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. abby

    Extremism of any form is dangerous, whether the extremism be of the left, right, or religious. I am a Christian and very active in my church but truly believe that evangelicals overall tend to be less tolerant of the views of others and thereby less willing to compromise. I have no desire to live in a theocracy whereas most of the evangelicals whom I have met would be happy to turn America into one.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  2. AC

    better to know God than to not. If you want to believe in evolution, believe in it. It's sounds like you are all very scared inside and blame your insecurities on others. That's too bad!

    October 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • chrisg

      just keep your religion out of government and there wont be a problem

      October 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • John Richardson

      You huddle up to god because "it's better to God to not" (I think we all know what you meant) and then say that OTHERS are frightened and insecure? Wow.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  3. Peter

    And one more thing...

    Americans and the world have already heard the message of Jesus as presented to us by evangelicals, Catholics, etc and the good news is that history, science, and popular culture have rejected it. Religion as it's historically been defined and practiced is dying.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  4. huxley

    To me the biggest problem with evangelicals in the US is that it teaches a mindset of not making decisions based on EVIDENCE, rather making decisions based on IDEOLOGY. We are the richest, most powerful nation in the world – we can't afford to make decisions based on anything other than evidence and results. We need to stop letting dogma rule our decision making, both at the personal and national level, and start allowing in evidence and metrics.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • dsinman

      After spending 8 years studying at 3 universities, I have been presented with many IDEOLOGIES of various sorts. I can honestly say that NEVER in all those years was I, even once, presented with an IDEOLOGY without EVIDENCE to back it up and always in the context of understanding; not dogma.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  5. tallulah13

    This guy creeps me out. I don't know if he's dangerous, but he's certainly not anyone I would trust.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
  6. Aerin

    You can practice whatever religion you want in private. Your god can come from the planet Kolob as far as I am concerned, it doesn't phase me. But keep it to yourself. KEEP YOUR GOD OUT OF MY GOVERNMENT.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  7. Cdn IT Worker

    As a well educated, intelligent person, I have two fundamental issues with evangelical Christians.

    The first is that very few evangelical Christians I have ever met are willing to discuss scientific theories from the perspective of evidence. The theory of evolution as described by Charles Darwin in his "Origin of Species" is not a perfect theory, but it has so much evidence behind it that it cannot logically be considered absolutely incorrect. There is ample evidence to show that new species are evolving from existing ones right now. Ignorance of science results in bad policy decisions.

    The second reason is that most evangelical Christians that I have met wouldn't understand "the right thing to do" in moral situations if it slapped them in the head. Any true follower of Christ would be more than willing to pay for the health care of others without expecting anything in return. Why is it that the evangelical Christians are so against socialized health care? It is, after all, looking out for your fellow man.

    To quote Ghandi "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it's not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time. "

    For these two reasons, and many other smaller ones, the rise of evangelical Christianity in American politics is very dangerous indeed.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Aerin

      well said.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • abby

      I concur.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • withoutgod

      With you 100%

      October 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • chrisg

      Great post.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • ket

      I agree 100% some of my wife's relatives are " Iowa Born Again" and are intolerant of any beliefs that do not exactly match their own beliefs. Absolutely nothing is up for discussion. The world is flat and that's that!

      October 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  8. James

    Believing in evolution does not make people atheist. Any thinking person knows that life on earth was planned. I believe in God. I believe that the bible is mans guide to God as told by the ancient believers passed down from the prophets. I believe that some of the bible is in figurative speech while much is in literal speech. It gives us a philosophy on how to live life. Jesus shows us not to take ourselves so seriously and to show compassion to our fellow man. Unfortunately most of these "conservative Christians" do not exhibit Christlike qualities so they truly cannot be considered Christians.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • withoutgod

      How does one determine which parts of the Bible are literal, and which are figurative? The Bible prescribes no means for doing this. What really ends up happening is Self Projection as God.


      October 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    Evangelicals believe that you have to believe in their version of Christ to get to Heaven and that it is their duty to convert people to Christianity. These beliefs are fear-based and very co-dependent.

    Wouldn't it be better to just live the most moral, ethical, loving, compassionate, tolerant life you can, leaving the world a better place from having lived here and just let the afterlife take care of itself?

