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. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Funny how DaveinCincy ran away when asked for the sources of his "statistics". Where are you, Dave? Still on WKRP?

    October 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  2. vp

    You're the ones that brought George to the party and then disowned him.

    Then you brought Sarah and Michelle and their INCREDIBLE stupidity....

    and now Rick with his guns and cronies.

    Just stop.

    go home, do your lord's work, and keep it to yourselves.

    You're all incredibly dishonest and you're being used to do the dirty work of the Republican financiers.

    Did you forget Karl Rove calling you "the Christian Nuts"?

    October 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  3. Robert

    Atheists show contempt for anyone who follows a theistic religion. Atheists make up only a tiny fraction of all people who ever live yet they claim they have the absolute truth and seek to deny others the right to practice their own religion.

    Anti-theist atheists seek to drive any mention of God underground, as they did in officially atheist nations such as the old Soviet Union and China. When atheists are in charge of the politics of a nation we see mass murders and denial of basic human rights such as has been seen no where else in human history. Atheism is not compatable with the ideas of freedom and the rights of people to live in peace. An atheistic world view implies there is no right and no wrong and therefore killing the elderly, infirm, handicapped, unborn babies, practicioners of theistic religions, ect, is acceptable in an atheistic society.

    Evangelicals speak out against such attrocities. Atheism is the danger, not the prophetic voice of evangelicalism that calls all people to love everyone and treat each other kindly.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, just LOOK at the kindness the fundies exhibit on these forums.

      What a joke.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • pat@pqhost.com

      Your post has to be one of the most stupid on here ever

      "Atheists make up only a tiny fraction of all people who ever live yet they claim they have the absolute truth and seek to deny others the right to practice their own religion. "

      Last time i checked it was CHRISTIANITY that teaches all other belief systems are wrong. Put away your silly persecution complex and get a reality check. Would you like a list of christian crimes?

      October 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • pat@pqhost.com

      Have you ever read your own bible? it has the worst atrocities ever. shame on you for saying we atheist are immoral. your own god destroys lives senselessly in your bible – 42 children killed by 2 bears, the world wide flood etc. Shame all over you

      October 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Patty

      While I agree that the level of intolerance is high, it is high on both sides. I, myself, am a Christian. My mother was Evangelical, my father Catholic. The level of ignorance within the evangelical movement terrifies me. The lack of true theological study attained by the average evangelical minister dumbfounds me. The amount of diversity among the different evangelical churches is reason enough to be concerned. The narrow minded belief that only they are right and all others are wrong and must be corrected smacks of radicalism. I am speaking from my own first-hand experience with the evangelical movement. All are reasons I converted to my father's faith.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • vp

      Straw man, victimhood, and pure fiction...

      you hit a lot of the Republican Strategy points with that post.

      It's incredibly dishonest.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • chrisg

      Robert, wait, dont forget hitler the mass murder. Oh wait you did not mention him because he was a CHRISTIAN

      October 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • oneone

      I shall now pray.

      Dear heavenly Father, I pray for you to bring harmony between Christians and atheists. Help me understand why godless trash, who deserve to burn in hell, are offended by those of us who are holy, pious, and god’s favorite people.

      Help the unsaved filth understand that by judging and condemning them I am trying to save them from your vengeful & vicious wrath, of which they deserve, and I approve, as long as they refuse to believe what I believe.


      October 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  4. Enguerrand de Coucy


    October 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  5. John Richardson

    Anyone else notice that this guy and his dead eyed smile looks like central casting's version of a sleazy used car salesman?

    October 16, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  6. enufalready

    Wow... such anger and intolerance from most people posting here. I have only read a few comments that were well-written disagreements.
    From all these postings I would view atheists as being more hostile compared to Christians.

    "Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding."
    Mohandas Gandhi

    October 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Mike

      "He who deceives will always find those who let themselves be deceived" –Machiavelli


      October 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  7. Patty

    They are dangerous. They teach that Catholics are not Christians (irony alert). They tell everyone that will listen that the Bible is the literal word of God, to which I ask, "Which version of the Bible?"

    October 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  8. Jersey_Bill

    This is a very light article and not very convincing. In fact it offers no arguments at all to the proposition put forth. To put an evangelical Christian in a position of power, there is a real risk that they make public policy along the lines of their religious dogma. Why does this matter? If global warming is real, we do nothing to fight it. If women's healthcare is a real issue, we destroy those programs over abortion. If evolution is real, we then promote anti-science thinking that destroys the intellectual base of our young people and makes it harder to compete in the modern world. Our founders WERE wise beyond their age – when they created America as a secular nation. They did. Don't keep the mistruth going that they created a Christian nation when every single fact opposes that claim. "In God we Trust" was from the era of Lincoln – when evangelicals pushed him with the same issues we are hearing today. Let's go back to original intent – a secular nation – before it is too late.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  9. matt

    the issue i have, as a secular citizen, with evangelicals is not their religious belief. It's their insistence in putting those LOGICALLY FALSE beliefs into law. Evolution is the perfect example. I'm sorry that this offends evangelicals, but evolution actually TRUE. Comparing evolution and intelligent design is not justified by any logic. they should not be taught side by side in school. and this science is just another religion thing is a great example of how evangelicals have poisoned the discourse. Science actively tried to disprove it's basic tenants, and over time glorifies active pursuit of truth. religion posits unverifiable things as true and basically says stuff it to anyone that disagrees. not the same. stop pretending it is.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  10. nathan

    Amen! God bless you Dr Albert Mohler. Evangelicals' mission is to bring the country back to GOD.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Religious sects

      That's the problem nathan. Your God is not my God is not someone else's God, etc...

