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My Take: Are evangelicals dangerous?
Many evangelicals want to ban abortion, but does that mean they want theocracy?
October 15th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Are evangelicals dangerous?

Editor's Note: R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

By R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Special to CNN

Here we go again.

Every four years, with every new presidential election cycle, public voices sound the alarm that the evangelicals are back. What is so scary about America’s evangelical Christians?

Just a few years ago, author Kevin Phillips told intellectual elites to run for cover, claiming that well-organized evangelicals were attempting to turn America into a theocratic state. In “American Theocracy,” Phillips warned of the growing influence of Bible-believing, born-again, theologically conservative voters who were determined to create a theocracy.

Writer Michelle Goldberg, meanwhile, has warned of a new Christian nationalism, based in “dominion theology.” Chris Hedges topped that by calling conservative Christians “American fascists.”

And so-called New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris claim that conservative Christians are nothing less than a threat to democracy. They prescribe atheism and secularism as the antidotes.

This presidential cycle, the alarms have started earlier than usual. Ryan Lizza, profiling Rep. Michele Bachmann for The New Yorker, informed his readers that “Bachmann belongs to a generation of Christian conservatives whose views have been shaped by institutions, tracts, and leaders not commonly known to secular Americans, or even to most Christians.”

Change just a few strategic words and the same would be true of Barack Obama or any other presidential candidate. Every candidate is shaped by influences not known to all and by institutions that other Americans might find strange.

What stories like this really show is that the secular elites assume that their own institutions and leaders are normative.

The New Yorker accused Bachmann of being concerned with developing a Christian worldview, ignoring the fact that every thinking person operates out of some kind of worldview. The article treated statements about wifely submission to husbands and Christian influence in art as bizarre and bellicose.

When Rick Perry questioned the theory of evolution, Dawkins launched into full-on apoplexy, wondering aloud how anyone who questions evolution could be considered intelligent, even as polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution.

Bill Keller, then executive editor of The New York Times, topped all the rest by seeming to suggest that conservative Christians should be compared to those who believe in space aliens. He complained that “when it comes to the religious beliefs of our would-be presidents, we are a little squeamish about probing too aggressively.”

Really? Earlier this month, comedian Penn Jillette - a well–known atheist - wrote a very serious op-ed complaining of the political influence of “bugnut Christians,” in the pages of The Los Angeles Times, no less. Detect a pattern here?

By now, this is probably being read as a complaint against the secular elites and prominent voices in the mainstream media. It’s not.

If evangelicals intend to engage public issues and cultural concerns, we have to be ready for the scrutiny and discomfort that comes with disagreement over matters of importance. We have to risk being misunderstood - and even misrepresented - if we intend to say anything worth hearing.

Are evangelicals dangerous? Well, certainly not in the sense that more secular voices warn. The vast majority of evangelicals are not attempting to create a theocracy, or to oppose democracy.

To the contrary, evangelicals are dangerous to the secularist vision of this nation and its future precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy.

As Christians committed to the Bible, evangelicals have learned to advocate on behalf of the unborn, believing that every single human being, at every stage of development, is made in God’s image.

Evangelicals worry about the fate of marriage and the family, believing that the pattern for human relatedness set out in Scripture will lead to the greatest human flourishing.

We are deeply concerned about a host of moral and cultural issues, from how to address poverty to how to be good stewards of the earth, and on some of these there is a fairly high degree of disagreement even among us.

Above all, evangelicals are those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and are most concerned about telling others about Jesus. Most of America’s evangelical Christians are busy raising their children, working to support their families and investing energy in their local churches.

But over recent decades, evangelical Christians have learned that the gospel has implications for every dimension of life, including our political responsibility.

We’re dangerous only to those who want more secular voices to have a virtual monopoly in public life.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (5,318 Responses)
  1. Pat Mason

    Stated plainly, modern Evangelicalism is more threatening to our nation than Al Qaeda. American Evangelics comprise the bulk of the warmongering, Bush/Cheney-loving, Muslim-bashing, Gay-hating, 'Creationist,' Israel 'Do or Die' fanatics. Evangelics, by their own actions, have shown they would happily accept and/or create a fascistic 'Theocracy' if they had the power. Though they only represent somewhere between 25-30 per cent of the population, they have enormous influence in the areas they dominate. In Louisiana they have successfully goaded Gov. Bobby Jindal to allow 'Creationism' into the public school curriculum, and Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, Pennsylvania, et al, are not far behind. In educated circles Evangelicalism is regarded as the 'Hicks' religion, and has become an embarrassment to the surrounding area it infests.

    December 23, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  2. rwharvk

    agwmvv

    February 7, 2012 at 3:10 am |
  3. trxsuspension

    Hello. everyone.
    would like to make new friends with you guys.

