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. tv22

    I think there's something to this column. We have a friend who is a great person and goes to a local Evangelical Church. It's a pretty mainstream church in this area, with thousands of members. We've been there but it's not my cup of tea – lots of phoniness, no examination of the meaning of scripture, everything said by the pastors taken at face value. But what shocked me was that when the DNC was in town she was "worried" about all the Muslims. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! I've had good Muslim friends over the years from many different countries, none of them are prone to violence. It's not Islam. It's fanaticism, not unlike the Crusades.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Huebert

      "It's not Islam. It's fanaticism, not unlike the Crusades."

      Trying to explain this to some evangelicals is the fastest known route to a migraine.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:04 am |

      Islam is the perfect gang banger religion for those caravan robbers. Corporate raiders might find a niche, too.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Maestro64

      If you had read the Koran, you would not say such things. It might be that your friends are peaceful by nature, but the Koran does not focus on peaceful existence. It supports lying and killing the infidels. So, not the people that concerns me, it is the written instructions that many in the muslim world see as license to kill. And it is used at various intervals to justify outlandish behavior and here we are again assigning the blame ot other groups. People such as yourself are now very common in the radical democratic movement. Do you really believe that even if the author of this viewpoint is right that justifies for one second that murder and killing of others? I mean, really listen to this viewpoint. It is not the fault of the people who chose to kill and riot, it is the fault if someone who put together a video? This whole article is absurd and the notion that it is the fault of a christian community is complete trash. We do not see jews, budhists, christians or other groups murdering because of criticism. Only 1 religion in the modern era acts this way, period.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  2. Ghia

    Author is wasting his time discussing the absolute worst of the religious cults. These people are barely above wild animals that will attack for lack of anything better to do. Agree with my peaceful beliefs or my little book says to kill you. What a worthless bunch.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Dott

      True they are only looking for a reason to attack Americans. This is all it took. They are so ignorant that they won't accept the fact that all Americans did not make this film. STOP support them with our tax dollars NOW!

      September 17, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Alan

      You are absolutely right. The ones with the problem here are the Muslims who seem to go crazy and feel they have a right to mass murder people and destroy things any time they are the least bit "offended". But CNN seems to defend them all the time making it seem like our fault and calling us islamophobic. Its ridiculous.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Maestro64

      A very succinct, well stated view.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  3. Mich-a-el

    McLaren....you're an idiot looking for a quarter-wit to demosnstrate your intellectual superiority.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  4. Allahmode

    3000 years of marrying your first cousin make Akmed one crazy guy.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  5. George

    Why isn't the ignorance of fundamentalist Muslims confronted? Why isn't the media doing a better job of challenging the ignorance of these protesters? If any religious person must burn, pillage and kill to validate his or her religion, what does that say about the religion in question and the adherent to the supposed religion? Most of these supposedly Islamist protesters are sadly just misguided, weak-minded pawn of influential individuals with sinister agendas.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  6. Vad

    Which part was Debunked? The fact that Muslim Brotherhood kills it's opposition or the fact that they crucify them? I am sure all the non muslims they butchered over the years are still no less dead because they weren't crucified. Why do people with a PHD think if they add phobia to the end of something it validates their point of view? If only 10% are radical then how many does it take to enable? How many more to look the other way? The numbers go up a little.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  7. Allahmode

    Nuke Mecca. Next?

    September 17, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Huebert

      Only if you agree to hit the Vatican while you are at it. We can't appear to be prejudice now can we?

      September 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Allahmode

      "We"? When the pope calls for the slaughter of innocent people for not being catholic, nuke the vatican.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  8. justme

    I am a Muslim born in the USA. Sorry, but no one I know has adopted any sort of "manifesto." I am as disgusted by the youtube video as I am by the violent protests and the large majority (if not all) Muslims I know share the same sentiment.

    Let's be honest, all scripture contains crazy verses and a violent history that no sane person would want to share in respectable company. All religions have some sort of violent segment to it. We all do what we do, cherry pick the good and pretend the bad doesn't exist. Anyone wishing to challenge me on that can google biblical, hebrew and quranic verses and see for themselves.

