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. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    Operator: 9-1-1
    Caller: Please help
    Operator: what is your emergency?
    Caller: There are thousands and thousand of Islam phobics attacking my Mohammad, I smell Jewish conspiracy. Please help.
    Operator: I am not sure I understand you Sir!
    Caller: Jewish-Americans are making bad movies like "innocence of muslims" Mam!
    Operator: That was an Egyptian film maker Sir!
    Caller: fvk, Mohammad I think we are busted.
    Operator: stop making prank calls Mohammad.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  2. tc4012

    Dear Author – define "TINY." Tiny – is an outright lie. TINY = MILLIONS. If a tiny minority pushes ISLAM to violence, where are the protests from MODERATE Muslims? They are TINY – ER!!!! They simply don't exist. You sir, are a fraud.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Kat

      you wouldn't see them in Faux news or Atlas drugs blog, but they are there.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Have you watched anything other than Fox News? The number of Muslims engaging in these protests is small. There are a few hundred at the most.

      That doesn't excuse the behavior, but pretending that "millions" are rioting is delusional.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • tc4012

      i watch news from all over the world. Go back and look – not hundreds, many thousands. Stop lying about the facts. Further, it happened in a coordinated effort ALL OVER THE GLOBE. Where are the moderates? NO WHERE. THEY DON'T EXIST. Religoun of Peace...my rear end...

      September 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, you don't. You watch what supports your bigoted, narrow-minded, ignorant views.

      The number of protestors is small and they do not represent the majority of Muslims. You can lie all you want; it won't make what you say true.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Tiny, as in the size of George "The Monkey" Bush's brain.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • King RedNeck

      TC – Everyone should watch Fox. That's the god channel – honest people and honest news.

      You are also very smart. Anoher Good Christain man!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  3. Anonymous


    Then: Naziphobia – Now: Islamophobia

    Truthophobia then, Truthophobia now.

    Can you imagine the WW2 generation tolerating a phrase such as "Nazism means peace"? As I put it on a panel discussion recently, "
    Using terms such as "Radical Nazism" leads to a search for "Moderate Nazis"

    Hitler, who I refer to as "Islam's Favorite Infidel", was a fan of Islam, calling it a "Masculine Religion", as well as allying himself with The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who did his worst to expedite the holocaust. And Muslims have made Hitler's book, Mein Kampf – My Struggle, translated to My Jihadi in the Middle East, (jihad meaning struggle) a best seller in the Muslim world. And Hitler, like today's mass-murdering jihadist enemy, used peace to further war, saying:

    "…National Socialist Germany wants peace because of its fundamental convictions….Germany needs peace and desires peace…."

    Islamophobia was concocted by the enemy in order to kill truth-telling about Islam in The West.

    They've failed, and lets make sure they never succeed by telling the truth again and again and again.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Kat

      ironic because they have a phobia from the US due to its Zionazi-controlled policies in their region for the past 50 years. They think the US is in a mission to convert them to Christainity through invasions of their countries, economic sanctions, wiping out Palestine from the map, support to Israel's nukes, military bases, supporting puppet dictators, and war mongering every few years. Face it we have not been all innocent either. We will always have issues with people in the middle east as long as our foriegn policy is hijacked by Zionazis, Israel firsters, fundi christians and Islamphobes.
      Imagine if Muslims did all that, just imagine the reaction of people like you, there would be millions of Christian OBL's and Bush's.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • King RedNeck


      You go my Christian brother!

      I know ain't gonna read Islam just like me. We Christian are superior and you are right. I believe everything you said. Us Chritians don't lie and don't kill. We only kill when our religion is in danger.

      You are the most intelligent person I know. Your should be a college professor!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • tc4012

      And there you have the "it's all those Jews fault" anti-semitism which is an inherent part of every muslim... That train is never late.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Kat

      except Hitler was a proud christian and the pope at the time did not condemn him....nice try though Islamphobe. The mufti of Jerusaelm allied with Hitler for political reason since he was enemy of Britain which was colonizing Palestine at the time and promising Zionazis to turn it to a Jewish supremacist racist state, as what actually happened.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • King RedNeck


      Hitler was brainwashed by Moslems just like Tiomothy McVeigh. Them Moslems know evil magic

      Anonymous and Michael are 1000% right. If they become president we will rule the world.

