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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. No Thanks

    Religion in general, especially Christian religions are dangerous. How many wars were started over differences in beliefs? Too many. Evangelical Christians should worry about themselves and not try to push their values on others.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • elgiblet1

      Really? I'll bet you can't even name one. You are a parrot.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • TricknWV

      Dont pay attention to the idiot elgiblet1. That poster probably has never heard of the 50,000 slaughtered according to the old testament. Never heard of the ethnic cleansing in Africa or Bosnia or Serbia.. Never heard of the Germans vs. the Jews. That poster is the very reason imbeciles should be forbidden to be touch computers

      October 16, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  2. jemzinthekop

    The reality is all humans are born athiest.... it is your parents, society, school and religious leaders that indoctrinate you with fear and thus the consequences of that fear. If you were not born in the bible belt and were born in Iran instead you would be bowing down to a different invisible man.

    As a non-thiest I do not state that I don't believe in god, I just simply do not have enough information about the universe to really know, and none of us do. I am simply against the systematic bureaucracy known as religion.... that is the real danger, turning myth into secular law.

    Time to wake up folks.... free yourselves by stating what you truly know in your heart of hearts... that this religion stuff is all a scam. It is quite liberating, I promise.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • kimsland

      Religion is a scam

      October 16, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Cookie

      This response is perfectly worded and soooo true! I will be sharing your response!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  3. Dan

    Christian extremists in the US are no better than Muslim extremists. The world is 4000 years old and Jesus is the only way PERIOD!!. And yes, they are capable of violence and murdering others. Consider all the wars that they are supporting against Islamic world while Jesus teaching them love and understanding.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • kimsland

      hello 6000 years.
      Although we are factually certain its 13.7Billion years for the universe now

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
  4. Paulson

    Here's the deal, if you truly examine history ... it's the leader using a belief system (religious or secular), no that belief system that is the danger. Could Christianity be used as the basis to deny people God given rights? Well yes, it could. The not so distant past in America would show that the KKK claimed the Bible and Christianity as it's foundation, and look how wrong they were. And in today's world, Islam is the latest to be highjacked by extremists for teh expressed purpose of hate. Oh, and for all the secularists, and socialists, your beliefs too have been highjacked by leaders for power mongering and hate, like with Communist Russia, Cuba, Venezuela.

    But back to Christianity, the question should be for those who are faithful – will our faith be used to hurt and harm ... but rather will we let it? Will we let core extremists highjack the Gospel message? Or will we stand against them. The terror used by today's Islamist extremist uses sheer fear to keep many who are within the Islamic faith silent. What however will a highjacker of Christianity use, probably intimidation or even separation will be their so called method of division.

    It will not be the faithful that we need to be worried about, it is those who are determined to be the leaders that need to be watched and prevented from distorting the message for their own personal gain.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • hez316

      Some would argue if you believe John 14:6, you are an extremist. Its hard for me to believe anyone can call themselves a Christian and not believe it.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  5. jme0598

    The problem with evangelicanism is it is a form of extremism that does not permit for diverse viewpoints that are a necessary part of setting governmental policy that is flexible and reasonable enough to accomodate most people that exist with in a cultural, religious, and socially diverse culture that America is today. The religion based arguments that Evangelicals use to justify their political views, review of religion based extremist viewpoints in other religions such as Islam, follow a similar format and logic. The only correct legislative and governmental policy is one that can be reached by consensus and reasoned argument which if it is valid and correct, any given religion can look into its own religious text, be it the Quran or Torah as examples,and find that upon study of the matter this is consistent as all religions have similar underlying values. Evangelicals fail miserable in this respect as with all extremists, in some way seek to condemn and wipe out every religion but their own, and twist around legislation to support that. And that is exactly why evangelicals, no matter what religion they represent, are a fundamental threat to any given civilized and modern society in USA or anywhere in the world for that matter.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  6. David van Veen

    While I respect Mr. Mohler right to believe whatever he likes I must take exception to his desire to use the Bible as a moral compass for our nation. He is under the delusion that the Bible has real answers to real problems, it does not. Our world and societies are extremely complex and need a thorough and rational understanding to be navigated. Religion in general does not promote this. Its followers tend to give up searching for answers to the human condition once they've been indoctrinated. Our world needs all the intelligence, open mindedness, and intellectual honesty it can garner if we are to survive our ever evolving situation.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  7. GetAGrip

    "But over recent decades, evangelical Christians have learned that the gospel has implications for every dimension of life, including our political responsibility."

    This is exactly the issue. Evangelical politicians don't weigh decisions based on real-life implications or basic cause-and effect logic. They twist reality to fit into what they believe the Bible says instead of the other way around, and then turn a blind eye when these decisions cause pain and suffering in the real world. Take gay marriage: the author states that evangelicals follow "the pattern for human relatedness set out in Scripture" (which would be those of a Bronze age, mysoginist herding culture) instead of observing actual human interaction patterns.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  8. Mike Christian

    Evangelicals are the salt of the earth, but oh so embarrassing and earthly minded when it comes to politics.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  9. iamdeadlyserious

    You're dangerous to any citizens who don't want this country to become a theocracy.