      October 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • pat@pqhost.com

      And yet you christians claim we atheists are oppressive. Bring the nation back to YOUR god. shame on you christians really.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • newsreel

      You have proved without a doubt why religion is dangerous. The author maybe politically correct because he wrote a public piece, but there is little doubt that the anonymous follower clearly want to impose their religion on the country, contrary to the wish of the founding fathers.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • chrisg

      NO RELIGION IN GOVERNMENT. PERIOD. Those of you who that agree there should be no religion in government better vote out these extreme right wing TP religious fanatics in congress.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Kweg Yung

    Just because you believe in something doesn't mean it is real... But what the hell, go ahead and kill anyone who doesn't believe the way you do. God's obviously not powerful enough to kill evil in this world. He really needs your help identifying and eradicating all non-believers! Kill them so they can be saved!

    October 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  12. OrgonTom

    Religion and politics do not mix. Religious leaders twist the interpretations of their faith and brainwash the congregation into voting the way the church wants. The US would be a terrible place if it was a theocracy.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  13. Jamm

    "pattern for human relatedness set out in Scripture" – which I assume by which you mean "one man, one woman, no gays". You might want to check your scripture for some other "patterns for human relatedness". I do believe you'll find several types that you disagree with, not just the one you like. It's funny how the god that you follow hates the same kinds of people you do.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Warner

      Which pattern in the scriptures? While one man one woman is in Genesis, there are others. One man, one woman, one concubine; one man, many women; forced marriage to the brother of your husband if the marriage ends without children; forced breeding between man and woman if you are both slaves and your master commands it; forced marriage of the women of a conquered town. All of these views of "marriage" are in the bible.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  14. FruitsOfReasonNotReligiousNuts

    Not everyone has a religion. If you have one great, be proud of it! Just don't try to shove it down my throat by importing your beliefs into government.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • chefdugan

      The problem is that these people feel it is their calling to shove their beliefs down your throat. They are not dangerous, simply suffering from tunnel vision. They see only what their so called leaders want them to see or they retain the stupid belief that the bible is the word of god. When you bring up the subject of free will they give you stupid arguments about why its there but not quite there. God gave us all free will as long as we agree with them, otherwise its not relevant. They are hopeless and only find out they were buying into a huge con when they die and thats the end of it. No golden streets, no rejoicing with Jesus, nothing!

      October 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  15. Saturn

    sometimes, when times are tough, i just remind myself:
    jesus shaves
    i take great comfort from that, you know? i too shave. he and i aren't so different.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • No One Is Safe

      jesus saves... but gretzky gets the rebound...
      he shoots!!

      HE SCORES!!!

      October 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  16. drm

    To all you so-called "Christians" out there, put your money where your mouths are.

    Go to the person you hate the most and tell them you forgive them.

    Jesus dares you.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • chefdugan

      Okay, I forgive you. Happy?

      October 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • newsreel

      Better yet, let them adopt the children they oppose in abortion, see if they dare, or just easy talk, and cowardly avoiding concrete actions.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  17. Dan

    Evangelicals have the right to believe in whatever thery wish.

    So do the rest of us.

    The difference is that evangelicals frequently want to impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

    That is why they are dangerous.

    Their motives are irrelevant.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      October 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  18. John G. Nickum

    Not all evangelicals are dangerous... but some are very dangerous. They are dangerous to you if you are a free thinker who values your right and ability to think for yourself. They are dangerous if you believe that each individual acts as a free individual and is responsible for their own words and actions. They are dangerous when they believe that their god controls all their actions. "God controls everything, He would not let me do this if He does not approve". Most of us have heard these statements. When anyone's religioous beliefs separates them from reality... those individuals are dangerous.
    Freedom of religion must include the right of others to be free from specific religions, or any religion. Few evangelicals can accept that fact.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • chefdugan

      They are also the ONLY people on the planet that claim to speak directly to God or God speaks to them. You know, like that looney tunes Pat Robertson.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  19. Stan

    CNN's pointless Christianity-bashing article of the day. Queue the aetheist pig/hater/trolls!

    October 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Pete

      Did you read the article? And know who the author was?

      October 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • John Richardson

      So you admit that this evangelical seminarian is such a loathsome jerk that his attempt to defend evangelical christianity was so creepy and stupid that it amounts to christian bashing?

      October 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  20. tosser

    Separation of Church and State. Period. There is no room for religion in our government. The people are free to worship whoever and whatever they want. It's when religion starts lobbying government that normal people have a problem with religion.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
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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.