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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. honor always

    Where is the article regarding whether the Occupy Wallstreet group is dangerous. Seems like it would be more related to the actual news. There are nut jobs on both sides.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • Barry

      Not really. The OWS people are simply fighting 40 years of corporate greed, driven by the right, who has been vigorously supported by who? Oh yeah, the Christian crazies. Count the Mormons in there too. Only slightly more crazy than the Christians. The GOP is screwed. Elect a Mormon or a black man? Their heads must be ready to explode. The only white guy they've got is Rick Perry, and well, 'nuff said... Still care to comment off-topic?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  2. malacoda

    A secular "monopoly" would be great. The difference between it and a Christian monopoly is that you can't discern when the former exists, but you sure can when the latter has won. They would be delighted to make Christianity an official national religion, and would be even happier to begin converting everybody. Next comes a bunch of laws based on a dusty book of fairy tales written by fisherman and shepherds 5000 years ago (just after the universe was created, apparently) which is somehow supposed to be relevant in today's complex and diverse society. No thanks. Secular folks have no problem with your beliefs, go plumb crazy. Just keep it to yourself. Too bad the Christian right won't afford the same courtesy to others.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • kendallpeak

      There have been secular monopolies. Stalinist Russia, Castro's Cuba, Mao's China. Personally I prefer the freedom of Christ.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Barry

      Where's the "like" link? Well said, malacoda.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  3. Pravda

    Dear Atheist,

    Thank you for following my archaic 1800 religion, but it just does not make sense anymore. Many of the fanciful ideas in my theory just could not be proven.

    Intelligent design is what modern people believe in, time to adapt to the changes and come out of the 1800's.

    Darwin

    October 16, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • Saturn

      I ran a program that filtered all the stupid out of your comment, and nothing was left.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • Pravda

      Ahh, there is one of those ape men now...
      Do you crave bananas?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • LOL

      I've looked around, and this sure as hell wasn't designed by anything intelligent.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • malacoda

      Bwahaha yeah, time to update our scientific theories to one from 5000 years ago. We should probably toss out the theory that the Earth revolves around the sun. It is so 500 years ago.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:00 am |
    • Saturn

      rather ironic, for someone who believes in intelligent design to refer to a primitive human as an "ape man"

      October 16, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • Colin

      I hope any person who has any doubt about the IQ of your average evangelical reads Pravda's post. Just wow.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:01 am |
    • kimsland

      We're in the 21st century now dumb dumb.
      Away with your religious ridiculous

      October 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • Sandra C

      Thanks, I needed a laugh. Darwin/Science vs a book of ancient fables stolen from even older cultures.. no contest.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • Rick

      Pravda: Spend a lot of time on your knees, do you?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:05 am |
  4. T

    Are Muslims a dangerous?

    October 16, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • kimsland

      All religions are ridiculous and dangerous to kids

      October 16, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • Doug

      All religions are dangerous.. Fear, guilt.. hate and did I mention fear.. These people are the haters of our society.. What these losers really have is this, " hey, I'm such a loser I have to have an imaginary man make me whole and make me feel like I am above all of you", not so much... These people are truly the misfits of our society... Disgusting !

      October 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  5. joe

    Above all, evangelicals are those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and are most concerned about telling others about Jesus.
    ---------
    That's the scary part. To the rest of us, it's basically the same as telling us that Allah is Lord and following Allah.

    There is no Jesus. There is no Allah. Jesus has never done anything, never will. Christians just hate it when I hit them with that reality check. But it's fact. Your God is absent. Entirely absent. Nothing there but you trying to tell me about your God. As if your God doesn't have the ability to speak for itself. As if it is so pathetic and weak and cowardly that it needs to hide while it appoints the least educated and lowest IQ of a society to speak on its behalf.

