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. tallulah13

    In the mainstream of our common heritage there is no place for evil and hatred. Science does wonders to the human mind and Islamic miracles have been scientifically proved and is the only religious text that devolves into a full blown scientific text fit for the modern mind and there is no place in the modern mind to think of Islam as anything other than peaceful and that which prepared the human mind for a life in paradise. Allah Akbar!

    September 23, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • mike coats

      you are an idiot.

      September 23, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  2. shaun

    So is Israel islamophobic? Irano-phobic?

    September 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  3. paulstewart2

    The troubles that we are seeing today are a good testament to why the church needs be kept out of the state. Also, Islamophobia is the issue of the day. There is a phobia about all unknowns. What is happening today is the direct result of deeds of hat planted by Osama in his lifetime. Now this man conflates the Muslim religion with his terrorist goals. What we are in danger of today is that some who would like to be the leader of the free world, is advised by and perhaps he himself believes that the way to deal with this trap set y Osama is to put your foot firmly in it.

    The other feature of American society to feeds into this mess, is the notion that speech somehow is free. It is not free, it comes with responsibility and also a price....


    September 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  4. Millennium3

    Good News!

    Jesus has already come back, as he promised, together with Muhammad,
    in the beginning of this most critical Third and Last Day (=Millennium; John 6/27, 40) now!


    September 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  5. AC

    GO felliatiate the psychopathic murderous muslims somewhere else.

    September 23, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  6. A true believer

    Let them all say whatever they want to as it wont get them anywhere anyway.
    and Thank God Almighty we are not one of them (Alhamdulillah) 🙂

    September 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  7. RealChristian

    I agree with this gentleman, One must make a choice between serving the true God of love in Jesus Christ and the false god of hate.
    Recently, there was a Muslim couple who sat near us at an outdoor restaurant. As we were leaving, they asked if they could use the high chair we were using for our toddler. I could have ignored them, I thought. Instead, I took the high chair over to them with a smile.
    I felt then and there that they were suprised by my generous overture and also that hearts melted on all sides. I hope
    I was a good witness for the Lord of love.

    September 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Hisham

      I'm confused. You think you ought to be recognised for not being rude and impolite (which ignoring them would have been)? Add to that: it would been just bigotry for you to ignore them - because plainly, had they not been Muslim, you wouldn't have even thought of ignoring them.

      No offence: but the fact that you did bring the high-chair to them is the least you could have done, after considering the option of ignoring them. This is hardly charitable. On the contrary, I'd question why you didn't ask forgiveness from God for even considering the option of ignoring them.

      September 23, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Mart

      Unfortunately, both you and the author of this "apologetic" article place alll the blame on Christians, and DO NOT HOLD MUSLIMS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ATROCITIES, committed in the name of their religion and their god.
      You're right: Christians cannot be ruled by hatred. Most Christians AREN'T.
      The problem is you guys let the Muslims get away with their murderous rampages SCOT-FREE!
      There may have been "Christian" hatred and lies behind that video, BUT DOES THAT EXCUSE WHAT THEY'VE BEEN DOING TO OUR EMBASSIES around the world? Give me a break! Before you try to remove the speck from your brothers' eyes, WHY DON'T YOU REMOVE THE LOG IN ISLAMIC EYES, AS WELL AS IN YOUR OWN??

      September 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • takawalk

      You do realize that nations have codified into their laws a version of Islam that teaches Jihad. You need to give some real consideration to the things being done in today's world in the name of Islam. Is it an act of love not to resist? It is my hope that the internet and other forms of modern communication can help rational people of all faiths and no faith understand that we cannot just sit still and allow Jihad to be waged against us all. What can we do? what is the answer? I am not sure but it seems the first step would be to make it politically correct to disavow the version of Islam that promotes terrorism, and it is my way or death. Instead we give legitimacy to organizations who have openly stated in their charter what their goals are, which include conquering nations from within and wiping Israel off the map.
      I can only hope that people with more intelligence and oratory skills than I have will stand up and be listened to. The onus is mainly on Muslims for to be silent is to be complicit.
      Yes I would not hesitate to be polite or act in love with those of different faiths, skin color , or what have you. Show mercy when possible to my enemy's when possible. That being said, if the only way ( for example) I could stop someone from beating his wife not slapping but beating her, was to put a bullet in him I would shoot. The only thing needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  8. Alan Brite

