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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. Victor

    Yeah, right Mr. Mohler. And pigs can fly

    October 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  2. God Illusion

    Seriously? There are really people here unwilling to accept evolution, but happy to believe in fairy tales, myths and childish wish thinking about gods and angels? I'm sorry to say it, but yes, it is stupid, immature, childish and delusional. Grow up for goodness sake.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  3. Ed Wood

    "These Baptists are stupid! Stupid! Stupid!"

    October 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  4. Dave

    O Jesus, save us from your followers!

    October 16, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  5. Robrob

    "The article treated statements about wifely submission to husbands... as bizarre and bellicose."

    But he is against burkas so it's all OK.

    "even as polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution."

    Not true of course but regardless, the vast majority of scientists and every single major scientific body accept evolution as absolute fact. Which opinion carries more weight?

    "Are evangelicals dangerous? Well, certainly not in the sense that more secular voices warn."

    Yes, because *so* many secular humanists have assassinated doctors or blown up clinics.

    "To the contrary, evangelicals are dangerous to the secularist vision of this nation and its future precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy."

    A secular democracy can easily contain theological elements. A theological democracy cannot contain secular elements. To which should we aspire?

    "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."

    Which explains the murder of doctors, bombing of clinics and your enthusiastic support for war and the death penalty?

    "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."

    Cough, Billy James Hargis, cough, Jimmy Swaggart, Marvin Gorman, Jim Bakker, cough, cough. Mike Warnke, Bob Moorehead, Roy Clements, cough, cough, cough, John Paulk, Douglas Goodman, Ted Haggard, Paul Barnes, Earl Paulk, Coy Privette, Michael Reid, Joe Barron, Todd Bentley, George Alan Rekers, Eddie L. Long, Albert Odulele, etc...

    October 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • chrisg

      Great post Rob

      October 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  6. Fug Xu

    Interesting

    All the bickering over religion vs. secularism and all the evils they bring to the country and the world are pointless. Religion is just a construct created by humans to control a group of people; it shares so much with "secular" government it's laughable. The only perceived difference between the two is who has nuclear power; religion gives that power to a deity(although a person or group really controls it), the secular government, power resides in a person or group. Religion is not wrong, but neither is a secularism. The masses of both factions abdicate control to the small core elite. The hierarchical system is the status quo that fractal law supports...it is nature. We will always be controlled by a small group whose sole purpose is to make sure we have enough resources to keep them in power. This whole issue is just about which group of elites come into power.

    Now, someone commented about religion being the cause of all wars, but they fail to realize that the cause is life itself. The laws of the universe force it to be ruthless and unforgiving. The main culprit? The laws of conservation of energy and mass, along with entropy, ensure all life will have to consume itself to survive in a sphere of limited resources. One organism kills the another to use its energy...even stellar bodies are bound by this rule. The great cosmic catch 22...you can live, but only if you cause death! Now look at what happens when large groups of organisms vying for control over the same small sphere of resources come into contact; WAR. Ideological reasons are the labels...the clothing we choose to dress our conflicts in. Since we are sentient beings, we need labels to keep our thoughts tidy and ordered. So, religion is not the underlying source of our conflicts, it is just one of many triggers for it.

    So what triggers our need for conflict? Nature again is to blame! Faith, hope, belief...all based on intangible truths only a sentient mind comes up with, but only because nature wrote the operations manual on how our minds function. We believe we are superior to the next guy; we are superior, so we want to make him our servant and take his resources for our own...manifest destiny is a good example. We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst; hope prepares us to endure any hardships to fulfill the mandates of our beliefs. My faith gives me strength; faith is the rebar of thought, and it allows us to follow through with our beliefs no matter the hardships. Once we have all these concepts in alignment, it triggers our need for conflict, and wars follow. These concepts arose because of our innate fear of all the natural mechanisms we did not understand, natural processes that we feared. From these fears, we grouped together and formed religions to try and explain the unknowable. We gave sentience to various aspects of nature and accepted it without question, because to do so would mean we really are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Of course, all of this is based on natures attempt to adapt our minds to external stressors, so we don't become manic and entropic beings. Nature does screw up a lot doesn't it? Natural selection is just..oh, I made an error, let me kill this off and start again! lol.

