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. Justaman


    Does Islam command that those who insult the religion should be put to death?

    Summary Answer:

    Under Sharia, those who insult Muhammad or Allah are to be put to death. So are those who desecrate the Qur'an, or commit other acts of blasphemy. This tradition began with Muhammad, as recorded in the Hadith and by his biographers. There is also a Qur'anic basis for it.

    The Qur'an:

    Qur'an (6:93) – "Who can be more wicked than one who inventeth a lie against Allah?" (Apparently not the adulterer or others for whom death is proscribed).

    Qur'an (33:57) – "Lo! those who malign Allah and His messenger, Allah hath cursed them in this world and the Hereafter, and hath prepared for them the doom of the disdained"

    Qur'an (33:61) – [continues from above] "Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter."


    September 16, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • caesarbc

      sounds pretty peaceful to me(?).

      September 16, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Justaman

      So Brian, where does Christianity command followers to kill all who malign Jesus? And since Christianity is one of the wayward religions that Allah disapproves, is it wrong to oppose them? Even defensively?
      Christians do not systematically from the scriptures persecute anyone. Sure you will have some weird offspring groups but nothing mainstream. Islamic persecution is mainstream and inseparable from the body of Islamic literature. We fought a war against the National Socialist Party and its leader Adolph Hitler when he codified the killing of those deemed less than desirable. Islam takes this to higher level by ingraining it into doctrine.

      "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who
      disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads
      and strike off every fingertip of them."
      (Qur'an 8:12)

      "Fight everyone in the way of Allah and
      kill those who disbelieve in Allah."
      (Ibn Ishaq 992)

      "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
      (Matthew 5:14)


      Surely Christians should not take this to heart, after all no religion could really demand the death of all unbelievers?
      It is one thing to promote violence. It is another to pretend that the command to the Islamist to make Islam supreme doesn't exist.

      Remember: It is not Islamaphobia if they are really trying to kill you. It is Islamorealism.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  2. Yfearus

    Islamaphobes and Muslims are here to stay in the US. Thats called freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But acts that create violence and violent acts need to be stopped. The problem is not Islam but rather people's fear of Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion. If we really want to be left alone, we should get out of the Muslim countries and their problems. But you will always have Muslims here. You can't stop Islam from spreading. It is here to stay forever.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  3. mike

    In Islam killing of innocent is very forbidden and is considered as great sin, but still brain wash and terrorist people are killing people in the name of Islam, which does NOT have anything to do with Islam and it's prophet. unfortunately some christian and politician take advantage of these events for their own agenda.
    It is obvious that evil people exist in any religion and society, but we should not blame religion for their evil actions.

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

      Islam, killing people everywhere. Do you blame anyone who fears this religion?
      "You will know them by their fruits"- Jesus Christ

      September 16, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Justaman

      No Kuffar is innocent.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  4. sir_ken_g

    "Hate" so very "christian" of them.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  5. Brad

    Evangelicals aren't to blame, Islamic culture is to blame. They have the world walking on eggshells because of their hypersensitivity over their mythology. All the "draw Muhammad day" videos I've seen on YouTube have been made by atheists, not evangelicals. Evangelicalism may be annoying and pathetic, but Islam is a violent offense to secular civilization. Arabs invented algebra then shackled their intellectual advancement by adopting Islam.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  6. copernicus

    "Beam me up Scotty...there's no intelligent life down here on Earth! Time to move on, fast.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  7. Greg

    The choice: All of Islam is wretched v some Muslims are extremists. The analogy: All of Christianity is wretched v some Christians are extremists. The answer I believe: some people will be doctrinaire extremists regardless of the Muslim/Christian/Jewish faith they have chosen (or no faith at all as the case may be).

    Keep the proposal above in mind as you read the comments to Mr. McLaren's editorial. I think he would appreciate being judged fairly, if he must be judged at all as the commenters seem to think.

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

      We need Christian Extremists, even more, we need JHWHian Extremists as Jesus was the obedient servant unto death.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Greg

      If that's the case (and I don't think we NEED any extremists) then wouldn't JHWHian extremists be the Jewish Orthodoxy in Jerusalem. No more devout, committed, my way or the highway folk to be found anywhere in the World of Faith.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  8. martin

    I've always respected muhammad, he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee

    September 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  9. wowzah


    September 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  10. AJ Browne

    The violence being perpetrated by Muslims due to the amatuerish film is proof of the militant aspect of Islam. The fact is the Islam is a chauvenistic, mysogynistic, and violent religion. This assertion that Islam is a religion of peace is nonsense. Muhammad was a military leader who conquered cities and killed people and not a pacifist has Hamid Karzai has said. Islam was spread by the sword just as Christianity was during the time of Charlamagne. Islam is not conducive to American culture and we should not change our society to suit them and our politiicans should stop apologizing because Muslims get offended by something.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  11. Patrick

    Placate Islam and die.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  12. duke

    This guy's problem is that he and his "relatives" take it all just as seriously and literally as their perceived "opposition," when neither side knows what "taking it with a grain of salt" means. Get off it, already....

