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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. Wistful

    CNN is a sad little network with sad articles.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • grumpy

      And you're a sad little person who reads them and makes sad little comments.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:57 am |
    • sockeyerama

      Hey Wistful – That's the kind of angst I am hearing repeated from a subgroup of lazy, tormented, self-absorbed little brats. I don't find you so sad – just a jerk who discovered an expression that saves you the effort of constructing an argument and the embarrassment of revealing that you are incapable of doing so while maintaining a posture of arrogant condescension. Hell, I don't even know or care about your stance on the article.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  2. sockeyerama

    Bill Keller actually wrote, “If a candidate for president said he believed that space aliens dwell among us, would that affect your willingness to vote for him?”
    This author writes, “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.”
    “Aliens living among us” versus “aliens”. May seem subtle on the surface, but these are dramatically different ideas.
    I have always marveled at not only how skilled some conservative Christians are at lying but also at their evangelically inspired brazenness.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  3. Cassandra Chu

    The AIPAC Jews are the ones that scare me... they spend all of our money on Defense and get us into sick wars in the MidEast where we kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians...

    October 16, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  4. Pravda

    I would much better prefer a leader who is of the Atheistic religion. Anyone who can create their own morality and believe that their mind is their god would make a much better leader.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Colin

      People who think for themselves are o be preferred to those who blindly follow Bronze Age mythology.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • theonedavid

      Like Stalin.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • John Richardson

      Atheists don't believe that their mind or anything else is their god and they tend to consult more than one source before making reasoned conclusions about morality.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  5. Thinkagain

    GOOD NEWS GOOD NEWS GOOD NEWS
    People tried to kill Christianity within 4 yrs of christ's declaration that he is GOD and has come to save us. Well thats the every reason they crucified him. They thought they were smart and knew what they were doing as intellectuals and learned people is superior than what christ's followers believed. But look were we are today. there are so many christians because of there efforts to stop them. This proves god exists, because some thing like this can only happen when god is at work.
    And because this came from GOD and no man can stop it. If it was manmade there was no way it could have spread so much. Because there was a super natural force backing it, it has come so far

    October 16, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • grumpy

      Yeah, they should have driven a stake though his heart, then cut off his head. You don't kill vampires by crucifixion.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • Bob from Pittsburgh

      Does God talk to you? or is just the walls?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Radu

      God bless you.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  6. kimsland

    Religion is here because the world needs laughter.
    But I've heard it all before so get out now.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:07 am |
  7. Ray

    In this political climate, if a non-evangelical Christian or even a non-Christian were to become president, evangelicals would still be able to go to church and worship. However, if an evangelical Christian were to win the presidency, gays and women would find themselves under attack, losing the rights they have won over the past 100 years. Blacks, too, would find their hard-won rights to equality under attack. Americans across the country would feel the effects of the evangelical disdain for science as air quality and water quality would suffer due to less regulation. Mr. Mohler, who is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, says we have nothing to worry about and that we are just being frightened by a bunch of athiestic alarmist, but a point in fact is that the man who called Mormanism a cult is the preacher of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Mr. Mohler says that evangelicals aren't out to create a theocracy, but those of us who know history know what happens to a country that becomes dominated by any religious sect. Mr. Mohler doesn't think we should worry, those of us who know our history know better. Our founding fathers certainly did.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:06 am |
  8. RationalMan

    This is the thing I think I fear most from evangelicals/christians in general – they sound reasonable enough to attract weak-minded frightened people to their beliefs. These people then are brainwashed into an unthinking mob to carry out the wishes of the religious elite, and this unfortunately includes voting for idiots who don't understand the basis of our nation or the freedoms which is stands. The greatest threat to our nation is from within, and comes from the conservatives and the ignorant – who are often the same.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • Jim Jones

      well said

      October 16, 2011 at 8:14 am |
  9. Rupert

    I think CNN needs to give a voice to someone who has an argument why religious fundamentalists ARE dangerous. Based on the last sentence of this article, Mohler would be one of them.

    Frank Schaeffer on alterNet (http://bit.ly/n5gGsc) provided a very good argument for how fundamentalists play a key role in jeopardizing our economy. His key point: "Evangelical fundamentalism helped empower the top 1 percent. [...] Why? Because without the fundamentalists and their "values" issues, many in the lower 99 percent could not have been convinced to vote against their (our) economic self-interest; in other words, vote for Republicans who only serve billionaires."

    October 16, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  10. Detroit Mark

    So...long story short........yes.

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

      Close the blog

      October 16, 2011 at 8:04 am |
  11. oambitiousone

    It is precisely because evangelicals have their heads buried in the Bible that they are dangerous. That most of them question evolution (and Americans? You have stats on that?) it's more evidence of how they should NOT be in charge of ANYTHING. They are illogical and deny reality. All believers out there–read Dan Barker, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Then we'll talk. I've read your book (a lot). It's rubbish.
    We need scientists in office.

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

      Evolution is so 1800's, I prefer a more modern belief – Intelligent Design.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • LOL

      Intelligent Design is NewSpeak for "Creationism"

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

      Intelligent Design: we don't know how it got here, so it must be magic.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:10 am |
    • John Richardson

      Those who believe in Intelligent design produce no original research. Their "science" consists of absolutely nothing but long, whiny special pleading about how their tiny little minds tell them the universe "must" be.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:10 am |
  12. Pravda

    Do not steal, Do not kill, Love your neighbor as yourself – Oh yeah, America can do so much better without fanatics that believe in this crap...

