerated by the Jews in Turkey. Read a book or two before making stupid comments about who's responsible for all the bad things.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  3. keefer

    you are pointing fingers in the wrong direction. First I suggest you read the Koran and see what it recommends a good muslim does with a non-believer. Islam is a hideous doctrine and should be treated as such.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  4. Tom

    10 years ago I would have read this and agreed, but as I have gotten older, met and spoke with people from Israel, Egypt, Greece and other parts of the world I have come to the fact that there is an anti-American Muslim world and a very big hatred for Jews in this world. It seems no matter what we do, we are hated. I do not feel this country has done anything to deserve this hatred like this, people are still doing whatever possible to get here, I have many friends that are illegal and still trying to get there families here. But to blame Christians, I don’t think so, haven’t seen Christians burning down bldgs., killing people and burning flags, just another way CNN to put out an anti-Christian article, c’mon you guys are better than this.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Truth Hurts, Doesn't it?

      Find out why you are hated

      September 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Qodex

      Because we're not Muslims, Truth. Why do you think?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  5. Marty

    Islam is all about world domination. The Muslim will come to you in sheeps cloths and try to make you believe they are about peace and goodness. But it's pure lies.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  6. Rational Rationale

    We fear something as much as reality shows us we need to fear it. Everyday we see scenes like these attacks on news sites, papers and TV .. It would be irrational NOT to fear this kind of crazy & their reason for it. a phobia is an irrational fear. I fear all theistic religions as much as I need to based on what I see. If we lived during the inquisitions, would it be rational to fear Christianity? Of course it would be!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  7. bhis

    I like how quoting Jesus Christ and encouraging evangelicals to live by his teachings is considered "liberalism". I guess we can see which master "evangelicals" have chosen to serve.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Ice T

      It's not liberal, it's just crazy.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  8. AmericanLiberal

    Our president does not hate America

    He is just trying to be all things to all people and it doesn't work very well.
    One cannot try and please everyone, and tell everyone a diffewrent story according to what they want to hear.

    It doesn't work !

    I am disappointed. It does seam as if he will say anything to get a vote and is sucking up to some groups I thought he said he opposed. Comprimising our national security for a few extra votes...

    My vote will not be yours this time Mr. President, sorry – I wanna live

    September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • AmericanLiberal

      oh yeah, I believe we are catoring to these groups because

      THEY ARE HERE and they have votes we want

      We want ALL the votes, don't you see
      We will say whatever gets us the most of them

      It may not work for us this time

      Because I see it clearly now !

      September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  9. orbund1

    Not long ago Jews in America and Europe used to be treated the same way. We have seen the worst effect of hate in the Holocaust. Only recently black people in America used to be lynched and hung from trees. Preachers of hate are worshipers of Satan. 911 is just an excuse some people found very convenient to preach hate, just like some terrorists used the film to murder American embassy staff. I agree with the writer that you can not serve two masters. You are either the seeker of the truth and believe in promoting truth or you are seeker of ignorance, promote lies and hatred.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  10. Max Ury

    Thanks for sober reflection in today's insane world.Take away from the article is one line, which explain how violence and hatred are justified by God fearing people all over the world.It is worth to repeat in every discussion.
    "Hate camouflaged as piety"

    September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  11. Mike in SA

    Possibly, just possibly, Muslims have brought this on themselves with the almost constant daily bombings and killings; daily destruction of property; weekly beheading's and "Honor" killings.

    Religion of Peace? Not hardly; Religion of Pieces is more like it.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • anthonya_ii

      yeah well considering that the only nations in the world that have been bombed , faced genocide and mass killings of babies via sanctions (as in Iraq), mass killing of civilans during the "shock and awe" campaign, had an illegal war (as in iraq) waged against them over lies, dictators propped up by the West who do massing killings gimme a break Who else faces all this but Muslim nations. Yeah there is going to be some cookoo heads there as a result. but the vast majority are not affected by wanting revenge for all that was done to them... why because Islam IS a religion of peace. IF THE SAME amount of injustice was to happen to any other relgious group the reaction would have been just as bad if not worse. Consider also that there are 1.6 billion Muslims from Chinese to Europeans to Arabs to Africans. Don't label all in one paint brush you racist blind bigot .

      September 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  12. caroline2^3

    Evangelicals = Hate mongers and War mongers. It is true. They make the world less safe.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  13. Jason D

    This is not a christian thing, its an islamic thing, a jewish thing, a hindu thing, its owned by all the religions, colors, countries, ages, wealth, working, youth, height, weight, hair color, eye color....we are as much the tribes we werw when we inhabited caves and some still do, we are just better shaven and quaffed neandethals

    September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  14. markntejas


    September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  15. Chuck B

    So what you are saying is that it is the Christians who should stop rioting, burning flags and attacking emassies so we can all get along?

