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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. Colin

    So many Christians, so few lions....

    October 16, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • kimsland

      Lol

      October 16, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • LOL

      The Christians got themselves elected and outlawed Lions. }:>

      October 16, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  2. cassius10000

    Yes, many of you are dangerous because you use the bible as an intellectual short cut for a variety of social questions and then try to enact laws based on your poor thinking.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:45 am |
  3. kimsland

    Look at their signs with Stop Abortion Now.
    Tell that to a 13yo girl who was r@ped by a monster.
    We want to stop making monsters not breed them.
    Religion has no place in our modern world.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  4. Eleanor

    Non Evangelicals are concerned with where our culture is going also. We in the more secular society merely don't want Jesus stuffed down our throats. We give you all the right to believe Jesus is Lord. Many people believe that but don't want to be told it every day. Many others do not believe it.

    However, sir, when you want to impose your beliefs and eventually make some of those beliefs the law of the land, we become worried. That's our problem. Terry Shiavo would still be alive on a breathing machine without a viable brain if you had your way. If we human beings have a soul and Heaven forbid we have to stay with our bodies till the body officially dies, Terry wouldn't have had a way of breaking free if it were up to you. Young people in remission from various cancers would not be where they are now if your idea of the cells in the petrie dish actually being a human being living in a refrigerator had not been allowed to come out of the dish and help a living person live. You believe in your risen God who was voted in at the Council of Nicea and who could be as iffy as the Mormons you call a cult. We are more the live and let live type. You are scary and that is why we are afraid of you.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  5. Colin

    Can you imagine classrooms in about 200 years, as they teach US history. "Yes children, as late as the first half of the 21st Century, there were people in America who still wanted to base social policies on a collection of Bronze Age Middle Eastern myths, that were cobbled together into a book during the Dark Ages. They were called "Evangelicals".

    Isn't it incredible how long it takes the enlightenment of scientific advancement to trickle down. We have put a man on the moon, cured disease and invented the internet, and yet these poor deluded fools are destined to spend their entire lives laboring under the most nonsensical of childish, outdated beliefs.

    I gues it's true what they say, "you can't fix stupid."

    October 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • LOL

      You can fix stupid. It's much harder to fix Afraid. The only problem is expanding their library to more than one book.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:45 am |
    • Saturn

      Even though I like to make fun of Christians, I can also understand their reluctance to accept evolution, because I grew up Christian myself.

      It's not easy to give up the thing that served as the foundation for your whole world view. It hurts, actually. It hurts a lot.

      You still gotta do it, at some point, though. Everyone's gotta grow up.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • kimsland

      Yep.
      Don't fight stupid people they will fight to the death thinking they are going to heaven.
      I say we should inform ALL our children to stay clear of religious ridiculous

      October 16, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  6. Laura

    Evangelicals and their beliefs do not threaten me; they have every right to choose their beliefs and shout them from the rooftops. My problem is that they cause politicians to pander to them for whatever reason. And they are naive enough to believe that some politicians and elected leaders really care about their rant. Believe me, they do not. It is a posture they assume so that ultra-conservative Christians will vote for them. Most politicians think abortion and stem cell research are just distractions; they are not issues that really move them as much as say, big oil concerns. But if they throw some conservative language into a couple of speeches then they get those votes.
    Most Americans are smack in the middle and we just want the distractions, like people waving abortion signs, to go away so our leaders can do their jobs. For example, they need to create some jobs, balance the budget, find viable energy alternatives and reduce waste and fraud.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  7. Victor81

    Belief in an intervening god who shows preference from one issue to the next is childish at best. The results, however, are anything but, and quite often deadly and detrimental to society. Religion is a poison and we would all be better served if we started using our brains like we do when applying mathematics. All of humanity's religions have, at some point, evaporated in time, from logic. So too, will these, eventually. I can't wait.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  8. Paul-A

    Mr. Mohler writes: "The vast majority of evangelicals are not attempting to create a theocracy, or to oppose democracy." Um, excuse me? How many of the current Republican/evangelical presidential candidates claim (wrongly) that America is a "Christian" nation? Sounds like a theocracy to me. It's easy for Mohler to see evangelical Christians as benign precisely because he's one of them, part of the club. But that club makes it clear that those of us who don't belong to that club (i.e who believe other religions, or none at all; who are gay/lesbian; etc.) are inferior, and that we do not deserve the same rights and societal status; and in some cases, they call us sick, perverted, and want to criminalize us for the way that God created us. The basic problem with evangelical Christians is that they are absolutists in their beliefs; they are the only ones that are right, and no other point of view can have any moral or political validity. Absolutism does not allow true democracy to thrive; just look at how the absolutists in Congress have caused the mess we're in. Any religion which espouses that outsiders have no possible path to righteousness (or heaven, if you prefer), and who has caused so much pain and suffering throughout the world for two thousand years because of their proselytizing is, in fact, quite dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  9. Sid Airfoil

    The argument presented here is that secularism and evangelical Christianity are two equally valid and respectable world views that should engage in respectful political debate. However, it ignores that fact that while secularists base their views on evidence and reason, religionists base theirs on faith, with is belief WITHOUT evidence. How does one debate rationally with someone who refuses to accept evidence that supports opposing beliefs and who offers no evidence in support their own (other than what it says in the Bible)?