    Now, are there beings of pure thought? Why not? Just because our science is still too primitive to detect these beings, it does not mean they do not exist. We haven't even come up with a unifying theory, so how much "faith" do we place in our knowledge of what is? How can anyone say without a doubt that people who do believe in these beings are insane? Maybe we won't be able to perceive higher planes until we discover this new unifying theory of everything. I just hope we don't off ourselves before we can discover it, because if the existence is just us fighting over b s, then the universe is just one giant pile of fail.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Fug Xu

      Correction:

      *because to do otherwise would mean we really are unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • John Richardson

      An amazing post, at least insofar as you wrote all this w/o running afoul of the word filter. Otherwise, well, have you ever noticed that you can't knock a soap bubble out of the park no matter how hard you swing?

      October 16, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  7. PaulC

    History shows that horrendous atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. Not to ignore secular atrocities but too often men have used the name of religion to further their own gains and ambitions. The greatest moment in history was when the catholic church lost total power over people's live and the power to kill and jail NON-BELIEVERS. God save me from organized religion. Politicians, dictators and warlords have nothing on a religious leader who talks to and for God.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  8. Kyle

    Religion of any kind has no place in government, we'll have witch burnings on every street corner, we all know what religion in government has done to the middle east. countries bickering and killing one another over nothing. women getting stoned to death for disobeying a man she was forced to marry. know what? taking evangelicals seriously MUST be a sign the world is coming to an end.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  9. TheMovieFan

    Yes.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  10. A. Wolf

    I think it's reasonably clear when the only or preferred argument for passing a law is based in religion, that the proponent wants others to live underneath the rules of their theocratic faith. Nobody tries to pass laws to install a monument to the Dao De Jing or Hammurabi's Laws or a list of Scientific Laws in a courthouse. Nobody other than evangelicals tries to remove material from science and history textbooks because it disagrees with their Biblical stories.

    The only reason you don't see pushing for an outright theocracy is that gains can only be made in small increments. Rather than ban abortion, which would fail, they ban individual procedures. Rather than demand that evolution be replaced with creationism, they suggest failing to appeal to magical thinking in the classroom is "not examining all the evidence". Censorship is "protecting children and families". Criticism of churches is "hate speech". Not allowing tax-exempt churches to tell their congregation how to vote is "silencing free speech". And so on.

    We have plenty to fear if we allow one religious viewpoint to chip away at the fabric of law. Arguments based on unprovable religious precepts have a place in the church but not in the design of law which governs people of ALL faith.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • lokiman301

      Bravo sir! You are absolutely correct.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  11. Josh

    I love what Dr. Moehler does here...Just by mentioning Jesus he starts up so many conversations where people are talking about God. His name will be glorified by all....So thanks for puting the word out there but just so you know he doesnt need your opinon to get the word out.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  12. David1018

    American Evangelicals = American Taliban.

    I really don't see the difference. Both groups believe they have the right to tell other people how to live because they think God wants them too.

    Last time I checked, it was a sin to propose to know the will of God.

    Have people forgotten that?

    October 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • enufalready

      "Evangelicals = the Taliban"
      ... Really? Seems like you might want to rethink this statement.

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

      The focus on the Taliban and evangelicals is to govern your life and bedroom.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  13. enufalready

    So much fear and anger in these postings. I can't wait to hear all the hateful and arrogant things people reply to this post.

    "Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools."
    Albert Einstein

    October 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Get Real

      @enufalready, ""Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools."

      So much for your vengeful, punishing-for-eternity "God" then...

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

      @getreal:

      You need a hug.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  14. OregonTom

    Religion in politics just leads to more partisanship.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  15. Benzin

    Somebody got called stupid by Dawkins and is upset about it. Evolution has mountains of evidence to support it and there are equally large mountains discrediting ID/Creationism, so yes, people who deny evolution ARE STUPID.

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

      Mountains of evidence only when speaking of evidence that would support a theory that is foundationally strong. One must assume evolution to be true in order to have mountains of evidence that is wholly dependent on a shaky assumption.

      Evolution within species? Absolutely proven and verifiable. Evolution between species? Not proven and little actual evidence to support the theory.

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

      Come on, Jim, you're just throwing out denialist FUD. your formal language only makes you look pompously ignorant.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Jim Mountains of evidence for all of it. Indeed, there is no way to prevent evolution within species from becoming evolution from one species to another.

      But here's a query: there's a lot of "junk" dna that codes for nothing in the genotypes of species and closely related species not only are massively similar genetically for those genes that do code for observable traits (as one would expect), but also in their junk dna. Why would that be? Indeed, under Intelligent Design or any other creationist tale, why would there be junk dna at all?