    Go ahead evangelicals, keep on doing your God's bidding and I'll keep on slamming the reality door in your face.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • kimsland

      Speak up god, don't be pathetically shy.
      god? god? Yoo hoo god?
      Nope, I didn't think so.
      He's such a fake.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • Saturn

      joe pesci, is that you? thank god you're here, i've got a lot of things i need to pray to you about.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:57 am |
    • HenryB

      We all have our view and I happen to agree with you. Everybody can have the faith that they want but when its tenets are preached by those who have the least ability to discern the truth and who happily follow their preachers and when this all translates into politicians who will make this part of their public office, then I have a real problem. People are either led or lead.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  6. kimsland

    I say there's some things that christians don't want to know.
    Important things.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • LOL

      Math, for starters.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Colin

      Biology, paleontology, archeology, astronomy, cosmology, geology, genetics and all those other evil beliefs taught by 'elitists".

      October 16, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  7. KashKat

    Your article is yet another example of how belief in Christianity makes intelligent people say silly things. The last sentence sums up why secular people are worried about evangelicals. Your distorted beliefs of reality mixed fact with fiction are designed to slowly confuse people's brains into creating self doubt much in the same way a virus works in your computer. That has to be kept in check. You don't understand it because you are infected, so to speak. Christianity has a lot of great ideas of positive moral and human behavior to bring to the table but no rational thinking person wants to buy it bundled with the rest of the unprovable nonsense that comes with it. It's pretty much that simple. If you want to be taken seriously, extract the good from the bible that makes provable sense and talk about that.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • TRH

      VERY well-said.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  8. Brad

    Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force that is preset in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to to eat from a magical tree. Yeah, make perfect sense!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • Colin

      Indeed Brad. Chrstianity is Iron Age mythology sitting on top of Bronze Age mythology.

      The belief that an infitely old, all-knowing sky-god, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, will cause people to survive their own phsical deaths and live happily ever after in heaven, if they follow some random laws laid down in Bronze Age Palestine = Judaism.

      Judaism + a belief that the same god impregnated a virgin with himself to give birth to himself, so he could sacrifice himself to himself to negate a rule he himself made = Christianity.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • LOL

      You two would dig God: The Ultimate Autobiography by Jeremy Pascall. it's very irreverent, funny, and laced with jokes about things judeo-christians believe to be true.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:58 am |
    • joe

      Funny.

      And the story gets more absurd. The evil force is the curse that the Jewish Zombie itself put on mankind because the rib woman ate the apple that the Jewish Zombie put in her garden and knew she would eat before he put it there. But if you believe in the Jewish Zombie he'll lift that curse that he put on you but not now, only after you're dead.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  9. Colin

    Dear Evangelicals

    God here.

    First, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 6 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous. Grow a brain.

    Second, if I did, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible.

    Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.

    Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who withheld evidence of my existence in the first place.

    Fifth, I would not care who or how you “do it”. I really wouldn’t. This would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Oh, the egos.

    Sixth, I would have smited all creationists and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and yet you speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric for me to even contemplate).

    Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.

    Finally, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 6 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 600,000,000 prayers. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.

    God

    October 16, 2011 at 7:51 am |
    • KashKat

      Nice

      October 16, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • HenryB

      Yes, nice.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  10. Reality

    As with most Christians, Mohler suffers from the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in the flaws and fallacies of Christianity. The cure? Reading and rational thinking!!!!

    Synopsis of 21st Christianity based on the studies of Professors Crossan, Ludemann, Borg, Fredricksen et al:

    Jesus was an illiterate, Jewish, peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.

    The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hit-ti-tes, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
    earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html

    For added "pizz-azz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "fil-icider".

    Current RCC problems:

    Pedo-ph-iliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!

    Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).

    Current problems:

    Adu-lterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,–

    October 16, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  11. Radu

    to akmike64
    A miscarriage is something you don't want or plan to happen.
    An Abortion is when you want and plan that to happen. Got it?

    October 16, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  12. Point

    Dawkins is wrong to correlate belief in evolution with intelligence, but the author is equally wrong to suggest that just because most Americans don't believe evolution is true (if this is even true, since wording on surveys asking those questions affects the results) that their position is somehow more likely to be right. It's not that Americans that disbelieve in evolution are stupid. But I would guess that they haven't really learned what is entailed (except twisted Creationist versions in some cases), and so they disbelieve in a straw man version of it. It's also very human to have biases towards believing in God, because it's a lot nicer to think about than dying and having that be the end. Just because it's nicer doesn't make it true, but it's easy to see why someone would want to believe that.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  13. J

    Hey baptist, in charge of the largest seminary in the world, JESUS SAID TO EVANGELIZE AND TO HATE SIN!