      Their knowledge is unbelievable. They don't need to read to gain knowledge. They are good Christains and god sends them knowledge.
      You should go to church instead of reading books or so called facts. We don't need to read because we are Chrishtians

      September 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  4. Larry

    I hope people recognize the truth in Mr McLarens words and don't pay attention to the labels that others apply to him. The points he makes in this article are mainstream christian. The way of Christ he describes is also what Muhammad teaches. The problem is that we are not perfect and we have inherited the cultural and militaristic baggage of all of the years between the founding of our faiths and the present day. Evangelicals must recognize that they cannot serve two masters. This is Gods word and it speaks directly to us.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  5. Michael

    Islam is based on hate and violence! Marrying four wives (one only a 9 year old child), Mohammad had it good. He spread his religion by killing people if they did not convert to his islam (otherwise means SUBMISSION). This is not a religion of peace! This is a religion of utmost hate towards infidels! Comitting crime by moslems is perfectly fine against infidels! Mothers celebrate whe their sons go out and kill infidels as their sons will have 72 virgins in "heaven"! This is a sick and twisted religion! How about 'Honor killings'? When fathers, mothers and siblings kill their daughters if they have fallen in love or were 'westernized'! All very sickening!

    September 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • King RedNeck


      Another Christian brother full of hate! Yes, no one can mess with us. We are the superior race, and we can kill anybody because our religion allows us to protect our race. We can hate because we are pure.

      Keep up the hate Micahel – You and anonmyous should be our president

      September 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  6. tc4012

    This story is more proof of the inherent sickness and self loathing of the liberal media. US embassies are being attacked all over the world – not caused by some ridiculous youtube movie, but rather organized at a global level to coincide with 9/11. American's and American targets are attacked repeatedly – and the author claims it is about Islamaphobia? You sick twisted fool. A phobia is defined as an "IRRATIONAL" fear. Fear based and many thousands of events or many years is simply making an informed decision based upon known data. It is, by definition, NOT a phobia.

    Our own gov't was apologizing from the Cairo embassy via twitter while being atttacked and while the Lybian ambassador was being murdered.

    Wake up, stop hating yourself. REALIZE ISLAM IS A THREAT to the American way of life on many facets.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Chad

      Bang on

      US Cole
      Beirut Barracks Bombing
      World Trade Center (twice)
      Innumerable suicide bomber attacks against Israel.

      The facts say that fearing radical Islam is a rational response to the threat posed.

      A phobia (from the Greek: φόβος, Phóbos, meaning "fear" or "morbid fear") is, when used in the context of clinical psychology, a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed, often being recognized as irrational

      September 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, look, it's the Vegetable, blabbering away again.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Kat

      ironic because they have a phobia from the US due to its Zionazi-controlled policies in their region for the past 50 years. They think the US is in a mission to convert them to Christainity through invasions of their countries, economic sanctions, wiping out Palestine from the map, support to Israel's nukes, military bases, supporting puppet dictators, and war mongering every few years. Face it we have not been all innocent either. We will always have issues with people in the middle east as long as our foriegn policy is hijacked by Zionazis, Israel firsters, fundi christians and Islamphobes.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  7. MM

    Well done Brian. Great commentary from a Christian perspective.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  8. waco

    Does this idiot know about the ME and the US embassies being attacked?
    That because of Islam, 4 Americans are dead?
    That our pathetic administration is trying to blame their foreign policy failure on the video trailer?

    I am Brian D. McLaren aphobic.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Kat

      it was not about the movie. it was about the US zero credibility with its war mongering in THEIR region, blind supprot to israeli colonization of Palesine, assassination their scientists, drone bombing them daily, and impoverishing them will illegal economic sanctions.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • alkj

      What a bunch of bogus this article contains.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  9. What???

    Muslims are attacking American Embassies around the Muslim world and we are Islam phobic?!...

