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. a-muslim

    Study Islam and then comment. Study the history of Islam. Ok, maybe that's too much to read, then just read the Bible and then read Quran. I am not asking too much here. Be educated guys and chill.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Sam

      People don't need to read either book to know what Islam is about these days. We can see it in the news and on the street and we're tired of it.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • MP

      That is your problem you see it in the news and learn it from the news. find a better source.

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

      I can find no connection between what you say people should read in order to understand peaceful Islam and what the reality is that people are being slaughtered and beheaded in the name of Islam. You write about a religion of peace yet the Islam (re)action of swift violence at the smallest thing is contrary to everything you suggest. There is no data to support your statement. Tell me about the violence between Sunni and Shiite muslims. They slaughgter each other in the name of Islam. I just don't see the same thing in different Christian sects. That is, Christians killing Christians over a religios belief. I do see Muslims killing Christians because of a cartoon written in another country half a world away. Please tell me something other than read the book. Tell me how you justify all of the violence.

      September 17, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  2. John J

    Wonder Twins powers activate! Form of Mohammed the Prophet!!

               ▂▃▅▅▅▃▂     ▲◢◤▀◥◣▃ ▍◢◤
           ▂▅▓▓▅██████▇▅◢██▀   〓 ★ 〓
          ◢▓▓▅███■▀████▓▓█◤    ◢◤ ▍◥◣
        ◢▓▓▆███▀▐ ▊▀▓▀█▓  ▓▲
       ◢▓▓▆██▀ ▼▍▍▲▌▐▓◥█▓▓██◣
     ▃ ▓▆███▓ ▍▎▌▍▍▼▍▌▓ █████▅
    ▐█▓█████▃▼▌▐ ▐ ▌▍▼ ◢█████▓█◣
    █▊■██████◣▓ ▌▍▲◥◤ ▅██████▓█▊
    ◥■ ████████▅▼▀▃▆███████▓▓▼
    ███▓▓▀██■▀     ▀■▓▓█▓▓▓▓███
    ▐██◣▓▓■▀   ▍▎     ▀■▓▓▓▓█■▀
     ▀■◢▅▂▅▃ ▐ ▍ ▃▅▂▃▅ ▼◢▓██◤
        ▌ ▀█■▆▓▓▇■█■▀  ▲█▀
        ▲▀▓◣▀ ◢▍ ▐◣▀ ◢〓◤ ◢■▀
        ◢▓█◣ ◥〓▌ ▐◥〓◤  ▃▓◢▉
      ▐▓█▓◣  ◢▍  ▂◣   ◢▓███▋
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       ▀███■▀   ◥▌▀■▇█■▀

    September 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  3. drowlord

    Why censure Christians to Islamphobia. They pretty much doggedly hate any social or moral philosophy that isn't Christianity. Often enough, they turn on other branches of Christianity, too. Altogether, Christianity is overflowing with hate, and it isn't limited to any one target.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Muslims attck us and all you can do is attck Christians? I think you have Christianpobia

      September 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  4. Jack 3

    Akim...We don't spread hate...you're doing it by you religions actions. just read these posts. they never used to be that negative towards islam. you guys make it worse with every attack. One thing you should know about the US. We take a lot till we become very mad and we will hit you so hard mohammad will feel it.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Sam

      Well said!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Akim

      Jack 3: wow ... did u read all the comments full of "hates/lies/fobia/etc" by your buddies or you are just ignoring them.... you yourself calling the book of Muslim an evil (in your previous comments) while Muslim respect the bible from the bottom of their hearts and WILL NEVER call it evil....Bible is a respectable holy book, God revealed on the Prophet Jesus (PBUH)

      September 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Jack 3

      Akim... i can think for myself. My statements are fact, not in my imagination. I don't care what you say about christians. they can deal with you.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  5. JoJo

    Beware those that say they know god's will and will tell you what it is. They are my enemy and yours too!