    I don't blame Christians for the actions of one lunatic criminal director no more than you can blame me for the protests. I won't be taking up arms just as many of you won't.

    Enough of this already. It's time both sides realise that all the rhetoric is promoting hate and nothing else. Hate breeds hate. Lies breed lies. Both sides need to start behaving like children and start playing nice in the sandbox (yes, children as clearly behaving like adults isn't working).

    September 17, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • FelixCat

      Thank you for trying to bring a little sanity to the discussion. Unfortunately, I suspect your effort will be in vain.

      September 17, 2012 at 10:56 am |

      actually, there has always been a leavening process in the Kingdom of God. Look at TBN.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  9. Maestro64

    Hey Laura. Your analogy between Hitler and Christianity is extremely poor. Show me where the current islamic battle includes real muslims standing for what is right and putting down their radical branches? Hitler was opposed by all of the Christian world and his views were rejected by christian leaders around the world. Show me the muslim community with enough integrity and commitment to peace that they are actively pursuing the extremists, risking their lives, without being pushed or prodded by other countries? If you KNOW anything about Christ you would know He was not here to conquer and kill. Mohammed killed at will and took from others what he wanted. Christ instructed and advised, He did not conquer others. There are always people who will act in a crazy fashion, yes. But what Christ taught was peace and love with your enemy's as well! You need ot educate yourself before making such broad claims.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Dr Tom

      The Catholic church has admitted to & appologized for not opposing Hitler as it should have. Also, the Crusades were all about conquering. I suggest you get some Muslim friends and then maybe you would not be talking from a position of ignorance.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Dott

      Dr Tom I for one do NOT want any Muslim friends. I have plenty of true Americans who do not willingly kill just because they can. We need to clean out our nation of illegals and all Muslims.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Dr Tom

      The Catholic church has admitted to & appologized for not opposing Hitler as it should have. The Crusades were all about conquering. I suggest you get some Muslim friends and then maybe you would not be talking from a position of ignorance.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • justme

      Maestro64, visit Pakistan and see how much many in that country has sacrificed to finish up a US war and you'll see decent muslims fighting to end extremism. And the Crusades were completely about conquering. So, sorry, you need to educate yourself. I'am a Muslim born in the US and my family has suffered tremendously in other countries in the world to fight extremism. I'd be happy to fill you in. The extremists are a very small minority and largely marginalized.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:21 am |

      Good point. WHERE'S the discipline from the moolahs? Still chasing caravans? It's all about the moolah.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:44 am |

      Follow the moolah trail. Happy trails to you.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  10. Allahmode

    Is islamaphobia anything like infidelaphobia?

    September 17, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  11. mel

    The protests and killings of Americans over an anti-Islam video prove that America does NOT have an "Islamophobia" problem. In fact, it proves that our fears and prejudices are justified.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  12. FelixCat

    If you respond to an article that bemoans unreasoning hatred of a group of people with a spirited defense of your unreasoning hatred of that group of people, you might want to buy a clue. You are not the solution, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • MachFix

      Wow! Amazing that you can reach the keyboard with your head in that position!!

      September 17, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • FelixCat

      Oh, NOW I see why incest is frowned upon. Although it must make genealogical research easier having a family tree that doesn't fork.

      September 17, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  13. Ricke1949

    Kill the Infidel. That is no phobia but a quote from their belief system.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • justme

      Sorry and where exactly does "their" (you mean my) belief system state that? Educate yourself. Stop buying into this vicious cycle where muslims and christians are pitted against one another.

      September 17, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • ME II

      "12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;
      13 That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman."
      (2 Chronicles 15)

      September 17, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • justme

      Yup. My point exactly. Religion in general is violent. Let's just all agree to that and move on shall we?

      September 17, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • Factsmatter

      I believe that one of the points of this article is that evangelicals are not learning about the Islamic systems of belief. "Kill the infidel" is as much a central tenet of Islam as it is of Christianity.