    September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Steve

      Typical stupid comment. Those rioters have no more in common with Isalm than Timlthy MccVeigh did with Christianity.

      September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Anthony Williams

      Totally agree Chuck. Why is it that we must all pay attention to Islamophobia when the muslims are the ones rioting, killing and injuring innocents. This writier is just another apologist with no grip on reality. Last time I checked this was AMERICA. Where free speech is protected. We should all make a movie just like this so there are 250 million versions so the muslim world knows we will not be bullied into submission.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • DrEvil

      Steve, that would be a good analogy except McVeigh didn't yell Jesus rocks, wave around a cross, claim the bible commanded him to do it and wish death and destruction against all non-believers and anyone who insults Christ.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  16. Steve

    Wow so many actual samples of the lies spread about Islam. I have never seen so much self justification for hate in the name of Christianity ever. You should all be ashamed.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Jake

      I agree totally. Most of these responses are ignorant and down right sad. Why do we continue to hate an entire religion based on the actions of the extremists which do not represent the religion at all. I am Christian and it is depressing to read all of these responses based on hate. Islam is a religion of peace,unfortunately most just read and see the snippets about the violence brought on by extremists.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  17. franklovesfl

    If Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance where are all the moderate Islamists condemning the hate and violence in the name of Mohamed??? Yeah, I didn't think so!

    September 17, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Dude in Colorado

      Actually there have been Islamic clerics who have condemned the violence and asked for peaceful demonstrations. They probably didn't broadcast that of Fox News, tho. It barely got any notice here on CNN. Read about it myself on the BBC website.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • Harun

      You never hear about them. The media only broadcast what it wants you to see and hear. How many Muslims do you know?? I have a deeply religious routed first name; my last name is that of an English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. I went to a Christian academy school up until the 7th grade and a catholic school and university thereafter. I have been a practicing Muslim every step of the way. Learn about a religion and let the religion reflect the people as oppose to knowing the acts of Individuals reflect a religion. Realize that the KKK is a Christian based terrorism group but never do you hear Christianity associated with their acts. I have 100 of friends overseas, spent years overseas in Islamic and non Islamic countries and not once I have head Muslim who believe in the Quran and the Sunnah speak ill of Americans the way the media portrays. Every group of people has their bad apples.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  18. Common Sense

    @ Muslim John:

    Where you at John?? Still waiting for that proof..........My guess is I'll be waiting awhile. I'll just go burn a ko.ran while I'm waiting. I can do that here in the US.....its a free speech thing....I know you think its annoying...

    September 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  19. Chris Jollay

    The myth of American islamophobia continues–according to the FBI about 2% of all hate crimes here are directed toward Muslims. This is a narrative perpetuated by the American media, that Islamaphobia is a serious problem here.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • farooq

      Well, the author writing this article is inciting more hatred between Christians and Muslims.
      I am a south asian christian and my family are christians that lived in a muslim nation. To be very honest, this islamic religion does have evidence for violence in it. My family is out of that nation however, we faced much discrimination in living in a Islamic nation in constant fear of the sharia law. There is too much violence and hatred towards other religions and lifestyles in the Muslim faith. Of course, everyone differs however, given all the cases of human rights violations and now this movie has increased violence in that area. The behavior of the Muslim people is appalling. No other religion in the world behaves this way in so much anger. Quote very appropriate for them: We don't see things as they are; we see things as we are. -Anais Nin

      September 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  20. Jack 3

    I do feel bad for the good muslims that held signs saying we're sorry America. Don't put us with the killers and thugs. That was encouraging after seeing nothing when 9-11 happened but cheering. However, my concern is how many of them will act here when they become more in population. Are these poeple with signs the minority or majority? I don't hate muslims but i don't trust the religion.

    September 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • farooq

      If you look at the Washington DC research, the data suggests that the majority sentiment is anti-american acrosss most of the muslim world. This has been triggered by the palestine issue and increased radcial movements. The movements are political and religion is used persuade the public from one secular party to an islamist party. The nice people are the minority unfortunately. The relgious minorities are also the minority so there is no saying that the perosn who held up the sign could have been an ethnic minority in Libya (a berber) who is under persecution. There are islamic ethinc groups in the islamic world and even they are discriminated against. Women of course, being the most discriminated in the islamic faith.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
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