home
RSS
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. Jack

    No one cares what religion the president claims to believe in, or anyone else for that matter.

    What secular Americans care about is the constant attempts by dominionists and other fundamentalists to make their religion compulsory. For example, their attempts to require bible study for all school children under the cover of "creation science". Or their attempts to direct taxpayer money to megachurches, in return for the vocal support of the megapreachers.

    Christians, you do not have a right to the free use of taxpayer-paid funds. You do not have the right to free use of public servants or resources. You do not have the right for your religion to be taught as scientific truth in public school classrooms. When you are told these things, you are not being oppressed or discriminated against, you are just being treated like everyone else.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • ZarGoth

      Thank you!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • chrisg

      excellent post. thank you

      October 16, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • W.G.

      to jack No real Christian is trying to do that , force you into believing anything . Christianity is a choice there are many misguided
      people t5hat´ll call themselves Christian but nobody is doing what your suggesting . What´s scary is the Atheists that do
      not hold life sacred and will kill at the drop of a hat . Pol pot , hitler stalin mao , all killed millions and millions of people .

      October 16, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Jack

      WG, why don't you stick with the truth?

      Why don't you make a study of all the despots and dictators in history, and make a list of all that were religious, and all that were atheists. I think you'll find that most were of the opinion that god was on their side.

      Atheists are not any more or less immoral than religious people. For example, they are unlike cafeteria christians who cherry-pick quotes from the bible to justify hatreds and prejudices, while ignoring passages that would be inconvenient for them.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  2. jwc

    Keep religion in the church where it belongs, not in government. EVERY religion is full of nutjobs and many are should-have-been abortions.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
  3. FifthApe

    Christians are not nuts – really. Lets not be too tough on them. But then again, this is what they believe:

    Definition of Christianity: the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

    Well maybe they are nuts after all..... 🙂

    October 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • ZarGoth

      Thanks for clarifying that for me... I was so confused!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • DavidE7

      Then why do all humans have a spiritual aspect to their nature if they do not recognize that there is something much greater than their little myopic view of reality?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  4. REG in AZ

    Bachmann is out for Bachmann and will use any image, rhetoric or hype to get what she can. It is a shame when these political candidates use religion to get their attention as that is an abuse and always a distortion of the doctrine. If they were seen for that reality and rejected for it, they would then quickly stop and maybe even stick to the real issues.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  5. Tanya

    I agree with the author that atheist political advocates tend to talk and seem to believe that their views are the only intelligent, logical views, and thus sound rather like jerks. However, I disagree with the author's painting evangelicals as disinterested in creating a theocracy. Evangelicals evangelize – which means "to try to convert to Christianity" because they believe their views are the only intelligent, logical views. Evangelical politicians are not running for office to maintain a separation of church and state, they want to dissolve the barriers. And most of them have demonstrated a frightening, prejudiced lack of understanding on other world religions, which IMHO makes them unfit to govern the rest of us.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Pete

      Very well said Tanya!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  6. LowellGuy

    "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."

    The scientific ignorance of the majority of Americans (people who, in some states, can be taught Biblical creationism as fact in public schools) does not mean that Rick Perry's questioning of evolutionary theory is justified. Being part of the majority doesn't mean being right. Science isn't a popularity contest, nor a democracy. It's about evidence. When you make fallacious arguments like this, it greatly reduces your credibility.

    One other thing...when people try to use enact their religion as legislation, they've taken a step toward theocracy. If your religion is the only reason for a piece of legislation, your goal, stated or not, is to infringe upon the rights of others.

    If you want to understand better the issues surrounding evangelicals and why they're considered a type of pest by some people, stop assuming and start reading. Start with something like http://www.rockbeyondbelief.com.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:33 am |
  7. Tony

    I'm impressed. I do not expect CNN to publish something that fairly looks at evangelicals. Note the histrionics in some comments that demonstrate the close mindedness of the left wing, comments that also support some of the ideas in the article regarding the left.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  8. What me

    So, what make you think your christian belief is better off than, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • LOL

      Self-Righteousness, at a guess.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      The other religions offer no redemption of sins

      October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • Pete

      @Elliot – I'm sorry was that a comment based on faith or actual religious knowledge?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • E

      So elliot what you are saying is other religions make people be responsible for their own actions and the consequences? How is that a bad thing?

      October 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  9. DavidE7

    Christianity contains a guiding set of principles for living that embody the wisdom of the ages. A Christian nation would be an ideal one in terms of brotherhood and love. But the Founders knew that you can't force religion down the throats of those who have not seen the light, and insisted on the separation of Church and State. The secular view of life is a threat to our national welfare, however, because it sees the universe as meaningless and removes the underlying rationale for morality. Under such conditions, societies degrade into materialistic corruption and become vulnerable to conquest by other cultures who have stronger social cohesion.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • ZarGoth

      "The secular view of life is a threat to our national welfare, however, because it sees the universe as meaningless and removes the underlying rationale for morality."

