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. Informed in Minnesota

    Creed of the Muslim Brotherhood:

    "God is our objective; the Koran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations."

    September 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  2. mary judah

    Islam is a dangerous ideology, masking as a religion. It can not coexist with others as the Koran instructs followers not to... Please educate yourself to islam...not what Muslims tell you about Islam, but the facts of Islam. It is all there for you to learn. Study the world history of Islam. Look at the countries that have been ruined by Islam.. Ask the poor people who live in these cultures who hate Islam... MOST OF ALL, WAKE UP! ISLAM HAS ARRIVED....FIGHT!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  3. Nofah Kingweigh

    Uhhh, they'll carry on spreading hate and fear across the globe with the genrous support of the Amerikkkan Taliban Republicans.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Informed in Minnesota

      Republicans do not spread hate or fear anywhere. If you go and see the movie 2016, you will see who is destroying our country.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  4. David

    We are always asking moderate Muslims to condemn Muslim extremists. Likewise, we Christians should condemn Christian extremists. However, based on many of the comments I am readnig here, people seem to be supporting the Christian extremists. There is a word for that; it starts with the letter H.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Catherine

      Sorry, but which Christian extremists are being supported?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  5. Wilson

    Islamaphobia??? Naw, we just need to play a game of cowboys and muslims.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  6. BubbaGump

    this article is complete trash; from pitching multi-faith to throwing around the "phobic" label, it appears mclaren is just another writer-hack looking to stir up some controversy so he can sell more garbage...

    September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  7. Thomas

    Good gooly listen to this rubbish. I think Christians have bent over backwards in trying to understand why, not only, a "tiny minority of Muslims" insist on trying to destroy everything on the Earth, but also, why the hundreds of millions of non-volients Muslims have been so silent on the issue. Where is the utter outrage by these Muslims????

    September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  8. High Way

    "We are told in Quran by Allah (SW) that in such cases response with better behavior (certainly not violence against anyone & anything) so whatever happened in the Muslim world in retaliation was wrong."

    Its too bad that we don't here it more often what you have said from Arab countries. If you happen to be in an Arab country where the radicals live, you would be accused of sympathising with the infidels and suffer the consequences.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  9. readthequranandrelianceofthetraveller

    Reliance of the Traveller Para o9.8 The Objectives of Jihad: The caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya).

    September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  10. Fact speaking

    Think about this! Wherever there is a problem in any corner of the world, its because of the muslims and its the known fact. Only few percentage are really good while the majority muslims are fanatics in the name of Muhamed. These guys who are throwing stones at the embassy have no clue of why they are doing this. Bunch of fanatics who refuse to accept other religions!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Thomas

      Its like Michael Saveage says (and trust me I am no fan of his): In almost every trouble spot on the globe is a muslim nation that can't get along with its neighbors.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Michael

      Christianity, especially evangelical Christianity, has always had a huge problem accepting other religions. Christianity is just as pompous, arrogant, ignorant and bigoted as every other religion on the planet. And while modern Christianity has outgrown the need for violence (in most cases), Christianity still has the bloodiest past compared to any other religion – including Islam.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • DrIncognitus

      Your statement is complete drivel. There are problems all over the World that have nothing to do with Muslims. Even when the problems are to do with radical Islam, that is a tiny minority of Muslims, not a majority. There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. What miniscule percentage of them do you think are responsible for throwing rocks at embassies? It's people like you that are part of the problem. You are exactly the same as the Muslims you are complaining about, just on the other side of the fence. Fortunately, like them, you are a tiny minority.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Catherine

      Michael, your post shows that you know nothing of the Muslim conquest.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  11. ABSURD

    THIS IS ARTICLE IS ABSURD.....The reality of American Islomophobia. GIVE ME A BREAK PLEASE. This entire article touts Islomoaphobia as Christian hate yet provides not one example of "Christian Hate". You simply tout conservatives as haters. More over....it is clearly known that Islam Countries such as Iran would kill every one of us if they could as stated by their leaders. This political correctness of left wing bs from CNN Editors clearly shows they want to invite those that wish us death and harm into our living room to give them ample opportunity to do their bidding. It is one think to be smart and careful, yet it is another to be foolish and blind. I err on the side of caution. I do not need proof that that Islamic Countries are out to destroy America. They have proven this over and over again. How about taking your appeasement approach and turn it to an approach of "prove to me" that you want peace and democracy. Of course, if you try a little bit harder...you could have blamed this on George Bush as well. This is the type of liberal blindness that will, is destroying America. Fortunately, we have our 1st amendment, which by your standards you would abolish.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  12. Coug9

    Dude....they are chanting in the streets "DEATH to America"! All over a stupid movie that nobady ever heard of. I think that Christian fear of Islam is well placed.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Ric