      One of the problems in America is the willful ignorance exhibited by the evangelical community – you choose to believe only those people that are your religious confederates and act on those beliefs in (is there another way to say this?) stupid ways, like banning the Sharia in Oklahoma or claiming that this country was founded as a "Christian" country. Actual knowledge requires communicating with those that have actual knowledge and experience in the subject they are discussing – not just talking with people that believe the way you do.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:23 am |

      me II, God knew what He was doing. There wouldn't be a Savior if He hadn't did what man FORCED Him to do.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  14. TiredOfPaying

    Note to self: After inventing the Time Machine, first go back to 700 AD, then 1936, finally to yesterday with the winning lottery numbers. Bring plenty of ammo.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • justme

      The larger point is that the YouTube video represents the US no more than the extremists represent their respective countries.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • justme

      Sorry – wrong post!

      September 17, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  15. Aaron

    The video was disgraceful but the video doesn't represent America or the American people. The protests and killing of innocent Americans is extreme and uncalled for. Nobody is forcing the Muslims to watch the movie get over it and move on it's not worth starting a holy war over it.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • jj

      The protests were disgraceful but they don't represent Egypt, Lybia or the Muslim people.

      September 17, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • justme

      Well said, jj.

      September 17, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • Vad

      How do you know jj? The movie was not even made by an American but it appears thousands of Muslims in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunsia, Austrailia and so on are taking it out on the US. Why should I believe one person who says they don't represent the Muslim people of these countries when it appears many thousands actually IN those counrties contradict your statement?

      September 17, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • ME II

      Why assume that they do represent the Muslim-Libyan, etc. view? Did you see all Libyan Muslim's protesting? or even a majority of them?
      What you saw was specifically, some Muslim's in Libya and other countries protesting, that's it.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  16. Manish Gupte, PhD

    Islam is a fascinating subject..the little Urdu poetry I heard keeps ringing..

    September 17, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  17. Maestro64

    Frankly, these all to familiar calls for blind tolerance are simply an insult. Why does the author only pick islamic viewpoints to support and point to other faiths as supporting a false sense of concen? Seriously, does anyone who is truly informed believe that a christain, jewish or any other faith other than islam would supposedly react by killing completely innocent people? And it is the worlds job to better understand these people so we do not offend them by our open dialogue and free speech? The sad truth is that the radical islamic movement far and away outweighs any other extreme viewpoint in its response and focus on ruling others. Compliance by mandate is what islam teaches and if you do not comply you are of course a target. Oh, btw even if you do comply you are still a target if it servers whatever radical group is making plans that day. This author is an arrogant man for attempting to shame those that are the very targets.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Duke5343

      Simple the Author is a HACK, lying liberal left wing nut case

      September 17, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • justme

      Sorry, but as a Muslim, where can I get my hands on this mandate of which you speak? Can I pick it up at Borders? I think the violence is ridiculous and unjustified, however, if you are going to make a statement about free speech than understand that non-violent protests are part and parcel of free speech as well. I don't know how radical islam is any more radical than any other extremists groups in history. If you are going to make blanket statements that please substantial your claims. Otherwise you are part of the very problem the author is discussing.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • justme


      I think we need to focus on the real enemy, Autocorrect! lol.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • facefur

      Christians did it all the time during the Middle Ages.

      September 17, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Factsmatter

      A small minority of the evangelical christian community supports the murder of abortion doctors and has killed at least 8 people. So, Christians are clearly capable of murdering people in the persual of their religious faith. Should we, as you imply, define Christianity by the actions of those murderers?

      September 17, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  18. what do muslims fear?

    Soap !

    September 17, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  19. crbianb

    CNN apologizes from this brief interuption in its attacks against Christianity, so that it can support Islam.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  20. Jay

    Ahhhh....another instance of liberals adding "phobia" or "phobic" to a word to claim others are too unintelligent to have a rational disagreement with a given topic...but that, instead, the disagreement must be born out of fear or hatred. Soooo transparent.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • skarphace

      Reading the headline does not amount to reading the article.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
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