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 2:19 PM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
updated 9:01 AM EDT, Fri October 31, 2014
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
updated 11:39 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
updated 2:32 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
updated 5:03 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
updated 5:25 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT