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. Veritaas Lux

    This article is worst than the movie itself. A new low for CNN... and that is a hard thing to accomplish

    September 16, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      September 16, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • bob

      why? wow, blessed are the cheesmakers, what a pearl of wisdom... a better question would be why are cheesemakers blessed?

      September 16, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  2. Zeus ex Machina

    Allah is a butthole licking pedophile. So is Jesus.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  3. Kim

    So I have a question for Mr. McLaren..is it okay for radical muslims to MURDER Christians? Is it alright to have a president in the White House who has Muslim ties to not do his job which part of it is to PROTECT the American people that he SWORE to defend upon being inaugurated? It only makes sense for Americans and especially Christians to not condone this kind of behavior..God would not want us to stand up for radical beliefs but stand up for the one TRUE word and that is the Holy Bible. I really fear for the direction of the world now, we are definitely in the end times and the Lord will return very soon.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Jabezclay

      Fear is what you have, which is why you join these crazy religious sects, Islam, Evangelical etc
      Stop being so afraid, and start thinking for yourself.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Truth Hurts

      Let me guess, you want to see our president's third birth certificate?

      Ignorant fools cannot be listened to

      September 16, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  4. deep blue

    Gist of the article: Evangelicals are too prejudiced against a particular religious faith.
    hypocritical much?

    September 16, 2012 at 11:34 am |


    September 16, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • jc

      Wow, you could be the stupidest person on here, or one of the many. I'm a Muslim and I've never been taught those things you speak of. Get a clue, dude! The three main religions, (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are very similar, believe it or not. What is happening in the Middle East is not the mainstream belief of Muslims around the world. We all believe our own religion is the "right one", and we all have our own extremists that will go to lengths to show this, in the wrong way, unfortunately. This is no different than a crazed "Christian" who decides to raid abortion clinics, here in HIS own backyard of United States, simply because the act of abortion goes against his own beliefs. Even if Christianity is against abortion, his actions are unacceptable, and most Christians would agree. Why can't we call him then, a Christian terrorist? Because most people here in the US are so brainwashed and only see one color, maybe two. And that anyone who doesn't look like their own must be bad people. There’s no possible way a Christian could be a "terrorist", right? Outside of white and black people, everyone else is pretty much lumped together in a pile. Indians are confused with Arabs, Arabs are confused with Hispanics, and so forth. Why, because we here in the United States don’t go out of our way to try to understand people of other cultures and other religions. Get educated man, go travel, try different foods, start making friends with others who don’t “look” like you, and seek the truth before your spout off pure garbage.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  6. Tom

    Brian - It is never acceptable for individuals, whether or not they represent the mainstream of a faith, to kill others based on an expression of free speech. There is no larger, evangelical issue here - it's a case of intolerance and murder on the part of the perpetrators. Your blase treatment of the deaths of these Americans is the most frustrating part of your piece here.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  7. E2

    Once again, people are trying to shift the blame from where it belongs. The problem is not a cheap video or the people that watch it. Ignorant, intolerant, violent, extremists are the problem.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • SDY225

      The argument is simply that there are ignorant extremists in the evangelical movement as well – ones that are more than willing to accept the violent call to holy war.

      Muslims or Christians, they're all the same – ignorant extremism is ignorant extremism and a threat to world peace.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  8. bob

    "islamophobia" - what claptrap and horse-you know what! Pathetic people like you make me sick. Your calling Americans or anyone else not liking islamic terrorists who fly airplanes into buildings killing thousands of innocent women, men and children "phobes" of any kind is disgraceful. But, since little men like you are allowed to make your living via muckraking and sensationalism in a society that values freedom of speech, just continue spewing your lies and vitriol and keep deluding yourself in thinking that you are some sort of academic or intellectual, when you are nothing but a pathetic little man...

    September 16, 2012 at 11:33 am |
  9. Christian

    According to American Journal of Psychology, atheist and agnostics commit suicide more often than theist.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  10. Bud

    I think the real problem is Christianphobia in Muslim countries. They have no respect for our beliefs. Seriously, why is it we always must adapt to the world? One nation, under God.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Susan

      How do you know that average, sensible Muslims have any problem whatsoever with Christianity? They don't. It's this vocal, violent minority that is causing the problems. Most Muslims are fine with Christianity.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • llatpoh

      Susan – I am pretty sure the Coptic Christians being persecuted in Egypt would beg to differ with your "opinion"

      September 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  11. Austin

    The most harmful thing to islam and the spread of " islamaphobia" is the muslims themselves. Maybe if they didnt didnt react to a film that shows them in a violent murdering light, by being violent and murdering they would be seen less as monsters and more as victims

