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. Mahmood Khan

    Thanks Mr. McLaren for a much needed point of view from the Evangelical community. I feel much better understanding that there friends out there that have an understanding of the hardship the Muslims are going through. Terrorism and Hate Speech should not be tolerated no matter who does it.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  2. Cleanup Philly

    And yes, I will be voting for Romney, who has a more clear eyed view of putting America's safety first.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Ya, who will not love a pseudo Jew self centered but a hind gentile, ignorant slave Christian of hindu Jew; filthy self centered.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • GAW

      @ hinduism source of hindufilthyracism Get to the local pharmacy pronto. Your meds need to be refilled.

      September 16, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  3. John

    This article reads like hate speach. Why does CNN hate evangelicals? Are they evangelicalaphobic?

    September 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Truth seems to be hate speech to a hindu gentile, criminal slave Christian of hindu Jew, filthy self centerd. But not true, it is a fact on their face, hindu's, terrorist.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • GAW

      hinduism source of hindufilthyracism What in God's name are you blathering about?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  4. GAW

    Yes Evangelicals can become their own worst enemy.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  5. Dennis

    Just wondering if the author of this opinion when he was done watching the 6 minutes worth of the video, that I would agree does not represent what most Americans think of Muslims, felt like rioting, raping and murdering anyone? Which is what thousands of these Islamic extremists did, at least according to coverage on CNN. I think it is not the Christians that need to decide, but the Muslims, that need to decide to seperate themselves from this reprehensible behavior.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  6. Scout

    Islamophobia?????? Lets see, we have World Trade Center 1 and 2, Khobar Towers, Multiple Embassy attacks, multiple attacks on Israel and its people including during the Olympic games, and many many more examples. Fear isnt my emotion right now. Hatred is what I feel. Read books from inside the inner circle such as "Growing Up Bin Ladin" and " A Time to Betray". They tell the horror stories of the Muslim take overs of Iran. The hard core muslim radicals run the countries. It is not a fringe cult. They still stone people in public. Its like saying in 1939 love Germans because they arent all Nazis. That didnt help millions of jews did it? Islam is evil inspired by satan, and we are headed to WW III.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      hinduism, terrorism in return of hinduism, terroism, if a hindu criminal does not like his punishment, he need not to commit hinduism terrorism on other's, If a hindu criminal plays, he better be ready to pay, or he will be made to pay, hindu, ignorant.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  7. Cleanup Philly

    And no, the movie made here was not a "hate crime" or "hate speech" because it did not call for violence, target the race or creed of a people for any action or violence, or in any way satisfy the definition of hate speech.

    But daily the Muslim world sponsors media which does call for the killing of Jews, Americans, Christians, broadly and without cause. Which is the hate speech?

    Liberals, be consistent. McClaren, be equal in your treatment of "phobias."

    September 16, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  8. Cleanup Philly

    When is a liberal ever going to write an article about the pervasive daily hate bathing the Muslim world by its own state-sponsored media, radio, tv, and print?

    You only have to click on Memri TV to see examples from every Muslim nation, citing literal readings of the Koran which call for killing "Jews," talk shows blaming the perpetual "Jewish conspiracy" for every conceivable ill, and broadcasts by clerics and politicians which demonize Jews and Israel. It's not just AQ, not even close.

    The Muslim world is daily bathed in the idea that Jews are "like dogs," are "unclean," that "you cannot befriend a Jew," and that "a Jew killed Mohammad." Nazi Germany had less hate speech and hate propaganda.

    Will a liberal get around do doing some of their own basic, original research one day and write about it? Will this author, Brian McClaren? Until then he is completely discredited by his enormous skew, a microscope in one hand , a blindfold in the other.

    Here is a recent discussion on Yemeni TV (our ally) on a state sponsored station as to why the Jews caused 9/11 and all manner of bad things, and Yemenis must gird themselves against them at all costs for the sake of their own nation. A majority of Yemenis subscribe to this view:


    September 16, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  9. Abdo almntsr

    I think the movie should be looked at as a hate crime against muslims after all if this was against any other group of people the media will have a different tone towards the issue.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  10. Darlene

    Regarding the word "Islamophobia," this is a mind trick intended to brainwash rational people into thinking they shouldn't be afraid of something that is legitimately dangerous.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Guest

      Oh, you mean like fundamentalist Christianity?

      September 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Hal

      Yes, exactly right, thank you. The word controls the agenda.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  11. Common Sense

    24 million Americans have lost all hope.

