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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. Rebecca Mansour

    Sarah says, " Glen Rice is God."

    October 16, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  2. Religious Sects

    If you want out of taxes .... Stay out of Government!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  3. R Miller

    Religion is very lucrative to its professionals which accounts for its persistence and longevity despite its absurdity and false premises.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Religious Sects

      The Religion industry has been very useful for business networking since organized religion was started.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  4. Kerry Berger

    R. Albert Mohler, Jr. writes from a rather biased perspective as a Southern Baptist, a group that is associated with the Evangelist movement. It is also duplicitous for him to be expressing his Christian beliefs in his role on issues of politics and government, when we are a secular nation of laws. The bottom line is this, if he and his followers don't like abortion or other policies, as long as they do NOT INTERFERE with the rights of others who DO NOT feel the same way, he and his flock don't have to have abortions, etc. The minute people protest and block the entrance of clinics, etc., and intimidate those who seek said services, that is breaking the law. It is time for the authorities to start enforcing the law instead of bending to the power and noise pollution coming from a vocal and venal minority of Christians who carry on airs of authority that they simply do not have.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  5. vfr800cr250

    Yeah, I don't understand why we should fear the influence of religion in politics. Just look at the middle east, it worked out great for them (eyeroll). Did you know that once upon a time there were societies in the middle east that led the world in science and scholars? There's a reason that we call the numbers we use arabic numbers. Now after a couple thousand years of theocracies look at the wonderful advanced societies in the middle east. Yep, bring on the theocracy...........at least if you like being an uneducated third world dump.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:35 am |
  6. Jack

    "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."

    Mr. Mohler, are you of the opinion that scientific truths should be decided by a majority vote, or by religious authority?

    In a recent poll of scientific literacy, twenty percent of americans stated a belief that the sun orbits the earth. They believe this based on personal observation, having seen the sun rise in the east, circle overhead and set in the west. The fact that they believe this doesn't mean that they are right, or that the sun circles the earth 20% of the time, or that it circles the earth only over their homes. It just means that they're ignorant of the actual truth.

    Similarly, a lot of americans have been persuaded by public figures, such as Mr. Mohler, that the stories in a bronze age book are equally valid as modern archeology, paleontology, geography, biology, zoology, and any of the other branches of science that support evolution. The fact that they're confused about the actual science doesn't mean that the bible is right, it just means that these people are ignorant – perhaps willfully ignorant – of the truth.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • George

      I just spent the day at the Museum of Natural History in New York. Now there's some scientific fact.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Jill

      Science decided by majority vote? You mean like climate change?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Jack

      Jill, please explain your comment.

      I never said that science was subject to majority vote, and I never said a word about climate change. I fail to see what climate change has to do with evolution.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Atheist

      George, you should see the creationist museum in Kentucky!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  7. jim

    "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 where's the contradiction?

    October 16, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  8. Zach

    First off, what is it that's so dangerous about Evangelicals? They're going to take away your abortion rights and make teachers teach intelligent design? So dangerous, I'll be crying all night.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Backtalker85

      So then, back to back alley abortions (more death). Teach intelligent design, fine, If your talking about aliens. But really, evolutionary biology isn't taught the way it should be, and some schools don't even try. Don't kid your self, there after more then this.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  9. Med41

    This always gets the evangelicals....George Washington was the largest secular liberal on earth in his time. Go on, try to change that history...

    October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Zach

      The liberal of their time was much closer to the conservative of our time than to the liberal of our time. But yes, he was secular.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Backtalker85

      Zach, look at the world he lived in then and look at the world we live in now. A lot of his stands and politics was based on what he know he could work with, what he could get his hands on and make better. Again, look at what we can do now, that they couldn't do then. Health Care is just one thing, we need to look ahead if we want to get better, not back.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  10. Conservative

    We need to be vigilant to keep the Christian Taliban from gaining power. They are little more than a Jewish cult. They are against everything Jesus stood for like blessed are the poor and love your neighbor so I refuse to consider them Christians. These people just do or believe whatever the cult leader tells them to do which is dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  11. Colin

    A few truths about Hitler "being an atheist".