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

      you don't need a book to tell you murderin' rapin' and thievin' is bad. m.k.? most of that is common sense and accompanies most civilized societies otherwise they'd devolve into anarchy.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Saturn

      Implying that atheists/secularists/humanists support stealing, and killing, and hating of one's neighbor?

      Nice, very subtle. Almost got that one past me.

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

      Sure, just take a look around see how well our civilization is doing. Great points... Not...

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

      First, that morality is not original to Christianity, virtually every religion preaches it. Second, it is not much of the morality of Christianity we reject (although some of it is contemptible) it is the supernatural nonsense of sky-gods and life after death etc.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:06 am |
    • John Richardson

      And Evangelical Christian who support wars that lead to vast civilian deaths and who hate atheists, gays, liberals, Muslims, Wiccans, evolutionary theorists, etc, etc have exactly what to do with you comment?

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

      The Ten Commandments did not originate common sense–if I kill you, your family's coming after me, et al. Further–fat lot of good it's done. Religious people are the most deranged.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • jboh

      Perhaps this should be sent to Wall St. They seem to be violating all of it. Jesus once said "you have made my father's house into a den of thieves." He was referring to the money lenders. The capital is the people's house of freedom. The Wall St money lenders have made it into a house of thieves. Occupy Wall St is following Jesus' example. TEA is supporting the money lenders.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:13 am |
  13. chris

    if evangelicals had ANYTHING to do with Jesus their first priority would be to take care of their fellow man. The only ones who truly follow Jesus are the Buddhists and the Yogis. The two groups of people that Jesus said "woe unto you" were the rich and the religious conservitives. The one who is the most hurt and damaged by evangelicals is Jesus himself. Shame on all of you for what you have done to him.

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

      Wow, you people are really delusional....

      October 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  14. LuisWu

    Why anyone with half a brain would blindly accept ancient mythology over modern scientific knowledge is beyond me. It's archaic myths, written thousands of years ago by members of a primitive culture. It has nothing at all to do with reality. What the heck is wrong with people that they can't see that???

    October 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  15. peacppl

    i am so sorry if this offends....i consider myself God fearing...but i find Evangelicals to be as dangerous as Muslim Fundamentalists and Jewish fundamentalists....in the long run....they have a fanatic agenda as well and have carried out more terrorist attacks in the US than any other radical group......abortion clinic bombings and murders.....Oklahoma city.......even going back to Jim Jones and David Koresh.......they must be looked at like any other terrorist group....obviously not all are....but their beliefs are eerie and apocolyptic

    October 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
    • kimsland

      In god I don't ever trust

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

      kimsland...i dont think God is the problem....he is testing us and we are failing miserably...the problem is the lunatics who are convinced ONLY THEY know what God wants

      October 16, 2011 at 8:09 am |
  16. Edward C

    Abort Dogma!!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  17. justcurious1

    Check out any culture shaped by a religious tradition, and you'll find that it is quite rare to find religious freedom. Do you find religious freedom in cultures shaped by Hindu, Buddhist, or Islamic traditions? It is largely the Judeo-Christian belief in man's being made in the image of God that promotes human freedom. You will find that the best Evangelical scholars (including Mohler) advocate a civil public square, in which public debate and democracy prevail, as opposed to a public square that shows preferential treatment to a particular religion. True, many less-educated Christians like to overstate America's religious tradition for political weight, but it cannot be denied that Evangelical scholarship proposes a much better model of freedom (the civil public square) than the militant secularists who would like to keep everyone's religiously informed principles at home and never brought into the public discussion.

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

      Most secularists don't have a problem with public discussion of religion, or public teaching of it. I fully support it being taught in mythology classes nationwide.

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

      Oh, no. we want them in public discussion. just so we can identify you for the database. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA. seriously? discuss away. just keep it out of government.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:03 am |
    • justcurious1

      Sounds exactly like what Mao would have wanted.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • bb

      have you lived in a culture shaped by hindu or budhist traditions?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:13 am |
  18. Maddy

    My only problem with "evangelicals" is that all too often I do not see "Christ in the Christian". Actions speak much louder than words.

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

      Spot on my friend.....they are as Christian as a satanic cult

      October 16, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • jboh

      It seems that those who feel the need to proclaim their Christian faith the loudest are the least Christ-like in the thoughts and deeds.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:19 am |
  19. Saturn

    I'm going to consult with some Christians and have them teach me how to write a blog post as stupid as this. It's my life's dream to get on the front page of cnn.com, and they're the ticket, I just know it.

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

      or you can be lazy and punch up 'Fundamentalists Say The Darndest Things' it's good readin' when you need some nyan-cat free lulz.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:02 am |
  20. Jo Ann

    I wish the media would be more careful with the use of the term "evangelical." Al Mohler may represent the religious right and the conservative wing of evangelicals, but we are much broader than those views represented by Mohler. There is an entire movement within evangelicalism committed to social justice and reaching out to care for the world rather than condemn it. And as an ordained female pastor of an evangelical church, to be lumped in with Mohler and the Southern Baptist Convention who would deny my right to even serve in this capacity is quite offensive.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:59 am |
    • John Richardson

      Well, I hope Evangelicals like yourself speak up more. You are positioned to be able to do more than most can to save the Evangelical movement AND the nation from right wingers like Mohler.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • ya'akov

      Right on Jo Ann!! It should be obvious, but somehow isn't - even to professional writers - that words have actual meanings and that those who use them - or edit stories for publication containing them - should know what those meanings are! Until recently most evangelicals were politically left leaning and the leaders of such movements as abolitionism, women's suffrage and the civil rights movement. I almost wish the ultra conservative evangelical movements of recent decades would have adopted a different name for themselves although they are certainly evangelical by definition as well.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:26 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.