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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. Fiona

    I am tired of you 'evangelicals' trying to shove your beleifs down my throat, and trying to dominate the world. You want nothing more than 'dominion' over everyone else.

    I want a walll of separation between church and state - you want to tear it down and impose your idea of 'morality' on everyone. We are sick of it.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • suthrnman

      Christians in the free church movement such as Baptists are the ones who fought for religious liberty (wall of separation between church and state).

      October 16, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Christians in the free church movement such as Baptists are the ones who fought for religious liberty"""

      I'm willing to take your word for it. But really – that was then, this is now.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  2. Matt

    Yes, Evangelical religions are dangerous because members feel the need to tyrannically impose their beliefs on others. Members do not feel content by simply conducting their own lives according to their beliefs. Also, history has shown that many Evangelical leaders have lived hypocritical lives, preaching one ideal while not living up to it.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  3. leothefirs1

    radical Christians are as dangerous as radical Muslims or any other radical religious group. The problem is not the religious part of it, its the radical part.
    Everyone who tells me that our country is a Christian nation does the same thing as people do when proclaiming an Islam state. Religion and politics should never be mixed, our founding fathers understood that.
    Unfortunately it happens every day, everywhere.
    I believe that religion is a personal matter. People making politics based on their religious view are dangerous and I don't care what they believe in.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • steama

      The problem is the religious part of it by 100% because religion is a lie.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  4. steama

    Anyone who believes the theological tripe evangelicals do is dangerous simply by the extreme depth of delusions they live by. More than any other religious group the evangelicals try to force their views on others. They are like a born-again Taliban trying to force a christian version shira law on everyone else.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  5. Marc Perkel

    What they author doesn't understand is the definition of the word SECULAR. Secular means that all people are considered to be equal regardless of their religious beliefs or lack of belief. Atheism is NOT secular. Secular means that when you go to the DMV to get your drivers license everyone is treated the same. Israel is not secular. Jews are the superior cast and everyone else is second class. It is because America is secular that Mormons are allowed to run for president.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • kimsland

      Well secular must have issues too, we DON'T WANT RELIGION IN GOVERNMENT

      October 16, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • suthrnman

      Mohler's use of the word, secular, fits well within its semantic range. Try to understand . . . not criticize.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  6. Guinness

    "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."

    That's a sad commentary in itself and a case-in-point why Americans should be wary of evangelicals and their candidates. The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is our best explanation for the fact of evolution. It has been tested and scrutinised for over 150 years, and is supported by all the relevant observations. To openly question it without supporting evidence is to be willfully ignorant.
    When it comes to addressing global threats and financial crisis American presidents are provided with the very best tools and talents that money can buy. If a president willfully disregards credible evidence that's been made available to him simply because it does not conform to his religious beliefs, he wastes those publicly funded resources and puts the country in needless peril.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • steama

      and he is an idiot

      October 16, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Wow!

      The term "theory" has to heard loud and clear. To not question a theory would be ignorant! It takes as much faith to believe in the theory of evolution as it does to have faith in Jesus Christ. Think about it. When someone comes up with proof of macro evolution, you will win me over.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Wow!

      The term "theory" has to heard loud and clear. To not question a theory would be ignorant! .

      October 16, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  7. Saturn

    Christians always seem to think that the atheist/secular view of the world is one in which life is meaningless, a nihilist perception of a world without purpose. Nothing could be further from the truth!

    The secular view of the world realizes that we cannot simply sit around and wait for god to establish his perfect kingdom. The atheist realizes that without god, we cannot fall back on god's divine plan. We cannot afford to be lazy or apathetic or selfish. The secular view recognizes that everything we do affects everyone else, that every cause has an effect, and we are responsible for our own actions. We can take credit for the good things we do, but we also must take the blame for the terrible things we do.

    The atheist view recognizes that, without god, if there is to be justice, we need to fight for it! If there is is to be freedom, we must protect it. If there is to be peace, if there is to be goodness, or understanding, or any of the things we want to see in the world, then we must be the ones to work toward it, because if we do not, then no one will.

    In short, we are responsible for what happens here. The burden lies upon us to improve ourselves, and in so doing, to improve the world around us!

    Can you truly call that a meaningless, purposeless perception of the world? If you ask me, it is the most meaningful and beautiful view there is.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • ZarGoth

      Extremely well said; thank you very much!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Esined

      Perfectly Stated !!

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

      How does the atheist determine good? On what basis is there good? Does it not presume survival of the fittest and with that, good is a changing value? Thus, if they determine evangelicals are a threat to society would they one day not be doing good to restrict their freedom to advance their faith and/or even eliminate their place in society?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • David W. Greenlee

      Hi Saturn,

      Thank you for a rational and clear explanation of your position.
      What is so missing in these post (by many) is a rational approach and the demonetization of evangelicals by atheist and the fundamental lack of respect by many evangelicals of divergent beliefs. Jesus Christ did not command those who accept him to judge. No. Jesus Christ commanded love. If we (christian, I am a Presbyterian) are to have credibility then instead of a existential debate we need to live by example and deed not by word. And atheist could allow a little tolerance in their discussion points and hopefully will not lump my faith in with the faults of religion. Please step up folks with some civility and patience on both sides of this debate. Lets respect ourselves and our wonderful gift that are the people of this nation and the their diversity.
      Thank you all and peace and grace to you all.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Way-n-o

      It's a beautiful view, more people should follow it to the same extreme you have stated it. It's unfortunate that most don't.

      Christianity states much of what you said, the excempt is that we can only do these things through God's transforming power of our minds and hearts that naturally fight being good and doing good to others.

      Again...it's unfortunate that most don't

      October 16, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  8. stan

    "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." so when ignorance is popular, it's no longer ignorance? there once was a time when you would get labeled a heretic and maybe even burned at the stake for suggesting that the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around. when it comes to science, holding a popular opinion doesnt mean you are right.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • No, I'm the best.