    But oh I forgot, it was BILLY GRAHAM that said "Jews are the main problem in America" to pres Nixon...

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

    This is heavy
    The beginning of the video is familiar but continue watching till the end, its humble

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n6boJ3IjgA&w=640&h=360]

    We surely need a standard for humility, and equality.
    Jesus is the right measure, and only he can be.

    China will never be so humble, they are just to proud, even thou they have no idea about their origins just as no one does, or any control over their future. The power of making choices should not be misunderstood for the ability of having total control as some atheist do. Considering the amount of atheist in usa is proof that usa is becoming more chinese, rather than the other way around as it should have been, we should have had a lot more influence over china as we have had else were.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:49 am |
    • LOL

      WOW. Star Wars credits. It Must be True!

      October 16, 2011 at 7:52 am |
  15. Patricia

    Mohler seems to define "secularist" as any views that don't agree with his, and he willfully and cheerfully refuses to recognize even the existence of religious and philosophical opinions other than his own. Guarding our civil liberties, according to which each of us has the right to exercise as an individual, requires what Mohler appears to think is a "secular" system, which is what I consider to be a system of neutrality. How else is each of us going to be free to form our own opinions and act on them? I'm sure that women who agree with his theological conclusions will not end a pregnancy no matter what the physical, emotional, and financial costs, and that gays and lesbians who agree with him will not get married. But everyone, including women and gays and lesbians, has a right to select our own beliefs and consult with the people whom WE select and should not be forced to sacrifice this right to live under the likes of Mohler, Robertson, Rushdoony, Jeffress, or any of these other guys who think they are smarter than the rest of us, for no good reason. That's why these people are so dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  16. Saturn

    it's kinda sad that, as far as we have progressed in terms of civil rights, a presidential candidate still has to pretend to be a Christian to have any chance of getting elected.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  17. Thomas

    Here are a few facts for the people who's comments were generalizations;
    1.)just because your a christian or spiritual person, does not mean that you do not believe in science!
    2.)Evangelicals have not threatened to suicide bomb news organizations that publicly question them.
    3.)Get over your selves evangelicals just want to be heard like everyone else with an opinion, they are not dangerous, annoying but not dangerous.

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

      1. correct.
      2. incorrect.
      3. partially correct.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:50 am |
    • Saturn

      I like how religious people always refer to "believing" or "not believing" in science, as if belief and faith are the only concepts they can understand. The moment you try to shift the discussion away from "believing" or "not believing" they get all confused, and their eyes unfocus, and they start waving their arms wildly and convulsing.

      Then again, they do that during worship services too, so it may just be the typical Christian response to any kind of stimulus.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |
    • zivo24

      Speaking as one American citizens whose rights of self-determination they are trying to usurp...I do consider them to be dangerous. They use their faith to try to justify and legitimize discrimination.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  18. Engineer in Raleigh

    I have no doubt that in 50 years, when you religious loons have lied to enough kids to where most adults think Mana from the Baby Jesus is what makes iPhones work, you'll be blaming gays and godless liberals for the fact you're living in a third-world country.

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

      That's just all kinds of silly, we all know mana from steve jobs is what makes iPhones work.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:51 am |
  19. Howard

    It's not that evangelicals wear their faith on their sleeves, and that they want candidates that share their views, that scares me. What scares me is that they want those candidates, once elected, to pass laws that effectively force everyone who doesn't share their views to live their lives as if they do. That is un-American; an unpatriotic violation of the separation of church and state.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Rambling Man of ALS

      Amen Brother Howard – when did Capitol Hill become their Promise Land?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
  20. CleanUpYourHouseFirst

    I think if evangelicals really want to make a difference they first need to start within. Research showed that most "evangelicals" are not much different than the larger population when it comes to issues described above. I bet once you 100% of your followers, "following" the principals of the Bible, you will make a bigger impact in society than those "power hungry" politicians.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:46 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.