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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. Saturn

    so the other day i was walking along some path in the woods and this bush randomly caught on fire, but the bush wasn't consumed, and then it started speaking to me!

    and i was all like, duuuuuuude.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:36 am |
  2. mabear87

    So called Christians seldom practice Christianity. They are bigoted, selective and never accept others for whom they are. Before the evangelicals preach their beliefs to others, they should practice the religion and all of it, not just selective pieces. And it would also help if they finished high school.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  3. Andy

    You guys ought to give this guy a fair shake. It isn't fair to lump all Christians or even ll evangelical Christians in with the neocons who have co-opted a religion to line their own pockets, Ralph Reed style.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Jennifer

      Very true, but it's also not fair to lump all atheists/secularists into the same group, either. Hearing/reading "god hater" etc really gets tiresome.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  4. who am i

    These discussions bring out the ape in me.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  5. deist

    So atheists, when is the father getting the right to choose? Your religion espouses equality, so why are none of your followers pushing for this?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Stop equating Atheism to religion...it is far from that!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • John Richardson

      When does the father get the right to choose that a woman he impregnated has to carry the foetus to term? Never. Egalitarianism is a nice ideal ceteris paribus, but ceteris is not always paribus and until human fathers figure out how male seahorses do it, it's not their body and health at stake. So it is not their choice.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:13 am |
    • Jennifer

      Deist, if you need a biology lesson, we may be able to provide one.

      The answer to your question is, "when a father can carry the child", period.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  6. us1776

    Prehistoric rulers needed people to believe in an all-knowing, all powerful "Invisible Being" so that rulers could keep their populations under control even at great distances.

    Why does modern man keep clinging to these obvious fairy tales from prehistoric times?

    .

    October 16, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • LOL

      the government hasn't finished compiling the database yet. *snicker*

      October 16, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  7. nyob

    you want change – abort the xians ruining this country

    October 16, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  8. rich

    when evangelicals are willing to teach nonsense to their children... tell others how to live their lives... all over something that they themselves can't prove exists... YES... they are dangerous...

    October 16, 2011 at 8:33 am |
  9. Jennifer

    this article isn't AT ALL biased...

    The author attempted to explain how evangelicals are not trying to take over, yet at the end of the article reminded us that they are indeed trying to take over: "But over recent decades, evangelical Christians have learned that the gospel has implications for every dimension of life, including our political responsibility."

    I'm a secular humanist but I live in a very diverse (yet tolerant) community full of Christians, Muslims, a few buddhists, atheists, etc. It's not a big deal to me until someone steps forward and wants to legislate their beliefs. If Muslims began a campaign to install Shar'ia law I'd have just as big a problem as I do with evangelicals. Let's not forget that evangelicals would, too.

    And let's not forget Bryan Fischer's belief that the first amendment only protects those who believe in the Christian God. I noticed that the author of this article chose to quote the most extreme of outspoken non-believers in our culture, but ignored the most extreme of the evangelicals...but they have a loud voice and a large following, and it's dangerous and divisive.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:33 am |
    • Anne Tomasso

      AMEN!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • brin3m

      I need the like button! Like! Like!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  10. EffortPA

    I think anybody who thinks he or she can talk and listen to an imaginary friend has the potential to be dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  11. us1776

    All these "Invisible Being" religions are cults whose sole purpose is extortion and control.

    .

    October 16, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  12. Christman

    losers, this is what they want, pull us apart. So what if we don't agree. This kind of talk is just like in germany.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • kimsland

      I agree and christians are destined to lose

      October 16, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • jemzinthekop

      German?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:34 am |
  13. Great Barrier Reef

    I've notice difficulties with making submission, and they do prevent certain word choices, although CNN isn't really concerned about racially motivated hate comments. They actually invite those comments, because it gets them more hits, which means more money.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • LOL

      9 out of 10 leading trolls use TOR and AdBlock.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:32 am |
  14. EffortPA

    "Top Eleven Signs You're a Christian:"

    11- You believe in a book (New Testament) that was written 80 years after your Messiah died by men who never met him and who believed the earth was flat and the Sun revolved around the Earth, but continuously deny modern science books.

