Yesterday Brian McLaren, an emergent Christian thinker I deeply respect, published an essay on calling out Islamophobic evangelicals. I posted it on my Facebook page and, as if he was trying to prove McLaren’s point, an evangelical friend of mine insinuated that Muslims are unique in reacting violently to provocations like the anti-Islam video behind much of the violent protests currently raging in the Middle East.

In the ensuing back and forth (still going on as I write this post), I suggested that my friend might like to talk with colleagues of mine in Northern Ireland about Catholics and Protestants beating or killing each other over seemingly trivial matters like wearing a certain soccer jersey in the wrong part of town. I suggested that over two thousand years of history, violent Christians have probably amassed a higher body count than violent Muslims. After all, the 6 millions Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the hands of Germans who readily mixed Christianity with National Socialism. Today, Christian militia groups pose just as much a threat as Muslim extremists. And I believe that the radical Americans (Christian or not) who intentionally provoke radical Muslims are just as guilty for the violence that results.

None of these examples represent what I consider the core teachings of Christianity. They all come from an idolatrous and evil syncretism of Christianity and complex social and political struggles. The same is true for radical Islam and the violent protests happening in the Middle East today.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all rooted in inherently violent religious traditions. The contemporary challenge for all three faiths is to transcend the violence encoded in our religious and cultural DNA and seek peace and coexistence. The greatest threat to the world continues to be the possibility of ignorance and prejudice among extremists of these three religions erupting into a catastrophic global war.

I haven’t even bothered to watch the anti-Islam video that has incited the riots and murders in the Middle East. I know that it is full of ridiculous and dangerous lies. I know that moderate Muslims around the world are decrying the violent reactions to this video, even as they find it deeply offensive. I find it offensive too. But even more, I find Christian Islamophobia profoundly offensive to my understanding of Christian faith.

What we are seeing unfold right now is the result of radical Americans (Christian or not) inciting radical Muslims to violence, which only reinforces the misleading and oversimplified stereotypes that fuel anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States.

Don’t let the radicals win.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

Reader Interactions


  1. Thank you for this.
    Ricky Gervais said on Twitter: I see Atheists are fighting and killing each other again, over who doesn’t believe in any God the most. Oh, no..wait.. that never happens.

    He’s partly right, I think.

  2. The Muslims may have killed as many Hindus in India as there were Jews in Europe in the 1940s, but one would have to count back centuries, to Mahmoud’s invasion, to be sure. A lot of Christians were killed in Egypt, Syria, Armenia, and many other parts of the “Near East” during the years of Muslim conquest. The Muslims are usually not using that method of conversion now, except in parts of Africa, so let us hope things are improving and that these fringe Islamic radicals and the Faith and Freedom coalition are just the last gasp of religious fanaticism.

  3. Your claim of religions being rooted in “inherently violent traditions,” your assigning the term “Islamophobia” to the outrage Americans are feeling about global aggression by Muslims, your citing past examples of violence by Christians, and your astounding claim that today’s Christian militia groups pose as much threat as Muslim extremists are not only at odds with what I’m seeing, but they provide no rational justification whatever for me to accept what Muslims are doing RIGHT NOW. I vehemently deny that the Christian religion is no more blameless than they are. It’s impossible to compare the Bible to the Koran and come up with that declaration. I’ve seen videos of the hatred and jihad their boys are taught in school by rote repetition. I see nation after nation being subjugated to their dhimmitude and other savage forms of aggression. I see hot spots all over the globe where Muslims are forcing their religion on non-Muslims by bombings and beheadings. I see them perennially killing and maiming each other over differences in details of their own religion. You’re obviously a person whose allegiance belongs to Islam. In fact, you sound like somebody sicked onto us by CAIR.

  4. “From its inception, Islam went to war to conquer and convert people in countries from the Atlantic Ocean to Western China. As Muhammad said in what is called his farewell address, “I was ordered to fight all men until they say, “There is no God but Allah.”
    “In the words of a leading scholar of Islam, Professor Efraim Karsh of the University of London: “Within a decade of Myhammad’s death a vast empire, stretching from Iran to Egypt and from Yemen to northern Syria, had come into being under the banner of Islam in one of the most remarkable examples of empire-building in world history.
    “These wars were rarely, if ever, defensive wars. None of the conquered non-Arab countries threatened Muslim Arabia. The purpose was to bring mankind to Islam.
    “Does this mean that Islam is inherently violent? Religions can evolve, and a religious Muslim can, if he chooses to, find in the Koran a basis for tolerance and nonviolence. But from its inception until the present, Islam has been violent, and traditionsally religious Muslims believed that their religion countenanced that violence.
    I”f a movement engages in violence for much of its 1,500-year history, if that violence is rarely in defense of self or others, and if there are few recorded instances of voices from within that movement objecting to that violence, it would seem fair to deem that movement violent, though not inevitably.’
    From Dennis Prager, Still the Best Hope, page 249 and 250

  5. Following the publication of the image above, in which Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Ganesha (a Hindu deity) were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened, sources reported Thursday. The image … reportedly went online at 6:45 p.m. EDT, after which not a single bomb threat was made against the organization responsible, nor did the person who created the cartoon go home fearing for his life in any way. Though some members of the Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths were reportedly offended by the image, sources confirmed that upon seeing it, they simply shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and continued on with their day.

    Caption beneath an Onion cartoon, published September 12, 2012

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Violent crowds furious over an anti-Islamic video made in the United States convulsed Pakistan’s largest cities on Friday, leaving up to 19 people dead and more than 160 injured in a day of government-sanctioned protests.

    New York Times September 21 2012

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