    You seem quite oblivious to the fact that Muslims are very dangerous and instead of condemning Christians and insinuating we are doing something to provoke Muslims you need to encourage Muslims to take responsiblity for their violent acts. Christians are put down continuously but I don't see them killing people because of it. Wake up and smell the coffee – you may be in the next tower that burns to the ground.

    September 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Yan

      Good post, maybe he should be more aware and in less denial of the Islamic westphobia that's affecting us all. I am so sick of defending the obvious wrong. Under islamic laws what is the punishment for questioning Islam? Death. What is the punishment for criticism of Islam? Death. What is the punishment for publishing historical facts? Death. What is the punishment for switching to another religion? Death. What is the punishment for not doing what your father requires? Death, this is called honor killing. This is basically a cult of violence, and we shouldn't be concerned?

      September 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Dave Behrens

      I agree with you and Yan. I'm an secular humanist, who has studied (six credits) the Bible and the Quaran. Bottom line: the Bible is, in the New Testament, primarily a book of tolerance, forgiveness and love. The Quaran is a book of hate; more specifically a book that advocates the taxation and submission or murder of all non-Islamic people.

      There is no equivocation possible in the plainly stated Surah 9 Verse 5:
      "And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."

      Even more pointedly, Surah 9 Verse 29:
      "Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled."

      We watch the Muslim violence nightly, not only against Christians and Jews, but against Hindus, Buddhists, and even between factions within Islam. The 'Peace' Muslims speak of is the complete submission to their specific version of Islam; apply Surah 9, Verses 5 and 29, to all others.

      September 23, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  9. Free-Thinker

    CHRISTIANITY: The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you
    live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell
    him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force
    from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was
    convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. Makes perfect sense.

    September 23, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Free-Thinker

      Christianity is the retelling of a much older Egyptian myth that is mirrored in a number of cultures that preceded the Christian age.

      September 23, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Yan

      Whatever you think christianity is, at this point in history i have failed to see them beheading people in the name of Jesus Christ.

      September 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • goodone

      this is my kind of story – the one where you know you don't really have to believe it
      just sit still and shutup – cuz that's the respectful thing to do – as we all know
      what exactly were these Egyptian myths – this will definitely have to be my first stop in continued understanding of this religion thing

      September 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Disciple of Jesus

      for being such a free thinker are pretty bigoted and spiteful. but so was Robespierre and his crony "reasonites"

      September 23, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Ray

      Your comment has nothing to do with this article. This is the same boring atheistic blather. You're a bonehead ... Go back to your p*rn.

      September 23, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • mike coats

      sounds like you got a bone to pick with Jesus.maybe you should give Him a chance before it's to late.

      September 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  10. American

    My take: everywhere Muslims go they cause massive problems and social upheaval. We shouldn't be importing them into the West and then expecting different results.

    September 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  11. Rich S

    Brian McLaren is no role model or no authority for me. He is not a Christian – he is a false prophet new age liberal.

    September 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • Josh

      Amen to that, he only has himself as a source of authority, which is usurping Christ Himself.

      September 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • American

      Exactly. IMO, he should be deported to Saudi Arabia or Iran where he can find his "happiness."

      September 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • CallingUout

      Who are you to decide who or what a "christian" is? The Pope? St. Rich of The Bigoted?

      September 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  12. bobby

    99.9% of people have not read the Quran in English. They always take things out of context. The Quran says that Muhammad pbuh had the best character of all of humanity. His character is confirmed so that is enough for us because the Quran is perfect. Oddly, the quran mentions Muhammad's name only 4 times and it mentions Jesus 25 times.. It's more of book about Jesus than Muhammad...... Read it from cover to cover in english and you will see.. don't listen to anyone just read it for yourself.

