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. J House

    I have lived and worked in the ME and two SE Asian Islamic countries for over 15 years. The US media ignores the anti-Christian pogroms (mainly directed at Coptic Christians in the ME and ethnic Chinese Christians in Malaysia and Indonesia) that have resulted in hundreds of murders, churhes burned to the ground and communities terrorized. It isn't 'Islamophobia' to recognize Islam is going through a world-wide reformation struggle and in some countries, Christians are in fact targets of their wrath, not just Americans and not just because of their objection to American foriegn policy.
    The US media soft peddles it and CNN is part of it. Please, present the facts and the truth.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

      The CNNers are too chicken to go there. Maybe somebody could ask Chelsea to go. She has body guards.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  2. mannycl

    You may call it whatever you want but the reson are more than simplistic explanations to satisfy the crowd of liberals apologizing to these people. Just think about 9/11, the beheading of journalists, acid thown in the face of little girls just because they go to school, the murder of diplomats, etc. These barbarians have no respect for human dignity. What kind of god do they worhsip? No wonder they live in such extreme poverty.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Cheetahe

      People should know that for every action there is a reaction.
      After 9/11 the American people regardless of religious affiliation, realized that all the suicidal terrorists who attacked NY were of the Muslim faith, they were screaming "Allahu akber" God is great, a Muslim war cry, and in all the Muslim nations were celebrations for the loss of 3000 Americans. The writer above if he considers himself American should get a reality check.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  3. Bill T

    I reject the writers myths as well as the Muslim myth's just as have rejected he Greek and Roman myths. Please folks, think for your selves. If don't learn to think for your selves, you will be brought down a path to ruin by those who will use your "faith" as a weapon agianst others.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

    Gays made the phobic concept popular and the culture bought it before the caravan robbers appropriated it. Hey, whatever works!

    September 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  5. KZ

    Where is the outrage for the utter lack of tolerance by the followers of Islam?

    September 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  6. Pappa

    I suppose the fact that they fly airplanes into buildings, strap on suicide vest and blow them selves up in populated areas, are developing nuclear weapons, vow to destroy Israel, murder their own for having a different interpretation of the same religion and simply prone to violent and murderous outbreaks all should be ignored, etc etc etc... All should be ignored...

    September 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  7. Mike

    What is more scary is the fact that you don't have a clue. This isn't about Christians. I don't for one second believe in God or any other mythical beings. However anyone who doesn't see the Islamic agenda for the future is either blind or stupid. Their religion is to spread even at the point of the sword. Please don't bring up the crusades; completely in the past! This isn't a phobia, but instead a realization that they hate us because we back Israel and that is that. If you want to stop this then stop backing Israel. But alas it won't stop there either. They are a aggressive group barely out of the caves mentally; and don't bother telling me they've been here longer than us. Time doesn't advance you. Only free thinking and open democratic environments can do that.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm |

    Robbing caravans is not nice.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  9. meandertogether

    I'm seeing lots of anger, hate, and frustration in most of these posts. I would really like to see an articulate Christian post something wise. What would Jesus say? I doubt he would say anything close to anything I've read in the replies to this article.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm |

      Well, meanderthaw man!

      September 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
  10. K from AZ

    "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools"! St. Paul's admonission still stands!

    September 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • I wonder

      K from AZ,

      And yet I'll bet you think yourself "wise" to believe Paul and them...?

      It's turtles all the way down...

      September 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  11. Carl

    I can't believe that people like McLaren are still pushing the "phobia" framing of people who criticize the murderous gangs of God. How many people do they have to kill over youtube videos before we are allowed to be worried?

    September 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  12. WDinDallas

    Islamphobia? Suicide bombers!

    September 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • thecapnhowdy

      What's the difference between an extremist Muslim and an extremist Christian or Extremist Jew? NOTHING! Except that the last two really do have WMD at their disposal....besides this...they all want one thing....TO TELL EVERYONE THEY MUST BELIEVE WHAT THEY BELIEVE THE WAY THEY BELIEVE IT OR ELSE...as for all the rest how about you all cut the crap...the muslims should pursue their ABSOLUTE FREEDOM TO WORSHIP AS INDIVIDUALS AS WE MUST PURSUE THE SAME!!!!! Let no illusions cloud your heads, the Muslims real battle is really not different than ours...its about true freedom and about those who would try to take it away from us.....all else are illusions dellusions and misdirection of the few....against the most for the sake of the few!

