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. Human13

    Religion is a threat to humanity. How can anyone be so blind to this? Why do the religious sweep the dirt under the rug? If confronted, they will respond with such things as naming one or two dictators who were secularists. Sure, there have been "some", but come on, more death, destruction, disease, hunger, famine, and misery has been spread throughout our civilizations in the name of your "god(s)". Even within the same platform as christianity, you religious types can't even agree on who is right and who is wrong. People are indoctrinated from an early age and forced to believe in some fairy tale of some sky daddy that will never speak to you, listen to you, reveal himself to you. A jealous god who will punish you and throw you in a lake of fire if you as much as think wrongly of him, but yet... he loves you... I'm calling bull on this one. How can anyone with even the intelligence of a rock believe in this garbage???

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

      It's called brainwashing.
      All the major religions are just cults that exist only because children are continually indoctrinated.
      They are then surrounded by like-minded, unquestioning believers and it's very hard to break away, especially if family and friends are part of the cult.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  2. Roger

    People do not think Evangelicals are dangerous because of their worldview and beliefs. The think they are dangerous because they insist on imposing those beliefs on others, regardless of any other factor. Evangelicals are so convinced of their cause that they will kill or die to further it.

    In short, their are zealots. And zealots of any kind (tree huggers, political correctness police, tea party members) are anathema to the way this country works.

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

      Ideologues suc

      October 16, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Ted

      Written by Idealogues Inc.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  3. Tillie in Texas

    As a non-evangelical christian, I am offended by anyone who wants to make their religious beliefs the law of the land. I want to live in a secular society that allows everyone to practice their own religion free of government interference. When we begin to force our beliefs on others though legal means, we become what our forefathers escaped from – being controlled by government sponsored religion. Hasn't that caused enough problems in the world?

    On a personal note:
    "Above all, evangelicals are those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and are most concerned about telling others about Jesus."

    I'm not interested in people "telling me" about Jesus. I can read for myself, thank you. I see that as the main reason why many people don't particularly care for evengelicals. When they evangelize, they always seem to come across as pushy and condecending towards non-evangelicals. They are taught that Catholics are not Christians... yet who started Christanity?

    I've spent enough time with my evangelical family members to know I want no part of them controlling my belief system – secular or religious.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  4. leecherius

    blah blah blah yada tada yada...Leave me to my beliefs , I will leave you to yours.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  5. ckfox

    The fact is we have a secular government. It can't be preferential to one set of beliefs. If you don't want an abortion, don't get one. If you want to be married, do it. Believing Jesus Christ is Lord or not is a personal decision.

    However, these are personal opinions/values and can't violate a woman's sovereign right over her body, the right for two Americans who wish to have a economic partnership and the rights that go with it to contract into one, or the right to not believe in Jesus Christ. Atheists and Christians can both say whatever they want, because this is America. However, that the government will make no law respecting an establishment of religion means the American government cannot legislate to the beliefs of one group of Americans.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  6. Rich

    Most should go back to high school and continue with the 9th grade instead of learning hatred every sunday from a "Christian pastor"...Jesus would be very sad & mad if in fact HE is real.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  7. kimsland

    Sunday is a good day to laugh at jesus words.
    And to finally understand that you are alive, and not just waiting to be dead.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  8. luvUamerica

    Pat Robertson on National TV wanted the US government to assassinate Hugo Chavez. Urged support from viewers and fully supported the Iraq war. Chavez might be a bad apple, but he was elected democratically by his people. He continues to have their overwhelming support.

    Mr. Mohler, the Evangelicals are very scary people. The evangelicals are extremely conservative political animals. They are not Christians. Christainity is just a tool for them.

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

      I guess he got the special Bible in which Thou Shalt Not Kill was optional.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Pete

      All radicals are scary people if you don't agree with what they say. Not much of a religious person myself but I know Evangelists who are not scary radicals.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  9. twiddly

    This article is a terrific example of precisely why evangelicals are dangerous, should be feared, and have no place in law or politics.
    Thanks for sharing your ignorance and delusions.

    Basically, you are saying "Yes, I believe in Jesus for no other reason than that someone told me to when I was a child, and no amount of logic can tear me away from that. And whatever I believe is best not only for me but also for the rest of the world because mine is the one, true religion. I know this is true because I think the majority in my country believe the same things that I do."

    October 16, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  10. Ted

    Dawkins allows no opinion, nor perspective of life, as unfactual and dogmatic as it is, but his own. If he could form a secular inquisition to root out all religious people from life, he would. Beware of dogmatists like Dawkins, beware.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • SCAtheist

      I know Dawkins would be happy if people had reasoning behind what they believe. I guess that scares you.