      OK; so you just really do not understand the secular viewpoint. Thanks for clarifying that!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • E

      Morality exists outside religion. In fact the most generous kind, open minded, non judgmental people I know do NOT follow an organized religion. And the most bigotted, hypocritical racist narrowminded, hateful people I have met claim to be good Christians.
      Most athiests have also read the Bible. How many Christians have bothered to understand other beliefs or even tried to study or read scientific studies before screaming that science is evil.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • DavidE7

      E: Morality is part of religion. When we teach lchildren who come into the world as selfish little animals to be considerate of others, we are simply doing what Jesus taught us to do – to love others as ourselves. If all parents disciplined their children properly in a spirit of love, no one would be afraid of the evangelicals, for there would be nothing for them to be disturbed by.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • EJ

      E, I'm guessing you have never hung out with true Christians. Jesus said to judge not. As for most atheist reading I think not.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • E

      I have met true Christians and I have read the Bible. Most people out there lecturing on morality and judging should look in the mirror before lecturing others.

      Jesus said not to judge, yet Evangelical Christians judge others every single day and push that judgement into laws and schools. Anyone who disagrees is being judged as a a sinner, immoral, destructive, unholy, or even evil. Pregnant girls are judged to be all manner of words that CNN does not allow to be spelled out here. How is it not judgmental to deny equal legal rights to gay people? They are judged every day in the name of a religion that tells you to love others and NOT judge them.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • george

      Absolute nonsense statement without a shred of proof. Take a look at the divorce and teen pregnancy rates in the most religious regions of our country, much higher than the national average.

      Here, I'll make something up too like you did: Christians are the cause of every bad thing that happens in the world!

      October 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • George Marshall

      I have bad news for you DavidEZ: Violent crime is more rampant in the 16 states normally considered to be part of the "Bible belt" than in the other 34. US Census Bureau data reveal that the average number of crimes for the former is 495 as opposed to 336 for the latter.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  10. thegadfly

    The fact that most Americans question evolution is all the evidence I need to consider Evangelical Christianity dangerous. They teach people to ignore facts, disregard reason, and live in strict adherence to the mythology by which Europe (and especially its North American offshoot) colonized, brutalized, and continues TO THIS DAY to abuse the rest of the world.

    Not far behind their smear campaign against evolution is the job Christians have done trying to convince people that a microscopic speck o DNA or even an unborn fetus deserves legal rights that Christians hypocritically deny to other adult humans.

    I don't begrudge anyone the right to belief as they choose, but I do insist that in political discourse, we ALL stick to the principles of logic and reason, as exposed by SCIENCE, not mysticism. Much has been made lately of what government does NOT have the right to do. Well, the government does not have the right to impose upon ME laws that are not based on logic and reason.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • E

      well said!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Chad

      200 years ago your science was magic and myth.
      200years from now maybe all can be able to understand.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • DavidE7

      My profession is science, and I know it is one road to the truth, but not the only road. I agree that so-called Christians who try to ignore what science can teach us are wrong. But I also know that those who hide behind science as the only road to reality are afraid of the larger questions that science has no hope of ever answering.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  11. Jimmy

    We have just as much right to voice our opinion as everyone else. If you say that is not true then who is the hypocrite?

    October 16, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • chrisg

      You have every right to 'VOICE YOUR oppinion" . do you need an example of why christians hypocrites?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  12. Peri Browner

    Evangelicals are the amerikan taliban. They would kill off those of us who refuse to convert IF they could get away with it. They are the spanish inquisition of the 21st century.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  13. Dan

    Part of the problem is that there are fringe groups in evangelicalism that are trying to create a theocracy, which makes the rest of us look bad. We simply want to vote our feelings just like you do.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • ZarGoth

      Point taken; so speak up & don't let the extreme be the voice of your faith!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • LOL

      Indeed speak up.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • chrisg

      Thank you Dan

      October 16, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  14. ZarGoth

    Just please remember one simple thing:

    "Faith": not wanting to know what is true<

    Please stop promoting your fantasy on everyone. Oh, but wait: your fantasy requires that of you. Nice fanatsy you have there!

    October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Ncampbell

      what dictionary did you pull that definition of faith from? The actual definition of faith is "The the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1. Look it up.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      even your hero Richad Dawkins admist he can't tell you where the first cell came from.

      faith indeed!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  15. john D

    I understand the position. However, I wonder what he would say if we had a large muslim influence on our elections particularly if they believed in sharia law? I don't think evangelical christians would be too happy about that would they? Well that is how the test of us feel when they get involved in our elections. Especially when the churches themselves not the individual people get involved in elections. It is more outrageous because churches do not pay taxes yet get involved in politics and that policy needs to be changed!

