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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. Kyle W

    Evolution is fact, not theory. Dawkins is right. Any politician who "questions" its legitimacy cannot and should not be trusted to properly weigh the facts on any other issue he/she may face as our leader. The argument that 50% of Americans also question evolution does not justify the ignorance of our would-be leaders. The american public needs to be properly educated on many matters of science, and not reinforced with dubious proclamations by religious leaders.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • kimsland

      Blink Adam, blink Eve.
      Um, they'd die of shock

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

      Teaching math and science? surely you jest! god. that'd make us just like........ china! who seems to be kicking our asses educationwise. thoughts on that.......... christians?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • W.G.

      The man who came up with the evolution theory also said that women and people of color were not as advanced as white men
      still feel he was so right ?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Michael

      exactly what I just said earlier... most Americans are just dumb

      October 16, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • kimsland

      Yes W.G.
      And by the way, pretty sure they were referring to 'advanced' as not like an advanced western society.
      I mean these natives were dancing around to moon and sun gods, thankfully we have now schooled them

      October 16, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • angora

      W.G. – his ideas about evolution have stood the test of scrutiny through the scientific process with new discoveries made all the time (especially thanks to the advent of DNA testing) that double-down on his original concept. Popular ideas in the 19th century about race / gender superiority have not withstood such scrutiny. So, yes, I do still believe him about evolution. Your argument is a straw man and unrelated. Educate yourself, please.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • bryan

      Fact huh? You realize that for something to be fact it has to have verifiable proof. Last time I checked, evolution had no more supporting evidence than the theory of life on other worlds. Sounds good, people tend to believe it, but where's the proof? Evoltion has no proof, just a bunch of "scientist" throwing some ideas together to form a very loosely tied together theory. That is all

      October 16, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • E

      WG, can you even name the men who thought of evolution? (without googling it)

      His name was Charles Darwin. And here is what you do not understand. The way science works is that studies are made, the beliefs of the person may be wrong, but unless they can show proof, their belief has nothing to do with the science. In the 1840's everyone believed women and people of color were lesser people, they got that idea from their interpretations of the Bible. In fact the Bible was repeatedly used as proof that women and people of color were not as worthy as white men. Darwin however, welcomed further study and research into his assertions, that study is still happening, and in the last 150 years bones, DNA and further studies have shown that Darwin was right in someways, mistaken in others (like any ideas of inferiority of other races)
      Christians did not welcome any questioning of their beliefs. That is the difference between religion and science.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:00 am |
    • E

      Bryan, you obviously have made no attempts to study the science behind evolution other than repeating the same tired phrases that religious people keep spouting. Go spend a few weeks studying the science (yes, there is enough evidence that a few weeks will barely scratch the surface of the amount of information there is that backs up evolution)

      October 16, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Roscoe

      I trust your scientific theories about as much as you trust my God. Especially since a new school book comes out every 2 to 3 years contradicting what was written in the previous one. Oh and my favorite quote, "Evolution happened, we just don't know how."

      October 16, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Last time I checked, evolution had no more supporting evidence than the theory of life on other worlds. Sounds good, people tend to believe it, but where's the proof?"""

      'Last time you checked'? Really? You have NEVER checked. Don't lie to us.

      """Evoltion has no proof, just a bunch of "scientist" throwing some ideas together to form a very loosely tied together theory. That is all"""

      There is a future for you, my boy, in comedy.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • Credenza

      @kimsland –
      There's a big "Boom" somewhere Iin Space. Then a single celled creature crawled out of the mud . In no time at all – that single cell CHANGED miraculously into millions of different species. Insects, birds, animals, plants, trees, humans [each with their own individual fingerprints and DNA.

      And YOU ridicule the theory of the Creation????????? Oh purleeeeze. If it's choice of Darwin or God -Give me God any time

      October 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • E

      You realize that all that happened over MILLIONS of years don't you? And since when is reality about choosing which thing you think you want to be right You can choose God all you want, it doesn't make evolution any less valid and scientifically proven.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  2. Paul

    It is absurd to argue that Jesus was not a person from man’s history. He claimed to be God’s son and the savior of the Jews. Either he was a crazy man who performed miracle after miracle, or he spoke the truth… judge him by his works.
    We follow Him and TRY to be perfect, yet none of us every get it right.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • jwc

      What is absurd that you believe all that crap you just wrote.