    November 28, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  4. Kay Murray

    Hi Dr. Mohler!

    As always, I enjoyed reading what you wrote. I have been listening to your radio programs since 2006. Your words give me so much to think about and have helped me to clarify my own worldview through the lens of the Bible.

    Even thought I am the 5 thousand and something commenter I hope you eventually see this. I have been reading many of the comments and I think you need a friend in this wasteland called CNN; people sure are discourteous and even worse here.

    They do not seem to have much of a grasp on critical thinking or even tolerance of a very different perspective. Maybe you are not using your time wisely by "throwing pearls before swine".

    November 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  5. Franny

    Anyone with a brain should realize most Religions are dangerous, because of the hypocrisy!

    November 14, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Jim W.

      Anyone with a brain should realize that each worldview is dangerous to another because each worldview holds to positions that oppose another worldview. Anyone with a brain should realize that every individual, secular or religious, has some hypocrisy because we set standards of which we cannot always meet. Therefore, according to you, neither one of us have a brain. That is too bad.

      November 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  6. Dan Lewis

    BLADDERFLAP, R.Albert! You do have my pity...and disdain. You've repeated lies so many times that you have convinced yourself that they're true. You have built your very own little asylum. You delight it being with other deluded. How nice.

    Mr. Mohler, you are wrong on so many points. You've lived the majority of your life in lies. Wouldn't you like to live at least some of your life minus all the lies and distortions of truth? Aren't you ready to fully grow up now? Please do. Good journey.

    November 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  7. donna

    OMG, save us all from your "followers." Christianity no longer is a noble religion that follows the teachings of a peace filled loving person/god and leads to self examination and non-judgement – only love- for fellow humans so that they might also find forgivene ss, love, and peace. It now is about beating everyone over the head with dogma, beating all into submission because they are right and the rest of the world has no merit and needs to be condemned- hiding in violence and self riteous indignation behind the robe of the man they have lost sight of. Dangerous beyond discription. "they will know we are christians by our love" is no longer an anthem but instead "they will know we are christians by our lack of tolerance, judgemental-ness, and angry/nasty retorec. " The first principle of the faith we learn in the bible is the absolute importance in free choice. we are created (eh hem...) to have free choice there for when we CHOOSe to live w/God it means something. and these people only seek to take away that very thing from everyone.

    November 12, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  8. jen

    Yikes! A majority of Americans question evolution? This is the very reason to be concerned about evangelicals. A dear friend became an evangelical. She says it is not important to “consider the particulars” when discussing evolution and it is just ”a theory." I never consult her about anything of importance anymore as she now operates in the realm of willful ignorance.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Chad

      Couple things to think about..

      1. The scientifically required necessity of an uncaused cause at the origin of the universe. The universe is expanding in all directions and cooling. Going backwards there was a point in time when the universe had infinite heat and density. Prior to this singularity there was nothing. Not “something”, nothing. Matter and time were created at that point of rapid expansion. By definition whatever caused this expansion could not have itself had a prior cause (the infinite regression problem). Whatever caused it must have always existed. That is what physicists call the “uncaused cause”

      2. The phenomenal preciseness of the “big bang” expansion which was required to allow stars/planets to form. The fact that space and time were created at that cosmic singularity. (And God said, "Let there be light"). It didn’t just randomly explode, rather it expanded in such a precise manner that an infinitesimal change would have rendered a universe where matter was so spread out no formation of stars could have possibly occurred.

      3. The fact that the universe obeys laws and that science by definition relies on that which it can not explain: "Science starts from the existence of those laws, can NOT EVER disprove God". – Leonard Mlodinow Co-author along with Stephen Hawkings of A Briefer History of Time.

      4. The fossil record which shows millions of years of stable species, then an explosion of necessarily mutations, all occurring at the precise necessary time required for complex organisms to develop, and ALL escaping fossilization
      “the sudden appearance of most species in the geologic record and the lack of evidence of substantial gradual change in most species—from their initial appearance until their extinction—has long been noted, including by Charles Darwin who appealed to the imperfection of the record as the favored explanation” – Wikipedia

      November 8, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • qurgh

      Chad, you're misunderstanding some stuff:

      1) Scientists don't know what was there before the big bang, we only know that are CURRENT universe was created then. For all we know there was another universe that big crunched before forming this one or the universe is the result of multiple branes coming into contact (M-Theory suggests this). Just because we don't know, doesn't mean a magical man-in-the-sky did it (once people thought thunderstorms were the gods punishing people, now we know that's not true). There also wasn't infinite heat and matter at the big bang, just all the energy in the universe was in one place. It's a lot of energy, but it's not infinite.

      2) It did randomly explode, it just happens that we exist in a part of the universe which allows life. Recent theories have suggested that the laws of physics might be slightly different in other parts of the universe, and in those locations life might not be possible. The universe is also so massive that if there is a possibility that something can happen, then eventually it will happen somewhere. Life is one of those possibilities.

