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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. mattski

    It's all about who you vote for. No one is a victim of the other side, because everyone has the power to vote. People who choose not to vote have themselves partly to blame for whatever results they get. Even if you live in a state that requires a photo id to vote - how hard is that if you're really worried about some group "taking over"?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Brian

      The problem is that no matter how you vote the christian fundamentalist control everything (very sad in a free country I know). The best candidate in the world would never have a chance in this country if he did not state that he was a christian. Do we really want the leader of the free world to believe this stuff- Women made from a rib bone, virgin birth, slavery. Wake up America, change a few words and it doesn't look much different than Iran.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  2. Andrew

    Social conservatism is what keeps nations backward and primitive.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • ted

      very true.
      just look at the third world

      October 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  3. themiddleway14

    See the difference is that Evangelical Christians literally do not live in the real world in their heads. They subscribe to fairy tales and take it a step further by imposing this viewpoint through attempting to influence political policy. We have the precedent of Separation of Church and State for a reason. It's a polite way of saying keep you bat_sh_i_t insane religious viewpoints out of public life, and as long as you keep your crazy beliefs only in the sphere of your private life, we will leave you alone. America is and always has been great because public life has been secular. If that changes, this country is doomed to lose it's position of world influence.

    Another thing–this country is great because the true capitalist manifesto is to reward merit and smarts. This means rewarding those that are intellectually savy, scientific, creative, and productive. Any movement, religious or otherwise, that is inherently anti-intellectual/anti-meritocracy is also inherently undermining our capitalistic representative democracy. And that is the only true Anti-American sentiment.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Dan

      You do know the printing press was invented by a Christian monk so he could print the Bible, right? Man, if things were still hand-written, it's no telling what you and I would've missed out on reading (though, your post does come to mind). Damn that anti-intellectual Christianity for making the greatest invention of the last thousand years!

      I do agree with you that anti-intellectualism in religion is a sad thing. I, myself, am a Christian and would consider myself intellectual. My relationship with Christ pretty much opens the door for my intellect to flourish and just enjoy all that there is in the world. I come from an anti-intellectual background that made it seem like knowing Christianity was the only you needed to be aware of and everything else was garbage. Once I went to college and began learning about art, music, and literature...all that changed for me. I love being able to appreciate those things and I pity everyone–Christian or not–who holds themselves back from exploring those things and enjoying them. I believe that whether they speak to God or not, God has allowed us to enjoy them to certain limits. We are finite beings and have those limits. Anything short of that is fair game.

      So please do me a favor and stop making gross generalizations about how ignorant religious people are before you give me good reason to make them about non-religious souls such as yourself.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Brian

      Well said except I think it has already begun. There are too many fanatics already in politics. Until we start to seriously debate and call them on there Fairy Tale beliefs we are in trouble

      Recovering Catholic

      October 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  4. proud gay man

    Isn't the world supposed to end on Oct 21, at least according to that evangelical nutjob Rev. Camping.

    Well I'll be at the beach on the 22nd. hee hee

    October 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  5. Staszek (short for Stanislaw)

    Excellent article. Observe that essentially the same points are
    valid for Catholics, but not Muslims.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  6. leron

    If these people want a theocracy, go to Saudi Arabia or Iran or anywhere else in the middle east and see how it is. I guarantee you they will never want to touch the subject again

    October 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • hippypoet

      not so true.. if they are men they may enjoy the power of women. i mean if they go over there...

      October 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  7. RB

    Real Christians cannot be "dangerous", there supposed to "turn the other check", so obviously this is just an ignorant atheist opinion. Of course if we are talking about pseudo-Christians who have devoted themselves to the gods of politics, then yes, they may be.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • harvard intellectual

      These "eveangelicals" are not real Christians

      October 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Not real Christians according to who?

      October 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Pest

      Absurd. You don't get to invalidate their Christianity simply because they choose to follow other parts of the Bible than you. The problem is that the Bible contradicts itself (both factually and in message). You're all idiots for believing a book that is so obviously a (poor) fabrication of man.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • harvard intellectual

      to mark from middle river

      they are not real christians because everything they stand for is against Jesus's teachings. They support the death penalty, they are for greedy corporations, they hate the poor (Jesus was poor), they will do anything to oppress those who do not think the way they do........

