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. Axel Segura

    All this mess over a tape of Mohammed? so if someone makes a tape making fun of julio cesar chavez, all mexicans are gonna start protesting?
    we are taling about Mohammed ali right?

    September 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • C.S

      not Mohammed Ali lol you made me laugh even that the matter is very heated and the comments were making me sick hhaha.
      It's about Mohammed the prophet of Islam,,,

      September 16, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  2. NJreader

    I am "phobic" agains Islamites, Arabs, Moslems, Mohammedans, Muslims, Islamists, and whatever other term applies. I hate them. But this is not "pre" judice. It is "post" judice, judging arrived at after a lifetime of observing, reading, etc. Sorry, but I am against them, and my reasons stand.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • C.S

      hey N.J reader , that's very prejudice of you because you never met me and decided to be phobic toward me , by the way I am all the above, Arab origin, Muslim, love mohammed (pbuh) , your hate doen't mean anything to me, I rose above it and all the persons that think like you .

      September 16, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  3. Kanageloa

    I agree Islamaphobia IS a misnomer. Islam is a REAL threat to freedom. Just open your eyes and you'll see the REAL islam at work such as killings, beatings, intimidation and fear. Open your eyes folks, it's already in Detroit.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • M. Saeed

      Maybe you should watch other races such as Jews who have been in control of US economy. Muslims have never tried to infiltrate any nation economically or forcefully as Jews have. And now US policy is simply being driven by Israel.

      September 21, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  4. C.S

    Love the article, Finally somebody that's looking for ground rules instead of insulting muslims .the riots are not justified (well except the fact that libya was in a civil war and was oppressed for a long time and the same goes for egypt =violence to kick president out=violence toward anyone that attack them) --
    Islamphpobia exists, you can't deny it. Both parties are wrong , we just need to put an effort into making the change and reaching to understand each other or at least respecting each other.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  5. Rick Shultz

    Something tells me that the author of this has either not read the Quran or he has done so through the proverbial "rose colored
    glasses". I HAVE read it and trust me when I tell you there is very little about tolerance or peace or love in it. It is a manual for hatred. I stopped counting the verses that exhorted followers of this so-called peaceful religion to kill non-believers after I passed 100. These people mean to dominate the world, and it is nowhere more painfully obvious than in their "holy" book. And I do not believe this nonsense about context and how Westerners don't understand, and to have this book interpreted to them by a Muslim. That is hogwash. It is as plain as day and does not need to be explained to anyone with half a brain. There are 3 ways Muslims will accept "infidels". 1. Converted 2. Subjugated and made to pay "protection" and live as second class citizens. or 3. Dead. Is is not possible to peacefully share this planet with people who believe this nonsense. They have to be eliminated or they will eliminate us. It's really just that simple. And it has nothing to do with hate on my part. It is simple survival. I don't HATE
    them any more than I hate a dog with rabies. A rabid dog has to be destroyed for the sake of people and animals around him, but hating him for what he cannot help is unproductive and unethical. It's for that reason that I don't HATE Muslims. They are not to blame for their adherence to this "religion". They are under the influence of a 7th century barbarian who had the longest violent hallucination in history and, unfortunately for us, managed to write it down. That it was probably the result of some obscure drug or other potion that's lost to history does not make it any less dangerous today. Although it must be done without rancor or hatred, it nonetheless necessary that this "religion" be eliminated from the face of the earth.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  6. mormon Jesus

    My imaginary diety is better than your imaginary diety. If not for Religious people we would have starships by now.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Kenneth

      If you don't worship a middle-eastern, bronze-age, genocidal deity named Yahweh and his son jesus (who is also Yahweh), you're going to be tortured in hell forever.

      But Yahweh loves you!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  7. Mark

    Nonsense! there is no such thing as "Islamophobia", Islam is an evil wicked and barbaric religion, it is an oppressive and immoral religion, those are facts not phobias!

    September 16, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • damo12345

      Saying "wicked, evil, and barbaric religion" is a bit like saying "hot fire" or "cold ice".

      September 16, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • steward

      All religions that worship the God of Abraham are especially cruel. They all revere the Torah (also known as the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses) and draw their basic inspiration from it. Christians who follow the ten commandments are following parts of Torah. Christians who call gays an abomination are following Torah. And Muslims go are rioting are overlooking the parts in the Koran that overrule certain parts of Torah, and following Torah instead.

      In fact, in what is written of the God of Abraham, Islam is actually the most *peaceful*. It's about 1400 years since the founding of Islam... what were Christians doing to each other, Jews, and "infidels" in the 1400th year of the Common Era?

      Hate speech can be found by looking no further than your nearest bible. I recommend especially Deuteronomy and Numbers. Then there are those little things where Jesus curses a fig tree for being out of season – even though Christians believe that Jesus is consubstantial with the creator deity, and therefore the fig tree was out of season because Jesus told it to be out of season. Nice guy there.

