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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. Sardukar

    "...majority of Americans question evolution." .....I rest my case...

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

      No doctor, I'd like to get a second opinion from my religious leader.
      ? You're kidding, right?

      Religion = Ignorance, and Sardukar prove this.

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

      Don't make me tell you how many Americans over the age of 18 believe in Santa Clause, that Earth is in the center of the solar system, and think Persia existed only in a video game. Just because a group has a consensual belief in flawed logic does not necessarily make it correct.

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

      ha, that is quite an issue that the majority of americans are idiots. nothing new there though, and of course it has nothing to do with evangelical attacks on science...

      October 16, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Backtalker85

      The only Americans that question evolution, are the ones that know almost nothing about it. Sadly, that's a lot of them, thank you American schools.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  2. Louie

    Let me get this straight. Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from magical tree. Wow....who can refuse that logic?

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

      Who knew LSD was that old.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • twiddly

      Wow, one of the most succinct christian summaries yet.
      JFC, how could anyone not believe in that?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  3. tony

    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Religious leaders depend on it.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Voice Of Reason

      Especially in all protestan cults.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  4. Caral from SoCal

    Well said, Mr. Mohler, well said.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • twiddly

      Well brainwashed, Caral.
      Don't think, just believe; it's so much easier.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Atheist

      Yes, well said indeed! Mohler is basically saying "You have nothing to fear. I simply intend to push MY idea of how science should be taught to your children according to MY interpretation of the Bible [though I know nothing of science]. And I'll be pushing MY idea as to abortion, gay, and women's rights in accord with Scripture. I'll be pushing MY faith as the only valid religion out of the 10,000 religions man has created and as alternative to any more rational way of thinking."

      October 16, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  5. Jim

    The real stupidity of evangelicals is demonstrated by their psychotic opposition to a woman's right to choose, and equally psychotic opposition to birth control. How's that "abstinence only" thing working out for you?

    October 16, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Caral from SoCal

      Actually, most evangelicals are NOT opposed to birth control. (That would be conservative Catholics.) As to abortion, I find myself agreeing with the evangelicals on that one. The right to take a life in progress...extrapolated to its logical conclusion....no. That does not mean I am "against" the mother in any way. It means I am trying to figure out how to be "for" life and choice for everyone, even those who cannot speak for themselves. It isn't a cliche. I'm not shouting. I am honestly and thoughtfully -totally understanding the woman's perspective – trying to be "for" what is right, and "against" what will be, in the future, looked back on as heinous. After much medical and ethical digging, my honest conclusion is that future generations will stand in disbelief at this practice, much as we look at slavery today – though at the time the practice was rationalized by a majority.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  6. Dan

    Lest we forget that God allegedly told Bush to invade Iraq. We all know how that turned out.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  7. Runaway1956

    I think it's funny, in a way. I really enjoy seeing atheists get all bent out of shape. Let their imaginations run away with them, let them wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night. They are just stupid. The evangelicals aren't taking over, and mainstream Christians aren't out to change the world of politics either. Idiots. Worrying yourselves to death about what Christians believe in, or what they want, is just so funny. And, it's good that the militant atheists worry themselves so much. With each one the dies of a stroke, or whatever, there is one less militant left to insult us!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • twiddly

      I'd say it's terribly funny that you still believe in santa claus, or the rational equivalent, but it's quite sad actually.
      And yes, dangerous. The christian right is just as dangerous as the taliban.
      And you, Runaway1956, are just as ignorant.

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

      what a kind thought runaway .

      October 16, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  8. Phil

    Are they dangerous? Yes. They tell their congregation who to vote for. The last thing they want is people who are capable of thinking for themselves.