    And yes, everyone has a worldview. That's very true. You get a gold star for that one. But I'd prefer if the president's worldview wasn't entirely based on a book that hasn't been updated for 2,000 years.

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

      And I would prefer that this country's policy is not set by some self indulgent children who believe no one should be able to tell them how to behave.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      Your name is a joke, right? Or is it just supposed to show your astounding lack of knowledge when it comes to the actual deists who founded this country?

      I don't care if politicians are governed by an individual moral code. I expect them to be. But I expect their morals to be based on some kind of rational thought. Not on mythical texts.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • kendallpeak

      The current presidents world view is based on a 150 year old book wriiten by Marx. I much prefer the older book. It works alot better.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  10. rami

    A good evangelical Christian could be found 6 feet under.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:41 am |
  11. Dan

    This is THE dumbest thing happening to the US.
    While we are faced with bigger issues such as energy crisis, Christians, with their fruit fly brain, keep on pressing on issues of no consequence at all to the health being of the US.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • John

      What issues of no consequence are we pushing on? Is it family values? A balanced budget? Caring for the homeless of this country? Hmm, your right we should stop because none of those things are broken in the U.S.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  12. joe

    Hey Albert,

    Tell me if I got this right. Your God got tired of running the earth from afar so one earthly day It zapped down some of Its perfect God milk into the womb of a 13 year old female human, then pushed himself out of her body 9 months later appearing as the perfect non-sinning God in baby man form, then disappeared for 30 years, then re-appeared walking around town barefoot and lecturing for 3 years, then killed itself then came back three days later to prove to 11 or 12 guys it really was God, then disappeared again never to be seen or heard of, all for the purpose of lifting the curse that It originally put on all mankind when an early woman at an apple from the tree in her garden that It not only put there but knew before It put It there that the early woman would eat.

    Does that about sum it up?

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

      lol. Well said.

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

      "when an early woman at an apple from"

      She "ATE" an apple, not "AT" an apple.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • deist

      And your religion that teaches that everything we see today happened completely by chance trumps that how?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Mike Christian

      So much anger Joe.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • carl

      connect the dots bozo....would you prefer to live in China or Cuba...ungratful swine

      October 16, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • jemzinthekop

      Don't forget about the part where he flew up to heaven in front of everyone's eyes yet Jews and Muslims still don't buy it. Oh and the part that there is not one single piece of historical record to show he ever actually lived in the time he was purported to have. Mythology lol.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • kendallpeak

      No Joe, you don't have it right. What you have is a childlike 1st grade mentaliity towards a very complicated theological truth. It's all quite over your head. I agree you are better off spending Sundays watching sports and leaving theological matters to men.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • jemzinthekop

      I don't know Kendal, sound pretty close to me. But again the whole thing is a popularization of the mythological story of Horus (or Krishna, or Attis, or Mithra) so trying to base the life of Jesus in any context of reality is simply a moot point.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:55 am |
  13. Jon

    Extremists are dangerous – yes.

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

      The majority of Evangelicals (meaning Christians) are NOT extremists. The only "Christian" extremist I've read about in the news in the last few years was that pastor who wanted to burn the Koran as a demonstration against Islam (or the sect of Islam that wishes to harm non-Muslims). And his extremism was really small (burning a book as a statement) as opposed to Islamic extremists who want to KILL people who oppose them. AND MOST Christians didn't agree with this "extreme" pastor because they believe in respecting other people's religions. It is one of the reasons why America has lasted so long in its FREEDOM of religion.. because of CHRISTIANS respecting others. Now that we have Atheists (and those against Christianity) who want to get rid of Christians (firing them from jobs, literally) and get rid of Christianity altogether (taking it out of history textbooks, for example), we have LESS freedom of religion for everyone. What this author says is very true. Christians are the ones who promote democracy and freedom of religion.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  14. Pheadrus

    All one needs to do is look at the states in the U.S.A. that have a strong religious presence in their government. Texas is a good example, Kansas another. Where religion (Christianity) has a foothold in government, human rights take a beating, science and education vilified, and humanity takes a back seat to biblical doctrine as interpreted by the popular, charismatic evangelical preacher du jour.

    Religion and democratic government are incompatible. Religion dictates. If it can’t dictate through fear of everlasting torture it attempts to dictate through legislation, education and the bully pulpit. The bumper sticker says it all…”Jesus, protect me from your followers.”

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

      That is so UNTRUE! Wow, you obviously don't know your state history at all! Please do a google search on the subject.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:59 am |
  15. TricknWV

    Please please please KEEP YOUR RELIGION OUTA MY GOVERNMENT!!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • kimsland

      Get it out of this world

      October 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Egyptian-American male

      Does that include atheism?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • hez316

      Gotta agree with Egyptian-American male, an atheist has tremendous faith. The universe was created by the explosion of a big rock (Big Bang) and that rock had no origin. It just always was. Now, that's faith.

