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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. Pro-choice Catholic Mom

    The majority of people question Evolution???! Really?! Did this come from the Fox (Faux) news network? And do we question the fact that the earth is NOT flat? And that the Earth revolves around the sun??? Athiests do not scare me, but crazy right wing Christians do, including the crazy right wing people who belong to my own church. Thank God these are not the majority! These people try to use God as a weapon to dominate and control the rest of us. They give Jesus Christ a black eye every time they open their mouths. I believe that Jesus was the greatest liberal who ever walked the face of the earth and I mean that as truly a high compliment.! I believe this "minister" would not know God, would not recognize God, and would not understand God, if God walked right up to him and started talking to him today. I believe that this "minister" would condemn Jesus all over again. We desperately need to enforce the separation of Church and State. Jesus said, "Give to Caeser what is Caeser's and give to God what is God's."

    October 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • IKanThink

      I grew up in the Catholic faith and went to high school with the Sisters of Loretto – strong women, good learning, and a good experience. My journey to atheism is my own and happened late, but what I always took for granted that followers of Catholicism live with it embedded in their spiritual life but what doesn't work, like the prohibition against birth control, divorce, anti-choice, they just live around that kind of dogma. My mother still loves Catholicism, in spite of the fact that because she was divorced she could not take communion at her mother's funeral mass. However, I have found what you mentioned, the faction of what used to be called charismatic Catholics, like evangelical wannabe's. They drove me crazy and still do, because the over-the-top stuff of aggressive protestant always made me ill, and I hated to see members of Catholicism go that way. So, I absolutely understand and agree with your position.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  2. Truth

    All kind of fundamentalist are dengerous

    October 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  3. tallulah13

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

    This is a secular government. What this fool should have said it that "We're dangerous only to those who respect the Const.i.tution and those who wish to maintain the freedoms guaranteed by that docu.ment."

    October 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  4. Spiffy

    "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."

    Perhaps then the majority of Americans are stupid.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Isn't it sad that a British man is more concerned about the education of Americans than our own government?

      October 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Colin

      Talulah13 – that made me laugh out loud. Then I thought, holy sheet, he's right!!!!

      October 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Spiffy

      America's problems effect the whole world. Perhaps you weren't aware that the U.S is a superpower and the dominant military force in the world.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  5. independent

    Most recent poll gives a slightly different perspective than that of the author on percent believing in evolution.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/21814/evolution-creationism-intelligent-design.aspx
    There are three main categories: evolution of man without God, evolution of man with God, no evolution of main.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  6. CommonSense

    "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."

    Hahaha!!!! The author really doesn't see the irony in his ownstatement???! Right, a majority of Americans ARE unsophisticated and unintelligent.
    Well, it is very pleasing to see all the good comments here today by the people whose eyes are open.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  7. vlosan20

    I'm a former christian. This type of arrogant and self-righteous thought is what helped to turn away from that crazy, unrealistic worldview.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  8. claudia

    That a majority of Americans 'question evolution' attests to the shocking failure of science education in America relative to that of most other countries. No wonder we can no longer compete in science and math – we are being discouraged at every turn and on every level to "question" the dogma of the church. It is a wonder we have (mostly) come to accept the position of the earth in the solar system.
    My suggestion: the next time religious fundamentalist parents visits the doctor to have their children vaccinated, they should ask how the vaccine was developed. Genetics (evolution) is the basis for all science and medicine. If they are so convinced evolution is just a "theory," they should decline to have their kids immunized.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  9. Boater

    I also find it funny how the conservatives run and hide behind religion all the time. Look at the definition of Liberalism and you will find that Jesus was the epitome of a Liberal....

    October 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • hez316

      yet so few liberals acknowledge him. Some on this post question whether such a man ever existed (much less whether He is who He claimed)

      October 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • tallulah13

      There is no proof that Jesus existed, or if he did that he is the son of god. However, you will find that most atheists have great respect for those words attributed him concerning the treatment of the poor, or respect for others.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  10. Fred Flintstone

    Evangelicals are dangerous to the country because they reject the separation of church and state, science, education, censorship in the arts, while supporting the Dominionist movement by which only committed Christians should be allowed to rule the world, privacy rights and a woman's reproductive rights and woman's equality (remember the Equal Rights Amendment?).

    They refuse to vote for anyone who isn't a Christian with views like themselves, and therefore they are bigots. They're dangerous to democracy and the country.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Maya

    "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."

    So, an idea isn't stupid because a majority of the population believe it to be true? Please google "logic."

    When you believe to have knowledge of some absolutely undeniable, divine truth, there is no room for democracy. After all, you can't vote on an absolute truth.

    Evangelicals are poisonous to a healthy democracy because they are incapable of engaging in rational discourse. Everything they believe is rooted entirely in hearsay. Well, there's a reason why hearsay isn't admitted in our courts.

    Even so, I don't particularly care about the personal religious beliefs of politicians. I ask only that they have a rational basis for every position that they take. If they are going to vote on important issues based upon their own biased perceptions of what the Bible tells them, they have no place in a secular democracy.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • mnunns

      Ditto.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Boater

      Exactly. At one time, everyone BELIEVED the Earth was flat.... Just because a lot of people believe something does not make it real.

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

      Dawkins did have a flaw in his argument. He assumed that people consider Perry to be 'intelligent'.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  12. Boater

    It's really quite simple: There is no room in politics for religion. The Separation of Church and State is there for a reason.

    And, for those that want to practice religion, I have no problem with that. But, keep your beliefs to yourself, thank you.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  13. really?!

    "believing that every single human being, at every stage of development, is made in God’s image."

    Except, you know, those who need help or health insurance.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • The Gay Man

      Or the gays.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • John

      Well said.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  14. Lee

    Most evangelicals are racists.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  15. Lee

    Freud regarded religion as an infantile delusion. Religion is a disease of the mind that is passed from one generation to another. It is held into place because it is taught as such an early age, it is simple biological fact that whatever constructs are put into place at that early of an age will be permanent. Luckily it is slowly dying, we have far more information at our fingertips now and the smarter youth, even those indoctrinated, can see the obvious truth. That these people are liars, mostly to themselves.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  16. stanton

    EVANGELICAL'S ARE THE AMERICAN TALIBAN!!!!!!ONLY WORSE THE LAW PROTECTS THESE WACO'S!!!!!!G.W.BUSH WAS THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER NOT ONE OF THE WORST HE WAS THE WORST!!!!!!HAND'S DOWN!!!!!

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

    "To the contrary, evangelicals are dangerous to the secularist vision of this nation and its future precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy."......................................This statement is a perfect example of how evangelicals take reality and turn it upside down, sideways and backwards. In their minds one plus one equals three or five or seven or whatever they want it to equal and if you disagree with them that means you are "secular."

    October 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  18. who cares

    let them kill em, its there right! let them protest, its there right! fuk em... who cares!

    October 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  19. Lee

    Tell me about Jesus, like why someone who was apparently so widely popular has not mention by any historians of the day in which he supposedly lived? they write about everything else of time.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Jake

      Because Jesus didn't actually exist. See, problem solved!

      October 16, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  20. Lee

    Ha ha ha!!!! "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" "To be a good Christian you must spit upon the poor and pray for the destruction of the earth"

    October 16, 2011 at 2:58 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.