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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. Ken

    The author of this article was doing alright until he brought up the evolution angle. Problem is, most Americans do NOT question evolution. Just go to your local toy store, and you find toy dinosaurs abundant. Talk to a parent purchasing a T-Rex for a child, and you find that though they may attend an evangelical church, they do not believe humans walked the Earth with T-Rex. Indeed, they even accept the fact that dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago because of an asteroid impact. Later, you'll find the whole family in front of the television watching a show about dinosaurs on television, together.

    Evolution is simply common sense. The evidence of it is abundant in our lives, from pesticide resistance in insects to the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. Everything we see in nature appears adapted to the conditions in which it is found, and nobody questions the fact those conditions change over time, causing change in organisms.

    Rick Perry's comments that he is skeptical of evolution aren't taken, by people who don't share his religious views, as evidence of religious extremism. They see it as evidence that common sense is lacking, and that is an important attribute to have if you are a leader. Average Americans do not see a conflict between evolution and their faith, even if they are Christians. That Rick Perry does is, yes, deviant from the mainstream, and worse, demonstrably wrong.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Mohammad

      USA is a CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTAL STATE, BACKED by CHRISTIAN FANATICS AND CHRISTIAN TERRORISTS

      October 16, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • kimsland

      The church change to suit all the time.
      When I was young evolution was 100% not religious.
      When we eventually find life on other planets I'm sure the 'bible' will be reinterpreted again.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • LOL

      How would that differ from any muslim state backed by muslim fanatics and muslim terrorists? come on, fair is fair.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  2. MoreAntiChristinTalk

    Yeah, those evil chritians. They blowup people.... Kill people because their bible is spoken of in a bad way.... Teach death to those speaking ill of Jesus. They also keep helping people all over the world.... Giving at every turn... Yes all of this is cause to be afraid of them....

    October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  3. Dreamer96

    What I look at with any religion is the following;

    1.) How do they treat they women and children? Are the women equal to the men?
    2.) Who do they find new members, do they do a lot of recuiting?
    3.) Do they believe they have to change everybody over to their belief?
    4.) Are members free to leave the church or group, or are they intimidated to stay?
    5.) If they raise money, how do they spend it? Is a fancy expensive church the best way to use money?
    6.) Do they preach the positive side of living with others, and their god, or the negative, of disobeying their gods set of rules?
    7.) Do they control the members, or teach the members?
    8.) How do they interact with their neighbors? Do they welcome outsiders or close themselves off from the outside?
    9.) How do they help the needy? Do they even try, or do they feel the needy are being punished?
    10.) Do they help others with out asking for something in return?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  4. Quigley

    What is so scary about America’s evangelical Christians?

    Oh I don't know, maybe comments like this:

    "I would have to say as a Christian that I believe any belief system, any world view, whether it's Zen Buddhism or Hinduism or dialectical materialism for that matter, Marxism, that keeps persons captive and keeps them from coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, yes, is a demonstration of satanic power." (R. Albert Mohler, Jr. CNN's contributing author)

    October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  5. Zieroh

    I don't need god, and I don't especially want fanatics imposing their beliefs on me. It's that simple.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • leeferg

      Afraid of evangelicals but not Muslim extremists with bombs?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  6. chris bateman

    Evangelicals are not scary, unless you are a women, gay, or not white. If you are not like them, they will attempt to take away your rights.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • brin3m

      where is the like button?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  7. clwyd

    I find that even my relatives who attend church more regularly than I do and claim to be evangelical, whatever that means, are nut cases come election year and during political talks. then I hear Perry, Bachmann and Newt and I get scared to death of the words coming out of their mouth. They sound like they do want a theocracy. Cain is a minister according to what he said the other day. No way evangelicals! They are coming in the back doors or trying to!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • kimsland

      What?
      If you don't praise your lord every sunday, you'll go to hell.
      Every christian fool knows that.
      Hence the reason I never go to church, and follow this rubbish.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • LOL