    September 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • BB01

      I don't need to read the Quaran, I don't care, I don't care about the bible either, never read it, never will. All I care about is that people that chose to wish to believe in religion – any religion whatsoever – behave civil and leave those who want to believe differently or not at all in peace. Muslims seem at present to have an issue with that, that needs to be corrected either they do it themselves or we do it for them with boots on the ground and drones in the air...

      September 23, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Yan

      Why should anyone that doesn't approve of this doctrine would want to read the Quran. I don't know if you have watched the news lately, but the people who are reading the Quran are causing quite the stir. It's not necessary for anyone to read the Quran when its legacy speak for itself through the actions of those who read it and practice it. I don't need to read any Buddhist book to know they are peaceful. Are you calling all these muslim people ignorant and illiterate, because if the book is peaceful, someone can't read.

      September 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  13. speakingisfreedom

    Wow! Is this a rational response to thousands of 21st century terrorist attacks committed by Islamic imperialists, thousands killed on several continents justified by direct quotations from a holy prophet, and thousands of protesters demanding global blasphemy laws – with the penalty of death? Really? You're going to blame the truth-tellers and not violent, jihadist psychopaths for the clash of civilizations? Really?

    September 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • bobby

      what about James Holmes? Timothy McVeigh? lol Let's just be real.. I am a muslim and I was born in America and I love this country like the rest of us. 90k convert to islam eac year in prison and 90k convert year round in random states. It's not the religion it's the people and BELIEVE ME WHEN I TELL YOU NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE PERFECT LMAO

      September 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • BB01

      @Bobby you really want to trot out tired old Tim McVeigh one more time to somehow put a global wave of Muslim terror with thousands of individual incidents on par with the lone lunatic that randomly strikes once or twice a decade be my guest but you are self diluting yourself. State sponsored Islam and sharia law are absolute pure evil and you know that, because that's why you are on your knees 5 times a day thanking Allah or whoever you believe in that you live here and not in one of these cesspool of failed nations....

      September 23, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  14. Rolf

    Ultimately evangelical Christians need to ask themselves the following after truly searching their hearts and after thoughtful prayer; "are my actions overwhelmingly motivated to glorify God?" If the makers of the video were truly motivated to glorify God then I'm good with it. If they were motivated to gain publicity, fame, or fortune; if they were motivated by fear or self righteousness; if they were motivated by hate or prejudice then I would suggest that god would no less favorably on their actions than those who stormed our embassies.

    September 23, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  15. Harry Kuheim

    Well if Islamofascists are justified in Rioting and burning Coptic Christian Churches anytime they are offended by a movie I choose to throw rocks at any woman wearing a Hijab because I am offended over 9/11 and Daniel Pearl's beheading.

    September 23, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Amerihuman

      This just makes you a jerk. You would hold all Islam responsible for what a couple of misguided people did, then commit a horrendous crime of holding an innocent responsible without justice. In America we don't do that and I resent you suggesting that this is a thing that Americans could do. Only warped criminals, somewhat like the criminals that claim to believe in Islam, could suggest holding innocents responsible for crimes committed by others.

      September 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  16. by Principle

    I understand what the author of this article is trying to say, but he is very naive. ALL MUSLIMS follow the teachings of Muhammad and believe that Muhammad is the person that everyone should model their life after. Of course, this is rather problematic, because Muhammad was a pedophile, murderer, tortured people, and espoused hatred and dominance and suppression of anyone who is not one of his followers.

    September 23, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Eric Thompson

      Mohammed was not a pedophile nor a murderer. He did not torture people, he did not espoused hatred and dominance nor did he suppress anyone who is not one of his followers. I say this, not as a Muslim, but as a Christian

      September 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Rich S

      So true – Mohammed was an evil marauder

      September 23, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • sfcmac

      @eric thompson: So that 9 year old girl he married doesn't qualify him as a pedophile?

      September 23, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • RealityisWhatYouNeedToKnow

      Before pointing out on someone else check in your own neighborhood first, Check the American highschools and see your 11 year old girl walking pregnant in the hall and not just one but everyone. You all are pedophiles.