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

      I personally believe Jesus existed, but you need to look further into history to see that the story of a messiah born of virgins and manifest as God on earth goes back thousands upon thousands of years before Jesus. We've been duped by a mythology, but that doesn't mean the whole story is completely false.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  3. angora

    I think the core problem is that this new evangelcial movement has attempted to rewrite history by claiming our country was built to be a Christian nation. I was raised in the original Christian church, Catholicism, and even our nuns taught us that the founders were escaping the integration of religoin and government when they founded this country. So, in that sense, they are trying to build a theocracy and develop views based on a book with a dubious history. Because of that, they must first deny new understandings of science and marriage before being proven wrong over time.

    Also, few evangelicals care about stewarding this earth. They are waiting for the apocalypse and having proven apathetic about protecting life on this planet.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Dawn

      I agree with the points you make. I would like to add that Evangelicals as a group mistreat those who do not share their points of view when they are in the majority. It is their way or the highway. I know this from experience. I do not represent anything that they campaign against, but they define the world in terms of us and them. Either you are one of them, or you are not. There is plenty of code vocabulary, and you better be able to give them the exact day and time when you were "born again" to be accepted in your community.

      I realize that not every Evangelical Christian is this way. However, the Evangelical movement as a whole is intolerant and dangerous.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  4. Michael

    quote: "anyone who questions evolution could be considered intelligent, even as polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution."
    what's your point, yeah it just means that majority of people are idiots!

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

      So to question something makes you an idiot? So everyone in here that questions Christ are idiots? So if I ask a question in school concerning what "scientists have proven to be true" I am an idiot. But later we find from the same scientist he was wrong, I am still an idiot? Great...a very interesting argument you have there.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Credenza

      Well said Roscoe. Good for you.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  5. delilahjones

    "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." The author should have added "unless they are poor or unemployed – then these humans are nothing but losers who leech onto society for handouts" because that's exactly what these teavangelicals have been saying! Just read the posts following the Occupy Wall Street articles, especially the ones on the Faux news web site.

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

      It is beyond me how people who call themselves followers of Christ could be against universal healthcare. It's okay to debate how to best achieve universal healthcare, but to deny it altogether is anti-life and morally bankrupt. These evangelicals will have to stand before Jesus on judgment day and atone for this horrific sin.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  6. BL

    Religion is just another mask they hide behind to exert ego, power and control over others. Truly spiritual people, no matter what tradition, understand that by changing themselves first, they change the world.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  7. GetErDonee

    While on the topic of left vs. right – Un-bama 2012!

    October 16, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • Judi Powell

      Obama 2012

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

      gObama – 2012!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:44 am |
    • Pete

      @GetErDonee – kind of watch the wrong news channel dont you?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  8. jwc

    If a religion wants to be involved in government, then they need to start taxing the h*ll out the churches..and make up for what they haven't contributed all these years. These guys running the phoney megachurches and making millions just burns my a**..and it's all because they have a bunch of unintelligent followers believing the spew that come out of their mouths.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • delilahjones

      Amen! You speak the truth!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  9. jdalco

    Your kidding right? Are they the one's occupying the cityies, crapping on cop cars, starting fights and distroying public property??? Way to go CNN. . . Why don't yoiu report the real news and stop trying to make up cover stories. . .and no, I am not an Evanulist in the least, i am wiccan. . .

    October 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Judi Powell

      First of all ....none of your "facts" are true ....get away from FOX! You really need to learn what's really going on, and quit spreading your lies on here.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • babore

      You need to learn how to spell. If you were more educated, you would understand the complexity of the situations you discuss. As it is, you are just regurgitating what others have told you to think.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • E

      what does any of this have to do with this article?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  10. SavedbyGrace

    Religion = division. Relationship = unity. Christ Jesus was a bidge, not a wall builder. Forget for the moment, nations, peoples, cultures, and diversity and focus solely on having a realtionship with the Creator of life. Repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and you will not only be Frogiven and Saved – You will have a Peace that surpasses any tranquility the world can offer. Without an eternal perspective there will always be greed, hatred, war, and division. Grace & Peace to All...

    October 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • LOL

      Frogivened? I'll wind up eating flies?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • jwc

      Nah, I'll pass, but you just go on being stupid.