    Sadly, there probably won't be a president who's atheist for quite some time. The vast majority of voters won't elect an official unless they believe in god and share similar religious views...and that's not what running a country is about.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Caral from SoCal

      I am nearly 48 years old, have grown up in churches and attended many as we have been transferred all over this nation. I have never – EVER – been inside one that tells its congregants who to vote for. Churches by and large DO encourage their congregants to participate – to get out and vote, even to research, thoughtfully consider, and pray about who they should vote for. But never have I ever heard of a pastor cross that line. Churches – much to your surprise – are made up of people on both sides of the political aisle. Just as the "woman" vote is split, although a majority vote democratic, so the "Evangelical" vote also is generally painted with a wide brush. It may fall to the conservative side, but how that works itself out in the polling booth is another thing entirely.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  9. twiddly

    "We’re dangerous only to those who want more secular voices to have a virtual monopoly in public life."

    If by "public life" you mean law and politics then yes, case closed.
    There is no place for religion in law or politics.

    You are free to say whatever you like; you are free to practice whatever religion you like; you are absolutely not free to impose your religious beliefs on me or anyone else.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  10. Darla

    Every picture tells a story. Just look at this smugness personified in his profile picture.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Mick Jagger

      Exactly.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  11. sgurdog

    Hmm, while I understand where this guy is coming from I think he has it backwards. He's making Evangelicals out to be ones who are misunderstood and unrepresented already in politics, when in fact, that is the opposite. They have held enormous power for centuries over this country's political establishment. The world has paid a huge price for the Christian Crusades that sought to expand an empire of belief...that belief is the basis for political control over populations. Let's put this theory to the test and see how many high level politicians who are atheist or agnostic come out of the closet and speak to Evangelicals about their beliefs and then let's have believing politicians in turn speak to a crowd of atheists and have a debate between them. LOL that won't happen with anyone of these candidates because they all know they have to kiss the ring of Christ in order to stay off the proverbial cross.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  12. kimsland

    A day in the life at evangelical camp.

    Now children time for some love and peace.
    You are all going to burn in hell if you don't follow the lord.
    Children generally start crying at this point.

    Please help stop all religious fools from teaching children to say NO to religion.

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

      But they must get them while they're young. Otherwise the kids might become skeptical later in life if someone comes up to them and tries to convince them that there is some magical sky daddy watching over them all hours of the day.

      Fortunately, there are those that break off from mainstream religion and think for themselves.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  13. Jim

    This article makes as much sense as Christine O'Donnell's "I am not a witch" speech.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  14. Lisa

    The vast majority of evangelicals don't oppose democracy – they just don't understand what it means. Bachmann being a very good case in point.

    This article did nothing to convince me that they are not a threat. Theirs is a world of willful ignorance about science and they stand ready to limit the rights of others whenever those rights don't "set well" with their view of the world.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  15. DOG told me to do it!

    The US version of the Taliban, they won't be happy until we all live under their interpretation of biblical laws.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  16. BlindSquirrel

    Here's the problem with Theocracy. God's not running for President. Only people who claim to be doing God's work but are not.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • jeff

      And you, of course, know what gods work really is, right?

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

      I'm pretty darned sure it isn't the hate that comes from the religious right.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  17. Robert

    Evolution is a fact, the theory that's debated so often is the Theory of Natural Selection :p

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

      Evolution is most certainly NOT a fact.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Pete

      au contraire : http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html

      October 16, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Reality Squirrel

      You certainly are a Blind Squirrel.

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

      The universe is still evolving today

      October 16, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Religious sects

      It's comments like that from Blindsquirrel that prove religion NEEDS to stay out of OUR Government.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • jeff

      Yes it is a fact you ignoramus. An observed and tested fact. As Robert pointed out, the exact mechanisms are what remains in question.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • BlindSquirrel

      History is littered with examples of people who collectively left untold millions dead while claiming to be doing God's work. I have no problem with the notion of a Theocracy. The problem that I have is that the only one qualified to lead a Theocracy, by definition, is God. He's not running, I don't believe.

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

      This squirrel guy has been lied to about evolution not being a fact. Of course he is just a blind squirrel. Evolution is a fact and has not been overturned by any new research rather it has been strengthened.

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

      Evolution is EVERY BIT as much a matter of faith as religion is. Disparaging my comment doesn't change that, not one bit. Show me the half-fish, half-amphibian. Show me the half-reptile, half-mammal. Show me the fossil evidence that any of these links, FUNDAMENTAL to the theory of Evolution, actually exist. Saying it's a fact doesn't make it one.

