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. Jay

    This article is way out of line. Quit trying to tone down the reality. If you believe your own words then go lay your foot on the ground in a Muslim country and carry an American flag – let's see how long you last. I'm not talking about Indonesia either. I'm talking about REAL Middle Eastern Muslim countries

    September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  2. billmosby

    "hate camouflaged as piety". That's not a bad description of religion in general, right there. There have been short intervals of good behavior in the world of religion from time to time, but in the main the phrase is right on.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  3. Mel

    Islam is the only religion that truly scares me. If I had a time machine, preventing Islam from existing would be my very first action.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Truth

      I wonder what the people living a few centuries ago in Europe would have thought of that statement. The truth is, all religions are fvcking scary and insane because almost every single one of them has some clause that get's around the 'thou shat not kill' part of their laws. Infact, most have some clause saying 'thou shalt kill if and when we tell you to' clause in it, from Islam to Christianity.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  4. Josh

    the people at cnn stoop to a new low and I am not surprised

    September 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Akim

      Josh: your are surprised that why CNN doesn't participate spreading hates like you fellow fox-news..... me too..

      September 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  5. Aamir

    Mr. Mclaren, thanks for the very nice article and may God bless you. Also Diana Powe has spoken the truth and may God bless her as well.This should be required reading for everyone, especially Christians and Muslims. While a tiny miniority on the Christian side is not following the example of Jesus Christ quite a few on the Muslim side are not following the example of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the dictates of the Quran. It's not allowed for a Muslim to take the law into his or her own hands and hurt or kill anyone. Even if someone is accused of blasphemy the matter has to be referred to the courts which will decide the matter. The sad reality is that a lot of people in the Muslim lands are illiterate and ignorant about America. They think that everything that happens in the country is sanctioned by the government which is clearly not the case. While the producers of the movie are ignorant fools the best reaction from the Muslims should be the one when a dog barks at you. You don't bark at the dog in return, you just ignore and go your way. Listen folks! Jesus Christ is coming back to unite people who believe in him i.e., Christians and Muslims. So, I don't know why are we fearful of each other and doing things which are very offensive to God, Jesus Christ, and Prophet Muhammad.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • serveJBR

      OK then. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Praying you are correct:)

      September 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

    Revenge and killing those which don't believe they way they believe is my hangup with Islam.

    Christians and Jews are together on this one.

    Love the human but question the dogma.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Deniers of truth are none but hindu's, criminals, no need to ignore a hindu, criminal but to put in his place, hind, hell.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • billmosby

      Or, as some in one of those organizations would have it, hate the dog but love the dogma. lol.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  7. Bill Willy

    You start with a faulty premise that lays waste to your entire article. "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" is moronic in it's simplicity and fallacious nature. Embassies aren't being attacked b/c of a movie. They are being attacked because they hate the US and used this as an excuse to spread their hate. Denying this, and deflecting like this just shows how much in denial people are. It's shameful to make excuses for them.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  8. Elvis

    " the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence" – that tiny minority is attacking the United States and killing our citizens abroad right now. Given the capacity to do so, they would wipe out the U.S. from the face of the earth. That is reality, not a phobia.

    Amazing that CNN runs this story with everything going on in the Middle East right now. Way to be in touch with current events and your 'hard-hitting' journalism. Why not investigate why are embassies did not have adequate protection on the anniversary of 9/11. Or, why was Pres. Obama out campaigning while all this was and is going on?

    September 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  9. DD

    Islam isn't special. I can find evil in every organised religion. Every one that has people in it.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Charles Dickens

      @ DD. Organized religion is the downfall of our civilization. It might have helped answer questions to which we had no knowledge thousands of years ago but today it has become a pest. Most of the issues as of late, or at the dawn of this century are centered on religion. Form the Palestinina and Jewish conflict to the Muslims attacking the liberties of this nation. I Know there are a lot of indivudals that believe that this nation was founded on Christians principles but that is a down right lie as well and it is also playing an role into our government. I think that government has no place in religion and vice-versa. If we could all start using common sense and accept all of these mentioned "holy books" as simply fictious works w ewould be a better place. If not, it wont be long before Trekkies and Star Wars fan start to differ on spaceship technology and start killing each other as well.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  10. Miriam

    All religious fanatics choose parts of the Scriptures to justify hate and violence. That includes the KKK and the fanatics that created tis movie. They even said that Israeli Jews created it. To me that's inciting terrorism, and they should be prosecuted for that.
    I am a Christain and have friends and relatives that are Jewish, Muslim and Christian. Islam calls these 3 faiths "people of the book". They revere abraham, Moses and Jesus. As educated as we want to believe that we are, we have little knowledge of other cultures and faiths. The reason that the Mormons gave for not including Black people is that they believed that when God left a mark on Cain, it was turning him black.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  11. SPower

