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. no nothing

    wow a religion calling out another religion

    September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  2. Carson

    If you claim to be a peaceful civilization and then someone puts out a video saying youre not peaceful and then you kill people because of that video YOU ARE NOT PEACEFUL. Who cares even if the whole video was completely serious YOU SHOULDNT KILL PEOPLE BECAUSE OF A VIDEO NO MATTER WHAT IT SAYS.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • kaintucky

      People have been killed in the name of Christianity for a lot less. Please look at the big picture. When the Oklahoma City bombing occurred was there a call to hunt down all Christians and slaughter them? Those responsible based their misguided beliefs on what they were taught from the Bible. Do we persecute all Muslims to punish the radicals?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  3. elrobo

    has cnn lost it? i think we all have islamophobia, especially people at cnn. why do you think they're sucking up so hard? nice try to paint christians as the evil narrow minded ones who fear islamic radicals. we all fear them! what is the agenda at cnn these days... hmmm....

    September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  4. A W Messenger

    If we step back and look at the facts over the past week, I am under the impression that Christians are not the ones blowing up American embassies all over the Middle East. So then, why should we be railing against the Christians on some philosophical phobia idea? How about we allow the facts stand on their own? In the last ten years, from which religious group has more violence and mayhem been generated throughout the world?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  5. Cassie

    I find it impressive how the blog raised my faith in Christians and the comments immediately dashed it. Still, excellent points.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

      Rom 10:17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.'............NOT by BM.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Cassie

      Sorry Mud, but I ain't Christian and I have no desire to subscribe to a bigoted religion that views me as being equal to a blood mare.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  6. Steve

    Asking right-wing Christians to actually follow Christ's example is like asking a serial killer to maybe cool it down a little bit on the whole murder thing.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • chiniquy

      The fanatical Christians are just like the fanatical Muslims. They are both self-righteous holier-than-thou religious hypocrites. They are not the true example of members of their faith.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Rhubarb

      Interesting comment, Steve.

      When you're finished telling everyone else about the spec in their eye, maybe you could turn your attention to the plank in yours, OK?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • charlie

      You need to move to Libya so you can embrace Islam totally. I will keep Christianity, it may not be perfect but nobody is killing me for saying the name Mohammad or that he was a child rapist.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  7. hahaha

    Hah, now they bring out the Islam apologists like this idiot Brian McLaren...

    September 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  8. therealpeace2all

    Reblogged this on peace2alldotme.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. John Atkinson

    Ambassador Stevens was not killed by protesters angry at the Anti Muslim film. He was killed in a premeditated terrorist attack carefully coordinated by Muslim extremists. They don't want our understanding, our respect or our money. They don't care to engage with us...they hate us, want to kill us and will only be happy when, as mandated in the Koran the entire world is converted to Islam or ruled by Muslims. It's our pluralistic society that they wish to destroy for there is no sense of human rights or reverence for life for these extremists.
    Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Persident Obama's policies in the mideast and around the world are a disaster...and he can't blame this on President Bush.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  10. James

    Just because I am paranoid doesn't mean they (the Jihadis) aren't out to get me.

    RIP the ROP.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • shmichel

      I wont deny that most jihadists aren't out to get Americans, but the vast majority of Muslims are not Jihadists. Neither are most Christians KKK members. Nor are most conservatives redneck fascists or most liberals godless communists. Most muslims aqren't much different than we are. THey want a decent life for themselves and their children and want to be left to live as they choose. It's those on the fringes that usually cause the trouble and stir up the average people. The fringes are always the noisiest and attract the most attention in the media. We may not beable to eliminate the fringes, but we can reduce their relevence by not giving in to their desire for attention.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  11. Urbansprall

    islam is an evil religion. it says "kill the infidel". you can read it in the koran.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • mike

      man shut the hell up

      September 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • HenryO

      Christians do not need to apologize for ANYONE for their beliefs. It's far too much of that now. We believe what we believe, deal with it. Islam is a false, dangerous "religion" and there is no need for any apologies. If you kill in the name of "god" or anyone else you are nothing but a murdering criminal.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Jeff

      And the Bible and Torah state the same thing...they also state that people who commit adultery should be killed...they also state that children who swear at the parents should be killed...the list goes on. The Old Testament is extremely violent and full of hate if you truly want to analyze a religious text. Just as the Bible then transitions to many peaceful mindsets in the New Testament, the Koran also has a duality of violence with peace. Christians have no right to act holier than thou in this regard, especially considering they used religious hate and arrogance to justiy the holocaust of Native Americans only a century ago (manifest destiny anyone..?)

