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. I used to be a christian

    ..... but when I was old enough to realize that more people have been killed in the name of God (holy wars, spanish inquisition, etc.) than were ever saved by God, I could no longer believe. How can anyone reason away the cold, bloody truth?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • jo

      People have killed for many reasons, and it is a sad truth. However, this does not mean that you can discredit all and every Christians, including today's. There are the extremes and the wrong, but you can look at the good who truly practice what Christ taught- to love our neighbors as ourselves. These are the true Christians, not those who killed innocents so many years ago, as well as those who may do so today.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Da King

      You never knew God then..

      October 16, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • Anon

      ^ Always with the, "You never knew god" cop out. I can't believe used to be in this delusional cult for nearly 21 years.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Ncampbell

      So are you an atheist now?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Tim Lister

      People aren't saying that there isn't anything good about Christianity. They're saying that the good in Christianity has nothing to do with God. Christianity started out as a prescription for living your life a certain way with all the supernatural stuff thrown in to keep the stragglers in line, just like every other religion that's ever existed. The problem is that the supernatural stuff started taking precedence over the morality which is why most atheists/secularists are so disturbed by it. All it takes is for one person to say "God made me do it" and the whole moral system collapses. That's why I prefer to live my life based on science and rationality.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • *frank*

      "People aren't saying that there isn't anything good about Christianity."
      I am.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  2. TM

    How about evangelicals start with the Golden Rule and "do unto others..." Specifically, I seriously doubt they would tolerate someone else forcing religious belief, dogma, or behavior on them, so WHY do they believe that they have some authority for doing that to the rest of us? Freedom of religion also means Freedom FROM religion and all the bigotry and violence that comes in its name.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • Da King

      Tm, I works like this. Once you know the love of God, your motivation is to love him back and live according to his will.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Tim Lister

      The problem is that it DOESN'T work like that Da King. There are plenty of examples of the failure of religion to stop someone from doing something terrible to someone else, but I'm sure you'll just say that they "didn't know God" or something like that. That's religion ladies & gentlemen: the greatest cop-out in the history of the world.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  3. weareallhypocrites

    fanatics of all kinds are scary, whether Christian, muslim or garden variety political extremists. i do like how this article just repeats talking points without actually addressing the reasons why some fear evangelicals. In fact, the tone is combative and a perfect example of why evangelicals are not much different than the taliban.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  4. krehator

    Some of these people are every bit as bad a radical Muslims.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:45 am |
    • Da King

      Then they were not or are not followers of Christ.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:03 am |
  5. Emilio Dumphuque

    6:5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    Got it? Pray in public and you're a hypocrite. Jesus says so!!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • Da King

      Corporate prayer, group prayer is quite different than private prayer. "When two or more gather in my name I will be there".
      It has a place and is powerful as long as the prayer is in alignment with God's word. If those praying know the Word and are true believers in Christ, they will have discernment of Gods will and their prayer will be granted in God's time.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:57 am |
  6. Me

    "By their fruits shall ye know them" – Evangelicals have made it perfectly clear over at least the last thirty years that they have no concern for addressing poverty or for being good stewards of the Earth. Evangelicals, those most concerned about the forms of Christianity, and the most concerned about making sure everyone else knows how very Christian they are, and the most eager to use the cudgel of government intervention to enforce their beliefs as social policy rather than try to get people to comply with their version of morality through conversion – well, those are the least Christian people in the country.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • Desert lady

      Right on!

      October 17, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  7. Frumpycat

    I'm an American, not a bat@@@@ southern evangelical.

    American's are all about separation of church and state.

    Mohlers whine is that yet again the "poor widdle evangelicals are being picked on". No, the hate rhetoric and outright hostility that they espouse is the bed they must live in. No one is out to get them, but they certainly are out to get others.

    And yet again its about the "elite" and "media bias" that paints a bad picture of them. No. Its them.

    Here we go again. The religious nut bag right has decided that the separation of church and state is wrong and that even tho we don't subscribe to their brand of religion we better let them dictate our lives. F them. One person, one vote, separation of church and state forever!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • Erik

      Well put. There remain *some* intelligent people in our country after all...