    First, he wasn't. Hitler was a Christian. A devoted Christian who despised atheists. For example, in a speech in Berlin in October 1933, Hitler said "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

    He would also agree with most Evangelicals on religion in school – "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith ...we need believing people." Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933.

    He was, for most of his life, a devoted Christian, serving as an altar boy in Vienna and often hosting archbishops and even the Pope. Indeed, he said the following in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

    “"My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”

    By the way, that does not mean Hitler was truly motivated by his Christian religion to do what he did. He was motivated by a lust for power. His Christian faith was as irrelevant to what he did as his star sign (Taurus, FYI).

    But, he was most definitely not an atheist.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Pete

      Informative post Colin, to be honest any reference to Hitler in an argument not specifically related to say Nazism, is always an attempt to overstate a point with an extreme.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      And a case could be made that his Christianity helped fuel his hatred of all things Jewish.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Colin

      Possibly Jeff, although I think it might have been the opposite – his hatred of all things Jewish was, perhaps, the motivator for him to express Christian views when it was expedient to demonize Jews.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  12. Southerner

    This article makes no sense. Having the head of the SBC write an article about whether evangelicals are dangerous would be like asking Warren Jeffs to write an article on whether the FLDS is a cult.

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

      Agree with that 100%. Reminds me of the recent poll regarding increased taxes on the rich. Like polling death row about capital punishment.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Pete

      Any good class on debating will always give you a counter-position to argue – I think it was interesting – and clearly with 30+ pages of responses incited some good debate of its own.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  13. S-Hug

    "They will do anything for the unborn. But once you're born, you're on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don't want to know about you. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you're preborn, you're fine; if you're preschool, you're f-ed.

    Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers. These people aren't pro-life, they're killing doctors! What, they'll do anything they can to save a fetus but if it grows up to be a doctor they just might have to kill it?"

    —George Carlin

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

      Thank you for proving how evil you are by killing helpless babies. Why don't you go slaughter some baby seals too? Seriously, how you baby-killing fanatical hippies call veterans baby killers is beyond me...

      October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • DOG told me to do it!

      Great post.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • DOG told me to do it!

      The great post comment was for S-Hug not the kook Dude.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • chrisg

      dude, but you would kill your neighbors like Dr Tiller.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      dude, you aren't in charge of anyone else's fetus. If it's not in your uterus, you don't have a say. You never will. You never have. Women will do what they choose with their bodies, just as you do with yours. Get over it.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  14. Backtalker85

    If backing your political beliefs with your religious faith. Your doing it wrong.

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

      That's what I was going to say. The sad thing is the Enlightenment happened over 300 years ago. The idea that reason and intellect could trump the "this is what we've been told for a thousand years" argument. Yet we still have so many people who believe and subscribe to the later is telling. Not only do they subscribe to it but they believe everyone should and our laws should be based on it. The Evangelicals would go nuts if Scientologists started trying to pass laws based on L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. It's the same thing. Don't govern society based on a book of fiction that dictates an arbitrary moral code.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  15. Religious Sects

    The religion industry has no more right to be involved in our Gov. than any industry. Less in fact, when you take into account it's an industry that pays no taxes to support it.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  16. George

    It was early on a Sunday morning, and I was enjoying a cup of Melita coffee, my favorite off the shelf brand. The sun was up a couple of hours and coming in through the kitchen window curtains highlighting the beautiful floral design in the cloth. I love those quiet times to just sit and pseudo- meditate with the java...WHEN SUDDENLY THERE WAS A STRONG KNOCK ON THE DOOR WHICH STARTLED ME ENOUGH TO SPILL SOME OF THE COFFEE ON THE TABLE AS I WAS TAKING A DRINK. I couldn't imagine who it might be but when I got to the door it was two Jehovah's Witnesses. I opened the door and one of them said "Wouldn't it be nice if there was peace in the world?".

