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. jake

    Very true. I'm on their mailing lists. Evangelicals propagate lies and hate.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • whothefami

      Me too. And they get really mad when you ask them to take you off!

      September 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  2. Independent Fred

    Al *Wrote*
    "Islamaphobic? A phobia is an irrational fear. Last I checked, it was Muslims that blew up the WTC,"

    First off Al ole buddy those 9/11 wack jobs no more represent Islam than you represent the wacko's that blew up clinics, recruiting stations and attack our military bases here in the US.

    Those wack jobs claim to be Christian in some form so should we lump all Christians in with them?

    Of course not, please think before posting nonsense.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  3. 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 perverted disease of the mind

    September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Gil

      sybaris, exactly.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • VFA

      The difference is you can say that on any street in America and go home at night,do it in the Arab world and you end up beheaded.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • sybaris

      VFA, so by your logic freedom of speech is the reason why people follow the christian fairy tale.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  4. harrisonhits2

    Islam has become no religion but a philosophy of great evil. It needs to be exterminated the same way Naziism was. We cannot let this disgusting belief of blood, terror, murder, slavery and pedophilia take over the world.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • sybaris

      You might need to look up the definition of philosophy and see how it goes hand in hand with religion.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  5. muslim2012


    September 16, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Gil

      Please stop the video spam about your supersti-tion already.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • KR

      In your slaughter videos, if the word of God is so great, then "why must the guy make the animal lie on the ground and then after covering its eyes and then only the lamb to order". It should come to order naturally when it hear the words Allah u akbar" without forcefully brought down to the ground. The covering of eyes has something to do with it.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  6. Schock

    The cart is ahead of the horse here. "Anti-American" riots has this movie as just a pre-text. This riots is a part of the internal power strugle between modarates and extremists in Arabic "Spring" movement. With our pathetic teethless reaction we are inviting more attacks, becoming loughing butt for Arab street thugs. As it was said in 1938: "They think that they bought peace with shame, but they'd get war as well.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  7. Jimi

    Personally, I think you ALL are morons living in backwards religion toting blindness. Religion is nothing more than a check on human advancement and does not allow for free thinking and scientific exploration. Take religious dogma out of the equation and humans would be able to fix ALL of our world's problems. ONE GOD, ONE RELIGION!!! Do right to others and solve problems...not create them through petty squabbles. Really, the religious world sounds like spoiled kids in the backseat of a car fighting over who gets to sit in the center.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • takawalk

      B.S humans would manage to continuing f–king up with or without religion.

      September 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  8. KR

    Only ignorant people resort to this kind of violence to set things right. Have the islamists really reset the prejudice of the people who made the video. No change there. They plan to instill fear in the minds of those people who make these videos. But fear will not stop prejudice and videos like this will be made in the future. Even worse the islamists have now the reputation of intolerant and violent people who will not accomplish anything.

    If anything is to stop prejudice, it is only good and decent conduct of those on the receiving side. In this case the islamists who were on the receiving side, could have shunned violence and simply made a statement like "Shame on you people who don't understand my religion. In any case I forgive your ignorance and naivety". That would have a better effect.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  9. Tr1Xen

    Don't we have a bomb big enough to just take out some of these countries and leave a big f*ing hole there instead?

    September 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Rick Rosio

      ah yes the "american way" of dealing with things

      September 16, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Peter

      TriXen: This isn't a video game, junior.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  10. Bregginkrak

    I'm pretty sure CNN writers must recieve a bonus based on number of comments they can elicit....I can't think of any other reason for some of the statements CNN writers make.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  11. Ice

    Brian McLaren will led you to destruction.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Tentative Infidel

      The very nature of Islam is submission, subjugation, conversion or death. It is not a religion of peace, it is a socio-political movement with the primary objective of global domination.

      That has been its goal since its inception in the 7th century. DO NOT BE FOOLED! If you are a non-Muslim, you must convert or die.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Peter

      How will Brian "led" you to destruction?

      Sounds like a smart, measured article.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Peter

      Tentative wrote: " If you are a non-Muslim, you must convert or die."

      Then how come my American citizen Muslim sister-in-law that I have known for over 20 years hasn't killed me yet?

      Ridiculous, ignorant nonsense.

      Christianity has an ugly, historical side, too.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  12. whothfami

    If both sides would come to the realization that their prophets are false and their gods don't exist, the whole world wold be much better off!

    September 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Low n slow

      Can you name an atheist nation that was a happy joy fun place? The ones I am aware of we're all death camps and misery.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  13. Unafiliated

    "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."