      October 16, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • BigNorseWolf

      There is no more question over evolution by natural selection being correct than there is over 2+2 equaling 4. . There is no debate, there is no controversy. The explanatory and predictive power of evolution is unparalleled in science, and has survived enormous paradigm shifts in our scientific knowledge from the age of the earth to the discovery of DNA. Any rational, knowledgeable, and honest person knows that evolution is true

      So when a politician says "I don't believe in evolution" I have to wonder what his malfunction is, and how it will relate to their ability to perform in public office. If they're lying then it shows they're willing to play to the christian base for voters. They'll gleefully vote for school mandated prayer and postings of the ten commandments if it means they can keep the top marginal tax rates from the "communism!" of the Reagan era.

      If they can't take the time to learn basic high school biology, then how on earth can I trust them to learn anything else?

      If they can't take the information blatantly in front of them that's fine... but to say "I know more than the experts despite knowing nothing" and make a decision on that is a recipe for absolute disaster. Imagine the director of health and human services listening to New Age medicine guru's instead of doctors. I can't trust someone in public office that can't either reach a rational decision or find the right person to make it for them, sorry.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  8. toadears

    Only if they are CEO's on Wall Street. Otherwise, just their opinion. They don't control our money or our children's futures.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:37 am |
  9. CommonSense

    "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."
    Herein lies the real truth. Any ,"thinking" person as he states, would feel the same as Dawkins did. Biological evolution stands on scientifically unconverted facts. IT IS NOT AN OPINION. If someone denied the theory of gravity I hope anyone would object that this person should not be running for president or garnishing such attention. The fact that this ignoramus is writing an article in support of other ignoramus' and claiming that they are not a threat typical ifs a joke Hint: if someone needs to tell you they are not a threat they most likely are. This is case in point. America needs to educate on science more now then ever. With these lying hypocrites deceiving the public on science ... what else can you say then to point pout that they are a threat. In this case to American science education.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • Andrew

      Whenever I read that line I can't help but think how smug he must have looked while writing it. "How dare they laugh at us about evolution, well MOST people don't believe in it!" as though somehow this is supposed to comfort us.

      "I am telling you that we deny facts, most americans do, but we're not a threat!"

      October 16, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • bighulawood

      I don't know ANYONE who "questions evolution". But if I did, I would certainly question their mental state – let alone their ability to run a country. This guy obviously gets his statistical information from the same place he gets his strength from the "sky fairy." I have a name for that wellsping... it's called a still.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:48 am |
  10. lordofexcess

    Evangelicals are a threat to sanity .... period. When evangelical thought is not even the majority but even a vocal enough minority to sway national policy look at what it produces a two trillion dollar war. Evangelicals elected George W. Bush and look at his legacy. Then listen to the praise people pay him (and likely the ranting that will occur against this statement). If evangelicals believed in the teachings of Christ above all else then they'd be a wonderful group to have guide public policy. They do not practice the teachings of Christ. Evangelicals hate the poor, they tend to not like nor support minorities as a group (though ironically large numbers of evangelicals are of minority groups) they tend to support policies that aid the rich and corporations, they tend to elect leaders that support building the military and ultimately go to war more often. It makes little sense and that is why evangelicals are literally dangerous ... because they do not practice the tenants of their faith nor do their leaders.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:35 am |
  11. Ben

    This is SO going on FSTDT.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Andrew

      I wanted to upvote you but then realized this is CNN. So I'm writing this instead. ^

      October 16, 2011 at 2:45 am |
  12. Timothy Farrell

    To everyone who has been hurt by a Christian for being insensitive, selfish, rude, cheated, lied to, offended by...I'm sorry.
    As a Christian, I'm sorry. We're not perfect people. We have a lot of trouble really following Jesus in our lives. Much of the offensive behavior you see is really us just being self-centered.

    To those who have rejected the message in Bible, please take a second look. You owe it to yourself to know what you're rejecting and why. I recommend a modern Bible that's easy to read like the Contemporary English Version. This way you don't get caught up on the "Christianese" that most Bibles are written in.

