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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. Mike

    I'm still a bit concerned by this:

    "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."

    Imagine this coming from an Islamic fundamentalist in Egypt. Are you committed to a secular state, even where the majority aligns with your religious beliefs (Turkey), or is theocracy OK so long as it is approved by the majority?

    October 16, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  2. GRAINMAN

    'When Rick Perry questioned the theory of evolution'....
    Evolution is no longer a theory! Period.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:39 am |
    • Mike

      Evolutionary theory is a theory in the sense that quantum theory is a theory. Nothing wrong with theoretical science. It's not all counting, classifying and measuring.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Dan, TX

      Evolution is a fact, I can explain how evolution works in fact and theory. I can give many examples of the evolution of new species. But can you explain what gravity is? We know what it does, but what is the basis of gravity? How do two masses have an attractive force – we know they have an attractive force, but how? We know more about evolution than we do about gravity.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  3. Pete

    I would suggest that the republican field of candidates is attempting to clearly differentiate itself from the democratic camp – Christianity is just a tool in that differentiation. They are doing so in a classic way, by moving more to the right to put ideological space between themselves and the opposition. In my opinion – this is always a mistake, especially when the mainstream of America is pretty much in the middle ground. The more extreme they become, the more newsworthy but less electable. Let them have their day in the sun – just don't vote for them – most will follow you.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  4. Engineer in Raleigh

    Like evangelicals, I am deeply concerned about the future of marriage. For example, I don't want right-wing politicians getting involved with my family's medical decisions, like they did with Terri Schiavo. Therefore, we should stop evangelicals from getting married, in order to prevent them from having more hick babies, who will vote to stick their noses in other people's business.

    We shall call this amendment defending my (straight) marriage the "Defense of Marriage Act" (that name's not taken, is it?) I know Christians won't object to this, because they keep trying to get involved with other people's relationships, and they would never do anything to others they wouldn't like done to themselves.

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

      I vote yes. Lets stop them from reproducing.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • dont be a sucker

      rillykewl

      it's dirtb** comments like yours, from idiot followers like you that are going to lead the country to serious bloodshed

      research "Eugenics", and you'll see what i mean

      October 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  5. dont be a sucker

    Liberals should actually thanks religion...It's the fear of not upholding gods high standard that prevents most people from beating the living cra* out of them.

    On this level, religion is quite 'Forward Thinking', unlike what most Pseudo Intellectual Liberal would have you believe.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • Engineer in Raleigh

      Sure thing, sport.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • PopeJon

      Good thing to know Christians only think violent thoughts but never ever act on them.... And how did that whole "intelligent design" thing work out for forward thinking Christians in Pennsylvania?

      October 16, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • dont be a sucker

      "happens" every day

      we live in a world of Fact and Opinion....You can hate 1+1=2 all you want, it ain't gonna be 3

      October 16, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • joe

      atheism has nothing to do with liberalism. there is zero connection between the two. most liberals are in fact religious to some degree. some barely and some deeply. they simply don't assume that they can push their religion on others and use it to design law. but thanks for exposing the fact that you are simply a bad person who is luckily restrained by fear of punishment by god. i'm sure that jesus would support your violent nature.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Rick

      apparently, you be the sucker, pendejo

      October 16, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • dont be a sucker

      We live in a country of 300+ million, on a planet of 6.5 billion (est of course)....The number of cases of violence (aside from declared war) towards individuals is MINUSCULE in comparison, even less so with religious motive, especially in the United States.

      Sure, every day you can turn of the news and get doom-and-gloom, and the problem is that "Everyone" hears it, so "Everyone" thinks it's happening right down the street all the time.

      I'm not defending people who screw up and apply religious principals incorrectly, but a Real observer of the facts sees that with all the people in the world, doing so many things in 1 day alone, making 1000's of "Micro-Choices", the fact that we get along so good is quite impressive

      October 16, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Dan, TX

      you are incorrect. Atheists have as much a sense of morality as the religious, they are morally equivalent belief systems. There are plenty of atheist conservatives – George Will represents the republican party and conservatives every Sunday on TV. He's an atheist.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • dont be a sucker

      joe

      you missed the point entirely....it's the belief in forgiveness, and Oneness that elevates a person...I wasn't talking about "fearing" god....but fearing not being the best you can be.

      I'm actually about as passive as humanly possible

      October 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • dont be a sucker

      Rick

      thank you for you Lack of Contribution to the topic....Perhaps there's a Singles site that needs your wisdom, hurry along

      October 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Rick

      my post was based on the first one. you sounded like a blowhard. in subsequent posts, you sound less so. as far as the violence goes, well, if you need violence your argument is weak,

      October 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • dont be a sucker

      rick

      i'm happy to see that you're willing to drop the insults....Of course we "need" violence, as much as it suck to say, it's part of the 'bad' that we need to have something to compare ourselves against...This is what i meant by proper application of spiritual principals...Violence in and of itself isn't "wrong" just the purpose for which it's used

      Aint freedom and liberty a bitc*....:grin:

      October 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  6. Remember...

