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My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose

24 September 2012 General 11 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

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.

Original post: My Take: It’s time for Islamophobic evangelicals to choose


  1. One does not have to read any of the christian press, even articles in the liberal HuffPo make it crystal clear that muslims in many places hate, harass and kill Christians and other minorities, and wish sharia on all the world.

    One may dismiss the entire islamophobia industry, which is run by atheists as well as Christians and Jews, and still get that impression.

    Imams at the very top of Islam are baying for genocide and murder and mondo apocalypto. Their day is coming to an end. Imams belong in history’s basement.

  2. “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.” so every evangelical should watch it. don’t tell the muslims. they want it removed from the world.

    “even pornographic” like i said on the article that had the link, the acting was worst than 70s porn. but it was funny when the chick came in and made muhammad go down on her. porn can be funny.

    “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.” that’s great. i say the same thing about muslims all the time. so who has the plank and who has the spec? don’t remeber the last time christians killed a muslim ambassador? maybe the crusades?

  3. How many Muslim armies are in Christian majority countries? That may be a factor in the imbalance of assassination attempts.

  4. Anon,
    If what you say about Muslims killing Christians is true, which it is a lie, then there would be no Christians in the Muslim world! But there are and not only are they there so are there churches and synagogues as well. The Muslims have lived in peace with non-Muslims for hundreds of years. It is the non-muslims who incite, harass, and interfere in the affairs of other countries trying to control and influence there societies. This is where the problem comes in….mind your business…and if what you are saying is true the non-Muslims would leave….but they don’t…like in Senegal. Majority Muslim…but the non-Muslims love to come there and no one harms them…they are in peace but if they try to interfere in the politics or moral standards of this society…they will find themselves unwelcome there….no doubt. You can keep your twisted, immoral, disrespectful so-called free speech. We prefer to treat others with dignity and respect. Unfortunately the only thing the news puts out are the few who cannot control there anger and fustration with the bad manners or no manners of a few angry, ignorant non-Muslims.

  5. Aaishah, please go read something. HuffPo will do. Muslim countries very often treat minorities very badly, they have done so for many years. It’s not just the Christians they maltreat.

    In US people used to be able to kill black people and homosexuals with considerable impunity.

  6. “The way of Christ is a gentle strength that transcends the vicious cycles of offense-outrage-revenge.” I do not even know what this means.

    I do know what “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” means. I also know what “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” means. Do not return bad feelings. If someone speaks badly of you do not return the action by speaking badly of them. Do kind things for others even if they do not like you. Pray for the people who dislike you and cause problems in your life as you would pray for your own family members. A Christian attitude, will, at some point, change the way people see you. It allows a Christian to fulfill “The Great Commission” by modeling Christian behavior and possibly turning the heart of one who is not a Christian.

    Being Realistic though helps when you’re a Christian or anyone else. His statement “the tiny minority of Muslims who turn piety into violence”; and “We must admit that we have our own tiny minority whose message and methods we have not firmly, unitedly and publicly repudiated and rejected.” is not a fair statement. One tiny minority is not so very tiny and they are out there killing people along with placing them in prison for years at a time. I have not seen a tiny minority of Christians doing anything of a similar nature. To speak out and take a stand based upon biblical teachings is a Christian act. To go out and kill Muslims because of their belief is not a Christian act. Still; “Turn the other Cheek” does not mean let the person stab or shoot you because then you’re not turning your simply falling. A Christian can call out to the Government for relief or protection from a general threat while still protecting him or herself from a specific one.
    Being a Christian does mean that you try to reach out to people of all faiths as well as those with no faith. Thus a Christian, even an evangelical, cannot support murdering a people simply because of who they are. However, supporting military action to mitigate a threat or to keep the general population safe is well within the bounds of a Christian person. In this case it is a group of people who believe in establishing a Theocracy and want to subjugate all other belief structures to their own. They are willing to do this through Violence, Murder, and the destruction of property. This group may be a minority within Islam but as a real number this minority equals or exceeds the population of the United States. This makes them a formidable threat to our country and its basic belief structures. With one of the strongest attacks coming at the right to free speech. as they want to impose their interpretation of free speech on all of us. A kill them all attitude is not a Christian attitude. However, a “Let’s get this situation under control and return it to a civil discourse is a Christian attitude. It’s simply too bad that to get it under control may require more deaths and even more acts to sensitize Muslims to the acts of free speech and appropriate responses to such speech.

  7. Good post criley but better to break it up for easier reading. In a former life I was a grammar Nazi.

  8. siyaj k’ak,

    what muslim army has any ability to occupy a christian majority country. who you going to attack? russia? the north africans are going to invade spain again? the turks will take on germany? tunis and algeria could team up on france? maybe afghanistan could invade china, not that they are christian, but your over simplistic world view is laughable. plus have any christian nations given any muslim army reason to invade?


    “If what you say about Muslims killing Christians is true, which it is a lie, then there would be no Christians in the Muslim world!” the muslims are clearly killing christians. a church was just bombed last week in nigeria. they just aren’t killing them at a rate quick enough to have wreaked genocide on them. you do know there are still jews in germany. under your reasoning it would be a lie to say nazi were killing jews during ww2.

    “But there are and not only are they there so are there churches and synagogues as well.” yes and they get bombed quite often. this website claims there is a growing islamophobia in america, maybe so. but if i use your reasoning, the 76% increase in mosques since 9/11 in america would be proof of that being a lie.

    “mind your business” lol. so when saddam invaded kuwait we should have done nothing? well if you want us to mind our own business, btw we dobusiness throughout the world, you should withdraw from the UN, regect america foriegn aid. don’t take money from the world bank or the IMF. until then your business is our business.

    “You can keep your twisted, immoral, disrespectful so-called free speech.” thank you, that is very kind of you to allow us one of our constitutional rights.

    so sengal is your example of the perfect islamic state? because sengal lives peacefully with non-muslims, then no muslim kills non-muslims.

    my bad, not last week, to days ago
    “Attacks in central and northern Nigeria blamed on Boko Haram have killed some 1,400 people since 2010.” 1400 in almost three years. you aren’t going to wipe them out at that rate. might intimidate them into submission though?


    “Such anti-Christian violence is almost unheard of in Senegal, which is a secular state with religious freedom.” good to hear you are a declared secular state. but it looks like some muslims don’t like it.

    “Eight churches in the capital, Dakar, were targeted in the last fortnight following a declaration of war by Muslims against “new churches”. A church leader said this was because of the visible growth of these churches in Dakar.” i guess they will tolerate a minority, a tiny one. 10% maybe. but if christians were to out breed them or if muslims converted, there would be hell to pay, right?

  10. So Muslims in Senegal were peaceful and tolerant of their Christian Neighbors so long as their numbers stayed static and their religion was experiencing no growth. That is interesting .

  11. Large numbers of people have converted to Christianity in recent years in what used to be solid muslim areas. Maybe the muslims higher ups built too many mosques, too few clinics and “real” schools, or ignored places altogether because the people were of “inferior tribes”.

    Maybe the Islam in those places simply became too nasty. You can be nasty to some of the people all of the time, or to some of the people some of the time, but you cannot be nasty to all of the people all of the time.

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