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

      LOL: Good one! A little humor always lightens our load...

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

      I've always said it – jesus was such a bidge...

      October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  11. joe

    secular "elites" have no agenda in their ideas of stopping religion from controlling our lives while evangelicals do in fact have a concrete agenda that includes limiting individual rights of most of the population that doesn't agree with them 100%. they are dangerous to freedom, there is no way around that. from abortion to gay marriage they want to limit personal freedoms. atheists have no wish to limit anything except for the abuses that evangelicals would inflict.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • UhYeaOk

      Bull, your either naive or stupid.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:40 am |
    • Roscoe

      Really? Have you been following the news nationwide over the past 15 years or only your local news. Which I would guarantee is filled with a contradiction of your current statement if you pay attention. If you want examples just ask, I got plenty throughout history.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  12. contraryjim

    If believers would be satisfied to keep their beliefs to them selves that would be fine, but they don't allow others the same respect, the same freedom of mind. I understand their feelings of abortion and I feel it is in many/most cases it is wrong – BUT that doesn't give me the right to FORCE my beliefs on others.
    It is too late for the religious to try and co-opt ethics and morality – their past actions have declared the lie.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • UhYeaOk

      I am willing to bet a large sum of money on the fact that you probably rarely if ever get approached by a Christian and they proceed to shove their religion down your throat. You say atheists don't shove it down the Christians throat but meanwhile that is exactly what they have to tolerate. The media and Hollywood rarely if ever show a Christian in a good light, but, the bible does say this sort of thing would happen so it is no surprise.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:42 am |
    • E

      Religion is shoved down our throats everytime you fight to defund Planned Parenthood or deny women access to education and contraception. It is shoved on us every time there are attempts to remove evolution from classrooms. It is shoved down our throats when you put Bible verses on government buildings and when you try to rewrite history. 1/3 of all hospitals are Catholic and thus religion is used to deny some forms of health care.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  13. Beverly

    We should fear hell – just ask hitler

    October 16, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  14. george

    "Throwing evangelicals "under the bus" en masse is robbing our country, even our world of real help for real problems."

    I've worked in fundraising for over a decade and for a range of issues and I have NEVER come across a large involvement of the religious or evangelicals. All of this talk of govt out of the way, charities will fill the gap, is pure hogwash. The American Taliban are concerned only with forcing us all to our lives as THEY believe we should.

    Why else has the air force academy and hierarchy been taken over by evangelicals, forcing students and airmen to participate in religious services and events? Why else did the Bush administration seed the justice department with lawyers from Liberty University who are totally incompetent but good warriors for christ. Make no mistake, a theocracy is exactly what they want

    Freedom/democracy and religion are not compatible

    October 16, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • UhYeaOk

      It sounds as if you want to do away with religion. But wait, your actions are a complete contradiction of what you claimed you were against, which is a threat to democracy. In a democracy people can choose their own religious views so I take it you must not want the USA to be a democracy.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • E

      You can follow whatever religion you want, but keep it OUT of government.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  15. Joe T

    In all fairness, I know a good number of people who profess Christianity; most (not all) of them a nice enough people, but quite intolerant and suffer under the delusion that they are somehow persecuted. I can get along well enough with them, despite their inconsistency regarding the value of a life of a fetus vs a poor welfare mother vs a death row inmate. Their leaders, however, are the dangerous ones– guys like this demagogue, who complain that people are afraid of an agenda to establish American theocracy, but do nothing to substantively deny or reject that path.

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

      Agree some people should not be parents.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • UhYeaOk

      So Joe, I guess you are a pubic serving, do gooder who walks on water eh? Funny how people like you will write a post insulting others and all the while you are no better than they are. Hypocrite..........

      October 16, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  16. JC Copeland

    Dangerous, Yes, but only to themselves. Theology, much like the horse and buggy, has yet to realize there is an automobile on the street. America may have its foundation very deeply entrenched in the "freedom" we could not acheive from a British King,But that philosophy which began over 200 years ago has been rerplaced by a generation of very intelligent, very astute citizens who see the emporer is truly naked. As our liberal press continues to manufacture Christian mountains out of molehills, It only clouds the fact that much like the Detroit Auto Industry, Christianity has really moved from a Colllege degree requirement to a kindergarden primer....Why does the press treat our public like it does not know where the cow ate the cabbage???