      As long as the followers of YHVH continue to control power, we will have endless killing. Remember, Jesus said according to the Gospels that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  8. StevieW

    Let's see... The popular comedy "Southpark" has often ridiculed Christianity in the name of comedy, especially Mormonism, and even Scientology. See any Christians, Mormons, or Scientologists wrecking embassies and killing people over it? Hmmmmm. The real Stevie Wonder did once say: "When you believe in things that you don't understand, then there's a problem". Try taking religion out of the equation, and see if any of this nonsense destruction and human suffering would be happening. Nope.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Joel

      If you think the rioting outside US consulates is purely about some stupid movie, you're not paying attention.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  9. Dexter

    Why does the media feel the need to defend murderous mobs who use the most petty of excuses to terrorize the world? This author can not even fathom the amount of anti-American small talk that goes on in the world compared to the anti-muslim rhetoric he claims to witness.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  10. Matt in Virginia

    Oh no, trust me... Most of us are well aware of the hatred and venom that is spewed from the pullpits across churches every week in America (and elsewhere). There is absolutely no excuse for the cowardly and pathetic violence committed by those in the name of religion (in this case Islam), but it's just one more example of religions, whichever type, causing havoc and hatred around the world. I don't know when this will ever end.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm |

      Your logic is just the flip side of the coin:'Kill em all, let God sort it out!'

      September 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm |

      But I guess you have to 'believe in' something.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Bazoing

      Not the religions, the exploiters of religion. They are the blasphemers.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  11. wellsaid

    well said sir. thatnks for saying and hopefully opening a dialog about this very thing. "mophobia's" in general are taking this country down the wrong road...and will, in the end, just take the country down.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  12. Rob

    The reality of Islamophobia is that Islam-os torch buildings and kill people over movies.

    That's pretty scary!

    September 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  13. Robert

    Welcome to America, McLaren. Freedom of speech does not eliminate your opportunity to be offended. Enjoy your 1st Amendment rights.

    September 16, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  14. Missileman

    My question to Mr. McLaren is: Why believe in a god at all?

    September 16, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Because if you don't worship a middle-eastern, bronze-age, genocidal deity named Yahweh and his son jesus (who is also Yahweh), you're going to be tortured in hell forever.

      But Yahweh loves you!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Bobby

      There it is!!!

      September 16, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  15. Diana R.

    I am waiting for the tipping point, for this vile mess of humanity that palms itself off as a religion, to really start to seep into the remaining western culture. That will be the day I put a bullet in my own head, rather than live under the all male, gutless, clueless, cruel, backward, violent, misogynistic, trash that put themselves forward as a voice of god. Well, if there is a god, what is the hell is he doing, watching and enjoying? Our only hope is that god, is there is one, turns out to be a woman, and neuters all of the hate carrying slime of Islam, so they won't propagate us into oblivion. Anyone who holds higher the "afterlife" they hope is there, than the precious life we KNOW we have here, scares me more than anything else.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm |

      careful, now. john 3:16, genesis 3:16

      September 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • August

      You must be talking about Christianity

      September 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • GAW

      Calm down and quit reading the tabloids. I live in the area with the highest concentration of Muslims and I can assure you they have no desire to take over America. Most of them want to get away from the mess found in old homelands. But just in case....

      September 16, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Diana R.

      Actually Gaw, they want to recreate the mess of their homelands. How is the assimilation going. And what fairytale wonderland is this area with the highest concentration of Muslims. Has to be Dearborn. What a mess...just like "home".

      September 16, 2012 at 9:18 pm |

    Phobiahahahahahaha, Freud built his pop psychology on a sandy foundation. His mother, like all his rich friends' mothers, farmed him out to a wet nurse. I'm sure now he regrets being sloppy with his theories.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
  17. WOW

    All I have to say is if you follow along with the islamic faith you will not have salvation. Turn to Jesus. Life up the name of Jesus.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • John

      And why is your invisible nonexistent friend any better than theirs?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • GAW

      And are we to lift up the name of Jesus on a 5 or 6 foot pole?

      September 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Why would you need salvation? Jesus never mentioned it, in the first gospel to be written, in the Gospel of Mark. Saul of Tarsus made it up, and added it to the growing cult.

      September 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • August

      Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Who were they exactly? HAHA No one knows. Leave it up to clever Emperor Constantine

      September 16, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Muhammad got Allah straight out of his family's moon-god cult. All of Islam is built on the very common worship of Yahweh's brother, the god "Sin", from the Sumerian pantheon. Sin was worshiped all over the ancient Near East. The Bible is full of times the Hebrews were told to stop worshiping the moon-god.
      The 3 major world religions are called "Abrahamic". In fact, none of them prove to be, upon historical examination.
      Yahweh was a war god, Allah was a moon-god, and Christianity was invented, mainly by Saul of Tarsus, (Paul).

      September 16, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  18. Johnny

    This author is conflating race and religion.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  19. brettborders

    "Islamophobia" is a misnomer in itself. A "phobia" is an irrational fear with no solid basis. Islam is a all-pervading social control and political system with a religious component. In the Islamic system, women must submit to men and non-Muslims must submit to muslims. Islam uses violence, terrorism, intimidation, lying (taquiya), war (jihad), and extortion (jizya) to make women and non-Muslims submit. Any rational person who does't want to be taken over and forced to "submit" to a 7th century lifestyle should be fearful of Islam.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  20. mspieway

    Was Jesus ever angry? did He ever take aggressive steps to punish wrongdoers? Were the Jews wrong when they fought against the Nazis? Were the Allied Forces? Was God wrong to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah? was His wrath justified?

    Please, I am curious as to your viewpoint on these matters.

    September 16, 2012 at 8:47 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.