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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. Jake

    Evangelicals are "Christian" in the precise way that Bin Laden was "muslim." And they are just as dangerous. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool or tying to harm you.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • EnoughAlready

      "We’re dangerous only to those who want more secular voices to have a virtual monopoly in public life."

      No, I want it be an an actual monopoly.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • scieng1

      Absolutely, people like Martin Luther King promoted justice based on Christian principles. Slavery and child labor were stopped by evangelical Christians. Animal cruelty was banned by Christians. Christians are working very hard to reduce poverty, and support people hit by distasters. Fear them–they might bring something good to your neighborhood.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  2. Question everything

    Chritians are more interested in playing god than following the teachings of any god humanity has introduced. Trust me christians, muslims, etc the greeks, egyptians, etc were absolutely convinced their gods were real too!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  3. Al

    It's the Dominionist that seem to be pushing the most virulent anti government Evangelicals. They want to have dominion over all aspects of American life. I don't mind them wanting a seat at the table, but I do mind them wanting to overthrow our secular government. Their vision for America seems more like a theocracy. I lived in a theocracy for three years. The poverty and violence turned me against any form of government that claims they are acting on the "word of God."

    October 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  4. Stephanie

    Religion is a disease fostered by the weak minded. It requires a very childish intellect to claim a God exists. Its a belief created through the fear of facing death and accepting responsibility. Christians are bribed like children to behave in this world, with the reward of "eternal salvation". Rather than admit to themselves that in the broad spectrum of things, they are highly insignificant, they choose to believe that humanity, despite all the destruction it has caused, is somehow more special than any other living creature. They make up elaborate fairy tales to avoid confronting the reality of death. Then try to push their morals on others, not out of concern for the common good, but because they feel they are doing good deeds that can be redeemed for tokens into "heaven". Why can't you people just be good for the sake of humanity? What's so bad about dying and not experiencing an afterlife? Why do you have to be the center of the universe? You people never enjoy life to the fullest, you just view it as a stepping stone to an afterlife that doesn't exist. And the fact that you're wasting something so precious is actually quite sad.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  5. Lee

    It is not possible for someone to make rational decisions if they believe a god is interacting life hero on earth. For example, to them hurricane Katrina was the god punishing the sinful people of New Orleans, 9/11 was a call to war against Islam by the god, and they are constantly looking for signs of the "end times", the event they are all hoping and praying for, that the world will finally be destroyed. How can someone not be dangerous who is gunning for total destruction of the earth?

    October 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  6. withoutgod

    I will smite all thy borders with frogs.–Exodus 8:2

    October 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • That's Rich

      withoutgod,

      Obviously you have mistranslated, misunderstood and misinterpreted the ancient Hebrew word "frog" - it *really* meant illegal immigrants 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • clearfog

      More greenbacks. It's all about the money, isn't it.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • withoutgod

      Rich, nice one lol. Yeah I was thinking of this in the for of Jeopardy: Contestant: I'll take Bible Wisdom for 600 Alex. Alex Trebek: This, according to God, is the solution for Border Protection. Contestant: What is I will smite all thy borders with frogs? Alex Trebek: Correct, make your next selection.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      I always thot "Bible wisdom" was an oxymoron, sort of like "jumbo shrimp", "military intelligence", and "business ethics".

      October 16, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  7. stanton

    THE LAST THING WE NEED IS A THEOCRACY IT'S BAD ENOUGH AS IT IS WTH THESE WACO'S TRYING TO TELL EVERYONE ELSE HOW THEY SHOULD LIVE!!!!! IS CRIMINAL,BUT THEY DON'T GET IT!!!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  8. Neil J

    Dave and many others fail to understand why there is seperation of church and state. A good reading of The Federalist Papers would help to clear this up. The point is NOT to protect the State from religion. The point IS to protect religion from the State.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jake

      Perhaps. But these days, the state needs to be protected from religion and encouraged to follow reason instead. This is a fact.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Someone who teaches policy at the graduate level.

