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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. vp

    by the way, not being Christian or Evangelical does NOT make one an atheist.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Vivian

    This country was founded on secular principles, rather than Christian ones. Why does everyone seem to forget that?

    October 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  3. Mike

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

    October 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  4. chefdugan

    There is no reason for religiion anywhere. Unless, of course, you like to kill people in its name. Just ask the Catholics, and the Muslims. They are experts at killing people in God's name. The Catholics also like to abuse little kids in his name.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  5. sandalista

    You asked what is so dangerous about Evangelicals?
    The answer is simple. Holding back science and progress because of ancient story telling. from the early days of christianity to today, from Kopernicus to Darwin, from the flat Earth claim to the denial of stem cell research, religion has hindered scientific advancement. We would have a cure for cancer and other deadly desesases long time ago.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • o.k.

      "desesases ? Are you going to blame evangelicals for your spelling too?

      October 16, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
    • Zoey

      I agree with you on everything except the cancer thing. I think there is a cure but it's not lucrative so it's not prompted.

      I like that you used cancer as an example because I feel this religious ideology is a cancer on our society. Religion has always been used to control the masses and unfortunately we have a lot of that here in the U.S.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  6. John

    Remember Jim Jones was an Evangilist. They are only a threat to the week minded.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  7. JR

    Evangelicals remind me of Nazis.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  8. Mike

    It's funny how Christians are being portrayed as victims by this article, yet as a gay male growing up in the church I had to hear about how I am evil and going to hell for my natural thoughts and desires. In my opinion it's unforgivable and downright evil. This is why fundamentalists scare the hell out of me, and their voices have no place in American politics. Gay marriage is a HUMAN RIGHTS issue, and as this group continues to try to single us out and bring us down, the people in this country with any sense of intelligence and common decency will tout this group as ignorant and backward thinking.

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

      AMEN. I went through the same thing. I wasn't forced to go to church after I turned 18. Never been back. My father (who is a Christian) would say any time that gays were shown on TV they deserved to die. How's that for Christian "love and compassion?"

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

      Amen. Although I am a Christian, I believe in your civil rights. Jesus and God taught that we should love our neighbors and not judge them. I figure, if it's in both the New and Old testaments, it's pretty important. Besides, "Civil" rights are something apart from religion. Although they should be part of it, in a positive way.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  9. Frank

    Evangelicals are the reason for 9/11 terror attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and everything the USA has lost in terms of both lives and money on the 'War on Terror'.

    How can I make such a seemingly outrageous statement? Because it is fact. US support for Israel is the reason for all of these things, and this support is only continuing because of Evangelical Christian Zionists who believe Israel must be protected to allow the prophecies of the Bible to play out as they want, and bring about the Rapture. Without the support of US evangelicals, the Israel lobby would just be a shrill minority without the ability to steer US foreign policy in a way that has been so detrimental to the United States.

    Blown up abortion clinics are minor in comparison to the damage to the United States and democracy done by evangelicals in their support of Israel, a jewish supremacist nation which has nothing to do with the founding of the USA or the heritage of our founding and core ethnic groups. So evangelicals, thanks for 9/11, thanks for thousands of dead US troops, thanks for the Patriot Act and the erosion of our rights, thanks for the catastrophic debt incurred in support of this "War on Terror", which is nothing but a proxy war for Israel against enemies we WOULD NOT HAVE if not for your propping up of the apartheid Israeli regime. You have sold out America for your blind faith in a book written not by God, but by flawed men with agendas who called themselves holy.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • pat@pqhost.com

      A controversial but well thought out post

      October 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • OneOfTheSheep

      You're looking at the "wrong ball", Frank.

      Throughout history Jews have been persecuted. I don't know how much of this persecution they brought upon themselves, because I wasn't there, and history is written by winners (and seldom objective). Regardless of who first "dissed" whom, by the middle ages Jews and/or the Jewish religion would have ceased to exist had they not banded together as a necessity of survival.

      This brought them, as a people, greater success than the "average citizen" of the time. Instead of copying such success, based largely on affiliations of both friendship and family available to all, others chose to ostracize and blame Jews for a lack of success of said others' own short-sightedness and inaction. The single limiting factor to the degree and effects of such persecution was the fact that the economic and intellectual contributions of many Jews to their respective communities made them both essential and irreplaceable.

