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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. Paul Falduto

    The problem is that many of them (not all) do not recognize separation of church and state. They deny it even exists. As long as they keep this view, they are a threat to democracy. Religion can certainly be expressed in public, but it cannot be inserted into our laws. That is the crucial distinction they either fail to see or simply ignore.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  2. Dzerres

    Of course they are dangerous. They inspire violence, shoot abortion providers in the backs or in a church alcove and justify their actions with no guilt by waving around a 2,000 year of book of mythology. They don't compromise and bring nothing intellectual for fact-based into a discussion: it's all emotions.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  3. yooper712

    The De-humanization of the Jews is what allowed the Germans to preform Genocide. Evangelicals believe that we are doing the same thing with fetuses. So of course they are going to make a big deal of what they consider Murder.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  4. jumpfun

    the more god you put in goverment the more like hell it will become
    look to Iran for an example
    you cant get those guys out because they say god backs them up
    same thing could happen here
    bottom line is similar to a monarchy – "divine right to goven"

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  5. Jeff Williams

    Wow, this is a hot thread. I LOVE it!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  6. Glades2

    No – the secular crowd is dangerous, because they are trying to shove their agenda down the public's throat for the past 50 years, whether it be the immoral LGBT cause, or their way of sterilizing everything – from their own bodies to holidays that have been around for centuries. Many thought John the Evangelist was dangerous – and he was killed for that reason, the same for Jesus, for the same reasons, and was the reason that Jesus said "Many will hate you because of Me". Working for my very secular employer, I know what that's like – the head of our agency promotes the LGBT issue every June – but never mind if one of us wants to have a Christimas party, when she will quickly say, "You can't do that because not eveyone believes in THAT". The militant church will continue until His return, and I'm glad to be a party to it – even if it costs my head...

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • LOL

      Dobutful it'll be your head. you'll go to prison for doing something retarded and it'll be your ass.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • In Reason I Trust

      "His return," you mean the magically conceived, walking on water, raising the dead, wine making jewish demigod called Jesus?
      Yeah that's a fictional character, just like Superman and Santa Claus. The big hint is the fact that He's supposed to be MAGIC. Please grow up and be brave enough to face the unknown with some dignity.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  7. Med41

    When statements like "even as polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution" are used, then you have the answer to your worries about the evangelicals. Should probably be changed to,"even as polls indicate that a majority of "religious" Americans question evolution, but that would be just as bad. Religion is man-made, and not a single "prophet, savior, or saint would join any of the "religions" that are out there. Have your faith in God, sure, because honest faith needs no organization to teach it.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • yooper712

      Right, and once upon a time Nothing combined with Nothing, went boom and created something. It just makes so much sense.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Ray zacapa

      Right on! When the teachings of a man (Not a deity) such as Jesus become entangled with society they lose their original purpose. Teach by example and not by shoving your agenda down other people's throats. There can be no true christianity if it mixes up with the secular world. The author of the article is nothing but a self righteous religious idiot. Most religious organizations want to have their hands in politics, economy, etc. and that in principle goes against everything Jesus (the man) was all about. Live and let live and if you teach, teach by example.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  8. Nothing New Under The Sun

    Fairy tale believers: Obama followers.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  9. babore

    So long as evangelicals perpetuate the lie (which is a sin) that this country was founded to be a Christian nation, they will be accused of promoting a theocracy. "Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law." – Thomas Jefferson. Those founders fought tooth and nail against clergy to keep them from corrupting their young government.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  10. kd

    If religion stopped at personal behavior, then it would be fine. But religion here in America has become about much more than that. It is forcing opinions – many damaging of outright bizarre – onto others while at the same time ignoring the tenants of how government is supposed to work here in the first place – debate and compromise. The whole Republican obstructionism is based in large part on the twisted belief that they're right and everybody else is wrong. So they just sit back with their arms folded, refusing to engage in anything, and the country is falling apart.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • dude

      kd,

      My athiest buddies Mao and Stalin going to go kill 100 million more people to serve our god "evolution" and his holy prophet Darwin. Long live Lord Evolution please bless the billion dead babies we have killed in the name of choice... Now where is prophet Dawkins when you need him?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • babore

      dude – your argument has already been disproven. Please stop cutting-and-pasting it. You are wrong. Educate yourself more. thank you.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      dude, if you were any dumber, we'd have to water you.