      September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Manny

      The bible also preaches to marry your rapist if impregnated and just as much so, treating women as second class property to men, slavery. I don't see here how Islam followed strictly by the Koran is any more evil than Christianity followed strictly by the Bible. Only religion I have any respect towards is Buddhism. At least Buddhism admits it must change if there proven wrong by science and logic according to the Dahli Lama.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      You do realize it says that in the Bible too, right?

      So what really is the difference? Well on the one hand it's fundamentalist Islamic religious zealots in countries with poor education, high poverty levels, and religious Governments; and on the other hand it's fundamentalist Christian religious zealots in countries with decent education, higher standards of living, and strongly secular governments. Sure seems like the fundamentalists are equally absurd, but in more peaceful societies education, economics, and government keep them at bay. Long live the separation of church and state!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • mrsnj29

      sorry, but I could not find that verse anywhere in the Koran. I looked it up.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  12. Alan

    If any American writes anything against Judaism, Israel, or Zionism in a public forum they are immediately accused of a hate crime, investigated by the FBI, put on a black list, and no newspaper, magazine, radio station or TV station allows any kind of criticism to Jews, Judaism, Zionism or Israel, but they almost all welcome and participate in demonizing Arabs, Muslims, Islam, Palestine and call it "Freedom of Speech." There is no freedom of speech in the U.S., there is highly-selective "Freedom of Speech" and most often than not, Zionist Jews are in charge of defining what is "Freedom of Speech" and what is a "Hate Crime." We who live in Larger "Israel" [aka U.S.] know that very well.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  13. jimbo

    Why do they keep putting this as the top news story?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Triple A

      Because CNN is trying so hard to blame this not on the Killing and rioting Muslims but on Christanity. Pretty obvious, after all it is CNN the Liberal Media.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Jim

      It is CNN after all, what would you expect...real news?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  14. mr grim reaper

    this guy is a moron its so liberals trying to protect obamas reelection.he dropped a ball him and hilary were getting their nails done why this poor man was murdered.

    September 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • MacinBlack007

      Please grow up you GOP lemming! If anything happens in the world I love how it ALL OBAMA's FAULT! GROW THE F UP M0r0n GOP LEMMING skumbag!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  15. MacinBlack007

    Hi Muslims, So you're offended by the depiction of your prophet?

    I'm horribly offended by your religion's treatment of women and based on the number of ludicrous acts, like blasphemy laws that punish illiterate children and blowing up of the priceless ancient statues in Bamiyan, I think your religion is an insult to Humanity.

    Does that give me a right to throw stones, burn your buildings and kill your diplomats?

    September 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Adam

      Say, "O disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion." – Quran, Chapter 109

      September 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  16. DaveL

    The writer speaks the truth – if you don't agree, you have been corrupted by the unChristian influences he cites.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Dallas

      No, he does not. The killings and riots were not as a result of this so-called anti muslim film. Get it together and realize that it was a well-coordinated attack on 911. The film is being used as an excuse for this country's miserable excuse for a POTUS! Even the Libyan government dispute Obama! There were not protests PRIOR!!! IF you can find a reliable news source, and believe me CNN is not it, you will find the truth!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Somratni

      PLEASE!!! I dare you and the author of this BS to spend the day in the Muslim section of London or even in Dearborn, Michigan. You won't survive the whole day.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  17. charles darwin

    Since this guy is so un-islamophobic, he should go to a country like Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Iran and try to preach christianity and see what happens.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • hahaha

      hear, hear!

      September 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • jamal

      nothing happens in pakistan etc , there are chruces built during the era of the brits who invaded us and spread their version of christianity . It still exisits. If islam was so cruel there would be no coptic christians in arabia as well.

      September 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  18. Faheem

    Excellent article. If only we can all oppose the bigots and extremists on all sides, and stop politicians from fabricating truth to win base support, the world would indeed be a better place.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Akim

      Faheem, then how would these people get vote from ignorant if they don't spread hate messages. The hate message is the source to fill their TeaBags (with votes).

      September 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  19. Bible Clown©

    And now let the haters begin explaining how wrong he is because they got an email or saw a film that convinced them. Sorry, but once they believe in the Virgin Birth and the Talking Snake, they'll believe anything else, no matter how crazy. Teletubbies and Spongebob are controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood? I knew it all along! Doggone them Muslims.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • CHAD

      We are even told that Tinky Winky was gay by Pat Robertson. Is there no level that they will not stoop to? They also tell us that hurricanes are retribution for gay people. If there is a God, didn't she create gay people?

      September 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

    Faulty pin. Must have been made in mainland China.

    September 17, 2012 at 1:56 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.