      September 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • saud khan

      Islam is a religion of peace and equality...Islam does not allow killing of innocent people...In recent years specially after 9/11 Islam is under attack. Everyday more than 3 books are written against Islam in which Quranic verses are quoted out of context and with changing the meanings and it is tried to show that Islam supports Islamic killings. there are thousands of
      Website online bombarding wrong information about Islam. We also see the worlds Islamic terrorists and Muslim extremists used on Media against Muslims. but lets see what actually Islam says about innocent killings.

      Quran says" whoever kills an innocent person it is as he has killed the whole of humanity and whoever saves a person it is as he has saved the whole of humanity". it is my challenge that there is no other religious scripture which says that killing an innocent person is like killing whole of humanity. watch what rules where told by Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) during the war. Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said in Hadith "Do not lay hands on the old verging on death, on women, children and babies. Do not steal anything from the booty and collect together all that falls to
      your lot in the battlefield and do good, for Allah loves the virtuous and the pious."

      Now some people will argue with me that Quran also speaks about fighting. yes its speaks about fighting but fighting for truth fighting for justice fighting against injustice. this type fighting is also told in Bible by Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). the Same fight is told in Mahbharat by Ram. i challenge anyone to show a single verse of Quran which talks about
      killing innocent people. May Allah help everyone to understand the Islam correctly.

      September 23, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • takawalk

      saud khan Cool as in very cool. Can you tell that to all these misinformed folks who keep killing people as they shout how great Allah is. I hope that doesn't sound sarcastic, because I appreciate your post and respect your version of Islam. We desperately need more ( as in MANY more people) with your understanding of your faith to speak out.

      September 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  17. kalohe

    Whomever calls Islam a peaceful religion of tolerance has obviously not read all the parts of the Koran where Mohammad commands his followers to take up the sword and kill all who do not convert to Islam. Whether it is used as a religion or a political tool, the very idea of Democracy is apostasy in Islam. The very notion of mankind making choices goes against "submitting to the will of Allah"

    September 23, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  18. Fred

    If a particular group's Holy Book says that they should take over the world by using violence, then to be afraid of them is not a phobia...but rather an expected and appropriate reaction. You can stick your head in the sand, but it doesn't change what's going on above the sand (and someone may kick your *ss while it's hanging out there with your head in the sand).

    September 23, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  19. imarascal

    Religion of any kind is the root of the evil that everyone of you are talking about. If we as a people would just rid ourselves of religion, the entire world would be much better off.

    September 23, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  20. Maria

    It is wrong to publish embracing lies.
    A bully will never stop when he sees intimidation working in the minds of his enemy. Bullies need to be fought back or they will never quit murdering. If a religion is bullying and murdering and causing all manner of havoc, chaos and war then you need to really evaluate if there is a need for a bigger stronger reaction stopping the murdering bullies. So far the entire Middle East is a flaming war of people who only wish to murder others and cause disasters everywhere in the name of a false god. And we are supposed to take that? Are we suppose to sit and watch them murder the rest of the world becaue their god says so? What kind of god is that? That is no god but the devil deceiving people and putting spells on them into enacting murders and leading manking into a dead trap of false religion. YOU SHALL K NOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS...DO FIGS COME OUT OF THORNS??? Does your father give you poison if you disobey? or does He give you peace and healing and understanding? There is only one loving Father and then there is the devil making war against Him and His children. Jesus was clear on who the father of mankind and religions is. He was also clear on how a person can have a next life and peace. Anyone not following Him and deceiving others away from Him, the Savior, will not inherit life but the wrath of God abides in Him. Why wrath of God? Because God is pure, he allows no lies and no murderers in His Kingdom. Does your religion allow for that? Maybe it is time to evaluate which god to serve, hmm the one true God of peace or His perennial enemy making war and taking all their followers to hell? It is a free will , it is freedom, we do have a choice. God or the devil. Go figure it out.

    September 23, 2012 at 11:39 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.