      By the dawn of World War II many Jews no longer practiced Judaism, and yet their risk from prejudice was no less because the hostility was now largely against the people, as opposed to their religion. Only an idiot like the present "President" of Iran could genuinely believe that the "Final Solution" of the Nazi's Holocaust was not genocide intended to remove each and every person of Jewish blood from the face of the earth. Having turned a blind eye to the progressive murder of millions of Jews, it was deemed "just" by the victors of WW II that only a clear and strong message to one and all for all time would eliminate all possibility of a repeat somewhere sometime in the future.

      The creation of Israel was this message. It was not, in concept, envisioned by the victors of WW II as a citadel of Judaism but as a sanctuary state where those of Jewish blood could live normal lives without fear. This sanctuary state was created from territory previously occupied by Axis sympathiser states, i.e. WW II's losers.

      The historical precedence that peoples lose and gain territory in war depending on whether they are on the winning or losing side is as clear as it is settled anywhere but in the middle east. They have never hesitated to "play the game", but do not recognize their losses as legitimate. The Israelis are as they are today largely as a matter of survival and self defense. New and greater threats are unlikely to have effects those who hate Israel will like. That is their problem, not Israel's and not the rest of the world's. Suck it up.

      The people of the middle east have made very poor choices in their leaders for a very long time, which is why theirs are among the most backward and least productive societies. Their societies have yet to progress beyond tribal levels, and their justice systems are among the least enlightened. Because illiteracy is the norm, life is emotional and not logical. Those whose idea of an ideal society is to bring back the twelfth century have dedicated themselves to a very good plan that will succeed only if the rest of the world is stupid enough to sit by and watch it happen.

      They will "bury us", as Krueschev promised, with their prolific breeding so as to eventually prevail in democratic societies at the ballot box. Until then, they will remain docile and quiet supporting with their silence the most heinous acts of the radicals of their society. Having no future on this earth in the normal sense, they willingly throw away their individual lives in the pathetic belief that they thus earn an elevated position in eternity with a personal wealth of 72 virgins.

      If there is a God, let it be that characters were mistranslated; and that such reward be, instead, 72 vegans.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  10. OneOfTheSheep

    History tells us that when fanatics of any persuasion gain control of any area by any means they will impose their own values upon that society. That specifically includes religious fanatics.

    Those who are ignorant of such history may well suffer a repeat lesson. Never, ever forget the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of those who sought to chart the place of the earth in the heavens and to understand our physical universe.

    Also fully understand that it is those who absolutely believe "God will provide" are the ones that would, if they could, bring every egg in every human female to be fertilized, brought to term and born and thus inevitably turn this big blue marble into a big brown marble.

    Over the span of human history religious study and actions have made not one iota of progress in bringing about a society where all are respected and have a voice in improving human life in the here and now. They all stew and squabble over each holding a solitary key or path to a mythical, eternal future in which all will be right instead of accepting their responsibility to begin this task now where we are with what we have.

    We bear within ourselves the many, many seeds of our own destruction.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  11. Svenska Flicka

    Don't they realize that Conservative Christian is an oxymoron? Christ was NEVER a conservative, was not a war monger, and couldn't be narcissistic if he tried.
    Government IS threatened by a monotheistic approach. The government is supposed to be an unbiased representation of ALL the people not a prejudiced few.

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

      I'm on the side that Jesus most likely didn't exist at all as a historical person.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  12. rock woman

    Evangelicals as a whole are not dangerous...but there are dangerous ones among them. They are the ones who insist the only way is their way - and that everyone must subscribe to their way or burn on earth - no waiting for hell. They are the fanatics who justify their every action, no matter how thoughtless, cruel or criminal, by their belief that they, and only they, know best. Scary? You bet! And evidenced, in fact, by this commentary, which divides us into just two groups, the evangelicals, and the secularists. No mention of the millions who are non-secularist, non-evangelical Christians, Jews, etc.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  13. tj

    Mr. Mohler misses the mark completely. The problems with evangelicals is their effort to force their religion and beliefs on others as the only way. The mixing of religion and politics is dangerous. Look at any country that allows a single religion to dictate it's mores and laws. Is there a success story there? There is theocracy and financial control over the rights of others. Every person has the, some say, "God given right" to their beliefs until they are used as a means of suppression and submission. See, Israel, Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia, etc. No fear from only religion, Mr. Mohler. Fear of religion used as a weapon.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
  14. 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 12:39 pm |
    • pat@pqhost.com

      Then i think you need to read some more. I see evang's on here saying this nation must return to their god.