    Sid

    October 16, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Saturn

      how does one debate rationally with a christian?

      you don't.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
    • LOL

      you can't debate rationally with a believer. Faith is an emotional response, not a logical one. it's no more possible to disprove their god than it is for them to prove to you that there is one.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:43 am |
    • Quick E Mart Clerk

      It's amazing that anyone, whether Christian, Secular, atheist, or whatever, still thinks that their basis for thinking is "evidence and reason." Evidence and reason based on what? You understand that they've debunked the idea that truth is just inherent in evidence and reason? Everyone has beliefs that frame and shape the way they see evidence and everyone has beliefs that's their starting point for reason.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  10. John

    Anyone who claims a personal relationship with God is dangerous. And by the way, if a human being ever did have a personal relationship with the Almighty, we'd see it reflected in their thinking. Without fail, American born-agains display a narrow-mindedness and bigotry - the strongest proof they are without a divine connection.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • kimsland

      Agree

      October 16, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • Chris Carr

      You just called Jesus a narrow-minded bigot (Matthew 7:13-14)

      October 16, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • Me

      And you are totally ignorant..

      October 16, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  11. sparknut

    Religious extremists of all types are dangersous – Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu....

    October 16, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  12. Maddy

    The only problem with "evangelicals" is that is so difficult, if not impossible to see Christ in the Christian!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • BethTX

      Well said. How many Christians really love their fellow man and practice what they preach?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  13. Robert

    I would have no problem with evangelicals if they weren't so determnined to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else. From freedom of choice to prayer in school to religious symbols to creationism. Believe what you want to believe, but leave the rest of us alone.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • Chris Carr

      you are verbalizing the very bigoted secular-minded vision which Mohler described...as a Jesus follower, I don't want secularists (who are really schizophrenic for playing the public-private game in the first place) 'bothering' me with their vision of how things ought to be...using your logic, I could just as easily say 'leave me alone and keep your ideas to yourself' but I won't play the schizophrenia game...

      October 16, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  14. M. DaSilva

    We have a wonderful example of an atheistic, secular government in the world today. China. Now, there's a paradise...

    October 16, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • LOL

      We have a wonderful example of faith run amok in the political system today. Iran. An even bigger paradise.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • LOL

      do you want someplace with a nuke run by someone who talks to god on a 2 way radio? stop and think really hard now.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:40 am |
    • Colin

      Would that be the China that is out-competing us by virtually every economic indicator and is due to overtake us as the most important economic power in the Wrold within a decade or so?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  15. The Half Baked Lunatic

    The human population is out of control. It is environmentally irresponsible for us as a society to keep popping out babies, we are ruining our planet and endangering the long term viability of our species. Anything we can do to reduce the global birthrate should be encouraged.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • LOL

      I like my toddlers with a nice redeye gravy and a side of baked beans, myself. (I don't expect any fundamentalists to appreciate that, however, they were too busy studying creationism in home school instead of reading Jonathan Swift)

      October 16, 2011 at 7:37 am |
    • kimsland

      To begin with, lets stop this nonsense praying and get to doing more space age exploration.
      I can't believe that no astronauts are going to space soon, this just won't do.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:37 am |
  16. John

    Are they dangerous? Religion captures the essence of the very darkest corner of human nature. Regardless of faith, each holds a reference to a God who exclusively deems its followers to be the chosen and therefore, has nothing to do with religion at all.

    The threat of extinction can arise from the most unlikely source.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:34 am |
  17. LOL

    The Bible is self-contradictory at best. Noah was a Jew and he named one of his sons Ham. that's all kinds of wrong from the get-go.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • kimsland

      Who would name their son ham? What a pig.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:35 am |
    • Saturn

      i wonder if noah ever put some pearls in front of him. you know, just to see what he'd do.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:39 am |
    • LOL-jbronner1972

      i could make a pearl necklace joke, but im not going to.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  18. pockaleelee

    And don't forget the current crop of republican 'christians' who want to be president but are not acting in any way 'christ-like.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  19. kimsland

    Wouldn't it be grand to go back then to the Middle East (where jesus was supposedly born) with a cigarette lighter or a flash light.
    The world would be yours. These people 2000 years ago were SO ignorant they actually thought the son of god had been born.
    FOOLS. Ha Ha Ha ha ha

    October 16, 2011 at 7:32 am |
  20. The Half Baked Lunatic

    'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded people.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:30 am |
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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.