Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Where are the good Christians?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Thu June 21, 2012
A group called Bible Believers express views at a 2011 demonstration in Los Angeles.
A group called Bible Believers express views at a 2011 demonstration in Los Angeles.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Christianity in America is being hijacked by the far right
  • Some Christian groups, leaders have said hateful things about gays, Muslims, he says
  • Obeidallah says silence is not the right response to extremist voices and intolerant views
  • Obeidallah: If the hateful rhetoric isn't stopped, radical Christians will define Christianity

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary, "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- Christianity in America is being hijacked. The faith known for Jesus Christ's teaching of "love thy neighbor as yourself" is in danger of being redefined by the far right as: "Hate the gays, Mormons and Muslims."

Just this past weekend, Christian missionaries -- including members of the organization Bible Believers -- traveled to one of the biggest Arab-American festivals in the country to taunt Muslims. These so-called Christians held up a pig's head while spewing hateful words about Islam. In the past, they have also attacked Catholicism as a "false doctrine."

If they were the only Christians spewing hate, they could simply be ignored. But they are not. Alarmingly, some well-known Christian leaders and pastors have articulated thoughts that range from intolerant to truly hateful.

Poll: Anti-Mormon bias same as '67

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

One of the worst offenders is Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a Christian organization whose astounding level of anti-gay rhetoric resulted in it being designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Fischer recently said on his radio show, "It is altogether right to discriminate against homosexual behavior" because it should not be acceptable to "any rational society." He has called for gays to be disqualified from public office and went so far as to claim that Hitler used gay storm troopers because straight solders would never engage in the brutality of the Nazis.

Toward Muslims, Fischer has called for them to be banned from the U.S. military and proposed that they be required to convert to Christianity before they can become U.S. citizens.

Toward Mormons, Fischer said they are not Christians -- a sentiment echoed by other evangelical leaders such as the Rev. Rick Jeffers, who has called Mormonism "a cult" and "a false religion." Fischer went on to say that Mormons are not entitled to freedom of religion under the First Amendment because that is only for Christians.

Fischer's comments are even more disturbing when you consider that the American Family Association is not some insignificant Christian organization. It boasts more than 2 million supporters. Frequently, well-known Republicans appear on Fischer's show, including Newt Gingrich, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whom Mitt Romney is considering as a running mate.

Fischer can be matched by Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, who have said that homosexuality is "related to demonic possession" and that non-Christians are "a virus." When asked by a viewer of his TV show if it was OK for a friend to display a Buddhist statue, Robertson's response was: "No, it's not. ... Break it ... destroy it!"

Then there are Christian leaders such as Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, who has labeled gay activists as "intolerant, hateful, vile, spiteful" pawns of the devil who have an agenda that will destroy our society.

Yet Perkins' spite seems civil when compared to those of a pastor in Kansas who said a few weeks ago that the U.S. government should put gays to death because "it tends to limit people coming out of the closet." Shockingly (not), another Christian pastor in North Carolina has voiced the same view.

The longer that mainstream Christian leaders don't even bother to counter the rhetoric from the far right, the more likely that radical Christians will come to define Christianity.

As an American Muslim, I can tell you from firsthand experience that silence is not the right response to extremist voices. Letting radicals air their views can have a serious effect on how people view your faith. And just so it's clear, I'm in no way saying that we don't have our share of extremists; some of ours are far worse, and our community must continue publicly to reject their false representation of Islam.

Many Christian leaders will undoubtedly ask themselves the same thing we, Muslims, did: Why should we have to denounce these people who are so radical that we don't even think of them as sharing our faith? Why can't our good work just speak for itself? Not all Christians are like this.

Here is the reason: A recent poll of American college-aged voters found that 65% of them view Christianity as "anti-gay." This is startling. If the loud voices of intolerance from far right Christian leaders go unchecked, will most young Americans begin to think that Christianity is "anti-Muslim," "anti-Mormon," "anti-Catholic" and so on?

The stakes are clear for mainstream Christian leaders -- as well as other faiths where radicalism is going overboard. Isn't it time to stand up to those who give your religion a bad name?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
John Sutter says the right is often stereotyped on climate change. But with 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, we all have to get together on this.
updated 8:57 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Andrew Liepman and Philip Mudd: When we declare that we will defeat ISIS, what do we exactly mean?
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Thailand sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar global industry. To beat it, we need to change mindsets, Cindy McCain says.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
The leaders of the GOP conferences say a Republican-led Senate could help solve America's problems.
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Nicholas Syrett says Wesleyan University's decision to make fraternities admit women will help curb rape culture.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Mike Downey says New Yorkers may be overdoing it, but baseball will really miss Derek Jeter
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Quick: Which U.S. president has authorized wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries?
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Women's issues should be considered front and center when assessing a society's path, says Zainab Salbi
updated 2:05 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
A catastrophe not making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the world's richest country.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT