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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. JIm

    Honestly, it's not just evangelicals. It's really anyone who believes that

    a) There is life after death
    b) Believes that Jesus rose from the dead
    c) Believed that he walked on water
    d) That there was a great flood that Moses saved us from.
    e) Any finally, anyone who believes that anyone who doesn't believe in these things is a bad person.

    All of the above are considered brainwashing. And if you believe in these things, then yes, you are dangerous and should not be allowed to run for public office.

    I was raised to believe that if you didn't believe in god you were a bad person. After yeas of thinking about this, I realized that nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing. It is a lie perpetrated by priests, the bible, and yes, evangelicals.

    I do not believe in any god. Never will for the rest of my life. And I will never vote for any like Perry, or any other politician who spews religious lies, does not believe in evolution, or believe in some god.

    Jim

    October 16, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Realist

      And if you want religion to control your life.... move to Iran. Just as bad only the other side of the coin

      October 16, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • kimsland

      Jim is awake, who will be next to see the truth
      Religion is just plain stupid, and the WORLD is finally waking up.
      My kids don't EVER go to church, and I hope your kids will be the same.
      Also don't let schools try to push these religious ignorance and fears onto your kids.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Erm

      Hey now, don't be knocking the life after death thing. You never know!
      The rest is laughable.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • angora

      There's actually a growing body of research revealing an after-life. Just because the evangelicals are wrong doesn't mean any understanding of the metaphysical forces at work in our world are wrong. Look at the true spiritually enlightened people (hint: they won't be preaching on TV or the street corner)

      October 16, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • dont be a sucker

      well thank "God" you're the serious minority

      stats show that a VERY high number of people believe in some sort of afterlife and 'Higher Power", but doesn't automatically have to be a Patriarchal egomaniac like the "hellfire and brimstone" crowd

      you obviously have a narrow view of Spirituality, seeing as how you just attack the common x-tianity, meanwhile there are (or have been) 100's of religions with many sub-sects of each that can be examined

      "Minds are like parachutes, they work best when opened"

      October 16, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Remember...

      Jim – get to know some Christians who are bible-based and you'll find you were right up to your last entry. There are millions of good people who don't believe in what God expects of us as laid out in the Bible. Yes, you can find some Christians like the people who protest at military funerals about gay issues. You can find extremists who believe in just about anything but not being a Christian does not make you bad – the rest of your statements can be backed up by biblical references. The last one cannot...

      October 16, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Canada89

      Moses saved us from a flood? I thought atheists were supposed to be more educated – it was Noah in the flood story...

      October 16, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  2. Realist

    I don't mind if they want to believe what they want to believe but STAY OUT OF MY LIFE. If you don't want an abortion don't get one. If you want to believe that gays should not get married, don't be gay. If you want to believe the earth is flat, be stupid. But I am not going to let you tell me how to live my life. America – home of the free.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Remember...

      RIght on! Our children, like our unborn babies, are ours to do what we want. If we want to beat or execute them, it's all about personal freedom. This is AMERIKA!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  3. sedsinkc

    "...even as polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution." Wow. Maybe that's true in the ignorant backwaters of the Red States where the populace has been brainwashed by evangelicals to question it. But if it is true for all of America, is it any wonder the rest of the world is leaving us behind in their dust w/r/t scientific education?

    October 16, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Erm

      Yeah...I question his source for that statistic. I call shenanigans. I mean, he's lying in the entire rest of the article, so why not that, too?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  4. llib

    The essence of evangelical belief is to convert others
    And it doesn't take listening to them for 5 seconds to realize that they believe that if you don't convert you are evil
    Everyone can have their beliefs
    But not all beliefs are compatible with democracy
    Evangelical beliefs put into action are no different than extreme Muslim beliefs
    Leaders of both of these extremist cults pander to the ignorance and fears of the uneducated

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

    Well written Mr. Mohler! The pure hypocrocosy of the liberal elite and their supporters has infected every aspect of Amercian society. Only, they would say that the rest of us are cultist, fantatical, racists, and stupid. Somewhat ironic, don't you think when you consider that arrogance passes for enlightenment these days.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • Question everything

      It's amazing how if you're educated it's considered elitism. It's downright scary that the Jesus party (GOP) wear a badge of being ignorant as appropriate and encourage it.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Erm

      Elitists?
      lol
      Yes, damn you and your fancy book learnin, you atheists!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Don

      Sadly, education and intelligence does not necessarily co-exist as clearly evidenced by the responses to my original post. Especially if that intelligence has to flex its muscle far outside a dogmatic belief that you are superior. Out of curiousity, have you ever considered anything past the front page of an Internet article? Seriously, exercise your brain!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  6. Jim

    From a 2008 study published in the scientific journal Intelligence.

    Atheists scored 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions. [4]

    "I'm not saying that believing in God makes you dumber. My hypothesis is that people with a low intelligence are more easily drawn toward religions, which give answers that are certain, while people with a high intelligence are more skeptical," says the professor.

    Guess this explains why religious people don't like science. It proves their dumb.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • John

      At least I'm smart enough to know how to spell correctly.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  7. Aucausin

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

    Seeing as the opposite of secular is religious and religions are irrational, fantastical, and fictional beliefs...yes, yes I do want secular voices to have a monopoly in anything and everything that influences public life. Those who are not religious should not have to heel to those who are, laws that enforce religious morality force the non-religious to kneel, however secular based laws still allow the religious to abide by their moral guidelines. It's been said before but I will say it again, if you don't like gay marriages don't have one, if you don't like abortions don't have one.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  8. Bob

    I think this man is dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  9. Tim J

    What should be todays headline? Two – 2 – New York police officers in the hospital today after 70 people were arrested in the Occupy Wall Street criminals. 1.5 million dollars in damaged done by Occupy Wall Street in Italy, and these people need to stop messing with our 401K retirement investment funds.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Erm

      That wasn't OWS in Italy. That was an anarchist group that infiltrated them. Stop spreading misinformation.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  10. jona

    CNN: "What can we do to deflect this nutty OWS group's news?"

    CNN: "Well Evangelicals are ALWAYS a good target "

    October 16, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Rick

      Making fun of born-again Christians is like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope.
      P. J. O'Rourke

      October 16, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Rick

      jona: stop trying to convince others that YOU have the CORRECT god and you experience much less blowback.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  11. Hypatia

    Dangerous, deluded and demented would be the sane person's assessment of them

    October 16, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  12. Question everything

    Christians are not as infatuated with following the teachings of their god as much as wanting to play god.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Rick

      seems that way to me. they want to BE gods.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Remember...

      Question everything, make generalizations, and avoid facts. Wow. Based on your unsupportable, myopic statement, it sounds like you're on your way to becoming an anarchist or a facist.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Question everything

      Really, Remember? Tell me if this person or group sounds familiar. Pro fetus yet pro capital punishment. Pro fetus yet pro guns. Defense of marriage. Pro life yet pro war. Don't tax the rich broaden the base to people making under 25k per year. The fact is Jesus would never win the GOP nomination. He would be banished as a socialist.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  13. Erm

    Should we be afraid of Evangelicals? Yes, yes we should, particularly those who wrap themselves in an American flag. I once was a so-called Born Again and I know for a fact that they wish to infiltrate the gov't in order to pass outmoded "biblical" laws that would force their beliefs on everyone.
    If the majority of Americans don't believe in Evolution (a statistic I SERIOUSLY have to question. Why not cite your source?), that's because they aren't very highly education and prefer religion over science, which is just backwards.
    Under the guise of religion, these people try to abolish all sorts of personal civil rights. They couldn't be happier if women were again banished to the kitchen (the author himself apparently thinks it is "normal" for a woman to be subservient to her husband! Newsflash: that's called slavery!), if gays were shoved back into the closet (better yet, why not just stone them like they did in biblical times, right?), if the dept. of education were gotten rid of so that ignorant people could freely pass on their ignorance to their children and not have the pesky influence of "heathens" teaching their children about the REAL WORLD, and hey, they had slavery in the bible, too, so why not go back to that, right?
    I wouldn't trust this author or any of his irk as far as I could throw him. Remember...the Dominionists don't want you to know what they are up to! So deny, deny, deny all you want....don't you know it's a sin to tell a falsehood?

    October 16, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • ROC

      You were never a "Born Again" maybe someone experimenting for a while – true born again can never turn back or to the side for anything but Christ

      October 16, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Erm

      I was a child and I was brainwashed. I figured out the entire farce by the age of 12. I certainly WAS a born-again as I believed all of that with all my heart. You don't know me so you don't have a leg to stand on in questioning my faith. That's like saying that if someone is a vegetarian and becomes a meat eater, that they were never a vegetarian. Give me a break.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Remember...

      Your reply is so warped, it's almost humorous. I'm an evangelical and like many of the people who I worship with, really don't care that much about politics but more about people doing what's right (like balance the budget). God will judge the quick and the dead. We want to be able to believe what we believe, have free speech, and the same rights as all Americans including being represented by the best political candidates from our towns and states – some of those are Christians and some of those are non-Christians.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • No, I'm the best.

      The statistic may or may not be correct, but the fact is, FAR more Europeans,( the last number I saw was 70-80% vs 20-30 %), see the Theory of Evolution as more "explanatory", or useful, than do Americans, and it has to do with the quality of the respective education systems. Why do you think CERN is operating in Europe today, and not in the US ?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Question everything

      Says who ROC? Did you write the "bible" for born-again? Typical christian, changing or creating rules to fit their desires.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Ben

      And that Erm, is bashing.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  14. Pattycat

    I'm sure it's been said already...but won't hurt to hear it again. SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. What your religious beliefs are Must Not determine my right to live life...in love with whomever I choose, to choose what I want with my body, to get the same benefits and advantages of any other person, no matter their beliefs. Do not try to govern based on the Bible – which may be a wonderful book, full of wonderful stories and parables and suggestions for a good life. It is NOT the Declaration of Independence. The best info I have gotten from Christianity are the ten commandments...of course...the same info is contained in Everything I need to to Know I learned in Kindergarten !!!

    October 16, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Ben

      You're not really understanding the article. What the man is trying to say is that everyone (including atheists) have worldviews they bring when participating in democracy. Christians have a right to bring their view to the table just like atheists do. You can't have people that completely disregard everything that is important to them. I wouldn't expect an atheist to not bring his secular an d humanist values to the discussion, so a Christian should not be expected to for get about the issues that are important to them.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  15. sansdieux

    Evangelicals are most certainly dangerous especially when they run for public office as they lie just like everyone else and even admit they are sinners. Their entire belief system is based upon their admission of their original sin. This writer said they don't want a theocracy? Lie. They do. They want us all to live by the tenets of their religion only, he even admits it at the end. He calls zygotes babies, and just falls short of admiting he would legislate other people's bodies. I find that most dangerous. I would imagine he would be for school prayer for all, xian school prayer, and if anyone suggested they take out the "under god" part of the Pledge of Allegience, or take off the "in god we trust" from our legal tender, he'd be outraged. He lies, they all lie, they are not at all like their Jesus (who gave to the poor and lived as a poor man, how many millionaire evangelical preachers can you name? I can name a dozen) as they are supposed to be, and therefore, they are most dangerous, as they are running for public office now and definitely would not separate church from state if they had their hypocritical hands in our country's legislative branches. I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them. Dangerous? You bet they are: To my freedom to live a secular, humanist life in this country free of their delusional beliefs.

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

      As a Christian, I've never met another Christian that's ever wanted anything like a "theocracy". You're the exact type of person the article is talking about. You dislike Christians because we bring a different view from yours into the public discussion, and that scares you. No one wants to infringe upon your "secular, humanist life", we just want to be as much a part of the democratic process as you are.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Don

      Interesting rant, but just who's values would a secular government use to rule the masses? Yours? What moral foundation would you suggest or should we have any? What secular government, free of religious influence, can you point at as successful? I am just curious how deep your intellectual understandings really runs. By the way, not a single principle in science is considered concrete, but simpley the best explanation based on observation that can be provided. Science can be and is often completely wrong. If we could fast forward a thousand years, we might be amazed at how wrong we were.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  16. Ben

    Nice article. Tired of seeing so much negative thoughts about Christians(these comments are an example). It's funny how these people trumpet equality and free thought but bash Christianity constantly.

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

      ben: the believers purport to speak for god. the non believers find this incredibly pretentious

      October 16, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Erm

      So now questioning something is bashing it? I see...
      Btw, Evangelicals aren't Christians. They are zealots. The ones Jesus preached against. The Pharisees who prayed in the street so that everyone could see how "holy" they were.
      True Christians would not deny a brother or sister in need but these Evangelicals sure would love to take away the social safety nets that our most vulnerable need in order to stay alive!
      True Christians would not APPLAUD the number of people being executed in TX. In fact, true Christians would not be executing people in the first place! Thou Shalt Not Kill comes to mind....