      The fact that the majority of Americans question the Theory of Evolution, (while the majority of Europeans do NOT), is more a reflection of our horrible educational systems, than anything else, and, Mr. Mohler, is NOTHING to be proud of. If YOU question it, let's hear YOUR theory of how we got here.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:09 am |
    • frankie g

      Actually there are groups that believe just that.

      http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-04/news/ct-met-galileo-was-wrong-20110704_1_modern-church-universe-splinter-group

      October 16, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  9. jschau

    Keep your religious delusions in your tax-exempt churches and out of the real world where the majority of us live.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • W.G.

      to jschau No Problemo , can you keep atheists from persecuting us Christians and other people, Atheists have killed millions and millions of people

      October 16, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Wow!

      I'm pretty sure you are not in the majority. Do some fact checking.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Roger

      W.G., Christians have killed millions also, ever hear of the crusades??

      October 16, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  10. LOL

    The best part of the comments isn't the dangerous and scary secularists sniping the obviously insane fundies. it's the passive aggressive comments between the christians. you know the ones who claim they're real christians and not evangelicals and the fundies who claim they're the only ones on the true path, and OH NO NOT THE CATHOLICS! *hisses* idolaters, all! THIS IS EXACTLY WHY NO ONE WANTS YOU IN POSITIONS OF POWER.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • W.G.

      to lol- Well the reason we do not want atheists in power is the actions they´ve done when in power .
      stalin ,hitler , pol pot , mao were all atheists that killed millions upon millions of people because they did not have Jesus in their lives .

      October 16, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • LOL

      if there were no atheists to call amoral i get the impression they'd turn on each other like sharks fighting over a bucket of chum.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • LOL

      Illogical. What happens when you give believers power? they kill less people? please.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:56 am |
    • W.G.

      to lol about your last post YES ! Real Christians do not kill .

      October 16, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • No, I'm the best.

      @W.G.,
      Buy a clue, if you can...The reason those dictators killed millions of people had NOTHING to do with them not "having Jesus" in their lives. What a simplistic "old lady" explanation for the world ! If you ever decide to take a course in history, which you obviously never have, you will find the reasons for those slaughters were the culminations of of long, complex, and multi-caused patterns, perpetrated by parties and their leaders, who wanted to exterminate any threats to themselves, and your "kinnygarden" explanation is a refection, mostly of your education level, than anything else. FYI, you can work on your GED for free in most places.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  11. SoothSayer

    They are the Fundamentalists of a religion and any group with a rabid attachment and allegiance to a non corporeal reality should not only NOT be in any GOVERNMENT anywhere, they should be locked up awaiting serious medical care!

    October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  12. toshmaster1

    seeing that there isn't a war they don't support, and like the biggest drum beater of war – faux news, than yes, they are dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • W.G.

      No real Christian ever said Fox news or the republicans ever had the ear of Jesus .

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

      right W.G.- it was only those fake christians!

      October 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  13. Tracey

    I don't believe in criticizing anyone for their beliefs, they are just that, "their beliefs" not mine. The problem I have is when they try to force those beliefs upon others through politics and law. If you don't believe in abortion don't have one. Not everyone's views are the same, not everyone is a Christian or a Mislim or a Buddhist. We don't all believe abortion is wrong so everyone should have the right to choose not be denied that right by having one groups beliefs forced upon us by law. The same can be said about gay marriage. Freedom is not about taking away people's rights it's about giving them the right to decide for themselves.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Wow!

      I am a Christian and I agree with what you say. The abortion issue is hard for a Christian who is in office to vote for though. It goes against what THEY believe. If someone chooses to get an abortion, I think it is between them and God. As far as gay marriage, same thing.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  14. woodstocker

    They are the Fundamentalists of a religion and any group with a rabid attachment and allegiance to a non corporeal reality should not only NOT be in any GOVERNMENT anywhere, they should be locked up awaiting serious medical care!

    October 16, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  15. UhYeaOk

    Funny how so many here are putting religion down and then you go on to list the things you don't like about them. Many of the things you don't like about Christians you are guilty of just in your comments here alone. Hypocrites!

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

      The only deluded contradictory hypocrite are religious people.
      That much is fully known.

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

      Such as?

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

      Thanks for confirming YeaUhOk's comment.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  16. Matt

    They are as dangerous as mass media outlets like CNN and FOX News. All of which have special agendas and lobby large amounts of money in the sake of power and control.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  17. hendergirl

    This writer says that secularists want to make sure their view is the only one that remains (as if there were only one monolithic “secularist” view.) Yet I don't see secularists pushing for government shut downs of churches or imprisoning evangelicals or establishing concentration camps. Michele Bachman may believe whatever she likes, but if she ever gets into a position of power with the intent of legally imposing her religious beliefs on people who don't share them, that is an infringement that secularists oppose.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  18. suthrnman

    Thanks CNN! I love reading Dr. Mohler's perspective. I am tempted to judge all secularist by the caustic comments; however, I understand/hope those comment's are simply from the immature element. Blessings.

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

      I am tempted to judge all theists based on the insane crap they profess to believe, but i'm sure it's just the really ignorant ones... wait, no. It's all of them.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  19. Sandy Toes

    Well said!

    October 16, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  20. sybaris

    It's the 21st century crusade in the New World.

    I just hope it doesn't take the U.S. 600 years to marginalize religious nutters like Europe has.

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

      Sybaris, you miss the point. It's so easy to insult and attack, rather than to offer some intelligent and constructive rebuttal. Needless to say, there is and should be room for folks like you. By the way, God loves you!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • steama

      could not agree more. the sooner the better. life is better without them.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:01 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.