    To only try to do good to CYA seems like you're missing the whole point of Christianity.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Dan

      Are telling your children to look both ways before crossing the street and not playing in the road "fear based" teachings? The truth is, some things are dangerous. Some things are scary. Eat bad and your health may be in jeopardy. That's reality. If Christians believe that God will judge every person for their beliefs and lives, should we just throw it out because it's "scary"? Reality can be scary. I don't think most Christians base their beliefs on fear, but there are definitely some things that can be scary. You can't just sweep things under the rug if you believe them to be true simply because they're scary.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  10. AC

    Yes, Christians are set to take over the country. Okay!!! How about the radical's trashing town after town claiming it is to topple the 1%. All the while they leave their trash but yet proclaim they are environmentalists. They have no money because they spend it on their Ipods, tattoos, & pot. They whine like teenagers. Why don't they/you, stop whining and make something of yourselves. Oh I remember, that's because you want free handouts from the govenment, off the backs of people who understand freedom and liberty.

    Go to a Tea Party Rally and we pick up after ourselves. We are not out proclaiming socialism and marxism. May be read some history and learn that Christian ideology has allowed more people to experience freedom than any other group because we believe in"personal freedom" and "liberty". Now if you want Socialism, Marxism, & Sharia Law. Go live under it, just don't oppress the rest of us who are willing to work and protect you whiny snobs.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Guest

      Here is a perfect example of a brainwashed human being. Please read above.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • SCAtheist

      Typical teabag nonsense. Label someone as something they are not then attack them.

      Wow the marxist – socialist – shariah people are all around me.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Todd

      Yes, this guy... Prime example. Just sad that nobody is listening to you anymore Tea Bagger?

      October 16, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • chrisg

      TP christian extremist " Go home . The American people see right through your Koch funded extremist party. YOU are the reason the majority of American people do not like the TP

      October 16, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
    • Guest

      I would like to ask you a few questions and I am not being sarcastic or anything like that. There are about 40 million American citizens that are poor. What are your views or solutions to this big issue? Do you support helping them or letting them on their own?
      Keep in mind that many of them are stuck and wish to be saved from those so called neighborhoods...

      October 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Stand against Corruption

      "It is better to be thought a fool then to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Abraham Lincoln

      October 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  11. Andrew

    "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."

    And the majority of Americans are... Wait for it, MORANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

    Seriously if you don't believe in evolution you should not hold any public office, it should be a pre-requisite.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • xrk9854

      The word is "morons".

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

      I can't believe you spelled morons wrong. That is too funny.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Macaroon

      enuf & xrk,

      You guys haven't been around internet talk sites much, have you? Saying, "Moran" is a little joke... they call dopes "Maroons" too.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Shells

      That has got to be the stupidest comment I've ever read!! Evolution cannot be proven anymore than Creationism can. If you want to believe you came from goo, fine. But I was created by a Creator with purpose!

      October 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Chris

      I can't believe the two of you didn't get that the purposely incorrect spelling of morons as MORANS is a widely known internet meme culled from a redneck conservative's picket sign that read "GET A BRAIN MORANS!"

      October 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Chris

      Shells, why don't you admit you don't know anything about evolutionary theory rather than just inferring it?

      October 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Stand against Corruption

      Oh give him a break we all need "spell check" every once in a while. LOL

      October 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • ket

      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111 Hold the shift key down a bit longer you bagger!

      October 16, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Shells Was your creator's purpose to make some sort of joke?

      October 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  12. Peter

    Evangelicals, and most Christians/Moslems etc. for that matter, are dangerous because of their continued attempts to impose their beliefs, values, and lifestyles upon everyone else. If they would only rejoice in the freedom they have in being able to live their lives according to their own religion instead of trying to deprive everyone else of these same freedoms, things would be much better.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Dan

      Isn't that what everyone does when they vote? Trying to impose their beliefs on others?

      October 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • chrisg

      Dan, NO it is not!!! voting is choice. how stupid can you be. Please educate yourself

      October 16, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Patrick

      I am Catholic. For ten years I was a youth minister in the church and was considering the seminary before I met my wife. I've always felt that it is my charge to convey the tenants of my faith to others, first through action and second through words. I have only ever discussed my faith, it's semantics, and why it's important to me with those who ask. I have never once forced my opinions on others, never stopped someone in the street to tell them what they are doing is wrong and why I feel it is. In truth, 90% of the people I've discussed my beliefs with, the conversation started with them attacking me. It started with being told how wrong I am to believe in Jesus, how wrong I am to not embrace the freedom to do whatever I want. How wrong I am to believe what I believe because not everyone does. I have never once attacked anyone based on my faith, even though I have oft been a recipient.