      September 17, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

      thecapnhowdy, you accusing the DIVERSE BEAST of being Christian? Nowheresville, man! Hip??

      September 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  13. mikem

    Is this really different from the blind support the same group show for Israel? To wit: Israel can only do good. Muslim countries always do bad.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  14. Jimmie

    There is really no such thing as islamophobia. Millions upon millions of civilized people are simply reacting to the murder, suicide and hatred that defines modern day islam.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  15. Mary

    God have mercy on you too! We need to get on our knees and pray! And read the Bible!!!

    September 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  16. HugoCorv

    Is there a single Muslim country that didn't play The Da Vinci Code, which was very insulting to Christians?

    Is there a single country, of any demographics, that didn't play the Da Vinci code?

    Was that Christianphobic?

    Worse, than the playing of a movie, is the blatant mur ders and racist treatment of Christians in Islamic states.

    The UN should condemn Sharia law, that allows for non-Muslims to be given racist treatment and to be murdered at will.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  17. HugoCorv

    Even the term "Islamophobia" is bigoted. Islamofascists only use the word "Islamophobia" instead of the generic "Xenophobia", because they know Islamists are xenophobes.

    When you protest the blatant discrimination against non-Muslims, the racist second-class treatment they receive in every Islamist country, and even the killing of non-Muslims, the burning of their holy books and destruction of their houses of worship, you get termed an "Islamophobe".

    September 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • BobZemko

      Gald to hear that you don't generalize people.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • HugoCorv

      You're right I don't. You apparently are confusing the term "Islamist" with the word "Muslim".

      Islamists are those who refuse equality of all under the law, and want to reduce all non-Muslims to an inferior "dhimmi" status under their racist Sharia law.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm |

      Fascists are always the 'other guy'. Put that in your xylophonic hookah and smoke it.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

      Phobes have no life.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  18. HugoCorv

    This uneth ical exc use for a hu man be ing is trying to wave all the wides pread and well-docu mented perse cution in Isl amic cou ntries of non-Mus lims, including Chris tians, as "Islamo phobia".

    September 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Boss Moog

      I thi nk yo u need to lear n so me ht ml. Your post looks really shitty, Hugo.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  19. Monk E

    Right on to "Dude" !

    September 17, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  20. Kathryn

    Sir, you miss the boat entirely of your characterization of certian Evangelical leaders. Their sin in not Islamophobia, it is power and greed. The people you mention who do not condemn anti-Islamic rhetoric do so because they NEED their followers to live in fear. Fear of Muslims, fear of gays, fear of Democrats, fear of Obama, fear of women's rights, fear of public education. Next decade, God only knows who they will target. Fear is what keeps these people raking in the donations. You do the word of God a disservice attributing just Islamaphobia to their ill-deeds. They are serving Mammon and I hereby call them on it!

    September 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • sarcasmreigns

      do people really and truly watch those shows?
      i tried to watch once, cuz i didn't want to go to church anymore for various reasons, and thought i could find solace and wisdom there. boy was i mistaken – it was tenderbox for my cynical mind, and i seriously thought they were joking (or something).
      so fear, no, more like sarcasm
      fear breeds hatred, too much fear breeds sarcasm
      theres like this tipping point
      then it all simply seems overly ridiculous in the first place
      but your right
      the usa has been all about fearmongering for well over a decade now
      therefore – i vote for sarcasm – let it reign!
      (maybe someone should warn the Islams)

      September 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Kathryn, speaking of "the word of god", let's take a closer look at what that word of god really instructs you to do, at least according to what the Christian book of nasty AKA the bible claims. It's about as nasty as the Quran, really:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

      September 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Kathryn

      To Bob – you're right, if the law of God were carried out, everyone would be put to death. That's the point, we cannot fulfil God's requirements so He sent His Son to take that rap for us, free and clear. You should've read further.....

      September 17, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
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