      October 16, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • Ben

      Rick: I'm a believer and I don't speak for God. I've never met another Christian that claims they alone speak for God.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Ben

      Erm: You can't deny people bash Christianity. Just read some of the comments. Stereotyping an entire group in a negative way is more than just "questioning". Also I know what an evangelical is trust me.. I live in Mississippi. Also the execution debate is more complex than that. You quote "thou shalt not kill" from the old testament but in the old testament there were death penalties. A better thing to do would be to quote Jesus who would probably be against the death penalty. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" for example.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Rick

      ben: you purport to know god's word through the bible, don't you?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Ben

      Rick: Yeah. Most religions have a book that their beliefs are written down in, like the Upanishads, the Torah, or the Book of Mormon. If we didn't believe that the bible was true (or at least some of it is true) then we wouldn't really be Christians. What did you expect?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  17. King Nutmost the Rash

    Beware the extreme religious. No matter what variety, evangelicals, islamists or what-have-you. They all have the One True Way. If you do not agree with them God will tell them to punish (torture, kill, imprison, etc.) you. We see what happens when they get power of the state. Example: Iran.

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

      No Christian....I REPEAT...No Christian thinks like that. The only intollerance is displayed by secular left.
      Be thankful for the Christians, otherwise there would be no one to work the soup kitchens and take care of the needy. Atheists talk a big game, but are mostly selfish and self serving in nature.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • No, I'm the best.

      SwavyDavyinCincy
      ALL my atheist friends work here in our "soup kitchen". So there goes that one.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Canada89

      You forgot atheism – atheistic leaders have killed millions of people

      October 16, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Rick

      Canada: Atheistic leaders? Going to trot out Mao, and Stalin, and Hitler? Hitler was not at atheist, and the other two themselves took the place of "god".

      October 16, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  18. Joshua

    Evangelical is defined as: Of or according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christian religion. Yet the new testament is nothing if not an indictment of the rich, of capitalism itself. Somehow the evangelical movement in this country has connected 3 very different ideas: No abortion, no rights for gays and making life easier for the super wealthy. If you are truly evangelical you would be a socialist who lived on a commune, didn't question slavery, treated women like property and turned the other cheek at every opportunity. But people would rather have Sean Hannity tell them what it means to be a Christian than read the book.

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

      The Bible says if a man won't work neither shall he eat. That does not sound like socialism to me. The Bible commends capitalist principles, not condemns them.

      2Th 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

      2Th 3:12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  19. Ray zacapa

    You mr. Mohler should be the last person to be commenting on politics and government, it goes against everything Christ (the man) was about. You are a self righteous ignorant. You say you serve a God that directs you not to be a part of the secular world but instead (by your own argument) you choose to dive into the dump that government and politics are. According to the bible (which is the base o your belief) the world will come to an end regardless of what you or anybody else says or does. "christians" and other religious organizations need to stop being hypocrites and truly live by what you supposedly teach. Teach by example. To caesar what belongs to caesar and to god what belongs to god. When it comes to all the other theories about the creation of life we can only assume they are true but we have to accept that we will never truly know. All religious and theories are is discontentment with our own lives, our lack of sense of purpose that makes us wanna believe in something, be a part of something but, we forget that our lives are nothing but a moment and in the vastness of time what we do is meaningless.

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

      Nice try Ray

      October 16, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  20. Will

    Luckily, the majority of american christians are protestant and can't agree with each other enough to put a theocracy together. I believe that while religion while always be important to society, we will drift away from the old ones (after coming back at first when things really start to get bad) because the morality in them does not account for a new set of problems that are being created by technology. Everything in the old religions is geared to increase the population...that is becoming a real problem now. The old religions talk about being a good steward of the earth, but you never hear a preacher condemn how we are depleting all of the earths resources and leaving a disaster for our children. The day of reckoning is at hand, but God will not save us. This is the only thing that will change our thinking, hardship and pain. Remember though, that the power of belief has always shaped human history and will continue to. If you don't see that, you haven't studied history very well.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:02 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.