    Poor Islam can't catch a break. Every time the civilized world starts to be comfortable with it, someone gets murdered in the name of Islam. I mean, what are the muslims supposed to do? They HAVE to kill when they are offended... or when someone sins... or when someone leaves Islam... or... well... I guess they just have to kill.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  14. TomCom

    America needs to stop harrasing these countries. Our goverment always preaches that to have peace we need to keep our bases in over 60 countries. Bin Laden was driven to because of America's presence in the Middle East. We would not tolerate another countries military in our country.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • ilovethefalcons

      Foolishness if we leave them alone they fly planes into buildings if we help them and train them they kill us even there policemen. If we liberate them they kill our ambassador. Its time for Muslims to own up and say they are using us. They are all our enemies

      September 16, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nonsense. This is a very small minority of Muslims. Don't be such a hysterical ninny.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • takawalk

      The small minority is a problem but not the main one. The vocal pacifistic Muslim is helpful but not a solution. The real problem is the basic teachings of the Islamic believe system, and the silence of the majority of Muslims. Everyday I see many condemn Christians because of basic misunderstandings of what following the teachings of Jesus entail. I have a question for any and all Muslims, is the true follower of the " prophets ' teachings the radical killer or the peaceful Muslim? At this point it seems to me that the peaceful verses are a afterthought. Or in the context of don't kill them yet just require them to pay more taxes. I may have a total misconception but it seems if this is a religion of peace, the extremist and the silent ones also miss the point. It is not enough to be a peaceful Muslim, show me that your religion is a peaceful one. I want to know if the extreme nut bags are the real problem or is it the teachings of the prophet?

      September 26, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  15. brunokraiske

    This is a most idiotic article Ive read in months. When muslims chant "Death to America" "Death to Israel" and burn their flags – Christian Evangelicals dont run around burning arab embassies and killing their staff. Ambassador's killing shines a light on muslims intolerance of other cultures and religions.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • TomCom

      Why do you think they hate us? Maybe because we have our military thier? We force our politics down thier throat.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Bluto, are you saying Christians are not intolerant?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • roger

      I agree. The White House has propagated a lie so that they cannot be blamed for the intelligence failure that has happened on their watch. This was a deliberate attack by radical muslims disguised as valid protests and they caught us with our pants down. Our security vigilance should have been high during the 9/11 anniversary and it was not. I love the fact that the poster of the film has been brought in for interrogation about his film by the FBI. I love the fact that the news media grills Romney on what he would do when the current CINC who is in charge gets a pass.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  16. Low n slow

    A phobia is an irrational fear. It is perfectly rational to fear and oppose Islam.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • sam stone

      it's pretty rational to oppose all religion

      September 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Low n Stupid, let's add Chrisatianity as well. Let's be wary of Islam and Christianity as they both seem to produce uneducated, low-life, hate mongers wanting to destroy everyone and everything not perfectly aligned with their misguided, foolish beliefs.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  17. Bregginkrak

    And maybe the Crips and Bloods will reach a tipping point soon too and quit killing each when one disrespects the other.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Is there a point in this comment that is relevant to christianity as opposed to bloodthirsty gangs or are you intending to conflate the two?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  18. JD

    I like the gentleman's rational that Muslims don't create the problems, but other faiths do. What a Crock! Just because someone dislikes your religion, and even insults it, does not give you the right to react to it with "murder and violence." But, this is 'always" the case in regards to Islam. Its as if they demand that we walk around them on "egg shells" in fear of maybe insulting their religion and face "violent retialation." Calling Islam a peaceful religion is like calling the black plague a common cold. Its time for the world to stand up and say – enough is enough. If you want to react with violence, then violence shall be returned.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Peteyroo

      Right, just what Jesus would say, n'est ce pas?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • sqeptiq

      Your hate trumps your reading comprehension. I hope you don't call yourself a christian.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • JA

      Christianity is hardly a peaceful religion. If you've actually read the bible and know a thing or two about history, you'd know this.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • takawalk

      JA I guess you read the old testament a lot, that was about law, our Christ is about Grace, Christ=Christianity..

      September 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      So do you have a house, food for more than the day, and a savings account?

      September 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  19. Ivanhoe

    For more insight into Islam and current events in the Middle East - read the novels based on direct experiences -- king of Bat'ha by Hashim, ..........................sequel -- Tales from the East: Return of Ivanhoe by Ivanhoe.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  20. real american

    and the stoning of Christians on the sidewalk of Dearborn,Mi gets little to no attention!

    September 16, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      Probably because it didn't happen the way you'd like the world to believe ?

      September 16, 2012 at 10:36 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.