    September 16, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Susan

      That sector wants to fuel the flames, if we respond and things get worse, they get what they want. Fighting that escalates and escalates.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  12. abe

    Nothings justified killing innocent people, and specially ambassadors.
    But let open a real trail (without our American arrogance, heroism or even racism)
    Talking about a freedom of speech
    -I do remember the scandal that happen after “ mel Gibson” made the movie “The Passion Of The Christ” after he mention that “the Jewish are racist”, they force him to apologies, even he was drunk, are we still talking about the same us, or it is free for some and not for others.
    – this week a France magazine post picture of the UK prince’s spouse top less, there is a law suit going on now, why isn’t a free speech?
    Now how about these Muslim extremist (or jihadis or whatever they call them self)
    On 1988 us agencies trained (or they hire) these Muslim for jihad against soviet union in Afghanistan (benladen was one of them) is that was for Islam or something else. Now we (as these countries) are surfing from that.
    You know I was chocked when I saw a CNN report about how we (Most of the us people) ignore what is going on outside us, We just don’t care

    Cause of our bad politician’s decisions We pay for that “we don’t care “ with our blood, money and reputation around the word
    Thanks for reading

    September 16, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  13. Zeus ex Machina

    Christians and Muslims are equally stupid. Mental slaves.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • tag

      how is not stupid? jewish, hinduism, buddhism or they don't believe in nothing and they believe in anything?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  14. Roberto

    CNN, do you really think that the idea expressed in this article is the best way to explain what is happening in the Middle East? This article is irrelevant and misleading; and you even put a picture of Romney dressed as a Pastor next to it. I have lost the last bit of respect for you!

    September 16, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  15. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    The only difference between radical Islam and the Christian evangelicals is the rest of us won't put up with the evengelicals acting that way. There is no doubt many would if they could get away with it.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  16. Alex sabo

    I am neither Jewish nor Christian but the fact is Muhammad done more damage to all mankind in which his act cannot comprehend. This move clip it just an Iota of what Muhammad done. He was liar, thief, womanizer, and killer, rapist, untrusted. His religion was of his own making, invention for his own gain.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • Susan

      Lol sounds like what some say about the Mormons... 😉

      September 16, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Wheezy

      I guess, the fact that you are factually incorrect will not change your opinion.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  17. Veritae

    Mr. McLaren;

    Please, wake up and smell the reality. Stop the ridiculous "everybody's O.K.," PC tripe. Most people with any sense can see it's not true. You are piping an old and now rotting piper's tune. We don't need a Muslim friend to interpret anything for any of us. We have eyes; we have ears, and we can judge for ourselves the outwork of this so called, "religion of peace."

    Islamaphobia – what a stupid word. No, Mr. McLaren, it is because we do not trust them and we do not believe them. Call it trustaphobia, lack of autheticitiaphobia, full of bullaphobia, you are a PC'aphobic, whatever. You cannot win a war of nouns. Really; wake up and smell the reality.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Agree

      Well said Veritae, well said.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Susan

      Has this world not yet moved past the point of religious wars? Really?? I get that the extremists in Egypt and elsewhere are wanting to fight and kill for their religion, but I thought in the U.S. we were a little more grown up and tolerant at this point. Christians I thought grew out of this in the middle ages. You sound like you want to put us right back there.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • jetskreemr

      Well QED, you just proved the whole point of his article with your comment!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  18. Rabble-Rabble-Rabble

    Well what are Christians supposed to do, forgive people for doing horrible things? Look away when we're stricken? Just because these Muslim extremists might not know what they do I am supposed to love them anyway? What kind of moron would suggest that?

    And I bet you have some book to sell me with the answers....

    September 16, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Truth Hurts

      Yeah, who in their right mind would suggest that, haha

      September 16, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Susan

      These are not Muslims doing these violent acts – they are retarded people who happen to be Muslim. I hope no one groups me with retarded right wing evangelical Christians or the Princeton Plainsborough church when the picket military funerals, for instance.

      September 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  19. Kimo

    Muslims are bullies. Those moderate muslims that don't decry the extremeists are as bad as the extremists. Islam is flawed and incompatible with the 21st century. The tipping point is close and war with islam is inevitable.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Name*revert/Muslim

      Your written words will not go unheard.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Go Ducks

      Unfortunately it will come to that, and soon.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  20. Name*revert/Muslim

    Jewish folks? Minimizing the fact that Jews were the one who made and promoted this blasphemous film. Nice try.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:29 am |
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