      Cain's not a minister, Cain's a moron. Bachmann is a fanatic she gets that same glassy stare like bin laden. i'm not sure what newt is but i'm sure it's not healthy. just look at him. Obama's economic and business experience is limited to playing Farmville on facecrook, and hillary's still bitter. you're pretty much damned if you do, damned if you don't. I'm about ready to move to Pago Pago and sip drinks out of coconuts for the rest of my life and live with the heathens. Anymore it's becoming preferrable to here.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  8. Atheist

    We don't need a god. We can base this nations morality upon my thoughts and desires. It would be a much better nation!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • LOL

      Well, i can't really see how it could be any worse. Well. yes i could. i won't draw the obvious comparison to Iran.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:21 am |
  9. Nancy

    We've heard about Jesus already. Quite enough, thank you. We don't want any part of your gospel in government.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Mohammad

      NOTE:USA is a CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTAL STATE, BACKED by CHRISTIAN FANATICS AND CHRISTIAN TERRORISTS

      October 16, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • peacppl

      Mohammed....you cant even spell MUHAMMAD...therefore you are a racist poser trying to garner more hate against Muslim....Muslims in the US work hard...are highly educated ...doctors engineers...or business ...give it up loser

      October 16, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  10. Minstrik

    I want to say things like "the empty can rattles the most" and "the squeaky wheel gets the greasing" when Christian voices express their disgust and disagreement with not just the atheists of the country but anyone who doesn't believe as they do. I try not to get defensive when I am put down and verbally abused by these people. I try not to sink to their level of childishness because I know that 1) they don't represent everyone who believes as they do and 2) retaliating in kind makes me just as childish as they have shown themselves to be. I'm glad to see so many rational voices replying to this piece as it is basically an opinion presented as news and has no place amongst other truly newsworthy, and rational, stories. It's easy to sit back and think that this is the voice of one man and he is just harmlessly stating what he thinks is reality, but I know better. I know what the people who believe this way have been capable of getting away with and how they use their beliefs to justify their sometimes ignorant, other times horrible and violent, behavior. I'm more with the "Founding Fathers" in that we should all have the freedom to believe whatever we choose to. I don't think it should be a matter of the public's concern and I don't think we should give one set of beliefs more respect, or forgiveness, as is often the case, than any other. I live in Southern Indiana where religion has been pushed on me since childhood and I have grown out of it after realizing how ignorant people remain under its shadow.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • PulTab

      "LIKE"

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  11. JB

    CNN is run by nuts and athiests!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • kimsland

      Get those religious nuts out and all will be fine

      October 16, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • clwyd

      Thank God they aren't run by the same right wing loony tunes that run FOX!!!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  12. Atheist

    China, Russia and N. Korea are atheistic nations, maybe the US should become more like them.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • theonedavid

      You mean the USSR, but the point is valid.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • jemzinthekop

      Invisible man in the sky who sent his son who is really him to save everyone from the sin that was created when the first woman on the planet ate fruit from a tree because a talking snake told her to!!!

      And I am not supposed to be frightened that someone who believes this has codes to nuclear weapons?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:21 am |
    • Colin

      Actually, Russia is quite a superst.itious place, where Eastern Orthodox often combines with local beliefs to form a crazyquilt of differing beliefs. China has many regional beliefs too, from the Muslim West and the buddhist South to the Shinto north. Astrological beliefs are also proliferating.

      The most secular countries are Luxemberg, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Australia, Canada, UK, New Zealand, and Germany. They are also among the most developed, least corrupt and have the highest standards of living.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • theonedavid

      What is more scary, someone who believes they will be judged for their actions on earth after they die, or someone who doesn't?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • LOL

      No, I think he means Russia. The USSR is so 80s. pfffft.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:28 am |
  13. Pierre - Westmount, Qc

    As dangerous as Islamites !!!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • jemzinthekop

      Exactly! All religions are for nutsbars not just the one that was stolen from Horus (Christianity)

      October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  14. Christopher

    Evangelical voters don't simply want a seat at the table. They want every seat, the table, the dining room, and the keys to the house!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • John

      Atheism is the new religion.
      They venerate Charles Darwin, like Christians do Jesus Christ.
      They have there high priests like Penn and Teller, the Amazing Randi and Carl Sagan to name a few.
      They Evangelize their point of view.
      And finally like all religion Atheism should be the only religion and work hard to try to eliminate other religions.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  15. eurologist

    "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."

