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. Hughcity

    Mr. McMarlen, you and ridiculous! This crazy film is not the issue anymore than the Danish cartoon was the problem. For heavens sake sir, hundreds attacked an interim consulate the one time our diplomat happen to be there armed with assault weapons and rpg's. Spontaneous is was not. Stop worrying about the few nuts among us while rationalizing the many nuts among them and get your head on straight. Let the facts take the lead here.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Chuck Wagon

      It is indeed a factor in that:
      Someone deliberately kicked the hornet's nest by creating and releasing the video; and
      Someone else used it as an excuse to launch an attack.
      I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the video is still relevant.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  2. Taco Fan

    Here's an idea. Religious people claim that heaven is paradise. So go there. Fvck off and die. Let intelligent humans live.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Hughcity

      Taco brain

      September 16, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • billy inmon

      Good thought but weird and wrong. Wwi and wwii weren't over religion.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  3. billy inmon

    No way will I sacrifice my right to free speach for idiologs

    September 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  4. Muddy

    This is absolute liberal BS. Attack Christians when Muslims are acting like a bunch of freaking lunatics is 25+ countries over a video by 1 person. Maybe the opinion should be analyzing Islam and figure out why they have so much rage!!!!! Maybe because the Koran teaches be-headings and it's OK to marry little girls.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • J

      From the tone of your comment, you've got a bit of rage yourself, it seems.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Chuck Wagon

      So how do you feel about flag burning? Or an 'artistic statement' like 'P!ss Christ'? If you were Jewish, how would you feel about a new film claiming the blood libel is based on truth? Scratch that last one, empathy does not seem to be your strong suit.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • E Blalck

      You so called christains are not doing Gods work, you are evil and God will punish you. My guess is that most of you claim to be christains even the ministers who are leading you down the wrong path of hatred. That is not what God expects you to do, please read you bible not the hate that the (GOP) church preaches.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Pherz

      Agree CNN likes to think of its as a bastion of discourse when its more like a bastion of abusive a$$-kissing.

      September 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  5. Ryan

    I think it's pathetic that the author of this article and much of the public commentary is that this video is to blame for the entire problem.

    Who has the bigger problem, they guy who makes a dumb movie or the people who respond by killing people? Well, according to the idiot who wrote this article, it's ok to kill if someone makes a dumb movie about your religion.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  6. DDM

    The film-maker has Coptic Christian relatives in Egypt, and nearly every week we can hear or read of the muslim majority atrocities perpetrated upon these people in Egypt as well as on other non-muslims. Are we supposed to turn a blind eye while immigration is allowing the spread of this disease all around the world? Accusing people of 'Islamophobia' is turning one's back on reality. Separate and isolate makes more sense than pretending the muslim mind-set is not a threat. At least stop the immigration! (NOT a Christian)

    September 16, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Chuck Wagon

      So therefore, allowing black people to move into your neighborhood ignores the reality of crime rate increasing and property values plummeting.
      See what I did there, amigo?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  7. For Real?

    To Chuck Mann and others who commented negatively: your ignorance has no bounds. You are the classic victim of the propaganda that the author is reffering in his article of Islamophobia. Have you ever heard of the Crusades? Chritians (like you and I) slaughtered million who would not convert to Christianity. Have you forgotten that? Your hypocracy is overwhelmingly nausiating. Read history. The problem you and most of the Christian Right have is that you can not break out of the paradigm you live in. You automatically assume Islamists = terrorists. It's uneducated morons like yourself (and George W.Bush) that make the muslim world turn on Americans. Your way of thinking has robbed America of the beacon of light that America was for the world up until a few decades ago. You're pathetic....

    September 16, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Ryan

      You idiot. The muslim extremists loved us before George Bush right? Come on dufus, at least wake up and acknowledge that muslim extremists hate us because of our religion. Your savior obama has not done anything to make the extremists love us.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • DDM

      When your sweet moderate muslims are called upon by their imams/mullahs to take up violence or stealth jihad as their duty to spread Islam, they will do so, regardless of who you thought they were before. In the meanwhile, taqiyya and smiley faces for the infidel. Read up on Hadith/Koran/Sharia Law and see what to really expect when the muslim duty to act is called upon.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • For Real?

      Ryan, muslims don't hate Christians. They hate American foreign policy as it relates to our love relationship with Israel. Pull your head out of your ass, open your eyes to realities

      September 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • For Real?

      Hey DDM, do you mean the muslims rise up if called to and would follow exactly what Christians did when called upon by their religious leaders? You retard – read my post again – you missed the point and showed your ass at the same time.....