      Actually it's both.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Dave

      I have read the Federalist Papers several times, starting as a wee undergrad in political science... maybe I didn't read the version your church published 😉

      October 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • PaulC

      I don't agree. The history that I have read makes me fear the religious zealot bearing a pitchfork and a torch to save my soul as well as a thug or dictator.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      There are 2 religion clauses in the 1st Amendment. The Free Exercise Clause protects religion from government. The Establishment Clause protects government from religion. Both of them protect the liberty of individual citizens from the admixture of those 2 powerful insti tutions.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  9. Walter

    These people would be more convincing if they lived by the rules they wish to impose on the rest of us.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  10. William

    The evangelical Christians are just like Islam. They are intolerant and want it their way both politically and religiously. They represent a narrow view of reality and harken back to the glory days of the 1950's or so they believe. In the US both the evangelical christians and the Mormon's can believe all the crazy they wish, just don't push it in my face or attempt to use this garbage politically.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  11. The Gay Man

    I will dedicate my life to making you ignorant, self-righteous, evangelist evildoers 2nd class citizens as you have done to me from the day I was born. In an ideal world, not one more gay child will have to hear your awful lies and hateful propaganda. You have the blood of thousands, maybe even millions, of gay youth on your hands who couldn't handle the shame they felt (created by you). This is what YOU will have to deal with when you face God the day you die. Good luck with that.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Scott - other

      Your words fall on deaf ears. They already think they are victims and treated like 2nd class citizens. Although in reality they are much more like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum when every they don’t get their way

      October 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  12. Erica Goodling

    What if you were to lose your job in two weeks? In today's world of uncertainty, EVERYONE should have secondary incomes! The secret is to find ways to make money, although maybe small amounts, that don't take a lot of time out of your already busy schedule. The more of these small incomes you have, the more it all adds up!

    Google the terms "Simple Stock Cash" and click the number one ranked non-ad site! Go straight to the Penny' Stock section to find out how YOU can learn what the rich already know!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • That's Rich

      Heh! Yeah, just go out and be and evangelical preacher and start a church. The Lawd will provide. 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  13. stanton

    I THINK THAT THESE RIGHTWING SCREWBALL'S ARE VERY DANGEROUS TO THE RIGHT'S OF WOMEN EVERYWHERE AND THEN WHAT WILL THEY TAKE FROM US NEXT????? WILL THEY WANT CAMERAS IN OUR BEDROOM'S SO WE DON'T VIOLATE THEIR SO CALLED CHRISTIAN SENCEBILATIES???? I'M A CRISTIAN,BUT I DON'T LIKE SOME OF THEIR BELIEF'S AND I DON'T THINK ANYONE HAS A RIGHT TO DICTATE TO ANYONE ELSE ABOUT THEIR BELIEF'S OR NON BELIEFE'S!!!!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  14. Jeff

    It always amuses me that people who dominate the country as far as having some sort of religious believe fell so threatened by a minority of atheists and agnostics such as myself.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  15. Cleareye

    "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."
    What a majority believes has no bearing on whether it is true or not. In addition, it is easy for a majority to not be intelligent. We are only humans and are subjected to the teaching of fantasy at an early age. For many, it is difficult to free themselves.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • MagnumPIE

      Anyone that doesn't believe in evolution and thinks Creationism should be taught in school is too stupid to lead our country.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • scieng1

      Dawkins advoates his own religion. He has the right to do so. Is it intelligent? If you understand the limitations of science, making a religion out of today's understandings is no different than what the church did in the 1500's. Intelligence requires both honesty and understanding what is science, what is fad, and what is religion. We see Dawkins, Gore, and many others portraying their religion as science to hide both the limitations of science, and their creation of religion to make money for themselves.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The fact that this guy can't distinguish Richard Dawkins's calm, reasoned discourse from "a fit of apoplexy" says more about him than it does about Dawkins.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  16. jumpfun

    forcing people to have children
    is like forcing gasoline to burn
    or propane to explode
    these are things they do
    without much addtional help

    October 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Lots of people do. But it's not as hard to avoid as some apparently think.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • nk-services

      "precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy."

      Committed to participatory democracy as long as you are the "correct" christian!

      Not Mormon! Not even Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, some Methodist denominations, and yes definitely not Catholic. Evangelicals disgust me with their arrogance. You should be ashamed that you have strayed so far from the true message of God. Peace, Love, and most importatnly, Understanding.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  17. Dave

    Here, I think, is the core issue of why mixing religion and politics is so dangerous...

    Our system, love it or hate it, is built on compromise (something both parties seem to have trouble remembering in fact).