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

      Because the public has demonstrated by their votes that they don't know a cabbage from a cow pie. Freedom from religion is more important than freedom of.

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

      that is a whole lot of talking to have said absolutely nothing. oh, and by the way, a kindergartner can spell kindergarten. Annnnnnnnnd, I work with the public, they are NOT getting any smarter. So, sorry, but the "very intelligent" folks aren't out there in full force. Evangelicals have nothing to fear. We live in a broken world. God has laid out the plan for this place in His word. We will stand for what we believe is right and some of us will fall trying. But, His kingdom marches on. No atheist(s) will ever stop it. It's like the mouse on the train track harping and carrying on about "TRAINS AREN'T REAL, YA'LL!!!!!" But he, like you, will find out soon enough. I just hope it isn't too late for either of you because I happen to like mice.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  17. Dave

    I get really tired of all the anti-christian or christian bashing that goes on. Our society has become people from a lot of broken homes and values. So they feel it is a way to relieve themselves by going after Christians as "dangerous". Just because Christians actually having something to believe in than something lame like energy levels or mother nature. I had a friend who tells me they believe in the earth.... very deep.....i know.....Who doesn't believe in mother nature, it's mother nature. There is nothing wrong with believing in god, and there is nothing wrong with people disagreeing. You don't need to post an article about anti christian awareness, it's beyond redundancy.....

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

      Broken values have nothing to do with disbelief in forcing others to accept your values.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • kimsland

      I'm sure that will be the next twist in reading the bible.
      But for the moment religion is not about Earth, actually the opposite

      October 16, 2011 at 9:41 am |
    • contraryjim

      Religion has given relief to those unable or unwilling to accept personal responsibility for their lives and actions. Hardly a benign environment.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  18. thegadfly

    This article expresses just the sort of opinion I would expect of a fat old white guy in a suit I can't afford, with a friendly smile and a dead look in his eyes.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:36 am |
    • Judi Powell

      Geese.....I left the southern Baptist Church when I was in high school............people like this guy made me sick! Hypocrites all of them....just like the GOP.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  19. kimsland

    NO christian, DON'T TRY TO TOUCH ME AGAIN.

    I want CNN to write an article asking if religious people should be locked up and kept away from children.
    I'd say yes, and totally standby it. Our children need to be protected from these religious fools.

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

      *bad touch*

      October 16, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • UhYeaOk

      So sayeth the fool..........

      October 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • contraryjim

      No, children need to develop the ability to discriminate between the real and the righteous.

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

      I truly agree with you. If the crusades, the inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the holocaust and all the other atrocities are not enough, now they want to diddle our children. Religion should be outlawed outside of your own home.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • kimsland

      Thanks Sean
      If there are others who are similar to my thoughts then one day it will be real.
      Religion must die.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Pete

      Not especially religious but thank goodness for the first amendment. While it protects them it also gives you the ability to speak freely about wiping about people/belief systems you don't especially like.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  20. peacppl

    Sorry but evangelicals are NOT Christians...repeat NOT Christians.....ask any real Christian in the world......they claim Jesus and then do nothing but spew hate for other faiths....ppl who disagree with them...and committ acts of terror sometimes.....oh yeah...AND THEY SHUN THE SAME PPL JESUS WOULD HELP AND PROTECT...

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

      The fact you just made that remark only means that you do not know any "REAL" Christians. I do not have to like what you do and the decisions that you make. My charge is to tell you that Christ loves you and for me to love you in light of all your imperfections, just as I am imperfect. It is up to you to do with it what you want, but my charge never changed.

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

      Excuse me, but I am what could be called evangelical & I most certainly am a Christian. I do not hate everyone-on the contrary. I pray for & try to help everyone around me. I pray for (& yes, disagree with) atheists, Muslims, Liberals and lots of other people, but that's my business. I am a follower of Christ, hence the word Christ-ian-get it? Just because I do not agree with someone politically does not take away my relationship with God, so do not presume to speak for all evangelicals, as you are wrong. Have a great day, & God bless!

      October 16, 2011 at 10:32 am |
    • Pete

      There has never been a christian church of any significant size that hasn't at some point in time spewed hatred for other faiths, or even those of their own!

      October 16, 2011 at 10:33 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.