      October 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  8. SCOTO

    How come we secularists or atheists are referred to as an "elite" when drivel like this is written. Any irrational belief is a threat to a rational democracy. Evangelicals are 100% all knowing in their beliefs. Isnt that more "elitist" than we who say there are mysteries to which we do not know the answers (like Dawkins and Harris.)?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • audrey

      "Any irrational belief is a threat to a rational democracy." - Exactly! Evangelicals (or an extreme group) have potential to be dangerous, because they seem to consistently demonstrate their inability to accept any belief that doesn't represent their worldview. They support religious doctrine incorporated as law in a sovereign nation. Those that seek that agenda are very dangerous to the rightful liberties of those who are not evangelical Christians.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Dan

      @SCOTO:

      That's a beautiful line. "Any irrational belief is dangerous to a rational democracy."

      @audrey:

      Your thinking is dangerous too. For one, I detect that you are lumping all evangelicals and their beliefs into the same gross generalization basket. Not all evangelicals are dangerous because not all evangelical views/doctrines are mutually exclusive to the greater good. A lot of evangelical views are rational and quite compatible with non-evangelical views. Others aren't. And it's dangerous to consider these two as one in the same. But you probably already knew that, because you're a lot smarter than that, right?

      October 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  9. Henry

    Whether or not the majority of Americans believe in evolution doesn't determine whether it is accurate or not. The majority of Americans think France is in South America yet if I wanted to go to France I should probably buy a ticket to Europe as it isn't going to move to South America to accommodate American beliefs.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • al

      what the hell the you expect. Americans are a bunch of clueless retards

      October 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • BeckD

      Very well said, Henry!

      October 16, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Pown

      Tool, I've never met an american who didnt know where France was located. At least come up with a good opinion vs opinion analogy rather than opinion vs. fact.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Blendywee

      Doesn't the statistic that a majority of Americans doubt evolution actually prove the point that Evangelicals are dangerous? Their anti-science agenda pervades this country and is harming our educational system. The rest of the world believes in science and educates their children accordingly.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • DaveinCincy

      Science and Christianity can and do go hand in hand. Anyone who's witnessed a birth, watched a sunset, or have fallen in love, would know there's more to us than just years of evolution.
      I choose too believe. It's my choice right?

      October 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  10. Ford

    Very simply, the reason I might tend to feel threatened by any religious fundamentalist movement is because there is, built into that world view, a reliance on some book, some teaching, even if it is hundreds or thousands of years old, to dictate what one's opinion should be, and to be held as infallible. We are all finding our way to live together, to care for ourselves and each other and the earth, and many religions have offered teachings that are helpful and constructive in this regard. But the possibility of finding our way, discovering how to co-exist together, feels compromised when someone says, "This is THE way, and I know it because it is written in THIS book."

    October 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Brian

      Ford- Very well said, thank you. The threat comes from a lack of intelligent conversation and a belief in 1st century literature as the truth. No where else in our society do we follow things of such importance without facts (would you see a cardiologist that was trained in the 40's and refuses to change). If everyone was to step back and take a logical look at the book you would see that it is no different than all of the other "myths" out there. My main complaint is that the christians seem to cherry pick what they want people to know, do you really want to live with the 10 commandments and the results if you do not?. We have freedom of religion in this country, I would like to see freedom from religion. It is time to start seriously questioning peoples beliefs and not excepting the extreme irrationality of religious beliefs. No where else in modern society do we accept outlandish claims as facts

      October 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  11. Peter H

    Evangelicals ARE dangerous, and this man did a terrible job of refuting the idea. The idea that evangelicals are only dangerous if you want "secular voices only" to be heard is ridiculous. *Newsflash* Evangelicals aren't the only religious people out there, although there are an alarming number of them in the U.S. these days... many of the rest of us are religious or at least believe in God and Judeo-Christian morality. However, the difference is, we're not trying to impose our religious beliefs on the rest of the country. The Founding Fathers were concerned about the "tyranny of the majority" and by that, they were talking exactly about people like Evangelicals who wish to impose their "morality" on everyone else, whether they like it or not.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"The Founding Fathers were concerned about the "tyranny of the majority" and by that, they were talking exactly about people like Evangelicals who wish to impose their "morality" on everyone else, whether they like it or not."

      The same Founding Fathers that did not give women the right to vote and while declaring their desire to be free from England could not see the desire to be free in the Slaves?

      Geez... got me channeling my inner Berkley Lib now ....

      October 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  12. Guest

    Please reply if you understand Punctuated Equilibrium!!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I could give you about a 2-sentence synopsis of it, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I UNDERSTAND It. Why do you ask?