    Our particular flavor of Representative Democracy requires debate and compromise to function. The Founders intended it that way... separation of powers, checks and balances and all that.

    So what does that have to do with religion?

    In political, or even legal debate, we seek the truth as understood in that context of that issue or topic. It is a kind of relative truth. Ideas can change, the outcome of the debate is fluid. One side might concede a few points in order to gain a wider victory.

    But bring religion into it and all debate ends. What Evangelicals offer is Truth. (note the capital T). Absolute, unyielding, DIVINE Truth. There can be no debate. They feel they already know the truth. There is no opposing view, merely their own Truth... the rest is heresy or blaspheme.

    There can be no compromise on abortion when pro-choice advocates are perceived as nothing more than sinful baby killers.

    An absolute Truth, a winner take all philosophy... these things are fundamentally incompatible with our style of democracy.

    THIS is why I support a wall of separation between Church and State. I believe this is something Thomas Jefferson understood when he proposed this wall.

    As a former Republican, I will go one further... I feel the Evangelicals have essentially hijacked the GOP and brought about the current era of political dysfunction and paralysis in doing so. This movement is already damaging this country. Religion in politics allows for no compromise. The final outcome is either all believe as the Evangelicals do, or risk the kind of religious oppression and tyranny that has shown up over and over again all through history whenever religion and politics have been mixed.

    Are Evangelicals dangerous? I believe so. They terrify me. I fail to see much difference between the religious right pushing their views and morality on others... and the Taliban of Afghanistan. The religion is different, the goal is the same.

    Get God out of politics... the way the founders intended... if you want to preach, go to your church

    October 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • MaryM

      Another excellent post. thank you Dave

      October 16, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • snowman

      Well stated indeed Dave!!

      October 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Liam

      Well said!

      October 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • scieng1

      Most Evangelicals fully support the division of church and state, which throws your theories off. Having a fully developed sense of right and wrong is not a threat to democracy–it is the essence of it. It is the basis of discussion, division, and agreement as ideas are dealt with that require solutions. However, to understand what others believe, it requires some rational investigation and evaluation. If people fear the relligous, they should become educated in what they believe. Evangelical Christians teach a religion of love, compassion, and personal responsibility. They are the reason for the abolution of slavery, child labor, and supported the minimum wage and safety nets we have now. is this what you fear?

      October 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Dave

      scieng1

      I do not dispute that religious leaders have done good in the world. The headlines right now are about a man I consider to be one of the greatest of American Hero's... and yes, Dr. King was a Reverend...

      But look at your own words 'a fully developed sense of right and wrong'. Fully developed by what standard? You imply that only through YOUR religion can right and wrong be understood. That is _EXACTLY_ what I meant by absolute Truth.

      The Taliban have, what they consider to be, a fully developed sense of right and wrong as well...

      October 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  18. RichardSRussell

    Ever notice that anyone who uses the phrase "real Christian" is trying desperately to avoid being associated with someone else who thinks that THEY'RE the "real Christian" and the 1st guy is some kind of apostate, heretic, blasphemer, or Satanic deceiver? Ever wonder why God or Jesus never comes down to sort out exactly which one of the 5000 competing Christian sects — each claiming to have a 100% lock on The Truth — is in fact the right one?
     
    Since they all disagree with each other (to the point of saying "those false Christians will burn in Hell for all eternity"), they can't ALL be right.
     
    But they CAN all be wrong!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Cleareye

      Good post.

      October 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
  19. epiphiny - hippypoet

    any arguements had between Believers is therefore as valid as the other due to the act of having belief, kinda making all arguements between believers a moot point as they are essentially arguing the same thing.

    i say we let all believers of all religions of the world fight to the death in an ultimate battle, the winner gets rights to the world religion t!itle and the first loser gets the t!itle of anti whatever the latter stands for .... and from that day by those gods laws we will experiment with creating a civilization based on those beliefs and see what happens – where is leads, or ends...all the while the rest of the intelligent world learn more based of found proof and scientific facts..... just think of the things we could learn from watching the pre-forms of us using an archaic belief to govern and make every day choices... very interesting i think!

    October 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  20. bill

    The funny thing about all this is that whether a candidate is Christian or not does not guarantee he will be a great president. GW Bush was an evangelical and he was one of the worst presidents EVER.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:41 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.