    If you want to discredit a group of people who don't support your political agenda in support of whatever (be it abortion, gay marriage, or other liberal battle cries), then attack their religion. Just make sure you find the extremists and ignore the vast majority who believe in the foundational principal of Christianity – Love (including loving non-Christians). It's important to respect non-Christian's views, as part of loving non-believers. Anyone who says non-Christian's are bad, needs to go back to Sunday School and learn what is clearly and oft repeated throughout the Bible.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • PopeJon

      Remember the Publicans are doing quite a good job all by themselves on arguing who's a good Christian and who's in a cult...

      October 16, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Anon

      The thing is, it's part of your bible.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Dan, TX

      Morality and belief in God are not co-dependent. If you follow the 'rules' of most religions, you ought to have a highly developed sense of morals. If you simply follow the non-religious philosophies developed by all human societies you also have a highly developed sense of morals. Morality comes from humans agreeing on what is moral (slavery or no slavery, polygamy or no polygamy, execution for crimes vs. no execution, abortion vs no abortion). Neither God nor religion helps us decide those issues of moral behavior, we agree among ourselves. And what we agree on does evolve.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • withoutgod

      Love? The founding principle of Christianity?
      Matthew 10:34-37 10:34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
      10:35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
      10:36 And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
      10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  7. M

    "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."

    That quote right there is what makes you dangerous. It's that you consider what is normative to be correct. It is that you consider secular reasoning to be just 'another belief among many.' Secular thought and atheism is NOT a religion. It is the use of reason, logic, and scientific principles to constantly search for truth and to improve and reform what we know to be the truth. That most Americans question evolution is not a statistic to be lauded by you as "proof" that evolution is something you should doubt without a heavy burden of proof. It is evidence of a failure of our education system, and of the danger of your religion, which acts like a mental disease, turning people from questioning, and reasoning, scaring them into belief in magic and mythology.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • dont be a sucker

      I'm as open minded as 1 can get....But to 'Not' question science goes against science itself

      We were told we must use plastic bags because paper bags were bad for the environment, now paper is better than plastic...If 'they' can't get something as simple as that right (with all the funding they get), you want people to believe evolution without question ? ? ?.....Nope, aint happn'

      October 16, 2011 at 11:42 am |
    • Dan, TX

      You see that your argument is illogical, right? If you don't, then that would help explain why so many Americans chose ignorance over knowledge. Ignorance is bliss I guess, you must have a very, very, happy life. Good for you.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:51 am |
    • Dan, TX

      I was talking to don't be a sucker.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • PopeJon

      Yes dont be a sucker, because all of evolutionary theory revolves around which is better for the environment, paper or plastic.... That explains it all!!!!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • dont be a sucker

      dan

      if you really read my comment, you'll see that i'm not claiming evolution isn't real, i'm saying that if you're going to make a claim that requires 'facts' going back 6 billions years, ya better be 'on point' better than fuc**** up a theory going back 30

      October 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      don't be a sucker, you did it again, you did not make a logical point. Paper of plastic is not a scientific question, it is one based on human values and choices. The new answer is that you shouldn't use paper or plastic you should bring your own bag. So, wow, once again science was wrong based on your logic. you don't understand the concept you are trying to argue.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • dont be a sucker

      dan

      the paper or plastic issue representative of how the world "works", and if they can't get it right (scientifically), how can you expect someone to just go ..."Oh Okay" in regards to concepts such a radio-carbon dating; with numbers that are always changing ? ....ya can't....Like I said, not saying it's "wrong", but these goons who sling insults at people for even questioning the topic are out of line

      October 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      Once again, you are confused. You fail to see that paper or plastic straw man you are using has nothing to do with the topic at hand, or science theory, or scientific conclusions, it is a man made artificial problem that some people used science fact as ONE of many factors in making a human decision that involved things that had nothing to do with science. It really makes me sad that you can't see the flaw in your logic.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  8. luvUamerica

    The Tea Party has been commandeered by the Evangelicals. The Southern Baptist spend a lot of money on campaigns, and lobbying. Who is this guy trying to hogwash? This guy is talking through his ass isn't he?

    October 16, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  9. Jack_of_Arts

    Now given the vast number of arguments against Christianity by the secularists and atheists, I am surprised I am not finding this sort of vitriol or support by those who believe in other religions such as Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and even more obscure beliefs systems such as Witchcraft and Naturalism. I would like to see the pro/con views of these groups in this comment sites more often. Granted, Christianity is the alpha dog belief of most Americans. But I would like to hear from other of different beliefs put their two cents worth on these "debates".

    October 16, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • luvUamerica

      Evangelicals are not Christians. They are a cult. It is wrong to paint all Christians with a broad brush.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  10. Ben Thare

    DaveinCincy said "...and what beliefs do you think the US was founded on? Read a little history..don't be lazy."