    Historically, this is a rather recent reactionary political response. Making this a prime dogma now, when the world is aching, only exposes church disfranchisement and helplessness when confronted with today's real society.

    "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."

    I am sorry, but somewhere around 95% of Christians around the world don't take "scripture", i.e., the bible, literally seriously. For good reasons.

    "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."

    So then, why has *your* church not shown this? Is this some dark church secrete to be revealed in future times? Currently, what the US conservative Evangelical church preaches is 180 degrees removed from these (all too short) principles you state.

    "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."

    I am a Christian – but that's just nuts. Sorry to be so blunt. Conservative Evangelicals are anti-social none-Christians who do not understand people nor Jesus' message, do not love them, and are neither embracing nor healing.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • LOL

      Well, when evangelicals figure out that jesus only wanted people to come to him of their own free will (by his own word, even) if you take any of this to be true and stop trying to push their crap and the word of jesus on other people, we'll all get along just peachy.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Mohammad

      USA is a CHRISTIAN TERRORIST STATE.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  16. theonedavid

    All religions are dangerous, athiesm most of all.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • kimsland

      Religion makes atheists.
      Stop religion fully, then atheists won't need to teach you anymore.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:15 am |
    • Philojazz

      Dear theonedavid, as you undoubtedly know, atheism is not a religion. Perhaps you find it comforting to think so, but, as you also should know, just because you find something comforting to believe, doesn't mean it's necessarily true.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • theonedavid

      Judism made Christains and Muslims. Your belief in no God is no different than someone else's belief in a God. Just because the monothiests don't worship your religion, deosnt automatically make them wrong.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • BK

      Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color. For one thing, there are even religions that accept 'atheists' as members, Buddhism being the largest (and I don't think there are many people who would accuse them of being violent). Your statement is every bit as ignorant as Christians who want to stifle every belief but their own, and not much less dangerous.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • theonedavid

      Athiesm is a system of beliefs, whicch is very deffinition of a religion. Those who are truely free from the shackles of a religion, like Athiesm, are agnostics.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • kimsland

      Agnostic?
      Are you suggesting that if we don't praise some dead guy and go to church every sunday then we MIGHT go to a fiery hell for eternity?
      If YOU don't go to church then YOU are an atheist.
      Speak up man, religion is WRONG.

      By the way maybe you think the prophet Allah is real too? Pathetic.
      I allow agnostic for a child, but for an atheist, religion is fully utterly nonsense.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:39 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Atheism defined simply is a non-belief is a god(s), thus it is not a system of beliefs.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  17. ellid

    Mohler is either lying or being completely disingenuous. He was one of the leaders of the movement to turn the Southern Baptist Convention from diverse, congregationally-oriented church to a top-down ultra-right denomination that believes in the oppression of women and the abandonment of the poor in favor of the rich. He has strong connections to the Dominionist/Christian Reconstructionist movement that advocates a theocratic government, and for him to deny it in public is appalling.

    The sooner Mohler remembers that the Bible forbids bearing false witness and condemns the oppression of the poor, the better it will be for all Americans. His influence has damaged this country, especially the South, in ways that will reverberate for years.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • Jim, Statesville NC

      Absolutely!!! Well said!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • Nathan

      Interesting–thanks.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • brin3m

      again, where is the like button!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  18. EddyL

    All religious fanatics are dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:12 am |
  19. Wistful

    It's sad that CNN loads up cookie on your browser to limit your comments. Could they be anymore transparent?

    CNN is run by incompetent mørøns.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:12 am |
    • kimsland

      Haven't had that issue.
      But many words and sometimes combinations of letters in words will stop your entire post

      October 16, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • LOL

      they have to to stop the spammy trolls that drop End Of Times links to people on youtube wearing tinfoil hats.

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

      i haven't had any of my comments stopped. clearly i need to improve my trolling skills

      October 16, 2011 at 8:18 am |
    • Sebastian

      I don't know Saturn, I think your trolling skills are pretty keen... as made apparent by your comment.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  20. Going In Circles

    We live in a Republic, not a Democracy..........Thank God !

    October 16, 2011 at 8:11 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.