    October 16, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • LOL

      we wouldn't be having elections if we lived under shar'ia law.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  16. Diane

    evangelist |iˈvanjəlist|
    noun
    1. a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, esp. by public preaching.

    Do this all you want. It is not your religious duty to shape politics and laws.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  17. busterbobby

    "What's so scary about America's evangelical Christians?", he asks. Well, duh!! It's not their beliefs, strange as some of those may be. It's that I and everyone else in America have to live according to their beliefs, and that those beliefs must be enshrined in Federal law: nobody can have an abortion, gays can't have any rights, evolution can't be taught as science in our classrooms, etc. I can respect any religious belief that is binding only on the believer. Once that believer feels that i and everyone else must live according to his beliefs, then we indeed have a problem, and, yes, it is scary.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • ZarGoth

      Well put!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  18. Jimbo

    I find it funny how many people claim that religions are deadly and go to war. The most dangerous governments of all time have been secular...

    Jacobin France and its Reign of Terror
    Soviet Russia and the Gulags
    Nazi Germany and the Holocaust
    Fascist Italy and using Gas on the Ethiopians
    Polpots Cambodia and the Killing Fields
    North Korea and its "Legal System"
    Maoist China and the Great Leap Forward
    are just some of the few...

    October 16, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • kimsland

      ?

      Time for you to read up on war.
      Religion is the number one place that's full of hate and fear and deluded weak minds

      October 16, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • John Richardson

      Those who say that religion is the source of all human evil or even the main source are wrong. Those who say that absolutist philosophies that demand that all believe or be deemed deviants or criminals are the main source of human ill are correct, as are those who point out that fundamentalist religious sects are examples of absolutist philosophies, as were the Christian regimes that ruled Europe and colonial America before the rise of humanistic ideals.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • sybaris

      Still promoting that fallacy huh Jimbo?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • Pete

      Actually none of the examples you cite have anything to do with war. But you are right on one thing – religion isn't a key factor in going to war – its invariably tied to economics – regardless of the religious wrapping its put in.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • LOL
      October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • SRQ

      You forgot to include the Catholic Church and their role in the the Crusades in your list.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • E

      Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy faced no opposition whatsoever from the churches in those countries. The Vatican sat back and watched millions be murdered without a whisper of protest. The holocaust was possible because of centuries of Christians telling each other how evil Jews were. It is incredibly naive to think that Hitler succeed without using the bigotry of most Christians.

      And if you want to talk about mass murder in the name of the Bible, look into the systematic murders of Jews from the middle ages all the way through the holocaust. During plagues, inquisitions, pograms, all in the name of Jesus (who was a Jew)

      Slavery and the murder of millions of native peoples in North and South America was all done in the name of Christianity and justified by the warping of words of the Bible.

      The crusades were centuries of murder in the name of Jesus.

      The KKK is made up of Christians.

      If you want to talk about good things that come out of churches, there are plenty of things, but do not lie and hide from the history of Europe and America, in which the Bible and Christianity has been used consistently to destroy, murder and invade.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """hitler"""

      Here we go with this lie again. Hitler was not an atheist.

      Do you know what the Wehrmacht was? google it

      Are you familiar with the phrase "gott mit uns"? google it

      Did you know that German soldiers in WWII wore this phrase, which means "God is With Us" on their belt buckles?

      You think that godless Catholic Hitler would have been cool with that?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  19. David

    Bravo! Certainly not something I expected to see on CNN, I thought for sure the author would get on the Christian bashing bandwagon. Calling for everyone to calm down and engage each other, what an extremist!

    October 16, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • MJH

      You thought the author would get on the Christian bashing bandwagon???? Really??? I do not think you really read this at all or you did and have a very poor skill set with regards to reading comprehension. Why would the author bash evangelicals? "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." He is the grand poobah of the evangelicals of course he wouldn't bash it and instead proclaim its virtue.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  20. Jimmy

    The funny thing is you ppl calling Christians haters. Go back and read these posts, listen to Hoffa, or O'Biden. You never hear Christian conserv's take with this level of hate. And we are hypocrites? Get real.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • kimsland

      Christians are SICK they need to be put away from society to get better.
      Until then stay away from any other person, especially other weak people

      October 16, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Jimmy

      Correction..Talk not take.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • Jimmy

      Case in point Kimsland.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • chrisg

      Yes, christians are hypocrites.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81
Advertisement
About this blog

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.