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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. Christopher

    Evangelicals' preoccupation with a handful of social issues helped put us into our current mess. While the house was on fire, they were still focused on abortion. Now that the house is burnt down, they call it God's judgment for abortion. In the end, they voted time and again for leaders who paid lip service to these issues, but who were spending and over extending us to financial ruin!

    October 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      @ Christopher et al,,,,

      Would one believe me if I said, "The 'cults' of the political foundations are far more numerous then the cults of evangelical religions."? More 'Bang' for the most buck!

      October 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  2. Unknown

    Until The Evangelicals allow Muslims to practice freely, gays to merry, and women the rights to their bodies, I will continue to oppose them.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • David1018

      Well said...

      October 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Eric

      gays are allowed to be merry, just not marry yet 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  3. PopeJon

    Lets see, many if not most Christians posting here cry that America's morals are going down the tubes and its all atheists fault. Considering over %80 of America declares themselves to be a "Christian", statistically speaking, sounds like you Christians should worry a lot more about cleaning up your own backyard before complaining about your neighbor's backyard....

    October 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • newsreel

      moral did not go down with the atheist, but happened within the church where children were abused and bishops covering them up to protect the church (and their own jobs). It is the church goers that should question their moral, by continuing to support the same evil organization.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • IKanThink

      Yes, it makes you wonder who is getting all those abortions...until real life interferes, they play pious and perfect and judge others.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  4. grumpygramma

    The Evangelicals I have seen and heard are loud mouth bores who aren't open for discussion on anything....they believe what they believe and they insist everyone else believe it too.I don't admire a religious point of view that condones hate and violence.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  5. DEEPTHOUGHT42

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste.(on pedomorphic fairy tales.)

    October 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  6. Robert

    Atheism is the delusional faith that says the universe produced itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing without a cause. Totally contrary to all known science. Previously atheist dogma said the universe is eternal. That dogma was proven incorrect by the observations of the Hubble telescope and COBE sattelite, which prove the universe had a definite beginning.

    The first cause of all things had to be self-existent, timeless, immaterial, spaceless, powerful, intelligent, and wise. The being theists call God. That Cause is the only rational explanation based on known science. Atheism is a completely irrational religion.

    Evangelical Christianity has helped bring liberty and democracy to much of the world. Christians are ultimately the ones responsible for ending slavery. Atheism is a highly destructive religion, both to the individual who holds the delusions, and to society in general. Atheism has had no beneficial legacy for society.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • PopeJon

      How well did Christianity help bring liberty and democracy to the American Indian (well into the 20th century)?

      October 16, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • newsreel

      the beneficial legacy of atheist are: not killing thousands in holy wars, crusades, not persecuting thousands non-believers in the inquisition. In modern days, not abuse children and covering it up. This is a long list of crimes to be proud of.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Eric

      Stalin and Mao?? Not religious. It's not the religion it's the person

      October 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • MaryM

      Robert, you have a RIGHT believe whatever you want. And the rest of Americans can VOTE as they want. just remember robert, NO RELIGION IN GOVERNMENT, PERIOD

      October 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Atheism is not a faith. Atheism is not a belief. Atheism has no tenets, creeds, practices, or dogma. Atheism is the simple absence of a belief in any gods.
       
      As it happens, many Americans who publicly announce themselves as atheists are also concerned with being able to cite evidence to support viewpoints, which is why we are also fond of science. But that's only a particular FLAVOR of atheists, not a defining characteristic. Indeed, the vast bulk of atheists in the world today — about a billion Chinese — are no more introspective on the issue than, say, most Americans are about thermodynamics. It's just not something that comes up during their regular day-to-day lives.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  7. Doug

    The thing nearly all evangelicals don't seem to get is just how important the right to free choice was to Jesus. He championed that right in every confrontation regardless of the issue. In every case he never denied someone form performing an act, but instead offered a choice between good and evil (whether it was lessor or not). But the evangelical approach is to deny choices, to be most unlike Jesus in every way – we must adapt to their choices rather than exercise a choice of our own. The case that they are dangerous exists within that chain of thought – not whether they are right for believing anything themselves. They are dangerous because of their attempt to be in control rather than setting the example and offering a real ray of hope when someone is in despair. This is quite similar to Muslim extremists as opposed to mainstream Muslim belief. The danger isn't in their beliefs, but in their treatment of "non-believers".

