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. Observer

    So lets recall , why did W's pops get us into in this mess in the first place 2 decades ago by declaring desert storm? Because he dearly cared for the tiny state of Kuwait . He cared for kuwaitis so much that he put his citizens in harms way for them. Why do ppl in Iraq and other middle eastern states around the world hate us ? I just dont get it , do you ??? Really ppl , really ? Are we that ignorant ? Ever wondered why we dont see Canadian consulates sabotaged ? Ron Paul
    has a point , but no one is listening and this is coming from a registered Democrat.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • VCMD

      You conveniently forget the missiles/drone attacks during Clinton/Obama administrations! You also forget that we were targeted even before desert storm! Did you read about 2nd World War! What did we learn from that! If you don't find Evil in the beginning, it's much tougher to deal with it later when it has grown to a formidable size!! We could let Iraq capture Quwait and then may be Iran and slowly other countries! And we don't retaliate until half of US metropolitan areas are wiped out by nuclear strikes!!!

      September 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • The_Creator

      to be fair the Gulf War was not about protecting Kuwait it was about protecting Saudi Arabia which if Saddam had control over Kuwaits ports and oil resources he could have launched an invasion into Saudi Arabia and other mid east nations...Kuwait was basically Saddam's foothold to then control the entire region militarily

      September 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  2. Open your eyes!

    Taken from the book; "Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat" of Dr. Peter Hammond

    As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given country, they will for the most part be regarded as a "peace-loving" minority, and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:
    the U.S. — 0.6%; Australia — 1.5%; Canada – 1.9%; China — 1.8%; Italy — 1.5%; Norway — 1.8%.

    At 2% – 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs. This is happening in:
    Denmark — 2%; Germany — 3.7%; the UK — 2.7%; Spain — 4%; Thailand — 4.6%.

    From 5% +, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their shelves – along with threats for failure to comply. This is occurring in:
    France — 8%;Philippines — 5%; Sweden — 5%; Switzerland — 4.3%;The Netherlands — 5.5%; Trinidad & Tobago — 5.8%.

    At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.
    When Muslims approach 10% + of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris, we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam, and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam, with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam. Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections in:
    Guyana — 10%;India — 13.4%;Israel — 16%;Kenya — 10%;Russia — 15%.

    After reaching 20% +, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in:
    Ethiopia — 32.8%.

    At 40% +, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:
    Bosnia — 40%;Chad — 53.1%;Lebanon — 59.7%.

    From 60% +, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:
    Albania — 70%;Malaysia — 60.4%;Qatar — 77.5%;Sudan — 70%.

    After 80% +, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is on-going in:
    Bangladesh — 83%;Egypt — 90%;Gaza — 98.7%;Indonesia — 86.1%;Iran — 98%;Iraq — 97%;Jordan — 92%;Morocco — 98.7%;Pakistan — 97%;Palestine — 99%;Syria — 90%;Tajikistan — 90%;Turkey — 99.8%;UAE — 96%.

    100% will usher in the peace of ‘Dar-es-Salaam’ — the Islamic House of Peace. Here there’s supposed to be peace, because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and Quran is the only word, such as in:
    Afghanistan — 100%;Saudi Arabia — 100%;Somalia — 100%;Yemen — 100%.

    Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% Muslim states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.....

    September 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • The_Creator

      those facts are not PC enough...rework those stats to make them more politically correct please!!!!

      September 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  3. The_Creator

    just another apologist...