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

      "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

      Mohandas Gandhi

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

      To be fair, when one feels that others are forcing their beliefs on them, they are going to act hostile or argumentative. Considering the point of the article is trying to whitewash the fact of religion influencing politics, that is more than to be expected. It would be far greater worth for those opposing the (sometimes over vocal) atheist points of view to research the facets of dominionism (google it and read more than the whitewashing blogs on it)... keeping in mind the term is now widely misused.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • tj

      @enufalready That's always the way, isn't it? wolf in Sheep's clothing? Have no fear. We are only here to help. I don't need you brand of help.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  15. jakedog

    All extremists are dangerous. I find the evangelicals that I am exposed to lacking in compassion, some would pass a person in need that did not follow thier beliefs or be willing to convert. They (the ones I have experienced more often than not) are exclusive and a compromise a cult of we are , right and you are not, kiting together far ranging passages Smirking, over zealous, smug, over weight glutons, bent on making the bible say what the want, more concerned with themselves. I know there are good evangelicals who have open hearts but the vast numbers I have experienced are sheep being corraled for political means. We are all of God, everyone one of us. period.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  16. Always

    Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. Evangelists infringe on the freedom of others to choose one's way to live by condemning the others' choices as wrong.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  17. Sam

    Christians are arguably the single most powerful political group in the US. This author is pretending like that isn't true! Is there are large non-christian political power in Congress or the Supreme Court or the Executive Branch that I don't know about?

    October 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  18. TG

    Evangelicals have often been extremists, unwilling to reason either on the Bible or with anyone differing with their religious views. Many of these have not sought to examine the Bible carefully, gaining a recognition that Jesus did not involve himself in the political and petty affairs of the nations of Rome nor of Israel, telling his eleven faithful apostles that "you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, (and) on this account the world hates you."(John 15:19)

    Thus, true Christians maintain neutrality with regard to the political arena that nominal so-called Christians are deeply embroiled. The so-called Christians of the churches of Christendom have no real interest in theocracy or "God rule", no more so than the nation of Israel wanted theocracy but rather wanted a flesh and blood king to now rule over them, just as Presidents do today.(1 Sam 8:5) Samuel saw this as bad, with God telling him that "it is not you whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected from being king over them."(1 Sam 8:7)

    Abraham, who was called God's friend at Isaiah 41:8, "dwelt in tents.....awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God."(Heb 11:9, 10) Hence, Abraham patiently waited for "heavenly Jerusalem" that pictures God's kingdom or heavenly government.(Heb 12:22) He was never involved in the political affairs of any nation that he set foot on, such as Egypt nor the divisive states of the land of Canaan, but was as a foreigner.(Heb 11:9)

    October 16, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  19. ziggy

    In the article, he states "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 biggest problem is that he is trying to claim that a "worldview" is as banal as liking spinach or not. Yes, everyone has a worldview, but some worldviews don't try to cram malarky into laws to which others must abide. I'm sorry this person doesn't understand that evolution is real, that most wars are unjust, that "wifely submission" is wrong and equal partnership is right, or simply that others want to live their lives without his church influence. Some in the Middle East have a worldview that warrants attacks on others- that doesn't make it okay. Worldviews can be very good, or very dangerous. Christian worldviews invading public life are very dangerous, indeed.

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

    This is nothing but theistic christian propaganda. IF you want to believe in an ancient bronze age religion, go for it. But evangelicals aren't just about that, by their very nature they will push their beliefs on others. american is not a christian theocratic nation.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Mark

      Yes Pat, you're exactly right. We Christians want nothing more than to "cram our beliefs down your throat". Yes, we want to "force our religion on you'. We very much want you to "think like we think". Let's see...did I get all of them? You know, all those trite little cliche phrases that get tossed around whenever the Christian bashing starts. I've been a Christian since I was 12 years old and not once, not even once have I ever tried to forcebly "convert" anyone.

      But, let's be honest here. That's not at all what we're talking about. You know it and I know it. The very fact that a Christian would disagree at all with your philosophy in your eyes makes them a "troublemaker". Someone that's "dangerous". Since when did having a differing opinion equate to someone "cramming" something down your throat?

      Please, Pat describe for all of us the last time you had Christianity "crammed" down your throat. Please describe in detail what that was like, when all those evil Christians held you there while they horribly forced that awful Christianity upon you. Did they force you to pray against your will? Did they make you read Genesis out loud? Did they make you sing "The Old Rugged Cross" and demand that it be in tune? We're dying to know. Do tell Pat. What was that like?

      All the Christians I know don't say a whole lot about their faith, unless asked about it. The message is what it is. You either accept it or not. Period. The End.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • Anon

      Except that Christianity thrives on the suffering of others. You people take every chance to convert someone during their hardest times (funerals, war, homelessness, etc).

      October 16, 2011 at 2:14 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.