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. Wastrel

    I am more afraid of what my government might do to me and other Americans in the name of fighting Islam. Our freedoms cannot be compromused. Our government needs to fight this war (which has been going on for more than 1000 years) fearlessly. No Islamophobes need apply.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  2. ManTex

    Phobia? They are as crazy and brutal as the Jews.

    That is why they have been in constant war for thousands of years.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  3. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Reason for mayhem among humanity is nothing else but hinduism, criminality of hindu Jew's filthy self centered of hindu, pagan Egypt and Persia, by hindu Judaism, self center ism, a hind, crime against truth absolute GOD and his humanity. There are no Religions, but Truth absolute, essence of existence, hindu's, criminals deny it in their hinduism ,denial of truth absolute. hinduism, religions are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by hindu Jew's, filthy secular s, self centered.Word hindu is based on Latin word hindrance, negativity, HUN, great, Han to be great, hind, to be negative to both of them, hindu, a noun in negativity, hinduism, way of negativity,Pay attention to word AL HIND, from word HANOOD, self centered, denier of truth absolute, AL HIND means, land of deniers of truth absolute, relation ship to word SINDHU is hinduism, absurdity of hindu's denires of truth absolute to make hinduism, illegality justifiable..A hindu, murderer deserves nothing less than his hinduism, crime, Death. rest of it is your hinduism, denial of truth absolute. There is no other truth but Truth absolute, hindu's, ignorant's deny by their hindu soul, filthy desire, untill it is truth absolute followed by hindu Jew's, filthy self centered and their hindu gentile, criminal slaves, follower's of hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism labeled Christianity, world has no chance to see peace, Islam on earth. things will not change until and unless Americans follow truth absolute, unimpeded and dump hindu Judaism, filthy secular ism, For more visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file

    September 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Bill Hannegan

      Yeah, totally... Hindus have blown up like hundreds of building and planes in the last century... (rolls eyes)

      September 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  4. R Daneel

    Thanks for self identifying. We can now label you as you deserve.

    TWANLOC = Those Who Are No Longer Our Countrymen

    September 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • GSP

      On behave of a couple of sane people here I would recommend you to give up US citizenship and take up maybe Taliban Citizenship. Traitor!!

      September 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  5. Susie

    Did anyone notice the juxtaposition of of this story on the front page, amid reports of rioting burning and killing through out the Muslim world and in the name of Islam?

    September 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • OTOH

      Where would you put it? In the gardening section?

      September 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • David

      ...are you serious?

      September 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  6. Mickey1313

    I am not theistic, but what the embassy attacks display is that the dogs of islam must be put down. Time to close all us arab embassies, cut all forgen aid to said countries, including isreal. I make it clear in no uncerten terms if they meddle with our oil supply we will retaliate swiftly and maliciously, with bio weapons. Ebola, anthrax, smallpox, what ever it takes islam is the scourge of the earth, and it its high time to end it. ,

    September 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
  7. Ed Sando

    There is a say in America that we forget about it....

    LEAVE and LET LIVE!!!!!!!!!! enough said, Who cares, what type of religion those people want to practice that's their problems, not the people leaving out there...Why meddling on other people believe....

    September 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      That goes out the window when our embassies are attacked. Swift and brutal retribution should be levied

      September 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Bill Hannegan

      When your "religion" involves cutting off teenage girls' noses, don't expect to be left alone to practice in peace.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  8. ivan bial

    The evangelical Christian also keep prorogating the lie about President Obama being a secret Muslim and other conspiracy B.S.

    The fact is the evangelical Christian who spread lies about President Obama aren't very good Christians

    September 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • AvdBerg

      ivan bial

      They are not so-called Christians as they follow after an image of a false god and Christ (Matthew 24:24; Gal. 4:8).


      September 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Susie

      Obama isnt a Muslim, he is a Socialist.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • David

      Obama isn't a socialist, Susie, he's more a pluralist. Try reading Marx to educate yourself on what a "socialist" really is. You're welcome.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Mohummad

      To call it islamaphobia is like saying Naziphobia. This not an imagined threat, it is real. Just because something is a religion doesn't make it off limits for annihilation.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • David

      I agree, Mohummad, all religion should be annihilated.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      Sussie, you are totally uninformed. If he were a socialist, his healthcare would have been single payer universal healthcare. He would not have bailed out thieving companies, he would have had government take them over. He is a uber capitalists, just like mittens

      September 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • David

      @mickey. It wasn't sigle payer because he would never have gotten that passed. That is what he wants. Bailing out the banks capitalism? Um ...no, that is statism, which leads to socialism. Capitalism would have said let them fail. Some of the banks where foreced to take bailout money, then forced to follow certain regulations because they were bailed out. THAT is not capitalism. I don't think he is a pure socialist i.e. Marx, but before you start calling people uninformed because you don't like their opinions, maybe you should get informes you self.