    September 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  4. soundofreason

    A nice self-critic that we all, from all faiths, should consider.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:52 pm |

      This is standard Christian Doctrine:......'Eph 4:5-6 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all.'.......If you or BM don't like it, lump it. Now run along and steal something else.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm |

    Why did BM write the book? Why did CNN let him cross the road? KaChing.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Libfreak48

    Let us not, in this discussion, lose sight of Christianophobic Muslims either.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  7. VCMD

    The author has to grow up. There may be a few people who worry about every Muslim being a terrorist! But they are no worse than the people who don't realize the clear and present threat of a violence based religion which is the most backward religion. It has not grown with times and except for a few countries, most Islamic countries follow Islamic laws and don't allow other religions freedom to follow their faith. A large number of Islamic population is backward and poor and controlled by Fundamentalist brand of Islam. They hate every progress made by mankind in the last 3-4 centuries and they hate US most as it is the most developed nation with freedom to follow any faith/belief and allows freedom of speech! The author is advocating curtailing the freedom of speech to appease these fundamentalists. History tells us that you can't reason with these people and the civilizations that did not have power to fight this barbarian religion and refused to convert to Islam, have perished.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • jrm03063

      Congratulations on your bigotry! One, or a few, therefore ALL! Grow up indeed – you've made a home in yourself and your heart for the worst of what it is to be human. I'll even bet you call yourself a Christian when asked....if so, you're certainly no Christian that I would recognize.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  8. AvdBerg

    The local media, including CNN, Fox and your local TV stations and newspapers are a very important element of social and political 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 4:46 pm |
  9. Jacraggg

    Try reading the koran before spewing more brainless pontificated nonsense about islam the "religion of peace and tolerance".

    September 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • How

      bottom line: no one gives a crap about the Koran. This has nothing to do with the Koran. This is about terrorist groups and countries that support them- they hate America and They hate us for our freedoms.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  10. Raynhammad

    Islamaphobia??? Last Temptation of Christ....trashes central Christian Tenet....no diplomats murdered....Davinci Code...questions basic Christian theology...no diplomats murdered!! These films weren't private endeavots but deliberate Hollywood trash.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm |

    BM sayz, '...I was raised as an evangelical Christian.....' I half believe it. Vegetables are raised. Just add water and keep the weeds away. Children are trained with doctrines.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  12. Maurice C


    The fact that this twisted opinion peace gets on CNN front page says it all about the US media.
    Instead of standing up and saying "Yes people of Islam, "This movie may be offensive, wrong or misleading and it's not the opinion of most people in America, we have the right to free speech without the threat of death", instead we have this kind of warped thinking shoved in our face by the liberal media. If the movie was criticizing Christianity or any other religion there would be no deaths, no controversy. It would be perfectly ok with the media.
    What if in our quest to separate church and state regarding all religions, we banned using the word Ramadan, Hanukkah or other religious words in any public place or reference? (Let's see what Islam would think of calling Ramadan Happy Holidays instead of Ramadan) What if we stripped the word from any public reference or prohibited their prayer in public? There would be outrage in the media, but there is silence if the attack is against Christianity. Instead of supporting religious tolerance and freedom, which are the cornerstone of America's values, we get this type of political correctness on steroids.
    Yes, I do have friends and acquaintances who are Muslims but they don't believe or support this radical version of Islam. (Islamoextremism). McLaren claims we have a phobia of Islam. Well the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines phobia as an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. There is nothing exaggerated, inexplicable or illogical about fearing a group of people whose religious beliefs say that it is necessary and ok to murder any and all people who don't believe in their warped ideology. How can he (McLaren) and CNN support a group of people whose radical religious beliefs and ideology would have me beheaded for writing this if they could get to me.
    Wake up! Most religions exist to promote peace and love. Any religion or ideology that supports, promotes or takes part in harming others in the name of their cause is a terrorist organization. Period!
    Let me see, fire, bloodshed, hate, murder. Does this sound like the work of a God or the Devil?
    McLaren, you and CNN are promoting terrorism and supporting hate against the US and Christians with your bizarre and radical views. Of course this is America and you have a right to your opinion, but get the Hell (literally) and your hate for Christianity off the front page.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • How