    September 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Kat

      you mean muslims are getting killed protecting US embassies from a few uneducated mobs and ignorants of the religion.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • tc4012

      1 – It is not a "few uneducated" it was thousands upon thousands all over the globe. Stop spreading lies.

      At the same time, Muslim countries allowed it to happen. Local police forces stepped back and in some cases, helped organize and take pictures. Eygpt had their army a few miles away and NO ONE came to aid the embassy. Proof they were complicit.

      Imagine the reverse happening...........ANYWHERE?!?!?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Ralph M

      we could make them drone- phobic. or cruise missile- phobic. better yet...no foreign aid- phobic .

      September 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • King RedNeck


      you are outnumbered. There are good Christians on this board tonight. We watch the channel of god – Fox news
      you should watch it instead of reading books and try to be nice. Good Christians can only be nice to good Christians and all other race and religions can be erased from this world. Good Christian is allowed to hate everyone but Christian!

      September 16, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  10. Judywire

    Christ is the answer to all these problems.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Anatomy

      You are a moron. Try reading another book.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Ralph M

      christ doesn't even want to get involved here. he is afraid if he spoke his mind he would be accused of wanting to annihilate these fanatics

      September 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  11. Anatomy

    qp <– picture of mohammed's testes and penis.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • King RedNeck


      What are you saying. We Christians can kill, don't be afraid. We are superior. I hope you are joking. DOn't you remember World War II. We can kill. Come on brother, I thiught you were good Christian

      September 16, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  12. Kristen Ford-Newell


    September 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Kat

      See you would never find a clip of Muslims mocking Jesus or Moses or the Bible. Yet we are told it is Muslims that teach hate in their media and schools.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Michael

      The difference is that christians and jews may not like it if you say or potray jesus or moses negatively, but we certainly don't kill, burn, and damage the world because of words or videos or movies! This is a major difference between small minded moslems and christians and jews or hindus and buddhists for tgat matter! Do you get it now?

      September 16, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • King RedNeck


      What are you saying. We Christians can kill, don't be afraid. We are superior. I hope you are joking. DOn't you remember World War II. We can kill. Come on brother, I thiught you were good Christian

      September 16, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  13. Dedanaan

    I'm a pagan, and I hate Islam. I hate Nazis and the KKK, too.

    It's not Islamaphobia; more correctly, it's Islamareality. You can like rattlesnakes and cozy up to them, but you will be bitten. It's the nature of the beast. Don't fool yourself and drink the PC Kool-Aid. It can be detrimental to your existence.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • King RedNeck

      DOn't hate KKK. They were brainwashed by Moslems. They are good Chritains jult like you and me.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm |
  14. Cadiz

    The author obviously does not understand Occams Razor. Look at the simple answer first since that MAY be the solution. The people rioting may be the problem, not the people they claim are mistreating them.

    September 16, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How is that any answer at all?

      A small minority of extremists are rioting. I don't see that the author "blames" Christians for the riots; he simply states, and rightly so, that ratcheting up the rhetoric by the Christian fundies does nothing but create more hatred and fear.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
  15. Willy

    Why there is no Christophob or Budhaphob or other phobias to other religion besides Islamophob? That's because Islamophob is a term invented by Islamist and its allies ( so called extreme liberals) that try to undermined people who is critical of Islam .
    These people want to persecute those who dare to try to fight the tiranny of islam and thus be labeled as bigot, fear of islam out of pure hatred.
    No, lots of people fear of islam for good reasons and there are lots of examples where Islamists when they become the majority of population they will persecute other faiths and introduced anti blasphemy laws to further strengthened their grip of power so no one dare to challenge them.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Kat

      because Muslims happen to live and own property in "the promised land", and a mosque is on "the temple mount", not a church or a Budhist temple. islamphobia is based on lies and fear mongering by Zionazis (good fear inc and notice the backgrounds of people in the islamphobia industry) who do that to justify wars against Israel's neighbors to maintain Israel's hegemony, its illegal colonization of Palestine, and its racial supremacist apartheid regime.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  16. Naseer

    We are against the people who killed the US Ambassador and other innocent civilians. We also do not support anyone willfully hurting anyone's feeling by making a third rate film.