      3) As we delve further into quantum mechanics we are starting to understand how the laws of physics have come about and how they have changed during and since the big bang. We can actually explain how most things happen using just the standard model. The why is easy, we exist in a universe that allows for our evolution and in order for us to exist, the law of physics have to be the way they are. If the laws were different we either wouldn't be here, or we would have evolved in that universe in a completely different way.

      4) I'm not sure where you are getting the idea of "perfect timing" from. There is no such thing. Evolution happens at the rate that it happens. It only looks like it happened with perfect timing because we are looking from the other side of the equation. It's not like baking a cake, where you have to do everything perfectly or it breaks. It happens randomly time and time again and if one of those random events is successful, then it looks like it was timed right when really it's the same as a million people randomly baking cakes without knowing how long it should be in for... eventually someone will get it right, not because they planned it but because they were lucky. Someone on the outside could think the person knew how to bake a cake, but that assumption would be completely wrong. Just as you, who doesn't understand the theories in play and the scope of evolution, assumes God has something to do with it because you didn't see the millions of years of failures that occurred first.

      The Bible is not a science book. It's a collection of stories written over several hundred years by people who knew very little about the universe. If you want to use it as a moral guide, that's your choice, but assuming that people who didn't even know about germs somehow knew about the creation of the universe is just asinine and damaging to humanity.

      November 9, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Chad

      @qurgh: "Scientists don't know what was there before the big bang, we only know that are CURRENT universe was created then. For all we know there was another universe that big crunched before forming this one or the universe is the result of multiple branes coming into contact (M-Theory suggests this). "
      =>All of which face the infinite regress problem. There was a start at some point even if you buy the multi-verse model
      Scientists recognize the necessity of an uncaused cause (that does not mean that uncaused cause is the God of Abraham, but it does me

      @qurgh: "There also wasn't infinite heat and matter at the big bang, just all the energy in the universe was in one place. It's a lot of energy, but it's not infinite.
      =>”Extrapolation of the expansion of the Universe backwards in time using general relativity yields an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past” – Wikipedia

      @qurgh: “It did randomly explode, it just happens that we exist in a part of the universe which allows life.”
      =>”nothing” just doesn’t decide to explode. I hear that a lot from atheists, sometimes with the twist “well, it’s here isn’t it, so that is proof that it did happen”. All of which takes more faith to believe in than a diety

      @qurgh: “As we delve further into quantum mechanics we are starting to understand how the laws of physics have come about and how they have changed during and since the big bang. We can actually explain how most things happen using just the standard model.”
      =>we understand more and more how God did/does it. The KEY thing to remember is that science starts with the existence of laws. WHY those laws exist, can not ever be explained by science. That’s what Leonard Mlodinow and Stephen Hawkings say.

      @qurgh: I'm not sure where you are getting the idea of "perfect timing" from. There is no such thing. Evolution happens at the rate that it happens.”
      =>sounds like you need to read up on punctuated equilibrium. The theory of gradual mutation and natural selection has been discarded. There just simply is NO fossil record of “millions of years of mistakes”
      “The sudden appearance of most species in the geologic record and the lack of evidence of substantial gradual change in most species—from their initial appearance until their extinction—has long been noted, including by Charles Darwin who appealed to the imperfection of the record as the favored explanation” – wikipedia

      November 9, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  9. Atheismsays

    See why many feel like Christians are psychological child abusers? They tell their kids they could burn forever and ever and ever. The day may come when the government steps up and takes these children to seprate them from this environment to ensure they are only taught naturalistic reallity. HIT LIKE IF YOU WANT THIS TO HAPPEN.

    November 5, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  10. fred

    If evangelicals attain significant political power they will oppress anyone who differs with their fundamentalist view of Christianity. Then, America will be a true theocracy and no different from Iran – with their ultra-orthodox mullas and Saudi Arabia with their "religious police" that jail people who are not in the mosque at the time of prayers.

    What makes America great is that people can love God in their own way, as long as they don't try to force their view on someone else. Evangelicals want to change this.

    November 5, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • Mirosal

      We also have the right to NOT love "god" without reprisal. But, in all honesty, I don't see their laws being passed due to that little piece of paper called the Consti-tution. We'll see how long Michigan's new law stays on the books

      November 5, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • PJ Tibayan

      Fred,

      Do you know where separation of church and state came from? Do you know where freedom of religion came from? From Evangelicals, allowing those who disagree with them to co-exist with them. Check the history.