      September 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  9. AvdBerg

    The local media, including CNN, Fox and your local TV stations and newspapers are a very important element of social behavior as society is shaped by what it sees, hears and reads and it is conditioned by the events that influence the mind of every person. You reap what you sow.

    To allow anyone to be directed by public opinion is dangerous because most public opinion is the view of the media. If the media does not like something, their bias taints information getting to the public, and this forms public opinion. Public opinion is never based on research and facts. The public uses the media for its sole source of information and for this reason social behavior will continue to deteriorate and wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).

    For a better understanding of the role of the media we invite you to read the articles ‘Influence of the Media’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    The media does not provide accurate information on ‘Religion’ as it continues to ignore the truth and its history of deceptions (John 14:17). They have created the big chasm that now exists, without offering any solutions.

    Consider the truth about Evangelicals, Christianity and Islam and all the others and ask yourself the following question.

    Are so-called Evangelicals and Muslims and all those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8)?

    For a better understanding of the history of Christianity and Islam and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘World History and Developments in the Middle East’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  10. woodofpine

    Radical fundamentalist Christianity isn't much different in temperament than radical fundamentalist Islam, but there is a big difference... There are no nations of substance directly governed by Christian theocracy. Islam on the other hand is directly governing several countries including at least two with major strategic resources and position (Saudi and Iran). That's hard to ignore...

    September 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  11. Me

    Not sure what world the author is living in, but in my normal world of living as a Christian, with Christian friends, attending a large non-denominational church, working with people from all walks of life, Muslims never come up in conversation unless something happens in the news. He needs to come out of his strange, obsessed world and enter the real world of people living daily lives as followers of Christ.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • David

      You miss the point. Badly. His article isn't about you, but rather a negative trend in America today. Try not to project.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • mjbrin

      i still don't understand the term non'-denominatioal
      do any of these churches have rules? if so then they are their own specific denomination

      September 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  12. wade

    Is this author INSANE? Muslims are killing people all over the world mostly just because they HATE and this idiot talks about Islamaphobia?: WOW! I guess woman should be forced to marry rapist and live them too. Or how about the salve owner hanging and beating their salves should the slaves be forced to love them as well? This man makes me SICK and so does CNN for posting this crap. Maybe not all Muslims are bad I am sure that is the case but they allow the others to be bad and rarely say a word so they are just as guilty.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • David

      ...aaaaand the defense rests...
      Proving the author's point perfectly...

      September 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • mjbrin

      yes the denial of some of the evangelicals saying their "freedom of speech" couldn't possibly have encouraged such a hatefull fim is amazing

      September 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • pepsee

      David, I am an atheist. From outside of a religious cloud I can tell, people have valid reason to fear islam – because people have eyes and ears. The author and people like him (you) live in Lala land. If you are not a muslim, try doing the same thing muslims are doing in a muslim country – will see how the mob treats you.

      September 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • mjbrin

      the reason musilm countries may fear americans is becuase america really is trying to have seperation of church and state, muslim countries are not
      the reason "liberals" fear "tea peartiers" is becuasde many evangelicals back tea partiers and they don't want seperation of thier church from state here in america

      September 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  13. Laura

    Most if not all the books and speakers Mr. MacLaren mentions in this piece are referring to radical Islam, not to moderate Muslims, and to lump them both together and say that people who are legitimately concerned about radical Islam are "Islamophobic" is patently dishonest. Mr. MacLaren also says that "the greatest threat to evangelicalism is evangelicals who tolerate hate." I would say that the greatest threat to evangelicalism, and to a free society as well, is people like himself who not only tolerate lies, but actively promote them.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  14. CJ Topspin

    I am not sure what the point of this story is? Is it to show how one group of fanatics are no different than another group of fanatics? Great. The fact still remains that, because of a MOVIE (and a garbage one at that) a very large number of Muslims in multiple countries decided to riot and murder.

    This was done in the name of Islam. So...you wonder why people fear Islam?


    September 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  15. Peter

    Where were te protest follwimg the hundreds of beheading videos which are posted monthly on websites of islamic 'extremist' in the name of islam where were the crowds crying blashemy? Funny how you change this article to make it a non muslim issue when clearly the obvious fault lay in those hands. Seems to me that any eenagelical extremist appears to be a centerist when compared to a muslim.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  16. MarylandBill

    Naturally debunking one or two story of violence must mean that all the other stories are not real... except of course they are. And if the violent "tiny minority" is really so tiny, why are the rest not protesting.

    When you see enough huge protests, when enough violence is done, you really have to start questioning the narrative that the extremists are really so rare. I know there are many good muslims, but there is a serious problem in Isla,=m.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Patricia

      They are protesting- it's just not showing up in our media. http://imgur.com/a/tlCyI

      In regards to the scope, there are more than a billion Muslims in the world today. These riots involve what, a couple hundred of them? That's still a small group. Percentage wise it might be equivalent to the number of priests/pastors who've recently been caught molesting children and Westboro Baptist Church adherents.

