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. Jack

    evangelicals and extremists of all religious stripes are the cause of the problem. Myopic viewpoint of what is right and wrong and any that disagree with it are evil.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Luis Wu


      September 16, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Keith

      That is the truth about Fundamentalists of any sort.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Chad

      If you were extreme in your following of Christ, you certainly wouldn't be a problem to anyone else. You might end up on your own cross and killed, but you certainly wouldn't be someone committing violence. Christ turned over some tables, but even when the Romans came to capture him, he prevented his disciples from committing violence and he even healed the one Roman soldier who was wounded. In fact, there is no error or problem with being an extreme Christian, except that you must give up your own life for the love of others. It's actually a pretty hard thing for most people to be extreme about, so perhaps it's easier to be an extreme bigot or something else.

      September 16, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  2. axaxax

    The author of this article is nothing more than an islamic apologist who is too stupid to realize that the islamic culture is the biggest threat to humanity that we face today.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Keith

      Yes, in colusion with folks like you

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  3. wowzah

    Dr. Peters thank you for that response. Sobering. Yes we need the cross.

    I have friends who live in America who are amazed at the mindset of the american people. They need to hold up a mirror to see that they also sound like many of the extremists in islam. The ignorance is alarming.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:04 am |
  4. Dan

    This guy is a wolf.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  5. Chris Hawkins

    Respect is like love- just as you can’t force someone to love you, you can’t force someone to respect you. So if we show respect to Islam, it is fake. It’s fake coming from Obama. It’s fake coming from Hillary. It would be fake coming from me. This is because no sensible American (left, right or center) respects their treatment of women, gays, ethnic minorities, and children. No one respects hatred and violence being preached from the pulpit. No one respects dressing a child up as a suicide bomber and teaching him that that is a direct path to heaven. Sorry Islam, you have to earn respect just like everyone else. And Obama, stop taking away our rights in order to force us to show this fake, phoney, BS “respect”.

    This past week has shown that Obama, Hillary, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs do not know how American works or what we stand for.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • ndfinfan

      Well said Chris-I find it a bit hypocritical of folks pleading with Americans not to generalize all Muslims into 1 category. But is this not exactly what Muslims in the Middle East are doing-putting all Americans into 1 category??? And just out of curiosity-why have there not been killings and protests by Christians in the past when Jesus was portrayed in a negative light by art or movies??? Ever see "The Last Temptation of Christ"?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Luis Wu

      I have no respect for any religion. Why should anyone have respect for ignorance and stupidity?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  6. catinlap

    Thank you, this was a most refreshing article.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  7. mohammad

    very good article...kudos to the writer!!!!!

    September 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • SFK

      Not really unless you justify killings on innocent people.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  8. SFK

    I am a US citizenand traveled abroad. Muslim/Islam majority are taught 1st hand to hate Americans and kill them. They are also taught to make that US money too and fun terrorist organizations. I witnessed first hand while I was in the US Army but went in mosques and holy places as a european maleand dressed like them so I no harm would come tome. What kind of relegion in this? Just an excuse to murder!!!! Ask the Muslim brothehood do they try to stop the killing of Christians overseas? NOPE, not at all.....They rejoice!

    TIme to get a President like Ronald Regan back in our office that is a Christian but that is concerned with the US, not the Muslim Brotherhood first!

    September 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  9. Gabriela

    What in t he world does Buddha have to do with this? Buddhists do not believe in god.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Keith

      Budda was a Hindi, of course he believed in Gods.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  10. Jerry

    Fear of Islam is not unfounded as shown by the events of the past week.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Keith

      That is true but Fundamentalism on both sides promotes extremes. What this guy is rightly trying to convey to his fellow believers is that "Extremism" is not good for the Evangelicals either.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  11. Jules

    To Kate: Where are all the so called "MODERATE MUSLIMS" speaking up against these actions? NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. People want Sharia Law in the US. How is that respecting our laws? Now shut up and be a good little frightened woman of Islam or you may get stoned, and not the good way. hehe

    September 16, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Layne

      Moderate Muslims are everywhere, protesting the actions of last week. But our news crews only point cameras at the minority who act like idiots. Which, if you read the article, is EXACTLY what the news crews in the Muslim world are doing. They're too busy filming Pastor Terry threatening to burn a Koran. They don't have time to interview a more moderate Christian.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  12. tony in charlotte

    CNN stop panderng Islam, ! muslims are garbage ! nuke them all no more problems! = World peace!

    September 16, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Layne

      Nuking our way to world peace?

      And you think you're better than them?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Keith

      I have no problem using fire bombs or daisy cutters on Religious Extremists of all sorts.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  13. mdmoore58

    Like most Christians, I do not have an irrational fear of Islam. It is more of a cautious concern.With the recent events taking place in the Middle East and other locations around the world, I was curious about the long term agenda of the groups said to be behind the protests in Egypt, Libya and other places in the region. First of all, I find it difficult to believe the protests are solely the result of some perceived offense involving a third rate movie trailer about the Prophet Mohammad. Personally, I believe it has more to do with 911 and the Muslim Brotherhood's Political and religious agenda than anything else. I am not anti-anything, but I do think it is important to exercise caution when dealing with radical groups both inside and outside the United States; whether they be Muslim, Christian or otherwise. Rhetoric from these groups must be taken with a grain of salt or simply dismissed as propaganda. However, as Americans and citizens of the world we must be able to effectively read, "the signs of the times" and make decisions according to the way we want our country to progress into the future. To simply sit on our hands and ignore what is going on around us is to ignore the responsibility we have not only to ourselves, but one another. It has been said, "Bad thing happen because good men often choose to do nothing." As Americans we must decide whether the rights and the freedoms we now enjoy are worth protecting, and worth fighting for. I'm talking about all Americans no matter their religion, creed or belief. A Theocracy cannot be allowed to take hold. Otherwise the progress we have made as a society will be lost forever. I do not want to see our nation go backwards into a time when women, children and minorities held the status of second class citizens. Those interested in the Muslim Brotherhoods real agenda should read their "Strategic Plan for North America". It is only one point of view. But is a very dangerous one. It is same view held by the government of Iran which is the driving force in the Middle East.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  14. KaraKara