    September 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  6. Jason Jones

    Awesome article Brian D. McLaren! Well put Brother.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm |

    Obviously Mr. Brian McLaren is out of his mind in stating that we must begin to own up to the reality of evangelical
    Islamaphobia. Does this guy have any clue what is going on? Muslims are creating havoc all over the world just because of a book. All the stereotypes of people believing that Muslims have literally "explosive" personalities is being shown in all its maliciousness. He insists Muslims aren't killing Christians. If he even had an 1/10 of an ounce of fact in his story he would readily admit that the muslim rebels invading Syria are killing thousands of Christians. I can't believe CNN would pay this con man anything for what is obviously a propaganda piece intended to sway feelings of Christians into believing that everything is just fine and muslims are peaceful. Mr. McLaren burn a Bible and then see what happens. Nothing. Now Mr. McLaren burn the Quran and see what happens – you will be beheaded by the people you say are getting a bad rap.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • JOSHZZ

      I I meant to say movie as opposed to book.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  8. Aezel

    The reality of Islamophobia is that every single day Muslims continue to prove that any sane rational thinker is correct to classify them as dangerous and unreasonable barbarians that oppose free speech and human rights.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Mike K

    It is all about 'us' against 'them'! Whatever WE do is right – whatever THEY do is wrong. It makes no matter who 'us' is or 'they' are. Let us face the facts – Jesus was a man of peace. Islam is also about peace. One of the basic precepts of Christianity is to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Jesus said both "He who is without sin may cast the first stone" and "He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword.". I do not think that God is pleased with those who use religion as the excuse to do harm on to others.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  10. Jesse Pinkman

    I say we hand every non-muslim kid in America (on XBOX live and Sony PSN playing Call of Duty and Halo) a real gun and let them loose on all these muslims rioting and burning our flag. Target practice....

    September 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Mike K

      Sounds like you must be a TRUE Christian – NOT!

      September 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Sam

      MIke K: how do you know that this person is a Christian?; for all you know, he or she is Jewish or an athiest or some other creed. I love these folks who go to the mat to defend Muslims against the presumed prejudice of others, but who will then automatically assume that anyone who makes a violent comment, even in a joking way, is a Christian. I don't know if that describes you, but it seems like it does. I'm not religious, but I think it's pretty clear that Christians are far less likely to be violent than Muslims. I'd go so far as to say it's an established fact.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  11. John Ashton

    I've always had the utmost respect for all peoples and their religion. But all this death to america and burning the flags over a stupid idiot film is just not right. I nor do the american people support this fiilm or the person that made this film, nor do we support the killing of americans abroad over a stupid act by 1 person. I've always thought Islam was about love, brotherhood, peace righteousness and all that was good, but I'm beginning to think I was wrong. Peace Unto You Brother!

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

      Did you support Bush when he used his military to invade Iraq and murder tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians all because he believed his god told him it was the right thing to do?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Mike K

      A person's Religion, National origin or Color of skin has nothing to do with being either good or bad. As a former resident of Oklahoma City I feel confident in saying that Tim McVeigh was not a good guy.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  12. One one

    Here is an idea.

    Get the top Muslim and Christian leaders together in a summit meeting to sort out whose god is real and whose religion is true.

    Everyone else agree to stop hostilities until they have reached an agreement .

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

      You are missing the point. Muslims DO NOT CARE WHO IS THE TRUE GOD. IT D O E S N T M A T T E R! You want the Cow to be true God, we are fine. You want someone else, we say, go for it! Just dont hate others who have their own beliefs. Is that too much to ask ?

      September 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • sybaris

      It's all so silly though and what a stupid thing to fight over........religion

      Christians and Muslims, they're like a couple of 8 year old boys fighting over who's better, Spiderman or Batman

      Religion and the worshiping of god(s) is a filthy disgusting disease of the mind

      September 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • jphbphd

      Consider...just consider that both are right! The common factor in all religion is fear of death and a hope for "eternal life." The different factors are the result of significant historial and cultural differences. I find it inconceivable how anyone can be so certain about THEIR faith/religion as to exclude, hate, and seek revenge. How can "right belief" be so completely out of alignment with the "right practice" espoused throughout the Biblical message? Such arrogance and unwarranted pride!

      September 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Sam

      Your comment suggests that there's a two-sided war going on, Christians vs Muslims. Sorry, but that's BS. What's going on is that the Religion of Peace ™ is showing its true colors. There may be some Christian Fundamentalists, along with others, saying negative things about Muslims because of it, but that hardly rises to the same level of what's going on in the Middle East. Sorry folks, but there's no moral equivalence here. Muslims need to grow up, except freedom of speech, plurality and modernity and join the civilized world.