      Did you drop out of high school, or were you expelled?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  11. dude

    My athiest buddies Mao and Stalin going to go kill 100 million more people to serve our god "evolution" and his holy prophet Darwin. Long live Lord Evolution please bless the billion dead babies we have killed in the name of choice... Now where is prophet Dawkins when you need him?

    October 16, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • LOL

      most likely having a beer and ignoring your logical fallacy.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • babore

      Umm, your child-like interpretation of evolution and thread-bare links to political regimes is rooted simply in a lack of education on your part. One could look at any number of religious leaders throughout history, the hundreds of millions killed in the name of their beliefs (just look at Native Americans in our own country) and make the same erroneous statement you did. Doesn't make the science of evolution any less true. Please educate yourself, though. I will pray for your confused soul. God bless.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • jeff

      Like your christian buddy Hitler? Argument=Fail.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • thinkandlearn

      dude- get laid

      October 16, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Bill

      I never understand this logic. No one thinks that evolution is watching over them and no one thinks that Dawkins is a prophet. Evolution is an explanation of what happened based upon over 150 years of study of everything from fossils to the human genome. All the while, the idea of evolution has been detested my many religious people. Therefore, it has been subject to more scrutiny than other scientific theories (please look up the difference with a "theory" before writing about theories) and has remained in place for over 150 years. Intelligent Design is a convenient way to continue deluding yourself that you aren't a collection of chemical and biological elements that are a part of your personality.

      I guess you and the author would have thought it was no harm to keep teaching the earth was flat or that it was the center of the universe either. Why not? At some point in history, more people believed in those ideas than not. Who cares if they don't reflect reality, right? Unfortunately, that isn't how science works. That is how religion works, science changes because people continuing looking at new evidence found with new technology. Religions can't change because they attempt to answer all questions affirmatively and lose [or should lose] some credibility when found to hold beliefs that are patently false.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  12. Tom Leykis

    ALL EVANGELICALS are dangerous, as are all religions who wish ot influence our lives. Believe whatever your small, inferior, illiterate, histrionic, shrill and irrational minds want to but keep out of: law & jurisprudence, foreign and domestic policy, public schools, science and my back yard. You're insidious, like a cancer. You're bigotted like the KKK. You're intolerant like the Westboro baptist church. Let me help you:

    The earth is approximately 4.5 BILLION years old
    Dinosaurs existed.
    Man evolved from lower life forms in a slow, arduous process fraught with mistakes
    There is no academically accepted, peer reviewed proof that "jesus" or "mohammed" ever existed
    The bible is a book of parables and stories written by men and lifted rather generously from Mithrasian, Sumarian and many other faiths.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • dude

      Tom,

      My athiest buddies Mao and Stalin going to go kill 100 million more people to serve our god "evolution" and his holy prophet Darwin. Long live Lord Evolution please bless the billion dead babies we have killed in the name of choice... Now where is prophet Dawkins when you need him?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Tom Leykis

      More have been killed in the name of religion. "dude" embrace your mouthbreathing ignorance and lack of historical reference and education. Now, practice, "paper or plastic?"

      October 16, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • Spinner49

      Dude – How many people over the CENTURIES have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ? How many populations have been wiped out because Christian explorers thought it was their God-given right to subjugate the natives and kick them out of their homelands? The knife cuts both ways. Christianity has no moral high ground here.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  13. Tekctrl

    Yes, evangelicals Are dangerous ... to an oligarchy. The American political system has, over time, been co-opted by well funded special interests. An oligarchy. Banks, the oil industry, the tobacco industry, the insurance industry, the healthcare industry all pour millions of dollars into promoting and supporting candidates willing to give them a voice in the legislative process. Those donors expect a return on their investments, or their support disappears and they support other candidates.

    If the churches exercised as much influence and control over our political processes as the corporate world does today, we would be Screaming about the lack of separation between church and state. Extremism of either flavor is no benefit to the ordinary citizen. Why aren't we screaming about the lack of separation between Big Business and state? Our founding fathers recognized the dangers of religion becoming too much a part of government, but I suspect they never envisioned business' influence growing to the point that it could co-opt the process.

