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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. ruemorgue

    I have a problem with *all* zealots whether thay are theists or atheists or communists or facsists or nationalists or ... These people cannot tolerate different opinions. They *know* they are right. How can anyone disagree with them? Disagreement by definition means stupid. Obviously, if you disagree with a zealots chosen believe, then you can *not* have the right to chose and you *must* be convinced (HA!) of your mistake!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • ModernMan

      This is well said. I am a Christian, and I cannot stand zealots... Many of my friends have vastly differing beliefs, but we all respect each other. It's a good life man, and way too short.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  2. Davidbnky

    Al Mohler...the man who says Griswold v. Connecticut should be reversed and that states should again have the option to outlaw and ban birth control. Nah, dominionist evangelicals pose no threat whatsoever.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  3. mensarino

    Evangelicals have as much right as anyone else to participate in politics but the minute a church gets involved it should lose its tax exempt status.

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

      No we don't want Evangelicals in politics.
      Nor any other ridiculous religious believer.
      Do you want an Islamic president? I rest my case.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • ModernMan

      What do you think Obama is pinhead?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • ModernMan

      Hey Kimsland... While we're at it, let's keep the jews out... oh and the blacks, and anyone who likes Justin Bieber... You are ridiculous.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Jean Sartre, Milwaukee, WI

      "Evangelicals have as much right as anyone else to participate in politics..."

      WRONG!

      Evangelicals bring their whole forkin church with them when they PARTICIPATE in politics!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  4. JamesNL

    Dangerous, YES. These are the same mobs with pitchforks ready to burn witches and stone infidels at any given moment. I'm glad I live in a Country with separation of Church & State to keep these fanatics at bay!

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

      Uh.... what? I am an evangelical Christian, and I have never held a pitchfork in anger in my life. I think you are stereotyping based on fear and assumptions. Of course, so am I, but the reality is that "Christians" are as diverse as any slice of American life you can carve out. There is no blanket of labels that you can cover all Christian people with, just like stereotyping a race of people. I believe Christ died for my sins. I also believe that you are a decent person and have a right to voice your opinion and not be criticized for it. So, my defense is, well, love... I do not think church has a place in politics, nor do I think big business does... see how far that got us?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  5. Reason & Logic

    "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."

    This is precisely where evangelicals (and sadly, the majority of Americans) display their ignorance of evolution in particular and science at large (including this articles author). Evolution, like any scientific theory, does not need to be believed (this is Dawkin's point). Evolution has been strongly supported over and over again in the scientific literature with appropriate research and evidence. There is no debate about its legitimacy in the scientific community.

    The fact that Rick Perry, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., and the majority of Americans "question evolution" simply does not matter... it only displays their personal ignorance on the subject. Just because they cannot understand the theory of evolution, does not mean that it cannot be understood. If evangelicals and the majority of Americans spent more time educating themselves about science and evolution, they would understand why this theory is so remarkable... and would stop embarrassing themselves by "believing" that evolution should be questioned.

    "The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about." – Wayne Dyer

    October 16, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Common Sense

      Well said.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  6. Peter Vogel

    The problem is that not with evangelicals per se. It's with those don't just have a world view–they have a mission that actively limits individual freedom (e.g the claim that anyone who does not share a particular view of Christ is not a trustworthy person–to the extent of denying first amendment protections to those persons). They make it very clear that they want to use the government's resources to impose their religious choices on citizens who do not share their religious beliefs–for instance, the teaching of creationism not because it's scientifically sound but because it was written down thousands of years ago. And, they insist, you're not arguing !!with!! them–you are arguing !!against God!!. Which makes you a person who is not just wrong but bad and condemned by the highest power in the universe–you are someone who should be cast out. Those in this camp don't take personal responsibility for their positions because they are not arguing for themselves but on behalf of God.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  7. Bill

    How dare this man try to say that Evangelicals are not dangerous? What atrocities have atheists committed in the name of a lack of god? When we look back at history and focus on just Christians we have the Inquisition, massacring the Natives by Columbus, Crusades (of which, one of the Crusades involved sending children to fight), the Holocaust, the witch trials, genocide in Rwanda, slavery, Conquistadors, and invading Iraq in 2003. This is just a brief list of what has been done in the name of their god! We can also include assassinations of abortion doctors. For anyone to claim that these people are intelligent, accepting, caring, and loving people is to lie to oneself! For Albert Mohler to justify that they are protecting marriage and the unborn. How about protecting the already born from the priests and their wandering minds! In a country that prides itself on its Christian values, its astounding that our divorce rate is well over 60% Have you forgotten that straight couples have raised serial killers (some from parents of pastoral employment), terrorists, rapists, and pedophiles. I hardly believe Christians are succeeding at "protecting" marriage and family. The Church is deeply "concerned" with poverty and cultural issues, but I find it very interesting that the states that view religion as most important also have the highest poverty rate. Ironically enough, the states that are both the most religious and highest in poverty are also the least educated. So this having been said, Evangelicals should take a hard look at themselves before they attempt to intrude on secular values.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Robert

      "What atrocities have atheists committed in the name of a lack of god?"

      Atheists such as Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin, and a dozen lesser known atheist tyrants are responsible for the deaths of over 250 million people in the past 100 years. Far, far more than all other religions combined for all of recorded history. Atheism, especially the anti-theist denomination, is deadly, destructive, and perverse.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Robert

      Christianity teaches one to love all mankind, to seek the good of all mankind, and to pray for all mankind. The New Testament specifically states that anyone who hates or murders is not a Christian. Love of God and love of man are fundamental tenets of Christianity.