      September 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  17. Poussin

    Islam does not respect pluralism, human or women's rights, freedom of speech and his basically a moral dictatorship founded on laziness and violence. Muslims do not build anything nor love anybody else who is not Muslim. They behave like a virus to successful society all over Western Europe, and strive on people's naivety to access to power and ultimately gain control to impose their dictatorship. Anybody who does not realize this has one choice indeed: become a Muslim, or die, slowly, but surely. And I made my choice: I will not give my other cheek to be slapped one more time. So Muslims have a choice: reform their religion based on love and respect of all humans, or the current religious war will result in millions of death...and I watched that silly movie. Clearly amateurish and blunt, but open your history books about the origin of Islam, and you will actually see the underlying events are pretty accurate!! Mohamad's wife was from a very affluent family and allowed him to reach power, which ultimately created the Sunnis. He was afraid of her and wanted to control her. Then he surrounded himself with a bunch of desert thugs and made up his " philosophy" based on whatever pleased him, which created the fundamentalist side of Islam, the Shiites. And since the Arab world was way behind everyone else 500 AC – they did not have a prophet, like the Jews and Christians -, well, he was declared prophet. The Sunnis supported the idea to gain social power, Shiites to dictate their (im)morale "values". All of that engrained in violence, discrimination, abuse, hatred of non-Muslim, theft, etc.... Very much like The Nazis.... The sad reality is: Evangelicals, or any non-Muslim, does NOT have any choice, because Islam does NOT respect nor offer any choice.... If History repeats itself, this is another religious war with Islam = millions of death...

    September 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Isabella


      September 16, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  18. My Take:T'is time for McLaren to have some hair implants

    oops some brain implants 😉

    September 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Brad

      That is so Islamaphobic of you.

      September 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Da Bible Tole Me Sew

      Don't forget what happened to those kids who made fun of the bald 'prophet'.... 😈

      September 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • 1hopeful

      As an American Muslim woman, I would like to remind everyone that we all came to America from our countries to a place where we can find peace, dignity and freedom for us, for our children and even our grandchildren. All of us Americans... Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Atheists should live together in peace. Let's respect one another's values and religious beliefs or the the prejudices, hatred and bigotry will ruin our beloved country and with it all our dreams. Let's not be the judge of each other, on the Day of Judgement let God be the judge. As we say in Arabic.. "Religion is for God and the country is for all". God Bless...

      September 16, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Lilith

      Is that how you justify the killing of the American ambassador/rioting/killing/violence that is being propagated in the name of your religion?

      September 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • David

      Only a simpleton, Lilith, could think that was her point...

      September 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Marx

      David-If you are clueless as to what is happening around you , you may want to 'clue-in' on what has been going on this past week.You have all the freedom to defend your religion and do come back with the justification for the blood shed.

      September 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • 1hopeful

      Marx and Lilith, I never condoned the killing of anyone anywhere... But if you want to go there then how do you justify the killings of innocent people and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. How can you justify the ruining of a whole country in Iraq and killing thousands of innocent people in a preemptive war under false pretenses?

      September 16, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  19. Red, white & Blue

    Muslims have a tremendous regard for people of other faith, especially Jews and Christians (the People of the Book). Here are verses from the Qur'an to support this:

    (a) 2:62 Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians -all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
    (b) 5:69 for, verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
    (c) 5:82 [and] thou wilt surely find that, of all people, they who say, "Behold, we are Christians," come closest to feeling affection for those who believe [in this divine writ]: this is so because there are priests and monks among them, and because these are not given to arrogance.

    We love and respect our prophets who include Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus (peace be upon them), and it would be wonderful if others reciprocated by respecting our Prophet Muhammad (p).

    September 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Braveheart

      Ask the Coptic in Egypt, christans in Pakistan and Indionasi, ask minority in Saudi Arabia, what respect do they get... Second class citizen ... You talk about Moses and Jesus but you you call them kafirs, the same Quran you quoted version from call Christians and Jews pigs and monkies , the same Quran calls to kill every Jew and subjugate all Christians, the same Quran calls for non believers to pay Jizia tax to practice their faith. So which verses would you follow , the earlier or later..Old days of deception are over , the truth of Islam is there for everyone who seek..

      September 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Patricia

      I am sorry that my fellow Christians are being disrespectful. Our scriptures tell us to love our neighbors and that everyone is our neighbor. Unfortunately many of our fellow commenters seem to have forgotten that. God bless and thank you for sharing from your scriptures.

      September 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  20. Debbie

    While I think many Christian evangelics are good people I have issues with Evangelical Christians. They've placed politics before Christ. They are serving not the Prince of Peace but the Hate of the Deceiver.

    September 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
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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.