      Hear, Hear! I don't have a bad word to say about Jews, Christians, Hindi, Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha'i, or most anybody. But Islam is just different. The very name "Islam" means submit or die! Everyone who can read ought to read the Koran. If you want to now what Mohammed is all about Google the Hadith about the Banu Qurayza.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  13. Mark MacDonald

    Watch what Islam is doing throughout the world – in Africa in particular.
    Coming soon to a continent near you, and it doesn't help to adopt Neville Chamberlain's "peace in our time" message of a generation ago. Those who oppose Islam in other countries pay for it with their lives, and if America doesn't stand up against it now, it will happen here. I'm also equally shocked that the feminist movement doesn't come out strongly against Islam, for their freedom would be amongst the first casualties as the religion relegates females to second class citizens.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • sam

      Women don't need islam for that – they're already battling fundie christians on the republican ticket.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  14. Tyler

    Just so I'm clear – Islamophobia (hatred of Islam) and possible violence is common and widespread within the Christian community, but Christianophobia(hatred of Christians) and violence is only a "tiny minority" of Muslims? Got it.

    I must have missed all the news about Christian suicide bombers.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Coug9

      Indeed......everybody had better watch out for all those Christians with AK-47s burning flags and chanting death to muslims!!!!........(sarcasm....in case you didnt get that)

      September 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  15. Fatty nono

    Why is CNN letting amateur writers on the front page of their website. Did you guys read this article before you posted it? NO MATTER WHAT THE U.S. DOES, THE PEOPLE FROM THE MIDDLE EAST (ISLAM'S ARMPIT) WILL HATE US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  16. Snakespeare

    Christians are taught to go a step beyond the law. It's not enough to want to be peaceful, to be a follower of Jesus you have to endure attacks and continue to be peaceful. It's not enough to love your neighbor, to be a follower of Jesus you have to try to love your enemies. Anyone can say they love everyone, but it is times like these that test faith. If your enemies are Muslims, then you are supposed to try to love them. What part of that is confusing? The writer of this blog is completely correct, in my opinion.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • fredd

      If we actually followed Jesus this wouldn't have happened. Jesus never said go to war over oil and we did just that in the Gulf War with our are idiot present George Bush. That war was for oil and the civilians that died with the later bombings of Iraq joined Al Qaeda for revenge!!!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Gary

      well said

      September 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  17. AndyCandy

    :...hate camouflaged as piety...."

    An interesting phrase. Why is it that you are only now using it, when it comes to Muslims? Have you done it where it comes to others you don't feel are christians, like Catholics and Mormons? What about Jews, and Hindus, and Bahai? The list can go on and on. So, I don't see only one religion being hated by the evangelicals. No, I see far more evangelical hate to go around.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  18. Jay

    The author does not seem to have ever lived in a Muslim country and does not understand urdu, persian or arabic. The very language used for non-believers (Kafirs) is full of violence and cruelty. Living in an Islamic country as a non-muslim is like living as a colored or black person in apartheid South Africa. Muslims live by kill or be killed motto – not live and let live. Every Friday is an occasion for the local Mullah to stir up the pot & violence – always with the same paranoid excuse – "Islam Khatre mein hai" – "Islam is in danger".

    September 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Free ExMuslim

      The world should be far more concerned about Muhammad's creation, INFIDELPHOBIA!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  19. Matt M

    What came first: Islam getting mocked, or Islamic extremism?

    I would argue the way most Americans (and the world) view Islam is a direct result from all the suicide bombing etc we see on tv. Am I wrong?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Ya, by view of a cross eyed hindu, ignorant.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Jack 3

      You're right and they did many other attrocities.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  20. Mr Ridiculous

    I am guessing this guy that wrote this piece has not read the Koran. I thought phobias were unreasonable fears. Intolerance is part of their docterine. Read the book. It is on almost every page! Islam is not like other religions, and in the US people who have never opened a koran go out of their way to pretend it is. Everyone in America should read the Koran and then there would be no more argument over the true nature of this religion.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Free ExMuslim

      I have read Qur'an, thoroughly. Hardly could anyone say anything that is more damaging to Islam than what is already written in Qur'an itself.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • sam

      Sure, but it bears reminding that the bible is full of crazy violent nonsense, too.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Free ExMuslim

      Yes Sam, so Muslims like to keep telling us.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • LetsStopTheLies

      It's very clear that "FreeExMuslim" either doesn't understand the meaning of thoroughly or is lying. Either ways, such characters are plenty to be found. Apparently he hasnt read the various versions/flavors of the Bible and Gospels to know that Sam is right about the stuff written in the Bible....dont believe me...just go online and read. It's THAT EASY.


      September 17, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
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