    Who cares about turmoil in the Middle East. It'll be there 50 years from today just like it was 50 years ago.

    We need an American spring.

    Obama has failed.

    My generation learned this lesson with Jimmy Carter.

    Now it's your turn.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Gub Gub

      I couldn't agree more. Obama is a failure. I voted for him once, but I won't vote for him a second time.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Mikey

      Ditto that.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • One one

      Agreed. Obama is a failure.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm |
    • Alex

      Same here. Obama hasn't lived up to anything. I'm voting for Romney. What this country needs is JOBS.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • One one

      But Obama says he is for the poor. He also says he is a born again Christian. Do you believe him ?

      September 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Cleanup Philly

      Obama has failed. I'm not ready to vote Republican just yet, but I'm learning fast. Liberals just don't create jobs.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Bleh

      I see one person sock-puppetting this whole thread. Give it up, kid. Obama cannot lose running against a loser like Romney.
      Obama will win again and then what will you do? Probably sob with despair in your momma's basement.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • AFRet2002

      Are you kidding me you think conservatives create jobs – ha!

      September 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • agathokles

      Is this what all of Romney's campaign money is being used for? To hire trolls to place anti-Obama rants on all CNN discussion threads? These mostly read like they came from the same person under different screen names.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  12. !

    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 7:09 pm |
    • Portland tony

      When you want to be told something read one mans book or if you want to learn, get off your can and experience it. Otherwise just say nothing!

      September 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Hal

      Thank you for posting that, I copied and pasted the whole thing. It is certainly true that the mass of ordinary Muslims are not violent, but where is the disavowal or repudiation of violence? Evangelicals who oppose abortion still repudiate "Christians" who murder physicians. The Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City repudiates the child abusers of Yearning for Zion. Where is the Muslim establishment that repudiates 9/11?

      September 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  13. One one

    I suspect this article, and the reactions to it, is not what CNN had in mind.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Bleh

      They certainly took it off the main page quickly enough. But they are clueless about what is the right thing to do.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  14. Alex

    Hate begets Hate

    If we could take away one lesson from the ongoing conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians, it should be that hate begets hate. The more we respond to violence with violence the worse things become. Feuds are created and prolonged by the philosophy of "getting even." The problem is no one ever "gets even." All of this is why Jesus' teaching on "turning the other cheek" is so very hard to follow. It goes against our grain, yet it is the sure path of wisdom. The alternative is a trap for the unwary. As Christians we should take the harder road, the road less traveled. There is an old Christian hymn that says that "they will know we are Christians by our love." Will we lower ourselves to "getting even" or will we raise up and "love our enemies"? That is the question we must answer.

    As for the Muslims, their phobia of slander and blasphemy towards their faith plays directly into the hands of their enemies. After all, but for the public uprising, would millions of people worldwide have sought out and watched the Innocence of Islam? No. The film, being the hate speech that it is, would have faded into obscurity. Unfortunately for Muslims worldwide, it is now ingrained into popular culture, having been watched, discussed and copied ad nauseum. Like anything gaining notoriety in today's culture, it will live on long beyond its natural life adding fuel to a culture of hate. Sad and unfortunate.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • One one

      Right. And when the Nazis showed up to round up Jews to ship them off to Poland, the Jews should have greeted them with a hug and a kiss. Sounds idealistic and naive.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • Alex

      Always a valid point, the Jews and the Nazis. The people I tend to think of in that conflict are the Christians who put their lives and livelihoods at risk to help Anne Frank. Perhaps they too were naive, I mean they went to concentration camps. Perhaps Christ was naive too, he ended up on the cross. Yet he changed the world.

      September 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
  15. Cleanup Philly

    What is this incredible blind spot that liberals have with the Muslim faith and its people, which Obama shares with complete conviction?

    The blind spot is at the Muslim hate and hate speech against the religions of ALL OTHER BELIEFS. You have to be a complete mushroom living in the dark not to see the daily attacks by Muslims, those who identify as Muslims, who cite their own faith as justification to commit violence.

    Of course the "real" reason is politics and conflict, but they are not citing those reasons, those Muslims who commit these crimes cite Islam. There is no religion which cites killing today from its holy texts, none that I am aware of, except Islam, and yes it is only "some" Muslims. But supporting those violent Muslims, by polling data, are millions of nonviolent Muslims, who vehemently defend their "right" to commit violence.