      PJ Tibayan

      November 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • BeTreyD

      Interesting, so How radically passionate in forcing a secular agenda apon those whom would disagree and their families would one have to be to profess the arrogant disdain that i see expressed here. I would say that with ever breath of intellectual arrogant chest beating and dismissive nature that whether or not you like Dr. Mohler or not it is obvious he is right. The only ones who have a problem with evangelicals are those trying to force Atheism and Secularism and remove tolerance for religion. If only these bigots are in opposition, and are willing to profess their discriminatory views so openly no wonder the religious are winning.

      November 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
  11. Fin

    "I hear that in California they are trying to ban the sale of black cars because they absorb to much heat and cause people to use their A/C more while they are driving. Tom ' Tom, what country have you been living in, people have been forcing their own brand of Morality since the South fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor."

    Exactly how does banning black cars relate to morality?.... step away from the crack pipe...

    November 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  12. TalkingSnake

    The xian persecution complex is in full display in this article.
    It is delicious to watch the fundies play the "we're the trampled few who just want to spread the good word" right next to the "we're the majority and so we should set policy" card.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • penny4urthots

      Why are you so intolerant to fundies? Don't they have rights just like the atheists or any other relgious group ?

      November 3, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  13. kennie

    It is scary when any religion becomes my way or no way.When life becomes i am the only one that a God talks to.All religions become corrupt as they get older.The priest/leaders/followers become more narrow minded and more sure that they are the only one to understand the gOod of the time.There were Gods before Christ and there will be God after Christ.For the short time each lives the teachings it is very good for everyone.But with time it become money and hoping for a better life after death. Yes i do believe in a supreme being/beings don't know who or what and it /them do not talk to me as much as i wish they would answer my questions

    October 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  14. HarryFromMA

    Also, there are born again Christians who disagree with Carter but still don't hate him, some still love him as a person . There are also born again Christians who are Democrats- a local evangelical church has one as a Bible study teacher. Quite good, too, even though she is liberal on non-theological issues.
    Amazing how shallow people 'think' nowadays.

    October 28, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Jeremy

      Ignore HarryFromMA, he has mental retardation and only spews nonsense wherever he goes. His real name is Harry Ricker, he lives in Wakefield MA, and dropped out of college due to his underdeveloped brain.

      December 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  15. Tomitina

    "An infant can be cared for by anyone else. A fetus cannot."

    @ Tom Tom

    Haven't you heard about pre-natal "care", have you? Obviously Biology is NOT your strong suit. Best time for you to shift to other interests, try cosmetology instead.

    October 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  16. Muneef

    Meanings of the word 'FITNAH' in the Qur’aan and Sunnah:
    by Muslim Ummah Awakeners-( M U A)- on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 4:31am

    http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=249234381793772

    ----
    THE HYPOCRITE 
    ACCORDING TO THE QUR'AN
    THEY CAUSE FITNAH (TRIBULATION)

    http://www.harunyahya.com/books/faith/hypocrite/hypocrite5.php

    --
    The act of Corruption and corruptors 

    http://www.searchtruth.com/search.php?keyword=corrupt&translator=5&search=1

    October 26, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  17. Sam

    Jimmy Carter was a born again, evangelical Christian, but the born again, evangelical Christians HATE him. They call him horrible names, just like Obama.

    With friends like that, who needs enemies?

    October 26, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • HarryFromMA

      Oh, please. Carter claimed to be born again. He every well may be. The disagreement is his policies. He has also ended up showing himself as at best a religious moderate, and perhaps a liberal. Does he affirm the essentials of Evangelical Christianity? They found out that their initial support of him was really wrong. Carter was a bad president, overall. I guess if GBLTs hate other GBLTs, Black liberals call Black conservatives Oreos & Uncle Tom and horrible names, when GBLTs call GBLTs who don;'t walk in lockstep with the prevailing gay/GBLT Leftist Orthodoxy– well, with those friends or 'fellow community members', who needs enemies, right? You have a really poorly 'thought' out comment. Expand your understanding & see it in the Left too- a HUGE amount.

      October 28, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  18. Muneef

    Good Muslim, Bad Muslim – An African Perspective
    Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Anthropology, Columbia University
    Quotes;
    Islam and Christianity have one thing in common. Both share a deeply messianic orientation. Each has a conviction that it possesses the truth. Both have a sense of mission to civilize the world. Both consider the world beyond a sea of ignorance, one that needs to be redeemed. Think, for example, of the Arabic word al-Jahaliya, which I have always known to mean the domain of ignorance.

    Eqbal Ahmed writes of a television image from 1985, of Ronald Reagan meeting a group of turbaned men, all Afghani, all leaders of the Mujaheddin. After the meeting, Reagan brought them out into the White House lawn, and introduced them to the media in these words: "These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers."

    This was the moment when official America tried to harness one version of Islam in a struggle against the Soviet Union. Before exploring the politics of it, let me clarify the historical moment.

    http://essays.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/mamdani.htm

    October 26, 2011 at 12:07 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.