    What an empty diatribe.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  12. Greg

    Islam is a false and violent religion......and to have this heretic writing an article is simply ridiculous.....Book of Acts teaches – there is only 1 name under heaven under which you can be saved.......JESUS......this doesn't mean we need to be intolerant or ignorant towards muslims....but we need to finally acknowledge that they are a false and violent religion.....bent upon total destruction and chaos in order to bring about their false messiah.....simple as that

    September 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • a-muslim

      You say things about Islam without knowledge. Let me ask you: What are the names of the first 4 khalifas after Muhammad (with searching in Google)? Who is Abu-Hanifa and Imam Shafi?
      Name 3 of the 10 people who are given glad tidings of Paradise during their lifetime as per Muslim sunni
      faiths? Who is talked about in Surah al-Lahab? Name just one surah in Quran that talk about Jesus and Mary?

      If you don't know, then you know one thing for sure, that you are talking without knowledge. Read The Quran tafsir and authentic hadiths. Muhammad is the last prophet God has sent on Earth, and Jesus has spoken about Muhammad's coming on Earth and to follow Muhammad. Just Google 'Muhammad in Bible'. Old testatment also has spoken about Muhammad's coming. Also
      Google 'Miracles in Quran', 'prophecies by Muhammad'. I hope you get sometime to do your own study and
      not become a mouthpiece of a liar. Just save your soul for the next world.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jack 3

      A-musli...we shouldn't have to read your evil book. you should live in shame with what you represent. Actions speak louder than words. you actions are evil.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Miriam

      All religions have fanatics. They are usually the loudest, like the sqweeky wheel. The people that made this film, and blamed it on Jews at the beginning, are fanatics, just like the KKK and the Muslim fanatics that cause so much trouble.
      The people that made the film should be prosecuted for inciting terrorism. While the fanatics are battling against each other, innocent people get caught in the middle. The Muslim fanatics have some Americans believing that all Muslims are the same, as these American fanatics have some Muslims believing that all Americans are the same.
      I have friends and relatives that are Jewish, Muslim and Christian. Islam calls these 3 faiths "people of the book". They revere abraham, Moses and Jesus.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • coolhead

      Yeah, like Christianity has never been violent, right?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Akim

      Jack 3: I as Muslim have lots of respect for Christian's holy bible from the bottom of my heart and will never call it evil ....... stop spreading haters.... BTW its' time for you to go home to watch fox-gop-news with your wife.. bye bye....

      September 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Akim...you actions speak louder tha words...if your actions represent islam then the book is truly and pure evil.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Charles Dickens

      @ a-muslim, please be aware that your scare tactcis may scare some individuals in our goverment but most of us dont. We do not need to read your book. Why dont you take the time to read other more productive books then? Perhaps a science book on which you can find that all the falacies that you talk about are just that, simple fallacies inbred into your weak and ignorant brain. I can care less about who is what in your books. Grow up and stop scaring/terrorizing people with your ignorance.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jack 3

      So you're saying because Christianity was once violent muslims now can be, and it's ok?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Greg So you're saying because Christianity was once violent muslims now can be, and it's ok?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Charles Dickens

      @ Jack 3. I think you might want to read more into the Christian Crusades to answer your own question.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Greg

      What I am saying is that Islam is a false religion.........based on biblical teaching....while christianity did have it's violent path – it no longer has that violent edge to it....BUT the basis of Christianity isn't to kill all those who don't follow.......Islam's entire purpose is world dominance through violence..........

      September 17, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Catherine

      The first four Caliphs were – Abu Bakr, Omar, Uthman and Ali

      And no, I didn't look it up. I just finished reading a book about the early years of Islam.

      I don't recall the others.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  13. Charles Dickens

    This report is the most ignorant thing I have read on here. So, let me get this right... this guy is telling us that we must change our ways to apeace a bunch of murderers? I do not see Christians strapping bombs to their chest and killing innocent people everytime someone does not agree with their religion. So to say that we Islamophobics is right down ignorant and missing the point of the threat that they are to this generationsa and the future Americans. When these Islamist nuts start to accept human rights and liberties then we can all be in the same page. Until then, all religions are dooemd to promote an unhelathy world that lacks freedoms, rationality, and down right common sense simply by following different fairy tales that were written thousands of years ago.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • BellaMonk

      Charles, I agree with everything you wrote with the exception of this "Until then, all religions are doomed to promote an unhealthy world that lacks freedoms, rationality, and down right common sense simply by following different fairy tales that were written thousands of years ago."