    Evangelistic religious influence in government and capitalistic influence in government are simply two opposite extremes. Both are anathema to the other!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • babore

      You do realize that most evangelicals support those corporations you listed – from a blood-thirst for oil to empire building military operations to promoting death by forcing people to compete for their own survival / health insurance. They will have to answer to God for these immoral indiscretions, but they're certainly not going to be a force to make the world better given their political allegiances.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  14. Indrid Nuwen

    I can understand the reactionary (and I will even add “well-articulated”) comments of R. Albert Mohler, Jr., and I consider the impetus to be the reactionary (and concurrently well-articulated) comments of secularist heavy hitters to the ever-increasing trend of religious dialogue within American politics. That said, the worldview argument falls flat for me. Secularists, by and large, base their respective worldview on science (or, at a minimum, academia-based theories that are open to rigorous testing a scientific scrutiny and public debate). Christians, on the other hand, base their worldview on a book whose completion date was nearly two-thousand years ago. Secularists don't have a book; they have an evolving fact-based dialogue between themselves and their surroundings, whether those surroundings be societal, economical, political, ecological, etc. This dialogue adapts and evolves because we are constantly learning and changing. Life is changing. Conversely, Christians do not possess the ability to adapt and change and therefore champion a worldview that is out of touch and damaging/dangerous to the advancement of the human race.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  15. Logical

    It's about the separation of church and state. Religion is an emotional journey. Government is logical, based on reason. The two cannot be mixed. Emotions don't belong in the rule of law.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  16. hmmm...

    LOL...I have yet to meet someone who is not an extremist fanatic in their own right. Which of us are free from wanting a certain type of world to live in or for other people to live as we would like them...ahhhh...which of us would admit this. Heck, this is a sport. Just mention God and all the fanatics emerge- those for, those against, those who know, those who don't know, those who submit and those who don't. Too bad we have language...wouldn't life be so much easier if we simply grunted at each other. Who cares what the article is about, we respond the same for them all.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • LOL

      it would be, and i find it very easy to be a misanthrope. :o) work tech support some time, you lose *ALL* faith in humanity after about the first 20 minutes.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  17. JJ

    We have already seen the danger to the country of people who think their religion is more important to them than their country. So-called "christians" in this country are no different than muslims or any other religion. Regardless of what their opinion might be, this is a secular country with a secular government. Period, end of story. Religious hallucinations are not relevant to this. Fideism, the basis on faith in which you have to believe in something even though you know that it is bullsh|t, is even less relevant to us. If you can't place country above religion then you don't belong here. Time to leave, again, and find another place to live... but then again, after getting kicked out of so many places, maybe it's time you learned your lesson, no?

    October 16, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  18. Religious Sects

    Leaving religion out of Gov. is NOT Atheism, it's simply reality. We can't have someone's belief influencing how a gov. of all the people operates. We need a Gov. operating on reality based factual information, not one of any number of belief only based concepts.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  19. Punisher2000

    To nothing new under the sun: You have your opinion, I have mine. To call mine drivel only show that you are even stupider than an Emu. Drongo!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • kimsland

      Religion is stupid, agreed.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  20. Joe

    More dangerous than radical Islam. They lay off education for prayer, yes, storms are gods will not based on science. Though we can watch and predict storms, quite a contradiction. They claim love for israel but we all know that they are anti semetic. Also, prayer to solve human issues, what century are they living in, god has not intervened directly in the world is over 2000 years. And the worst part they are all hypocrites, adultery, stealing, cheating, lying. This Bachmann is so stupid she does not even believe is checking sources.

    No this is bad and will unite Jews and arabs and Persians.

    No radical religion has done more harm than the non bible reading Christians. Do unto others as you would have them do to you, that means no social, no health care, etc.

    They are all hypocrites who should like taught by Jesus obey god in their hearts, I see no compassion. Oh, by the way talking trash against others not christian.

    While the world progresses religion is stagnant, so let's all pray for clean water, jobs, etc, and put our minds in the grave as man is no meant to think but to prey! (pun intended).

    October 16, 2011 at 10:20 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.