    The author's guilt is misplaced. True, 'Evangelicals' might be going overboard in demonizing Islam.. although imho 'Islam' brings this on itself a million fold by it's own venomous hatred , intolerance, and never-ending violence - but if anything, his guilt should be about not living up to his own Christian ideals. Forget worrying about offending Muslims, that's a slippery slope that can only end in total capitulation to an obnoxious, mentally ill ideology that is hypersensitive about criticism because subconsciously (or maybe consciously?) Muslims have to know how vile their religion is and how dysfunctional societies based on this religion are.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Keith

      You skiped the Logic classes in College didn't you?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • takawalk

      Logic lessons or the indoctrination lessons?

      September 25, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  15. muslim2012

    God Will Kill Children

    The glory of Israel will fly away like a bird, for your children will die at birth or perish in the womb or never even be conceived. Even if your children do survive to grow up, I will take them from you. It will be a terrible day when I turn away and leave you alone. I have watched Israel become as beautiful and pleasant as Tyre. But now Israel will bring out her children to be slaughtered." O LORD, what should I request for your people? I will ask for wombs that don't give birth and breasts that give no milk. The LORD says, "All their wickedness began at Gilgal; there I began to hate them. I will drive them from my land because of their evil actions. I will love them no more because all their leaders are rebels. The people of Israel are stricken. Their roots are dried up; they will bear no more fruit. And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved children." (Hosea 9:11-16 NLT)

    Kill Men, Women, and Children

    "Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple." So they began by killing the seventy leaders. "Defile the Temple!" the LORD commanded. "Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!" So they went throughout the city and did as they were told." (Ezekiel 9:5-7 NLT)

    September 16, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Keith

      That is a religion of "Love" and "Tolerance" isn't it?

      September 16, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  16. muslim2012

    Killing the Good Samaritan

    The ark of God was placed on a new cart and taken away from the house of Abinadab on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab guided the cart, with Ahio walking before it, while David and all the Israelites made merry before the Lord with all their strength, with singing and with citharas, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.

    When they came to the threshing floor of Nodan, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God to steady it, for the oxen were making it tip. But the Lord was angry with Uzzah; God struck him on that spot, and he died there before God. (2 Samuel 6:3-7 NAB)


    3) Murdering Children

    Kill Sons of Sinners

    Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)

    September 16, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Keith

      Thank You for that fine example of why not to follow your so called "God"

      September 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  17. traser

    How is it that everytime there is Muslim violence, CNN is there to remind us that the real problem are those that think Muslim violence is a problem and that Christianity sucks. Without fail, every time you will see mutliple articles with this message. My question to the editor? What is your angle and who do you owe?

    September 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Richard Braswell

      Excellent point!! It would be noteworthy however to point out that each of the two 'religions' are phony, and merely seek to control people.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • DoseOfReality

      CNN publishes articles such as this because they echo the stance of the current administration and democrats in general. The administration and most high-level democrats dedicated most of their harshest words to the offensive movie comparatively glossed over these lunatic fundamental Islamic extremists. Personally, I found the movie most offensive because of the terrible acting and dialog, but I'm proud to live in a country where we can freely create movies like this without worrying about deadly retribution from "offended" mobs.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  18. muslim2012

    Kill Brats

    From there Elisha went up to Bethel. While he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him. "Go up baldhead," they shouted, "go up baldhead!" The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two shebears came out of the woods and tore forty two of the children to pieces. (2 Kings 2:23-24 NAB)

    God Kills the Curious

    And he smote of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of Jehovah, he smote of the people seventy men, `and' fifty thousand men; and the people mourned, because Jehovah had smitten the people with a great slaughter. And the men of Beth-shemesh said, Who is able to stand before Jehovah, this holy God? and to whom shall he go up from us? (1Samuel 6:19-20 ASV)

    Killed by a Lion

    Meanwhile, the LORD instructed one of the group of prophets to say to another man, "Strike me!" But the man refused to strike the prophet. Then the prophet told him, "Because you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, a lion will kill you as soon as you leave me." And sure enough, when he had gone, a lion attacked and killed him. (1 Kings 20:35-36 NLT

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

      You're quoting the Old Testament but it is the New Testament that makes Christianity.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  19. John

    Typical. Muslims upset because of a film, start killing people, and now it's time to blame Christians if they fear such stuff.

    Kind of like when Romney was blamed for Obama's response... makes no sense what so ever.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Josef F

      John, I think you meant to say *some* Muslims get upset about a film and start killing people. Unless you also believe that all Christians should be held accountable for the murder of abortion doctors and bombing of women's health clinics perpetrated by a few. You're not a hypocrite, are you? Oh, what am I talking about. You're a Christian. Of course you're a hypocrite.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  20. Casey

    None of us are the JUDGE, JURY OR EXECUTIONER. I belive all religions teach this, however, none practice it. No religion on earth is 100% right and are imperfect, just like people. We will be judged individually and without prejudice, so let everone who believes, pray for those who persecute and help those who are in need.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
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