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

    Mr. Mohler, you have it all wrong. No matter our individual spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof), we all share reason and a material existence–its easy for any of us to discuss and decide things at this level. But when one party says, "there is big voice in the sky telling me (or my pastor) that this must be so" it is kind of impossible to reason with that sort of person. I don't have any problem with those sorts being in politics, but do honestly believe that if a majority of evangelicals or fundamentalists held power that they wouldn't start saying, "the big voice in the sky has commanded us to legislate a christian lifestyle upon you–for your own good." No offense meant, sir, but if you believe that the evangelical mindset would preserve the rights of those who disagree with it, then you are being naive; on the other hand, if you do that the rights of others would be suppressed, then you are dissembling.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  12. AJ

    Sorry, but secular views SHOULD have a monopoly on public life. Nobody should be compelled to take into consideration, to any degree whatsoever, the views of people who are convinced that right and wrong, morality and immorality, whether a woman should be able to obtain an abortion, whether any two people who love each other should be able to enjoy a full and complete and publicly recognized relationship with one another, and myriad other public issues should be determined by rules set down by their imaginary friend in the sky. This tyranny of religion has to end before it destroys civilization.

    I don't understand how evangelicals, or for that matter any other religious zealots of any stripe, can look at the evil perpetrated by, for example, the Taliban, or the Spanish Inquisition, in the name of religious belief, and not reflect on themselves, and on how they are no different. In all cases, they follow imaginary, arbitrary rules with no basis in fact, and want to impose their silliness on others. It is well past time we all stop pretending that religious belief is deserving of any respect at all, any deference, any say in how public life is conducted.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  13. Jack

    I think you have it incorrect Mr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. I, at one time prescribed to the evangelical view of Christianity, but have since reviewed a number of issues that left me wondering who is really in charge of the Religious Right. I am still a Christian, I still believe in God, I still believe in Jesus Christ, but I don’t follow blindly that which promoted by you and groups like yours that believe “your way” is the only way to believe.
    When I was told by friends what I could and couldn’t do because this was how they interpreted the Bible, which you still very much do! That the “King James” version of the Bible is the only true translation and it is the only one that should be followed. And that the Church and the Bishops and the Hierarchy would interpret what God meant.
    It was then; I decided that you and your evangelical movement had gone too far! Instead of providing thoughts and views on the Bible, you indirectly or directly started telling us that you were speaking to God and for God.

    Mr. Mohler, your movement has done more harm to this country than any other that I have seen in the last 50 years.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  14. Robert

    Studies show atheists have more mental illness than theists, commit suicide more often, and are less charitable than theists. Also, just have a look at what EVERY officially atheist nation has been like. Mass murders galore, denial of basic human rights, ect. Now tell me that atheism is not the most dangerous religion the world has ever known–responsible for the deaths of over 250 million deaths in the past 100 years via atheist such as Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, ect.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • angora

      Please cite your studies. I'm not an atheist, but most studies show they are more intelligent and more informed about religious texts than believers.

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

      Wait, you forget Hitler the recent mass murder. hmmmm, you did not include hitler because he was a christian

      October 16, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • twiddly

      Christianity, catholicism specifically, has without question killed far more people in the name of Christ than all of the despots that you name combined.
      Do some research on the inquisition and the crusades.

      So if your logic is that we should rule with a belief system that kills fewer people than other belief systems, than Christianity is at the bottom of the list!

      October 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  15. bretg

    I tell the fundamentalist this. They believe God loves babies and the unborn, well, go to pre1900 cemeteries and see how many young ones are buried there. Fast forward to the rise of science, and look at the child mortality rates drop. But the taliban still want to believe in their fantasy man as the protector of man. There is a direct and strong correlation between the uneducated and simple minded, and believe in religion. Religion loves the uneducated, so they will lap up the nonsense told to them..

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

    Evangelicals think that they, and they alone, have the right not only to proclaim that a higher power exists, but also to define just who and what that higher power is, to define just what that higher power wants of us, and to make sure we all do it. If they want our respect and tolerance, they will have to start respecting the fact that each of us has the right to make our decisions in these areas and the fact that there are many other religions in this world, including other versions of the Christian faith. Each of us has our own set of theological and philosophical conclusions. I don't share their's. I also am not of the opinion that the individuals in leadership in their religion, or those in leadership positions in any other religions, for that matter, have any better an idea of what is going on in the universe and the so-called supernatural world than any of the rest of us. If I have a spiritual problem, I'll consult my own selected counsel, someone who I perceive as having wisdom, thank you very much.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  17. Rich

    Dangerous VERY dangerous.Most are also VERY ignorant about anything that really matters...LIKE NOW

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

      How could you possibly make such a statement. You have NO IDEA what "most" people think about anything, let alone a group of people you obviously despise. You are buying into a stereotype of Evangelicals as depicted in movies and television, most of which is written by people who have no basis for their views, as they have had little to no exposure to Evangelicals.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  18. Alex

    Evangelicals are so devout to their beliefs that they refuse to even try to respect anyone else's beliefs. I have learned to distrust anyone who comes out early and says that they are a Christian, because normally that is their excuse for their very unchristian behavior. Their intolerance is legendary.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  19. Failcongress

    I do NOT want our government to be directed and influenced by ANY religion. Look at the middle east. They are struggling to live in the 21st century using 632AC teachings. OUR ancestors came to the new world to escape the religious persecution that was carried out by the English government at the time. You are free to practice your religion here and I am fine with that, but KEEP your religion out of the peoples government, if you start imposing your beliefs upon my children and grandchildren through religious based laws you will destroy this nation.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  20. JiminTX

    Anyone who believes in an ancient Mesopotamian sky deity who grants wishes is dangerous.

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

      agreed jimin

      October 16, 2011 at 11:42 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.