    October 16, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  17. steve

    I think that many Christians are getting bullied by those who want there way. Have we forgotten that putting each person as important was I believe a Christian ideal. Many Christians want to be peaceful and love, we are judgmental because we are striving for something greater. It is not that we hate everyone or judge them, I know you may see a lot of that from tv. I try not to judge whenever I can. We have to wrestle with our religion because people say that it is wrong, yes it maybe absolute truth to us but we do not force it on anyone else. We only want everyone to know so that they can be free of sin and work toward freedom in Christ. I don't know what you have heard about Christians but they are just people saved by grace trying to live a better life for themselves within Christ Jesus. Sometimes we make the most miserable examples, but I have tried with all my heart to change the world for good and be the best example of a good Christian that I can. Which loves, hopes for myself and people, and is honest. This is who I am.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • kimsland

      And if you don't believe you, you are going to burn in hell, you witch.
      Such a peaceful lot?
      Fool

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

      If you want to practice your religion, then do so. Just leave the rest of us out of it. We have no need to live in fear and seek fire insurance.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • In Reason I Trust

      I'm sorry Steve, but the reality is that you're so afraid of the unknown you have chosen the ridiculous. Talking bushes? Talking snakes? Magic apples? Magic gardens? Magic baby? Magic wine? Grow up, reality is waiting.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Jack

      Quick question: Are the following people suffering in Hell right now, for the crime of not being christians?
      Mohandes Gandhi, Anne Frank, Anwar Sadat, Baruch Spinoza?

      If so, please tell me again about the kind, gentle religion you belong to.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:46 am |
    • Backtalker85

      Steve, nothing against you you sound like a good guy. But what I have issue with, is the idea, if I don't believe that Jesus is the one, I go to hell. Even if I take in and feed the poor, help the sick, give away half my pay to charities and never tell anyone about it; things that Jesus him self called for. You said "we are judgmental because we are striving for something greater.", didn't he say not to judge? this is just the tip of the issues people have with this faith.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  18. Brad

    "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
    ... Adolf Hilter

    October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  19. Julie

    Evangelicals care about the unborn? Haha. They only care about taking away a woman's right to her own body. And they do not care about women at all. I am certainly pro-life.... for women and those who are born and living. And I didn't see evangelicals protesting any killing of unborn "babies" in Iraq.. kinda interesting their priorities.

    As a woman, a mother, and an educator I will tell you evangelicals are dangerous not just to women but to the U.S. They tend to be anti anything that helps people. They hate science because one they don't understand it and two it is a threat to them. They hate education, knowledge and when the country is doing well... why? Because these things turn people away from religion.

    While evangelicals are in the minority, they still influence the whole republican party and not just a small influence. They have a big influence and this is why they are dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • dude

      Julie,

      Thank you for proving how evil you are by killing helpless babies. Why don't you go slaughter some baby seals too? Seriously, how you baby-killing fanatical hippies call veterans baby killers is beyond me...

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

      you need help

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

      Julie,

      Iraq: Millions more babies are killed here through abortion that those killed in Iraq, and many people including myself who spent two tours in Iraq believe that by creating freedom and stability for women, we can actually save more lives. I did everything I could to help protect children when I was serving in that country.

      Science: I and most 'evangelicals' I know are very educated, about science and other matters, and don't feel threatened at all by it, we simply believe that the works of God are found throughout nature, and believe that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.

      Helping: The majority of charities in this country and in the modern world were founded by Christians, and survey after survey has found that Christians give more money and time to serving others.

      Please take the time to talk to a Christian, and clear up your misunderstandings about us. May peace and love be with you.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • chrisg

      dude, but you would kill your neighbors like Dr Tiller

      October 16, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      @Dude

      So why aren't you even more ticked off at your God for all the miscarriages, embryos that fail to implant, implanted embryos that self-terminate, birth defects, stillborns, mothers who died while delivering and the some 50 billion children throughout history who died before reaching the age of reason from horrible living conditions and disease. Your God is the biggest child killer of them all.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  20. kimsland

    Is jesus burning in hell? Pretty sure he didn't go to church on sunday either.
    Fools

    October 16, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Pete

      Sigh. Being Jewish he would have gone on a Friday.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:40 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.