      Amen! It's CNN and the Obama administration: first apologize for America and if that fails blame Christians.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  13. southernwonder

    author brian mclaren wants to act like mahatma gandhi and could even win a nobel peace prize. he might take it further and make peace movies and win lotsa oscars. but that is all make believe world. it does not change reality of islamic ocietal intolerance toward the [ep[;e of different faith. speaking of mahatma gandhi, i have read some scholarly article that convincingly prove that gandhi's peacenikism cost his india to lose half the country to muslims what bacame pakistan which now wants to annihilate the remaining india. the islamic societal threat is real notwithstanding your wonderful muslim neighbor who might loan you his brand new lawnmover when yours has gone out of order. just visit saudi arabia and try to pray to your god, and find out for yourself if you don't believe me.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  14. Kathy Busch

    Now, if you had added the well-known evangelical Mormonphobia to the list of phobias evangelicals embrace, you'd have it just about right, in terms of baggage evangelicals need to discard. Brian is terming his current religious beliefs and practices "new Christianity". I understand his desire to distance himself from mainstream evangelicalism, and hence the appellation "new" Christianity", but, as all Christians know, the principles of tolerance, forgiveness, and eschewing hate are as old as Jesus' mortal ministry, and to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), these principles predate his mortal ministry; we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ was revealed to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eve, and that there have been many periods of time in earth's history wherein the gospel of Jesus Christ was dispensed (or revealed) to prophets for the benefit of the societies in which they lived. Each of these times, the gospel has flourished for a period of time until the desire to do evil on the part of the majority overcame the desire to do good, and the result was apostasy, i.e. the belief in and practice of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ dwindled and was replaced by a corrupt version thereof. Hence God's continual need to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity, which is what he did when He (the Father) and Jesus Christ revealed themselves to Joseph Smith in 1820, and ushered in the current dispensation (of truth) in which we now live.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Hindu ism, denier pagan God Jesus, filthy ism, pig mithra ism. Al, the La, H the Hindu, essence of existence proven by aesthetic American consti tution, filth ism. visit my link http://limitedtruththeislam.com and click on Choice to open file.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  15. John Master

    What a load of crap. There is no Islamaphobia. There is a righteous fear of people whose stated purpose is our destruction. Self-loathing, apologists like the author of this piece oh garbage and the president of the US refuse to face reality of the situation. The Muslim attacks had nothing to do with the silly movie, even if it did it just solidifies the knowledge that Muslim s are thin skinned, self righteous, and intolerant of divergent thinking. Islam is a sickness.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Liberty

      There is NO Islamaphobia? C'mon, you know that's not true.

      September 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  16. How

    Hey CNN (crap not newsworthy)- why are you not covering a very important story today? Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,  made a direct appeal to US voters to elect a president willing to draw a red line with Iran. He said Obama isn't tough enough! I think that's a pretty major story! Oh that's right, it would make Obama look like the failure he is and you don't want all the good little sheep seeing that:)

    September 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Mickey1313

      Or strong enough in his conviction not to cave to a zionist terrorist

      September 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  17. Missileman

    My question to McLaren is: Why do you even believe in a god?

    September 16, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      there is no God but Allah AL, the absolute, LA, the limit, H, the Hindu, the truth absolute, filthy Hindu Jew self-centered, denier of pagan God Jesus, truth absolute, 380*

      September 16, 2012 at 4:50 pm |

    Mentioning John Hagee is like mentioning charley manson. What do either one have to do with Jesus Christ?

    September 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  19. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Operator: 9-1-1
    Caller: Please help!!!
    Operator: what is your emergency Sir?
    Caller: Not mine Mam, "They have taken away my Mohammad"
    Operator: For what Sir!
    Caller: Ummmm for inciting hatred towards non-Muslims Mam!!
    Operator: stop making prank calls Mohammad.
    Caller: No please please don't hang up. I am serious. Please help my Mohammad.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      ID absurdity of pagan God Jesus, thief denier of truth absolute Al, the La, limited, H, high Mohammad the Limited truth, essence of existence proven by Quran. for more for more visit imittedtruth.com/blog.html and click on word Mohammad to open file.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  20. you folks

    that hate religion so much sure do like to preach.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • midwest rail

      It's a defensive reaction to decades of being on the receiving end.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • A Frayed Knot

      @you folks,

      Well, we would do mind melds if we could.

      September 16, 2012 at 4:41 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.