      That only applies to the "religion" called Islam. I don't see the modern-day violence of the other religions.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  14. bookworm

    What do you call a bunch of people going nuts on America over one guy making a bad film? Really? They kind of take phobia to the extreme degree. Don't think any religious group no matter how off the chart could top thier own detructive take on things. I do believe most of the Islamic people are peace loving and cringe when things like this happens. But as long as it does keep happening then my sympathy is for the victims not the radical murders. This is polical not reigious and we all should call it what it is. I for one am tired of the delicate way we treat Islam while other faiths get assaulted in the media. Catholic here, not treated fairly by most of the people who respond on CNN blogs. Tolerance is a two way street after all.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  15. asdf

    I loathe all religions but especially Islam. So your prophet was a caravan raider who married a 9yo? Great leader to follow centuries later.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • asdf

      At least most of the other religions when through some sort of Renaissance. Islam is just going through it nowand lashing out that it is being forced to do so.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  16. Informed in Minnesota

    The Muslim Brotherhood's plan for a "grand jihad" to destroy America from within by their own hands:

    The Muslim Brotherhood "must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of believers so that it is eliminated and Allah's religion is made victorious over all other religions."

    Mohamed Akram "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America" May 22, 1991

    September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • serveJBR

      OK. Best way to protect ourselves and hope the more moderate Muslim masses see how dishonorable the extremists are? Don't insult any of them, don't make things worse with bad foreign policy, i.e. stop messing in their affairs, leave them to struggle through their own messes. We are completely capable of balancing this tactic of non-intervention with subtle, covert, effective military intervention when deemed necessary.
      This author seems to be conveniently missing the big picture threats, but he is correct about being "Christlike". It is a strong, moral position to take, lest we come off as better armed hypocrites.
      How to prevent morons from fanning the flames? Great question. Perhaps start by not jumping to conclusions about anything- read this guy's article before you blow him off. Of course it sounds apologetic. He's correct though. He's also over-simplifying big time. But his basic assertion is correct – stop letting crazies back us into corners, it's not the only way!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Jack 3

      They are using our dumbest people to destroy America, they are using liberals.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  17. Dave

    Well said Gita. I could not agree more. Christians (I am not a practicing one) have been slammed for decades here in the US by hollywood and the media yet I don't see Christians rioting at the drop of a hat, killing people, and demanding death by beheading to anyone who even dares ask a question about their religion or their prophet like muslims are doing. Islam is a join us (they'll give you 3 chances... look it up if you do not know what that means) or die for not converting. That's why the Pres. of Iran kept asking G. Bush to convert to Islam when they met and had conversations which were aired publicly on CNN etc... Every muslim in the world knew what he was doing when he asked (GB) him to convert to Islam on a live on international news broadcast.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  18. Joey Miller

    CNN Editor – please – I have always respected your perspective on reality until this article – I hope this is just "brain fart"

    September 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  19. Solomon

    Although I agree with the sentiment of this article, I believe it is simplistic and idealistic. The Koran requires death to non-believers. Thus, we non-believers must make one of three choices: (1) accept death; (2) accept Islam; (3) resist the first two options. It is wise to be reasonable when your foe is reasonable. It makes no sense when you foe is not. So although I wish this "Islamaphobia" were as simple as the author suggests, it is not.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Who would not want death to hindu's, criminals, denier of truth absolute. hindu's, criminals.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • the wise one

      that is the islamaphobia the article talks about, spreading lies and misinformation to spread hate. if what you say was true, all christians and jews who lived between muslims for centuries would have been slaughtered or converted, yet the copts still exist in egypt and existed since before islam.

      no common sense, u brainless much?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Diplomat Kin

      Solomon, you couldn't be more wrong nor more ignorant so take responsibility for contributing to the problem of hate and violence.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • RandyM

      The original Islamist attacked and converted mostly other Arab nations. People from the book were originally revered. This did not last very long after Muhammad death. But the Muslims later practiced a tax on non believers and placed limitations on them. As long as they were Christian or Jewish or people of the book Islam left them alone. Its only the modern Islamist that want to kill Christians and Jews. The Muslims for some reason think they have a monopoly on the land of Judah which is modern day Israel. And it just ticks them off that they cannot beat the Jews at anything. It will never change as the Jews are Gods chosen people. They were chosen to carry God's traditions and to provide a pure blood line back to Abraham for Jesus to be born into. Interesting Jesus chosen bloodline is several non Jews in it as God is not a respecter of persons.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Catherine

      the wise one – its called being a dhimmi.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  20. Munkar and Nakir (Google)

    The Second Comng of Jesus (May God's Peace and BLessings Be Apon Him): Will Rule According to the Holy Quran.

    Will be buried in the empty tomb located at Prophet's Muhammad's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Sue

      Specify an exact date or your prophecies don't pass the sniff test (like pretty much all other religious ones).

      September 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
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