    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs - though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • LOL

      rofl

      October 16, 2011 at 8:31 am |
    • Chris C

      Amen

      October 16, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • jemzinthekop

      Funny and True!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • ademarz37

      I am a scientist/biologist/pathologist who believes evolution happened AND in God. I am a christian who believes Jesus Christ's message is incredible and my goal is to live by it as much as possible, with "His" help. I am not the judge so I cannot tell you who is not going to heaven. Just because a vociferous group of "Christians" on the far right get virtually all of the press, precisely because they do sound "crazy", does not mean that there are no Christians whom you might engage with in intelligent conversations about science, evolution, etc. Also, there are more left leaning Christians that might surprise many in terms of their existence and intelligent commentary. Jim Wallis (http://sojo.net/index.cfm?action=special.display&item=050111_godspolitics) is an example.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:51 am |
  15. kimsland

    Note if you are christian then you openly believe in witches still.
    Its in the 2000 year old bible.
    Are you guys nuts?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:28 am |
    • Radu

      A lot of people tried to destroy the Bible. Where are they now?
      And you will be gone too like other people, but the Bible will be there. So I think I will stick with the Bible, it survived a long way.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  16. Atheist

    Atheists hate christians, so don't most Islamic and communist countries. We are in good company!

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

      well we'd like to say hate, but truthfully religious people are sick and weak.
      I feel very sorry for all religious fools

      October 16, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Saturn

      I can tell you're trying to satirize atheism, but it's not really working.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Debra Greenland

      Gee...that's funny....many Evangellical Christians hate Atheists, Muslims, Jews or anyone else who doesn't think like they do. Makes me think there is no God because if I were God, I'd be opening up a Holy Can of Whoopass on you ALL to people would stop this stupid fighting over religion.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • jemzinthekop

      I don't hate anyone.... when was the last time you heard on the news "Athiest militants bombed the Agnostic stronghold today"

      It is the thiests that are at war everywhere on this globe and the non-thiests that are trying to save you (and us) from you.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • tad dane

      We don't hate Christians, we feel sorry for them, embarrassed by them, irritated by their one sided-view of things. We realize they were not properly educated; they lack Historical contextualizing abilities, they missed out on Psychology, Humanities, Philosophy, Art, and Literature, and they just landed on one book. That will dement anyone.

      And personally, i feel sad that they can't appreciate the majesty of the universe without an explanation, that god has just become a parental placebo, and they are incapable of growing past their doctrine. They plateau early and rigidly and and you can feel how locked up they are in any imaginative or intellectual discourse. it's sad. that's all. We are still a cowboy culture. It's a frontier.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  17. Carlos

    Finally a balanced view on grass roots influence and appeal of evangelicalism. Christians must always attempt to balance two spheres of reality presented by Jesus: giving unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. And vibrant evangelicalism maintains that tension well.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:26 am |
    • AGuest9

      As long as they stay out of the schools...

      October 16, 2011 at 8:30 am |
  18. JHT

    I take issue with a lot that he says, but mostly with the fundamental assumption that if you are not a conservative fundamentalist Christian, you are not a Christian. Please note that he represents a denomination and a seminary that threw out its liberal elements. He does not represent even all Baptists, much less all Christians.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  19. Sam

    Evangelicals = Republicans,YES they are dangerous!

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

      I am an Evangelical but not a republican. I am not dangerous!! I believe in giving unto ceasar that is ceasars and unto God that is God's.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:36 am |
    • Jennifer

      John: of course you don't think you are dangerous, you believe you are walking the Righteous Path. The main question here is, Do you think that everyone else should be living the way you live, and that the way others live is wrong?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  20. Kevin

    If conservative Republicans are so interested in keeping government out of your life, then why are they enacting (or attempting to enact) social control laws to appease conservative Christians? They can't talk even discuss a jobs bill, that is supposed to benefit all Americans, but they can spend more time, voting yet again, to limit federal funding of abortion. Federally funding of abortion has been prohibited since the 70s....why do they keep wasting their time voting on bills that won't pass the senate, let alone pass the President?

    I'm certainly not a Goldwater fan, but he was quite right about Republicans embracing fundamental christianity – this is what Ronald Reagan's legacy has reaped.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • John Richardson

      Silly boy! Republicans want to keep government out of THEIR lives, not out of YOURS!

      This has been true for a long, long time. Few things have eroded citizens' rights and empowered government in this country the way the war on drugs has, and that has been a fave of conservatives for a long time (with some notable and noble exceptions like the late William F Buckley).

      October 16, 2011 at 8:28 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.