    Vast majority of Muslims do not have any problem with Christians, Jews, Hindus or people of any belief. It is a very tiny minority who want to spread hate. Writer rightfully pointed out that even in Christians you find people who spread hate. In every religion, race and people, you will find some who are extremists. Their objective is to convince the common man that they are right. If someone starts believing that hate will solve the problem, the extremist wins. Unfortunately they find a lot of recruits in illiterate minds and unfortunately literacy rate among Muslims is the lowest. Hence, they are easy targets for this extremist ideology.

    Question is, "Do we want the extremists and terrorists to win". I am sure all sane minds will say "No". Solution in my opinion is what the writer is attempting. Spread a message of love and peace in line with the teachings of Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Krishna, Gotum Budh and Mohammed. One more important thing is to spread knowledge and literacy. That is how we can fight ignorance and extremism.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • expakistani

      The best way for Muslims to spread the message of love and peace is to stop advocating for Sharia. Let people leave Islam without penalty. Encourage women to dress as they want. Separate Islam from the realm of politics. Don't tell us not to have normal human reactions to violence. Demand change from your imams.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • cholcobo3

      It's just a very tiny minority! It's just a very tiny minority! It's just a very tiny minority! I got sick of hearing that a long time ago, and thought maybe educating myself would make me hate Muslims less. After reading the Quran I hate them more. It's like me saying I'm in the KKK but I'm not a racist and how dare you call me racist you ignorant racist!

      September 17, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  17. William Spell Jr.

    "What are you going to do, CAPS LOCK us to death?" - an Arab Muslim on Al Jazeera's Facebook page in response to a western anti-Muslim heckler who said he would destroy them

    September 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  18. JohnB

    Mr. McLaren is right to point out that there are people, perhaps evangelicals -although no data is given on how many, which might have an irrational fear of Islam. In fact one could argue that all people who are religious have one kind of phobia or another. But so what. The problem for western societies is that Islam recognizes ONLY the Koran as the source of law and morality. Under Islam there is no separation of Church and State. That is a fact that makes Islam incompatible with a secular democracy. This is not a phobia. It's a fact and Mr McLaren must know it full well. If he doesn't get it then perhaps he needs to read the Koran or live in a Muslim country for a while. Then come back and tell us about it.
    The problem that Islam presents for western democracies is worthy of a rational discussion. Mr McLaren would do well to provide some facts and analysis on this subject. Instead he chooses name calling and labels those who do not agree with him as "Islamophobes". And CNN would do its readers a favor by presenting serious discussions on topics such as this. Unfortunately they have chosen to interview a person who presents no original ideas, solutions, or verifiable data on the matter.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  19. Daniel

    LOL. Hey Brian.

    It is not criminal to be an "Islamophobist.". Ignorant. Yes. But not criminal. But then there are ignorant people all over the world, not just in America.

    However, it IS criminal to set things on fire, and kill.

    So spare us your white guilt, and stop rationalizing criminal behavior.

    As for Kat and her rationalizing of all this based upon " you don't see Muslims mocking Jesus", etc. Did you just not notice Taliban rule where the giant Buddhas were blown up. Muslims can't mock Jesus. He is a prophet. It doesn't mean that persecution doesn't occur.

    Spare me with the concept that Christians haven't been persecuted for their beliefs in Muslim lands. Virtually all religions have persecuted those different at one time or another.

    September 16, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • King RedNeck


      You are wornderful. Tell them that Chritian race is superior. We can hate, kill because we are superior.
      Just disregard all so called facts. And don't read them Koran. It can change people. My friend read it and now he talks about love and peace. Be careful, Moslems know eveil magic.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  20. Translator


    Please take the time to ensure you use proper grammar and spelling in your posts. Generally speaking, English is the only language you are tasked with mastering, and your typing of random, incoherent letters and words in your post will only serve to destroy your credibility.

    Best regards,


    September 16, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      While I agree with you in principle, I do take umbrage with your tone, friend.

      September 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
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