    There have been nearly 20,000 innocents killed by those professing the Muslim faith as a reason SINCE 9/11. http://thereligionofpeace.com/

    How many bodies will it take to persuade the liberals that it's not paranoia if someone really is trying to kill you? 30,000? 50,000? 500,000? A million?

    September 16, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Cleanup Philly
      What is this incredible blind spot that liberals have with the Muslim faith and its people, which Obama shares with complete conviction?

      September 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Common Sense

      Cleanup Philly
      What is this incredible blind spot that liberals have with the Muslim faith and its people, which Obama shares with complete conviction?

      It's about votes, Phil. Votes. No principal. Just votes.

      And they don't care who they sell out.

      Now the question is up to you.

      Do you vote him in for a second term?

      Personally, I think not.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  16. Oli

    It's not a phobia if its rational. Look at how they are reacting and tell me its irrational to fear moslems? It's not. They are crazy.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Tony

      They reap what they sow, their reputation s well deserved, over and over again.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  17. stephen douglas

    A phobia is an unfounded fear.

    Consider the fact that in addition to those Muslims who are overtly violent and intolerant, there are those who covertly support them with planning, training, weapons, logistical, and more importantly monetary support.

    So, the reality is that there is no such thing as "islamaphobia". Islam has a network of thousands of supporters who count on fear through terror and who are stuck in a fourth century mindset with access to twenty first century weapons.

    And that is a rational, realistic fear.

    Furthermore, the recent riots over a movie – or in the past, some cartoons – shows that intolerance is inherent in Islam. The only way Muslims tolerate others is if everyone cowtows to their beliefs system, and when others do not, they scream, riot, demand, threaten – everything we have just seen. Is that really what the rest of the world wants to welcome into their societies?

    And why is it that more Muslims do not police their own? Reread the above – there is a network of supporters who use terror to intimidate and force those around them to do their will.

    Islam is not a religion of peace and tolerance, and we absolutely need to be concerned about it.

    September 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  18. Bill

    I have had enough of nihilist liberals like McLaren. Their mindless banter is never an intelligent look at the problems that we are facing or the root cause of those problems but is instead an attack on core values of this country. Islam is a religion of hate. When you think of suicide bombers what religion comes to mind? When you think of oppression and intolerance of other view points which religion is out in front? When you think about human rights do you envision women in burkas? When you think about oppressive regimes around the world are most of these Christian nations? What contribution to the world has Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, or Sudan made in the last 100 years?

    When you point out the truth of what islam is it is not intolerance or racism. If islam is an honorable and peaceful religion that is just misunderstood because of a few "bad apples" then where is the loud outcry from all of the "good" muslims? There are over 1 billion of them so even if 25% stood up and spoke out then that would be a loud voice. If islam is being hijacked and is misunderstood then it is up to muslims to change that image. It is not my job to make excuses for them and it is not our duty to change the American way of life to suit them.

    McLaren, you are right about one thing. We are at a crossroads. It is time for us to make the decision on if we will allow the islamists to dictate to us how our future will play out or if we will stand up and fight for our way of life. We can see which side a coward like you sits on. You have the audacity to preach to us that christian evangelicals are to blame for last weeks problems? Americans were murdered and our current leader showed he is a weak man. These people are not rational beings that can be reasoned with and they should be treated as such. Oh, and I was talking about liberals like you McLaren as well as the islamists!

    September 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  19. Huggy An

    11 years ago, I attended my church on Sunday morning after 9/11 wondering what kind of message the pastor would give us. When I heard his sermon, I was shocked as he said, "even after this terrible inhuman acts, we should still love Muslims and the terrorists as that is God's command to us". Next Friday, we invited many of Muslim students in the college campus and since then we made friend with them for nearly four years until they all graduated. I wonder what would happen to US Christians in a Muslim country if a group of US Christian terrorists (hypothetical) attack the capital of the country in a similar fasion. It seems to me the author has a skewed view on Christianity.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • One one

      Considering how they reacted over a stupid movie, my guess is it would not be good.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  20. Jake

    I went to high school in a town with a real mosque. I know Muslims.I also understand history. These types of articles want to ignore facts. Evangelicals speak the truth. The problem is liberals don't want to listen.

    September 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • john

      Jake, I'm sorry I don't think you understand what the term "liberal" means , you just contradicted yourself concerning this article.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Susie

      I think you need to deucate yourself about what a liberal is. He did not contradict himself at all.

      September 16, 2012 at 7:44 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.