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

      BlindSquirrel is a prove that for the Christians the evolution stopped 2000 years ago...neanderthal..

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

      @BlindSquirrel – no a theocracy can be led by someone who claims divine guidance. The Pope for example. The papacy is a theocracy.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Evolution is indeed a fact. Those that yap about it being "just a theory" don't know the meaning of "theory" in scientific language. They don't know much else, either.

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

      @ BlindSquirrel

      Please provide proof that evolution is not fact. If you're one who believes that god created everything...prove it.

      You cannot.

      Evolution? Sure...it CAN and HAS been proven countless times.

      god? Um, no. Not a shred of evidence exists.

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

      Evolution is not a fact. It is a theory; The Theory of Evolution. The theory of evolution has much stronger arguments based on science than the theory of creation. Please don’t make atheists sound ignorant.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Louie

      The religious argument today against evolution is no different than the old and failed argument about gravity. When rational human beings kept saying that some kind of natural force was at play, the religious zealots argued those people were not to question the will and powers of god. When the rational thinkers continued to explore that natural force, some were stoned or set on fire because the religious zealots feared that their god would get angry and create a famine... or just not like them. Today, you no longer see the religious zealots trying to discredit the force of gravity (well...some still do). Such as they tried so successfully to discredit that natural force so will they try with evolution. "Have faith" is a slippery excuse that will fall to the wayside as it has done so many times in the past in the light of empirical evidence.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Atheist

      Like the theory of relativity is "only" a theory.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Evolution is not a fact. It is a theory...Please don’t make atheists sound ignorant."""

      In science, evidence is observed about our world (or universe), and a theory is then presented as an "argument" to explain that evidence. That theory must then be tested to survive. A scientific theory evolves, too. Some aspects of the theory can change as new facts become known. Sometimes the theory is discarded altogether.

      Note though, that this particular theory has only grown more solid with time and with our advances in knowledge. It is one of the strongest known to science, and it is an important theory which affects nearly every other branch of science we use to explain the way things work.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  18. johnLA

    Excellent follow up article would be, "Are radical Muslims dangerous/Contrast and Compare...."

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

      Excellent suggestion.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  19. Another Julie

    Excellent article. 53 million children have been aborted in America since Roe V. Wade. It is appalling and it must stop. Christians have every right to express their views, and live as to how they believe. The secularists are trying to push their worldview as being the most reasonable and intellectually superior. Christians have every right to proclaim that Jesus is Lord – the Messiah who will return some day to judge the world. God help us.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You can express your views all you want. What you cannot do is abrogate the rights of women when they become pregnant. If it's not in your body, it's not up to you. Butt out.

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

      This country is struggling to support the population it has now, and you want to add 53 million who weren't even wanted in the first place?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • jeff

      "God help us"

      Ok. I'll bite. Why dosen't he?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • R Williams

      Julie-you have every right to choose not to abort, and your church has every right to teach it is wrong-but you, or your church, have no right to tell me or my family what to do in terms of personal decisions which are legal, it is none of your business. You live your life, we will live ours. This is exactly analagous to me making the statement "Personally, I do not like your church (although I am a Christian and go to one every Sunday), and I think it should be outlawed and abolished, and people arrested and persecuted that go to it", and then campaigning to get a law passed making it illegal to go to that church... you would complain your freedoms were restricted, and it is none of my business... and you would be right.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Sardukar

      Another Julie if you are preborn you are protected if you are preK you are fked...did you adopt any black kid yet..

      October 16, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Backtalker85

      I don't believe in your God, It dose not believe in me. If your using your faith as a base for your politics, I feel sorry for you. As long as you keep doing this, you are going to run in to people like me (and there are more then you think) who will just not take in what your saying. Either find a now base that fits your politics, or stop and live with it. Jesus said, people will hate you for believing in him and it was not going to be easy. You picked this road, stop whining.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  20. jeff

    Nicely done.

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

      Yes, we know exactly where you stand and why to oppose you.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:14 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.