      September 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  13. MP

    People , lets talk about Freedom of speech, when the founding fathers created it was

    to allow dissent people be able to speak their mind and not get harassed.

    it was not using it to spread hate. if somebody wants to bully an over weight

    person and publishes article about than person and down grade him or her, do you

    guys call it Freedom of speech or press. Having a naked photo of a woman

    taken at the privacy of her own place and publish it even if that

    women is a princes, it it right, would you like it if it was your sister.

    people grow up this is an ugly world we are living now and standards have changed

    compare to when all these Freedom Of speech and Free press was created.

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

      Thomas Jefferson called John Adams a toothless hermaphrodite. So, the notion that Freedom of Speech is strickly to protect dissent is wrong.

      The video is stupid. No one should dispute that. But there were violent protests with Salman Rushdie wrote Satanic Verses. If you want to start to censor stupid videos, you'll also have to censor books, scholarship, art, speakers....on the basis that it may cause protests half way around the world.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  14. DJ

    This guy is a moron, the real issue is the 1% of Muslims (which is over 1 million people WW) who use their religion to kill people in the West and crush women's rights.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

    Major major issue here. I think a 'Christian' American would be highly more likely to sit and read about the myths of Islam than an Islamist reading myths about Christianity. After what's recently happened, I don't want anything to do with the animals.....they are all cut from the same bolt of cloth and will smile to your face and slit your throat when you turn around.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Every hindu, criminal should be treated humanly before he is put to hind, hell, what is wrong with it. hindu, ignorant.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  16. Elvis

    Muslim Brotherhood Platform – the author is right – nothing to be concerned about here – the problem is Christians that have a false phobia:

    1. Muslims are “masters of the world”
    2. Islamic nation’s “rightful position… the teachers of humanity”
    3. “There is no other option but Jihad for Allah”
    4. Fighting Israel is “Jihad against the criminal, thieving gangs of Zion”
    5. Has the [Muslim] Brotherhood grown weary of the challenges, thrown down their guns and abandoned Jihad?!! No!”
    From “Jihad is the Way,” by the former leader of the Brotherhood in Egypt (until 2002), Mustafa Mashhur:

    September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

    It is politically correct to say that Islam is a peaceful religion and that the militants are the minority. I will believe that when I see the Islamic nations aggressively and successfully going after and eliminating this "fringe" militant wing. When I see these countries spending their oil billions hunting these people down, then I will believe it.

    I have heard people over the last couple of days say that we need to be more sensitive to Islamic beliefs and not needlessly offend them. I agree. Their opinion would hold more weight if they spoke out against people needlessly offending Christianity as well. Using my tax dollars to pay for a person to put a picture of Christ in a jar of urine and call it art I would say qualifies as "needless offense." And, just for the record, even though it disgusted and angered me I bombed or murdered no one. I chose to forgive them instead.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  18. Patrick McSwain

    Today it's a crap movie done by a felon in America that has them agitated.

    Wait until they find out women can hold jobs, vote, and drive cars in America. Then all Helll will break loose!

    And it will be the End of Times when they find we allow all religions to exist in America.

    How dare a foreign country have any rights!!!????

    September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • serveJBR

      hyperbole may make one feel better, but it is not helpful. Relax. Is your grocery store still open? Will there be a Christmas this year? These riots are happening very, very far away. Should we be concerned and try to vote for more effective leaders? Yep. End Times because the extremists Muslims are angry. I'd bet against it, though one cannot know for sure.

      September 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  19. Josh

    Intel reports suggest that this is not about a movie at all. society is weak minded and easily swayed by lying media outlets..

    September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Akim

      Josh- and your are a live example of that (go fox-gop)...

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

      Of course, its not just about that video. The video was just an excuse.

      September 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  20. Bill

    Christian in general don't dwell too much on faith. Evangelicals are the late comers of the faith and will say anything, do anything to get bigger and equal to the big churches, Catholic, Protestant and so forth. Now I am Christian because I was brought up to the faith. To most people, once a faith enters the brain, it is locket in place and almost impossible to erase. Being old now I can question what he been written in the bible. Most of it is fiction, all of it written at a time when there were many faiths in the Roman empire and the empire needed unity.The list of exaggerations can start with the angel Gabriel choosing Mary to carry Gods son. Not enough space here for what I am trying to say but first and second testament is political and religious in nature intended for control of the masses..No am not an atheist and Jesus was a man of peace, but God and Evil, we are born with it and most of us try all our life to get rid of Evil. That give you peace and that was Jesus words. Bottom line before you get on all emotional about other faiths, read the bible with an open mind and question every act. After all if you believe in creation, you know that you were given a brain that is able to reason. We call it logic.

    September 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
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