      September 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  8. Valente Gonzalez

    No surprise that CNN hates Christians and finds a way to give islam a pass by posting this opinion piece. Where did they find this myopic baboon.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  9. Chris

    Wow, really? Muslim folks are on a murderous rampage but we should worry about a putative tipping point on the horizon wherein evangelicals will "break bad"? Seriously? I'm glad to admit that there is plenty of "sin in the camp" of the evangelical faithful. But this piece is just garbage. Shame on CNN for even wasting the space on its website.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Chuck Wagon

      I suppose this would be a bad time to remember that Eric Rudolph is a devout, evangelical Christian who believed fervently that God wanted him to shoot and blow up people?

      September 16, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Erik

      Ya, your right. Jesus had it all wrong and "we Chritians" today have it all right. If Jesus would of just given up on this "unconditional love" thing and struck down the Jewish priests and Romans with a bolt of lightning then everyone would of seen the truth. So lets just use that "the power of love" God has given us and make our government push the N button.

      October 8, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  10. Gimmeabreak!

    from Josh: By the way, should we talk about the money we are giving to a country, Egypt, that is now official y an enemy of the United Stares? Perhaps we should use those "kiss a-" funds to help our own people. Once again I say, let's shut off the middle east to the rest of the world and patrol that region with weaponized drones.



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

    sensible and balanced views.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  12. EricLD

    Spoken like a true liberal Unitarian. Why dont you go live in Iran for a few years and see how much your sense of liberalism is respected.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  13. Insider

    Islam is the religon of Satan1

    September 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Chuck Wagon

      So then what's the religion of Satan2?

      September 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  14. David

    You have got to be kidding. When is the last time a evangelical christian preacher shot at rocket into an embassy or for that matter at any thing and murdered people in the name of religion??

    September 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • 1byrd

      Didja ever hear of Timothy McVeigh?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • 1byrd

      Didja ever read about the anti-choice clinic bombings and murders?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • 1byrd

      Didja read about the burning of the mosque in Tennessee?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • 1byrd

      Didja know about the Church of Jesus Christ Christian – otherwise know as the Aryan BROTHERHOOD (ya see, Muslims aren't the only ones who use that term....)?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  15. Human Being

    the KKK uses the cross as their symbol, does that make them Christians?
    Does Timothy Mcveigh represent all Christians?

    September 16, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  16. 13monkees

    The author says, "The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge." Really? Has he read his bible? This Gentle Christ will burn anyone who doesn't worship him for an eternity. That would include all Muslims. Just like I don't think you can justify Islam as a religion of peace, you can't justify Christianity as a religion of peace either. These religions are based on bronze-age beliefs and they are brutal. At least Christianity has some of the enlightenment influence helping them not relive the inquisition. But they still fund killings in Uganda. All religions really just need to go away.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Bob Bales

      Suppose the doctor tells me I need surgery to save my life. I refuse and so die. Did I die because the doctor condemned me to death because I didn't take his advice? Of course not. Similarly, if people go to hell for eternity, it is because of what they have done, not what Christ has done. Crist came and gave His life so that people wouldn't have to go to hell.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  17. Matt

    Another pefect example that illustrates the absurdity of religion and its devisive mechanisms...

    September 16, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  18. MikeB

    Tipping Point?
    Things are up side down. We're more concerned about someone raising their grievance against tyranny than a Tyrannical group that hides behind the skirts of religion, beheads those who do not kneel to their doctrine, and has honor killings of family members that dare question their bondage to it. The Mohammadist extremist are no better than the KKK, Communist, or any other Totalitarian authority. We must engage them to end their indoctrination of hate to future generations and to free those that wish to be Liberated from the tyranny of Barbarianism.
    Freedom of Speech raises awareness of Tyrannies that threaten our Freedom, whether it be the ones speaking or the subject of the speech. Silencing it is a surrender to tyranny.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Maya

      Yet when groups in the U.S. put up billboards to denounce the hypocrisy of Christianity, supposedly freedom-loving American Christians send death threats.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  19. Sue

    BRAVO, Mr. McLaren!
    One of the very few sensible comments on the religious aspect of this whole affair. So many of the "Christian" comments on this thread are not much different than the hate-filled comments on a Muslim evangelical thread. "Evangelical", for me, has come to mean "s/he who can yell the loudest and bully the best." I don't really see much to admire about evangelicals of ANY kind.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  20. Daniel Morgan

    Great article.
    I, too, am really tired of the self-righteous religious nutjobs that create problems for everyone.
    Muslim religious fanatics attack us on 9/11, and now this attack.
    Christian religious wackos put up a repulsive nutjob video to provoke the attack.
    I wish we could take all the religious fanatics and idiots, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, whatever, and put them all on an island somewhere where they can fight about their religious wackjob nonsense all they want – and maybe the rest of us can have a sane society where we don't suffer the consequences of the religious nutjobs' arguements.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:41 am |
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