    A little note about politics: God wanted Barack Obama in office. For that matter, God put Ahmadinejad in office in Iran. Some people who call themselves Christians would disagree with this. But they'd be disagreeing with God. It says so in Romans 13. (I'm not saying that either party is faithful to God or not, just that they are there because God wanted them there.)

    October 16, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • bananaspy

      I was a Christian for nearly half my life. It was the Bible that inspired me to toss the religion away, as I realized I had to either make a choice of accepting stories that are clearly false (I'm sorry, but try as you might, I will not accept that Noah put two of every species on a boat) or logic and reasoning. Even disregarding such stories, if I could ever accept that Yahweh even exists, I could never worship a being that clearly has no idea what it's doing with this planet. God may work in mysterious ways, but I don't think a plan that includes Harlequin babies is a very good or necessary one. And that's just one small example.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:45 am |
    • clearfog

      Did god want you to write this?

      October 16, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • Anon

      Reading the bible, studying comparative religion, history and science is what lead me to atheism.
      Me believing in Jesus again is akin to believing in Santa. There is no way I would ever want to be a christian again.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • CR from CA

      As Eddie Izzard once said in a comedy sketch, you'd think that if God had actually written the Bible, he would have started of with ... "by the way, it's round." If there is a God, why was he so involved in the lives of the early Jews and Christians, and then gotten so quiet for 2000 years. I mean, seriously, we had this great disgorgement of the Old and New Testaments, and then ... zip ... pretty quiet God if we are oh so important to him.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • Andrew

      I'm rejecting it based upon [citation needed], which, incidentally, happens with any religion I examine. Generally in science, I could go to the citation, and examine the work, thereby coming to a greater understanding of the world verified independently by others. With religion, I'm given a book and told to 'have faith'. I'm very bad with faith, I prefer a more fact based approach.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  13. Mason

    Being the son and grandson of southern baptist preachers I have seen the dark underside of evangelicals. The SBC absolutely has a right to voice it's political opinion, however, the insistence that their views become integral to the governments and in turn the educational system via veiled concepts like intelligent design is deeply troubling and no less dangerous than Sharia law. As my grandfather wrote in 1960s: if we seek to insist that religious views be taught in our schools we are admitting that our churches have failed. The SBC and evangelicals as a whole need to ask themselves if their political activity is about spreading the word of God or an admission that their churches have failed to meaningfully reach out to the masses.

    Jesus did not become a political activist. He drew crowds and disciples by his action...feeding the poor, healing the sick and yes throwing those out of the temple who chose to use it as a forum for lining their own pockets. Maybe following his example will yield a more desirable result.

    Look inward before condemning outward.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Frumpycat

      "As my grandfather wrote in 1960s: if we seek to insist that religious views be taught in our schools we are admitting that our churches have failed"

      Awesome, awesome quote

      October 16, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • a in pa

      @ Frumpycat

      Absolutely one of the best quotes I have ever read, heard or had the pleasure of observing. Thank You.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  14. Bob

    A god is a god is a god. Different than a king.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Bob

      woops, posted in the wrong place.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:34 am |
  15. c8dem8nkey

    Religion is dangerous!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Bob

      Not as dangerous as atheism. Just asked the victums of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:43 am |
    • Frumpycat

      hey bob,

      And the inquisition, crusades, persecution of Gallileo...oh hey...and didn't you forget hitler in there? Oh whoops...he coopted the church who were quite willing to go along.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:46 am |
    • clearfog

      Communism, as practiced by that gang of four, is just a secular religion. Same result. Kill those who disagree.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Andrew

      Bob, if you're going to accuse atheism of mass genocide, stick to only accusing atheists.
      "My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God's truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter."

      October 16, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • bananaspy

      Never has a causal effect been demonstrated by any historian (much less a theist in a debate) between atheism and the actions of, say, Stalin. Stalin ordered the deaths of thousands because he deemed them a threat to his government –a government that was dogmatic and powerful. Indeed, on could easily argue that Stalin’s position was that he “replaced” God and inserted himself as the national deity with statues and portraits in all public (and many private) lands and buildings. Those that carried out his death warrants did so because they believed in Stalin –because they “worshiped” him.