      October 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  16. Sheila

    Oh here we go again CNN. America is moving into communism under the guise of socialism. Many Americans in daily life from librarians, teachers, court judges and others are practicing communistic principles in dealing with others while claiming they do not believe in communism. I wish they would take a look at their ways. If I had a choice between Christianity a life of God with Love, Mercy, and Charity, and the best kind of Freedom, or the choice as to how America is now and becoming, I would definitely choose Christianity. But I am talking of true Christianity, not religion that is dictated and controlled by humans. A true relationship with the creator with everyone wanting the better life submitting to living by the teachings of Jesus Christ to be humble, gentle, to love one another, to not submit to wrongful teachings of men, to honor God, to raise our families in God, to love our neighbor in word and deed, to help the sick and brokenhearted, to take care of the poor, needy and disadvantaged. Much better than the cold nature many Americans exhibit today.

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

      YES!!!

      October 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • John Richardson

      IOW, Sheila, you are talking about a Christianity that VERY few practice and certainly not the kind represented by Mohler and his ilk.

      What are the specific communist policies you think librarians and other frightening people are following?

      Interesting that you see christianity and freedom as opposed to one another.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Andrea M

      "to honor God, to raise our families in God" North Korea called, they want you to honor the Great Leader.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • needNewGov

      I totally agree that if people lived the way Jesus and God wants us to live, the world would be a better place. But that will never happen unfortunately. Power, greed and organized religion is tearing this world apart slowly and steadily.

      When organized religion (Christianity, Islam, whatever) gets involved in politics it corrupts.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  17. Kyle

    Evangelists vote to remove choice from america, to force the population to do and behave how their particular religion dictates. Secularists vote for choice, to give equal voice to every side of an argument so that people can make their own informed decisions. That is ignoring the obvious lapses in epistemology, in reasoned thought, in science in general.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Michael

      Secularists support any choice that agrees with their worldview, and adamantly oppose any view that does not.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Kait

      Michael, it isn't the secularists attacking religious freedom. It's you guys. You don't want any non-Christians to even exist.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • atheists are people too

      evangelicals oppose other world views... "You are wrong and I will pray for your soul."
      Secularists embrace all ideas...."You are wrong but that's just my opinion."

      October 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  18. Doug

    I was raised in a sourther baptist church. Learned about armageddon, the antichrist, that we are living in the end times, and that science isn't real. I'm glad I got over it. These guys are all businessmen at heart, and use fear to control the masses. I resent these people pushing there agenda on the rest of us. With the advent of science, christianity has lost its relevance.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Anon

      Christianity has always been primitive BS.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Michael

      Science was going strong 2000 years ago, my friend. Ever hear of Archimedes, Hippocrates, Pythagoros or Herophilus? Those who want to decry others' views will turn to bogus history in a hurry. But here we call you out.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Kait

      No, those were not scientists. You apparently don't know what science is.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  19. sargeanton

    Wow - having read about a hundred comments, I can see why this country is going down the drain so fast.

    October 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  20. Neeneko

    A bit of history to remember.. when the US was 99% Christian, inter-sect violence and oppression was.. well.. pretty horrific. These evangelicals, if they are ever successful in their immediate goals... who do you think they will turn all that power on? As soon as they feel confident that they have stopped the 'non chrisitian' movement, they will go right back to forcing other sects of Christianity to followTHEIR interpertation. power.. that is what this is about, and always has been.

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

      Wow, the lack of historical knowledge among atheists is astounding. Back to high school for you, my friend. The US has never been 99% Christian. It has had strong regional violence ( the civil war) but it is remarkably free of inter-sect violence. And the greatest violence of the last 100 years was practiced by the atheistic states of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Pol Pot and the boys were not far behind. That is not to say every religious group has not had its share of ugly past – but your buddies have been some of the worst.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Anon

      Up yours you lying christard.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • chrisg

      Wow Michael, talking about lack of historical knowledge , you take the cake. HITLER was christian. Google it stupid

      October 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Michael http://thehistoricpresent.wordpress.com/2008/07/02/why-the-puritans-persecuted-quakers/

      If classical religious persecution wasn't as common in the American colonies as it had been in Europe, it's largely because the whole point of the colonization of America was an experiment in religious peace through territorial segregation. But if you went back in time and tried to evangelize your version of christianity amongst the puritans, you'd probably at a minimum be publicly whipped till you were within an inch of death.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:30 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.