      I will grant you that there is a minority of faithful people who are militant, but can't that be said of all groups? I have met people who are every bit as passionate about supporting abortion, almost to a point beyond reason, as pro-life people are about fighting it. These people are almost always the fringe and no matter how much rhetoric they may spew they never truly wield as much power as people say they do. Their beliefs are used as a fear tactic to sway opposition against them. Michelle Bachman stating that she was duty bound to "obey" her husband does not translate into "if elected, if my husband says Nuke Canada, I will." During JFK's presidential run, critics stated that if he were elected Rome and the Pope would truly control the country, as he was Catholic. That there would be sweeping reform to force all citizens to convert and begin living their lives according to the Vatican's wishes. It didn't happen then, it won't happen now, or in the future.

      As a tolerant, faithful person, I find secular societies beliefs forced on me every day, just as you say Evangelicals, Muslims, etc. do to the world. I do not support abortion, I've been told I'm a small minded person for believing all life deserves a chance. I believe in the Eucharist, I've been told I believe in aliens and I am simple or dumb because of it. I get made fun of when I go to Mass on holy days. Don't you think I am due the same amount of tolerance you accuse the world's religions of lacking?

      Don't think because people share what they believe in it makes them small, uninteligent, bigoted or dangerous. People on both sides of all issues feel the same way about their opposition.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Anon

      Ignorance is a virtue in Christianity.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  13. Guest

    I feel dumber for having read this article. I cannot believe I wasted my time. There is freedom of religion not freedom of Christianity. Evangelicals seem to forget that there are other religions and NON religious persons in this country. Stop force feeding your rehtoric and brainwashing garbage. "Change just a few strategic words and the same would be true of Barack Obama or any other presidential candidate" For example?????????? Does this guy even know how to write.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  14. xrk9854

    Yes, evangelicals are dangerous. It has nothing to do with being "committed to participatory democracy." and everything to do with trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else. You Mr Mohler are blind. Look are our countries political history, it is one of progress. Progress that furthers equality and opportunity; something evangelicals would like to reverse. The good news is the majority isn't going to stand for the demagoguery of the evangelicals, progress will be maintained. Look again at our history; what does it tell us about social conservatives Mr Mohler? It tells us that they are always on the wrong side of history. Their one victory (Prohibition) was an utter failure that was repealed. We the secular majority must remain vigilant to keep evangelicals into a theocracy. Diversity, not religion, is what made this country great.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • xrk9854

      The last two lines should have read: We, the secular majority, must remain vigilant to prevent the evangelicals from turning our great nation into a theocracy. Diversity, not religion, made this country great.

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

    The earth is 6,000 years old. The devil is tricking the world into believing that dinosaur bones are not millions of years old. Imagine the type of mutation that we would have to have if humans were around for only 6,000 years? Belief in literal meaning of a literary text that was never meant to be historical or scientific. Belief in being rich but at the expense of one's fellow human beings. Protecting capitalism when it is making money and protecting capitalism when it is taking its loses and spreading them to everyone else. This is what evangelicals believe in. And if they are wrong then they still get to go to heaven. Why? Because they have confessed that Jesus is god. Now, if anyone does not think that this is crazy and a cult and just as dangerous as the taliban then I don't know what definition of intelligence they are using. We have taliban in good old US of A. It is called the Tea Party and one of its leaders is Eric Cantor.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
  16. Tao88

    Refer to the gallup poll link (http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-believe-strict-creationism.aspx). The poll shows clearly the evidence that education plays a major role in Evangelical belief systems (the lower an individual is educated, the higher the ratio of Evangelical beliefs). With the 10,000 year time line established as a beginning point, it cannot stand up against the peer reviewed archaeological evidence of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia (continuous occupation of that continent for 40,000+ years). I offer that a very minimal amount of time be dedicated to the science of Archaeology before anyone makes statements that are misleading and without fact. But, then again, there continues to be those individuals that come to believe anything someone says when it is linked to a religious belief system. Worse than that are those that believe anything they think.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  17. James Klassen