      Also, Hitler was not an atheist. I don't know how many times that has to be addressed and debunked. Just do the research for yourself. I'm not going to cover how atheism is not the root cause of the evil you addressed, because I assume if you have a brain enough to operate a computer, you can research it for yourself and understand the topics you're making large assumptions about instead of simply rooting for your own side with a largely biased comment.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • Dan

      Frumpyknownothing Take any of the Atheist mentioned They all individually killed more people than the crusades and inquisition and the rest of the killing in Christ name from the time Christ lived until now. Think about that, 1 person responsible for more deaths than an entire religions 2000 plus year history and you have multiples that can claim that and they are all ATHEIST.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:08 am |
    • Da King

      That's true. That's why Christ is opposed to religion. Religion is used by man to gain authority over men.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:13 am |
    • Vynn

      Sorry...Christians don't know how to use a brain. If they did, how long do you think it would be before they lost their faith?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  16. JMonty

    Secularism =/= Atheism. Most Catholics believe in the separation of church and state. Then again, the author doesn't think they're Christian either. Not with all their fancy book learnin' on evolution and all. Hey buddy, we didn't evolve from apes. We still are apes. Look it up, genius.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:32 am |
  17. Mirosal

    This sooth-sayer of an author writes .. "evangelicals are dangerous to the secularist vision of this nation and its future precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy".. Is it just me or does that whole sentence seem contradictory? I don't think this guy could find his a$$ with both hands and a flashlight unless "god" told him where it was. Who is ready to form the Pastafarian Party with me?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Evangelicals, running the government, would rapidly require faithfulness as a prerequisite to voting. Faithfulness to their own particular set of beliefs. Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics and most other "cults" (as viewed by the Evangelicals) would be disenfranchised; Jews might be allowed half a vote, as long as they toed the Evangelical line.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  18. Ahab

    Ban churches and religion.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Bob

      Just won't happen Ahab, just ask Mao and Stalin.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:38 am |
    • Anon

      Banning won't work on the irrational. Education in comparative religion is the key.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:48 am |
    • SixDegrees

      A horrendously bad idea, every bit as bad as what the Evangelicals want – the censoring of all views but their own. They're welcome to their beliefs, especially in America. Just keep them away from seats of political power, and keep them from imposing their monolithic, narrow-minded beliefs on the public at large through force of law.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:49 am |
    • Andrew

      I'd rather educate. I don't want to ban an idea, I want people to think rationally. The problem with religion is it poisons rational thought, so taking an irrational approach to remove religion would be counterproductive.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:53 am |
    • bananaspy

      More rational thinkers than usual on the forums today, haha. I have to agree, banning is NEVER a solution. Educate, to the fullest. Don't close off ideas because they're stupid, make them as widely available as possible, analyze, criticize, communicate, dissect... but never ban an idea.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Jake

      hey BOB, is that your name or is that what you do?

      October 16, 2011 at 3:09 am |
    • Da King

      God will be hear to the end.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  19. jeremy

    religion in itself is dangerous. It instills fears and is nothing more than a control. sorry to break it to you. but we are all alone. no worries, we don't need "god" have hope, we don't need "god" for peace. then again not much peace comes from religious ideals. what has created more wars?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:30 am |
    • Jorge

      I am sorry but you mention of religion as means to hate is really not true in its entirety, some greatest murdering in the last century have been committed by secural humanist, Stalin, Mao, Hilter so please get your facts together, now are all secural huminist like that now way by far, so get the facts right

      October 16, 2011 at 2:56 am |
  20. Michael

    If evangelicals had their way, a 16 year old r@pe victim would be forced to have a r@pe baby, endure being an outcast, deal with bodily scars from it, deal with emotionally DEBILITATING issues that come with this, yeah you saved a child, and you ruined a life, there are no winners in that situation.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • Anon

      This is a dangerous mindset that pro-lifers are pushing. Blaming the victim a la sharia law.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Mirosal

      Oh, and don't forget, she would need to seek forgiveness for the r@pe because it was all her fault in the first place. If one minister ever gets elected to office, we're done for.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:34 am |
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About this blog

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.