      October 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Guest

      Because it speaks to the ignorance of the Christian Right. The stance of creationism along with their ignorance of science in general is destructive to any modern day society. It is counterproductive and hinders the advancement of the human race.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  13. OldMo

    Make no mistake about it, Christians will be deemed dangerous and serious persecution will follow. I have a book that made that prediction over 1900 years ago and the warning signs are definitely pointed in that direction. The book makes some other predictions that are playing out in front of our eyes too. Not too bad for a book of "fairy tales".

    October 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Brian

      Well sir, Christians have been deemed "dangerous" for well over 2000 years. But might I add, the bible is much, much younger then 1900 years. Emperor Constantine had what you could compare to a "committee" at that time, to go around their empire and collect information that would form a "universal" book for all the christian sects.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Chema

    Secularist are dangerous to people who just want religious freedom

    October 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  15. Joseph and Mary

    We'll take the Taliban any day. They are much more Christ-like than these whack-jobs.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Actually...

      That comment just proves that you do not know the truth.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Brian

      No, he is correct. If these people were truly Christians, they would all look like the Westboro Baptist church...Because that is what the bible does in fact preach.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  16. Bubbles the sponge

    EVANGELICALS ARE NO MORE A THREAT TO AMERICA THAN THE TALIBAN OR AL QAIDA. OH WAIT, THEY ARE!!!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • stan

      Perhaps the most stupid statement ever made

      October 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • alimer

      evangelicals are the "christian" versions of the taliban

      October 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  17. hippypoet

    its clear that any person who believes something that states if others don't believe as you do then they are unmoral and should be either converted or they will burn in hell....and so anything that goes against the religious beliefs are evil. One can see they have a basis for there anger but its unfounded if they look at the foundation of there faith and the teachers message... it said honor thy neibhor didn't, well these people who are ridding themselves of the unwanted non living creature has no reason to fear the believer of they are true believers..... but most just follow what there parents told them which normally if they were raised in U.S. was very little history of the religion but more on BELIEVE IN GOD type crap...i would love to stand in front of one of these places where these loser morons are protesting and argue there beliefs, that would be a fun day! ignorance is religion and stupidity is religions step child, born from the human condition.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  18. RichardSRussell

    I hope everybody recognizes Mohler for what he really is: a pitchman, a huckster, a con artist who desperately hopes that you'll buy HIS brand of snake oil rather than patronize his competi tion — or, heaven forfend, even make the radical, thinking-for-yourself decision that maybe you don't need snake oil at all!
     
    Guys like this can provide the occasional diverting entertainment, but never, never, never, never, never, never, never, EVER give them any of your money. It only encourages 'em.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Real Deal

      RichardSRussell,

      Hear, Hear!

      October 16, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  19. Jim

    This article is seriously weak.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Actually...

      On the contrary. This article is precise and to those who don't understand:"the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing".

      October 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, it's weak if you mistake it for an article. But it's not. It's an essay, which is basically opinion, ideally with a few supporting facts thrown in for seasoning. Responsible journalism includes opinion as well as news, also analysis, exposition, features, and pictures. You get pretty much the same mix from any newspaper or magazine as well.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  20. Sam

    He says evangelicals don't want to create a theocracy. They do want laws to be based on their beliefs. Isn't that
    the same thing?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Simon

      He thinks it isn't a theocracy if a majority enforces their morality on a minority through the vote instead of the bullet.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • cheryl

      Excuse me???? Where exactly did our laws originally come from?? Thou shall not kill, thou shall not steal...etc.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Simon

      Cheryl... Hammurabi's Code has those in them. By that logic Christianity evolved from Hammurabi's beliefs.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Cheryl, our laws sprang from the workings of evolutionary biology, specifically from the fact that our infants (unlike, say, colts or fawns) remain helplessly immobile for years while their brains continue growing. Thus we are very, very protective of small, helpless, big-eyed critters (even extending to puppies and kittens), because those among our prospective ancestors who said "Tiger coming, drop the kids and run" didn't leave as many descendants as those who said "Tiger coming, grab the kids and run". Besides our big honkin' brains, it's our ability to communicate and look out for each other that led to our thriving as a species and, ultimately, to the kind of laws we made for ourselves.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Actually...

      Our laws are/ were derived from Judeo-Christian law; that is a fact and it sure beats anything secular humanism or any other religion has to offer.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:01 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.