    It is very interesting to me to read the comments that this article created. It seems that a vast majority discount the authors view basically because it conflicts with their own. One person mentions that Evolution is a fact; I wonder why it is called Evolutionary Theory? Another person claims that Evangelism is a problem because it is an attempt of one group of people to convince other groups that they should change their belief system. Is that not we are all doing writing a comment about this article. I am not an Evangelical Christian but I believe that each person or group has the right to believe as they wish and it is just as wrong to discount their beliefs as it is for them to discount mine.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • Engineer in Raleigh

      You might want to familiarize yourself with what a "scientific theory" is, sparky.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • AtheistDude

      Just because evolution is a theory doesn't mean it is not factual! There is also the theory of gravity but I assume (hope) that you don't try to test its "factual" validity by jumping off a building! you are right people are free o believe what they want including in fairy tale nonsense! the problem arises when these people have high positions in the government that makes them dangerous since they make decisions that affect millions of people based on their nonsensical fairy tale beliefs! Remember Bush and stem cell research??

      October 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Evolution is a fact. You don't have to trust the fossil record; it can be observed in bacteria. And as previously mentioned, scientific 'theory' has a different meaning than every day 'theory'. Education is your friend. Embrace it.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Comeon

      It's not the colloquial verison of "theory", it's the theory in which we say the theory of gravity.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • romin

      LOL people still arguing about evolution being called a theory. We still call Atomic theory a "theory" yet we take it as fact because we use things on a daily basis that rely on "atomic theory" to work. Like electricity, TVs, your cell phones etc.

      You see. A theory starts to become a fact when the more you try to bring it down without success, the stronger the evidence for it gets.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • dsinman

      Evolution is called a theory because that is what Darwin called it as, at the time, it was a theory. The scientific community no longer considers it a theory but retain the name because it is publicly recognizable.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • dsinman

      Anyone who believes that Natural Selection is a theory should look up the definition of an "empirical fact".

      October 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  18. Fnord

    Jim: You're a tool. The evidence is all over the place. The whole "macro/micro evolution" argument is a sham. DNA points to a common origin and there's no way around that.

    October 16, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  19. Anne

    Disturbing. The reason I say that is simply starting at the phrase "wifely submission to husbands". The minute I read that, my capacity for respecting or listening to this guy dropped off like a cliff. Not to mention wanting to tell people about Jesus (thank you, I have heard enough about *your* Jesus. I have my own beliefs.) Treating the Bible as some sort of life plan. Not accepting the right for all to marry, or the right for a woman to have control over her own body. There is one thing he said that I agree with: public voices certainly are alarmed by the evangelicals. Thank God they are not the majority. That, indeed, would be frightening.

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

      Anne that part about "wives being submissive to there husband" comes from what Michelle Backmen said in a tv interview. The writer was just bringing to light the Evangelical movement in the United States. That the writer didn't state whether he is for or against the movement, but created a clear argument for both sides. Which is what journalist are suppose to do.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  20. Muneef

    Yep Evangelists are dangerous creating trouble in the middle east;

    Christians of Iraq Caught Between the Islamists and the Evangelists;

    Even when Christian churches in Iraq have to contend with crime and anti Christian violence from the Moslem extremist they are under siege by the Evangelists of the west who are there to steal away their parishioners by bribing them with badly needed $25 dollars food basket to establish new competing churches. The Evangelists seem to be more interested in profiting from these people's miseries rather than helping them unselfishly at an hour of need.
    Link to read further ;
    Evangelists want to start another crusade in Iraq
    Yemeni Researcher Dr. Abdul Qawi Al-Tab'ee warned of the growing organized Christian movement in Yemen, hinting the missionary work of foreign agencies focus on young youth to build its movement and spread Christianity in Yemen.

    This news comes in shock to a country known to be free from Christians as only very few Christian Yemenis exist in Aden, which officials say that they are not of Yemeni root.

    Meanwhile, the Islamic World League in its report warned of growing missionary work in Yemen and indicated that the missionary agencies have managed so far to turn over 120 Yemenis in Hadramout into Christianity. It also hinted these agencies are also active in Eritrean and Somali refugees' camps located in southern part of Yemen.

    The league attributed the success of Christianity campaign in Yemen to the absence of attention by Muslims together with the spread of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, wars, racial and tribal discrimination.

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

      So what you are saying is christians are trying to BUY the souls with food and money ? Oh my, what would their jesus say.

      October 16, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Muneef

      Taking advantage of poverty to convert people... I wonder why not try to convert Jews the same way now that they are giving Israel so much more with out asking for their coverttion in to Christianity..!!

      October 16, 2011 at 6:18 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.