      Unlike atheists, Christians have many thousands of charitable organizations to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, ect.

      Atheism has no such implication that mankind should love each other. Indeed, atheism implies there is no such thing as right or wrong. Raping a baby is no more or less wrong than helping a stranger who is lying in the gutter dying according to an atheistic world view.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Tim

      Having no knowledge whatsoever of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, you sir, are a complete tool if you personally hold Christianity alone responsible for most of those historical occurrences. The fact that someone practices a certain religion does not automatically indicate that their religion specifically was a driver of their actions. Blaming the Holocaust and Iraq'03 on Christianity? Wow. The level of ignorance you have displayed here is infinite.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  8. tealamps

    All religions are dangerous, ignorant, and self righteous.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  9. klarg

    Evangelical leaders are not dedicated to Christ. They are dedicated to earthly power and money. Mega-churches pull in mega-revenue.

    The loudest "evangelical" voices spring from a tradition of a custom tailored religion for the old Southern aristocracy. Lots of "Revelations," obedience to authority, biblical "support" for slavery, hatred of Jews and Catholics, and very little Sermon on the Mount and the futility of rich men trying to pass through the eye of a needle (or enter heaven).

    Of course now they tolerate very right wing Jews and Catholics, and no longer claim the bible provides justification for slavery and segregation. But little else has changed.

    These zealots obsessed with their struggle (kampf or jihad) against secular (normal) people are not only a danger to the United States they do harm to Christianity – many people mistake these hate-based, proto-fascist, unreconstructed southerners as actual Christians

    October 16, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  10. shawn

    The answer to the question the article asks is YES...they are very dangerous.

    They are brainwashed, short sighted and have the same agenda as the Taliban...religious control of society and government.

    If you are so concerned about your hotbutton issues solve your own issues first. Most "fundie" families in my area multiple like rabbits (or rats), teenage pregnancy and the adults have a 4th grade understanding of science, politics and economics.

    I think my mormon friends are the only ones not dumbed down by their religion but they just deny facts...but at least their brainwashing doesn't harm others (to much).

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

      And if evangelical continue to try to inject their beliefs into government then the GOVERNMENT WILL TAX THE **** out of their CHURCHES

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

    The secular view is the one that is superior because it is the one that affords the most rights to everyone, especially the fundamental christians.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  12. capitalismsucks

    These "evangelicals" want "freedom" to take freedom away from the others,

    while the "liberals" want equal freedom for everyone, including the "evangelicals"'s freedom to do whatever they want with their own body.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  13. Kerry Berger

    The fact that CNN allows this duplicitous minister access to write his whiny piece but would not allow an atheistic or someone who supports the secular nature of our nation is a clear demonstration of how these Evangelists are using all means to chip away at our fundamental rights. This is the foundation of fascism.

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

      To be fair CNN has hosted lots of other arguments contrary to this one, in news articles and editorial posts. While I disagree with the writer on a wide range of issues I think its actually pretty cool that they don't have an editorial policy that discourages points of view which are probably contrary to most of the beliefs held by the channels viewers.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  14. Religious sects

    If I came up with my own religion, I'd be considered crazy ... but yet people who follow someone else's religion want to be involved in our Government ... that IS crazy.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  15. monkey

    "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."

    This is where your whole story begins and where you lose people with actual intelligence. You advocate for the unborn but your policy choices negate your whole belief system. You don’t advocate for the prenatal care, the post natal care, the feeding and educating of those children that are born into families that cannot afford to provide proper nutrition or educational experiences. You are basically advocating for a baby making factory to provide low wage earning bodies for the free market economy. You ignore that fact that in the United States every month there are 30,000 more babies born than there are adoptable families in need of a child. Do you want to add another 100,000 to that monthly? The problem with your theories is you never think ahead to what the consequences would be and how you will deal with it. You belong to the party that hates spending tax money on the poor and your decisions would greatly increase the demands for more tax dollars. I know you just want the babies born first and then you will make sure to defund the programs that take care of them. The evangelical right wing motto is, Life begins at conception and ends at birth" This is why your religion is the only one that loses more people than it gains each year, contrary to your belief, people recognize hypocritical behavior.

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

      You've just lumped every single Christian together and assumed you know what political party every one of them is affiliated with??!! You are a monkey.

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

      Amen.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  16. Travis

    "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."

    Case in point, you people are scary. The point is, believe your scripture, but don't shatter others' rights with it. Evangelicals DO have a very aggressive, intrusive agenda based on one philosophy of one scripture. If they were more like conservative or reform Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, many non-evangelical Christians or secular individuals they would not be so concerned with imposing their ethics on everyone else through law. But they are evangelical, so they do, and this is why it is scary.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  17. Tom

    This latest round of "My cult is better than your cult" raises some interesting questions. Is it child abuse to teach your kids a nonsensical view of reality and threaten them with a fate worse than death if they don't adhere to it?

    October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  18. gary

    Believe what you want when it only affects yourself. But don't push lies and myth on children, and don't push lies and myths on gov't / public policy. Evangelicals have this obsession with taking over the world with their mythical nonsense. THAT is dangerous!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  19. Josef F

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

    As evidenced by all the atheists holding public office, right? By all those political figures who announced during their campaign that they did not believe in God? Yeah, sure. Secular voices have a real stranglehold on government.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  20. Jim

    Why does god hate Texas so much? Is it because he/she/it is embarassed to be associated with them?

    October 16, 2011 at 10:47 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.