    The founding fathers were deists.

    Before you criticize others, make sure you have done your homework first. Apparently you didn't read enough history.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Dan, TX

      Thomas Jefferson thought that anyone who believed that Jesus was born of a virgin mother was downright silly and anyone who thought he was the literal son of God was just plain wrong. He respected Jesus as a philosopher. Thomas Paine was not Christian either. Deists? Not if they were living in the modern world.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  11. Question everything

    The most effective way to becoming an atheist; read the old testament then immediately follow with the new testament. For the most part, the books are downright scary and loaded with contradiction.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • PDXmum

      I never cease to be amazed how few religious folk have read the dang thing cover-to-cover. My MIL is a fervent Catholic and has never read the whole thing. I guess religious people have pastors and priests to give them the Cliff notes and tell them what they need to know. And how to think. And vote. And so on.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  12. George Marshall

    I am not a religious practioner, but I respect everyone's right to hold and express religious views. I have no problem with Christian fundamentalists as long as they do not coerce others to adopt their faith, try to incorporate and inculcate religion into public schools and other government agencies funded by tax payers of many different religions or of no religious persuasion, and as long as they do not attempt to adulterate science classes with religion, thereby making a mockery of both science and religion.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Dan, TX

      Thank you George.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • dont be a sucker

      your comment makes for interesting debate

      at least with "coercion" one isn't forced to comply, agree, or even listen

      yet in school one is "forced" to learn evolution as undeniable fact

      October 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • withoutgod

      Dontbeasucker, you said that coercion doesn't force someone to comply, agree or listen, yet according to Merriam Webster: coerce: to restrain or dominate by force.

      In school, people are taught evolution because the majority of evidence supports that, and the case for evolution grows stronger all of the time. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for god. Do you want them to teach in school that the Earth is a circle? It says to in the Bible. (note: a circle is NOT a sphere)

      October 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  13. T3chsupport

    If evangelicals actually read the bible, they'd probably have a different view on abortion. Turns out that god doesn't really give a crap about the unborn. But evangelicals don't follow the bible- they follow a person who they think has read the bible, and take their word as law. THAT is why evangelicalism is dangerous. It stops people from exploring facts, or even thinking for themselves.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  14. Dan, TX

    The good news is that if evangelicals do as they are told and vote for Romney it will show that a republican atheist is now immunized against the religious right. Republican atheists can come out of the closet and play an important role in the party.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  15. Franky

    Yes, anyone who questions evolution is in fact stupid. Understandably science isn't perfect but it strives to seek truth, it inherently never assumes it has the complete picture, I'm sorry believing in some mythical magic beans, chariots carrying the sun across the sky, as well as the man in the sky are all equivalent. We would call this in the rational world make believe.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:28 am |
    • Dan, TX

      But evolution likely led to a human brain that is highly susceptible to belief in the supernatural. Undoubtedly you yourself have to fight natural urges to ascribe some events to a supernatural cause. It is easy for you to do this, but not so for everyon. This would have given those populations superior organization and make it easier to sacrifice their lives and provide labor for a cause beyond just helping the rich powerful guy. If so, many people are hard-wired to believe in the supernatural. It is wrong to call them stupid – that's like saying people are gay because it is their choice. They were born that way, don't blame the believers for being born believers. But we do need to work on the science and the education – NOT to convince believers they shouldn't believe, but to educate them to understand that belief in the supernatural is acceptable, but atheism is to be respected.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Pete

      Oh well said Dan!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  16. monty

    For those who posted negatively about this relatively benign article, you should read it again using more of your "open mind". It would clearly be beneficial for you to take time to learn more about the beliefs being discussed. I know, I know – you already think you know enough. There is a clear lack of knowledge of what is being discussed (based on these comments). Lack of knowledge will not be resolved by snide comments on CNN. You have to spend some time and more clearly define what you do believe, and then let someone question the rationale of your beliefs......just to start. Then read more from Al Mohler.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  17. Religion is WRONG

    --------

    October 16, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • RillyKewl

      Like! Like!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  18. groundlerings

    Portraying themselves as victims is a major aspect of this evangelical theology. They may be the most powerful religious sect in the world, but they perpetuate stories of abuse or people standing up for themselves against their tyranny in order to perceive themselves as the underdogs in a fight against an oppressive force. This article perpetuates that myth and should not be supported.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  19. Atheist

    Evangelicals are dangerous particularly today, because the hope for miracle can appeal to the enormous number of now-desperate people susceptible to fall for unscrupulous, self-interested leaders.

    October 16, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • RillyKewl

      Like!

      October 16, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  20. Richard Kaiser

    C'mon people admit it! Politics is nothing but a religious cult divided between the dems and the reps while tea bags give rise to aroma therapies,, 😦

    October 16, 2011 at 11:25 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.