    September 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  13. jamest297

    People, People, People:

    What Brian McLaren fails to mention (or probably even consider) is that the act of being a religious believer or follower itself creates the phobias he opposes. At their very core, each and every religious structure automatically rejects as "false" every other religious structure. If it did not, the clergy/salespeople would not have a single value proposition to offer their marks. It is absolute profanity that since the year +/- 567 that belief in any supernatural spirits survive. It is as though certain parts of people's brains were turned off and rendered incapable of drinking in facts and truth. It is embarrassing to all humanity that such beliefs persists and tragic that the various religious systems feel compelled to enlist their various governments to align with the myths and to favor their myth version over all other myths.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • caesarbc

      So then, look at it from my point of view then, and get some popcorn and sit back and enjoy the fireworks between these two groups! I loved it when they used to air the War on TV... whatever happened to that? You want reality TV..? That was awesome!

      September 16, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • jamest297

      To caesarbc.

      You are right. In fact, a thought has just occurred to me this weekend: The US Government should start a program that pays film students and theater production departments at the nation's universities to produce film after film after film ridiculing mohammad and allah (and jesus, while we're at it) in order to keep the mohammadens perpetually riled up. It would also have the benefit of creating more jobs that Obama could take credit for among acting wannabes. Meantime, the mohammadens would use up all their rocks, RPGs and machine gun carrying Toyota pickup trucks in their various riots and displays of rage. Then, the USA could reduce its spending on its own bombs and armies, thus making even more people happy. What do you think?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    It is high time to get rid of the Islamic issue but how?

    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 8:51 am |
    • Luis Wu

      Yeah, yeah. Blah blah blah to you too. Delusional much?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Luis Wu

      And I'm a complete idiot. In case you didn't notice.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  15. agathokles

    Great opinion piece! The vitriolic responses, here, from evangelicals is to be expected. They serve to prove the author's thesis. Sad, really.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • !%$!#@@#$

      The only thing said on this site is your abject stupidity.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  16. Stu

    Unreal, I had to read the article to actually prove that my eyes weren't deceiving me. I'm sooo glad that you were able to look at the world burning at the hands of enraged (and manipulated) Islamists, and turn the blame squarely on ... Christians. Good call!

    Of course, CNN would never allow you on your precious perch as a consultant unless you toed the Progressive Line.

    This was just sad. Of course there's no room for bigotry in Christianity, but we don't murder people because of a perceived insult; that's an Islam thing, as well as a Blood and Crip and MS13 thing. Notice any correlation?

    You throw in the "well, Islamists have problems of their own" as your only point of blame on them for this situation before pointing it right back at Christians. This is unbelievable and sad, and frankly, you should be ashamed of yourself. But because you want to get the praise of Liberals, you won't be.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  17. Sagebrush Shorty

    "Yes, “they” – the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence – have big problems of their own." .... The majority of Muslims apparently are afraid to denounce the actions of this "tiny minority" and by their silence give tacit approval to the very things that cause people to hate and distrust Muslims. Muslims bring all this upon themselves and have no one else to blame for "Islamophobia".

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

      Are they really agains them though??? Or do they quitely support them while displaying disapproval to others to curry favor from us?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  18. caesarbc

    This guy is a kook – "we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical Islamaphobia" ... first of all, he seems to have no problem generalizing that all evangelical Chrisitians are islamophobic. I think that it is intolerance, and that must be dealt with in this world right now, and this guy has no problem even throwing his own people under the bus for crazy fascists overseas. I'll bet Muslims, despite whatever this guy says, would be 100% willing to dispatch his head for him.

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

      Sorry, not a kook. I know several evangelical Christians who are still convinced Obama is Muslim, believe that he is trying to usher Sharia law into the U.S., believe that some states have already adopted Sharia law as the standard, believe that there are sleeper sells all over the country (including inside our government) just waiting for the secret signal telling them to all come out of hiding and take over our country.

      I attended Hagee's church for a year and I can tell you he is batsh.t crazy when it comes to conspiracies.

      I'm more scared of all these folks than I am of actual Muslims.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • caesarbc

      well then, that sound like a mdrassa... I mean, a place to fuel hatred and recruit more bodies for War to reduce the world's population....

      and what's wrong with that? Boom... less people... oil problem solved!!!!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  19. Robert Brown

    God has blessed and made provisions for all three groups, Israelites, Gentiles, and Ishmaelites. The reason one group doesn’t know about the sane folk in the other group is because that is not newsworthy. The crazies are the only ones who get any airtime.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  20. rasko41

    Since when does being an evangelical Christian involve a moral compass?

    September 16, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • !%$!#@@#$

      Wait'll you see what Muslims will do to your gay friends.

      You'll be an Islamophobe then.

      You phoney.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:55 am |
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