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

      So what is it that you believe that should be included in OUR GOVERNMENT?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:54 am |
    • John Richardson

      @hez316 A big rock? You really need an education fast.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Egyptian-American male said
      Does that include atheism?

      Atheism is not a religion. Atheism is based on non-belief in a god(s).

      Religion defined: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

      Note the use of the word superhuman here...Atheists don't fall under that category...we simply reject the idea of anything like that. We do not attend religious services. Most Atheists believe that science is the way to go and in most cases they can't be wrong given that science is not full of fairy tales delusions.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:12 am |
  16. donnie

    Separation of church and state. It is that simple. The candidates should never even mention a religious affiliation, then it wont be an issue. They should not speak at churches or get the approval of priests. Also, churches should not tell their followers how to vote. Just stay out of politics all together.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:37 am |
    • Egyptian-American male

      That's not possible, since every human being on the planet has a religion (world-view/ philosopphy).

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • John

      Donnie, the origianl intention was never to separate the two as I originally thought as well. That is a myth and there are volumes of letters from the founding fathers that indicate so. Check it out, it is a good reminder of how far we have drifted off of the moral compass of what this country was founded on.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:02 am |
  17. PaulBeach

    Evangelical Christians do not leave their brains at the door concerning evolution as anyone with a strong background in physical organic chemistry knows that the mathematical probability of the first cell coming into existence through random processes makes evolution as much a matter faith as creationism. The human body and everything else in the universe is either by chance or by design. Pick your faith. The only way in which evangelical Christians are “dangerous” is that the Christian faith reminds society of the question: Does God exist or does He not exist? That question is scary to a secular society who wants to do their own thing; the existence of God gets in their way.

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

      Wrong on a few levels. First, evolution does not speak to how life started, only how it subsequently evolved. Second, it is not a question of Genesis v. Darwin. There are 1,000 of creation myths man has come up with over the centuries. Do you reject all of them?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • kimsland

      PaulBeach please learn more

      October 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • iamdeadlyserious

      I love when people who don't actually understand science pretend to understand it. It's like watching a monkey put on a hat and pretend it's people.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Zamiel

      You really believe this, don't you? I'm sorry, but that IS scary.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • dan

      Though the combination of proteins and acids that form life is statistically improbable for any one planet or time, the universe is rather old and is very big. Given enough opportunity, here an untold number of planets, it is not all that improbable and on those planets where it did not happen there would be no one to question if it happened or not.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Jon

      Well said. Ignore the ignorant attackers – you boiled it down. Either you believe in a God who created all, or you believe chance on top of chance stumbled into life.
      I will agree, you are mixing and matching with 'creation' versus 'evolution'. I can believe God created all, and has the master plan of what's going to happen, but allow us to Evolve to where we are.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Phycophile

      Paul, No evolutionary biologist thinks that the first cells just happened all at once. Besides, biological evolution is what happened after the first cells evolved. There is abundant evidence of biological evolution by natural selection. The evidence that all the great apes are related by common descent is probably about as strong as the evidence that George Washington actually was a real person. There is very substantial evidence for both hypotheses, even though nobody I know was alive to directly verify either. By the way I am both a Christian and a scientist. (I also took Orgo!)

      October 16, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • John Richardson

      @Jon But which creator god do you believe in? Oh, the choices!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  18. barbara

    I consider myself a "religious" and spiritual person. However, I also strongly believe in the separation of church and state. I believe the government must be "secular" in the formation of its laws. I don't believe there is any place in the white house for a "particular" reliigious view. If a candidate is an evangelical Christian... well good for him (or her) as long as they keep that to themselves, for to promote a particular religious philosophy will undoubtedly trample on the religious freedom of another should those views be a determining factor or influence in policy making. We have so many other more important issues. What all candidates should be concerned with (regardless of their religious beliefs) are the concepts of ethics in government and big business. They should be concerned with ridding the government of conflict of interest, corruption and greed.

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

      Allah would be outraged. Just because you live in a christian country doesn't make christian right.
      ALL religions are nonsense

      October 16, 2011 at 8:41 am |
    • hez316

      I don't understand the difference between an "evangelical Christian" and "Christian". You either believe the basic precepts of Christianity or you don't. If you do believe them, I don't know how you can set those beliefs aside during the lawmaking process.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  19. us1776

    Religion has been the cause of more death, injuries and suffering to the human race than any other single cause.

    Without religion there would be harmony.

    .

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

      Yes, because Stalin's purges were so much fun.

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

      Deist, Starlin studied as an Orthodox monk. His likely atheirm was no more relevant to what he did than the cact that he was a Capricorn.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  20. Alan

    Why are they dangerous to the rest of us? Because participation of those presenting religious arguments in a political setting, do so in the hopes of using our (allegedly) secular laws to enforce their beliefs and restrict the actions of all citizens. That's where the libertarians, athiests and TRUE conservatives have it right: mind your own business and let other sentient, consenting adults do whatever they want until it has a direct, important impact on non-consenters.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:36 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.