    The "right to life" movement is a good example of this kind of logic – and yet a separate issue. Not one abortion has been avoided in the name of that cause. The standard claim is a pack of lies, and the singular method used to deal with the underlying issue is a tried and true method of accomplishing nothing. You simply can't legislate morality (why do people keep trying?). Worse, they specifically target the only organization that actually *has* achieved significant gains in the issue of abortion – planned parenthood. Through education and a number of other individual initiatives, planned parenthood has been tremendously successful at making abortion a choice that fewer people have had to make over the years.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • David1018

      That's why I refer to the Evangelical movement as the American Taliban. The Taliban takes away all freedom of choice, just like these Bible Thumpers want to do.

      Just leave everyone to believe as they chose, and don't tell me what I can and what I can't do.

      None of your damn business. Period.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Robert

      It is true evangelicals don't want you to be free to murder unborn babies. But that is a good thing to no want you to be able to do.

      A fetus has multiplying cells and thus is alive according to science. A fetus has human DNA. DNA that is UNIQUE from that of the mother. So the fetus is a living unique human being, not a part of the mother though at that particular stage in the human life cycle the fetus lives inside his mother.

      Killing that unique human life for reasons other than to save the mother's life can only be called murder.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  8. Unknown

    Separation of Church and State is necessary to save the state from the church and the church from the state.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  9. nettkitten

    All of the back-and-forth on religious belief or a lack thereof is wonderful: I always enjoy seeing people discussing their disagreements rather then yelling at each other. But, in the end, the question of whether or not Evangelical Christians are dangerous can be summed up in a single phrase: "Separation of Church and State". The founding fathers were members of an intellectual movement dedicated to the premise of Secular Humanism that believed that mankind is the determiner of our fate and that religious belief should have absolutely NO place in the decisions or machinations of the government. This determination was derived primarily as a solution to the persecution that so many had suffered *because* of their faith; the persecution that brought them to this country in the first place. Ultimately we are all free to believe – or not – as we will, but questions of belief have no place in the political arena and the danger that Evangelical Christians pose lies in their attempt to force their beliefs into the process. This insistence provides the sole reason why Evangelicals need to be dismissed from the debate and the voices of the Secular MAJORITY *need* to prevail.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      @ nettkitten,,"machinations"????

      Maybe mechanization(s),,,,,,,,,, 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Eric

      no one should be dismissed from the debate, minority or majority, that is precicely what the highest aim of democracy is, to give a voice to each voice not to dismiss anyone.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      @ nettkitten et al,,,,

      Cultures of 'humanism' have long been a part and parcel of mostly humane life that spans the reaches of our histories. Politics is itself of cults in that they have altered perceptions in their differing concepts. The same can be said of the many varied cults of religions. For one to believe in almost anything, a cultivation of profoundness is the principles of which one finds an abundancy in knowledgable traits found as believable, which others might not view as being believable.

      People who are upon the topmost wrungs of leadership(s), are their followers' adornment of idolization. To admire a leadership in their knowledge of things, is to put one's faith and hope upon them. Hence a cult is established via faith and hope upon another being deemed worthy of political praises.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Richard Yes, Richard, nettkitten used a big word whise meaning she actually understands. Try it sometime!

      October 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      John Richardson wrote on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm, stating, "@Richard Yes, Richard, nettkitten used a big word whise meaning she actually understands. Try it sometime!"

      What does 'whise' mean? Not a big word meaning is it? Maybe you forgot to check your post before letting it go? "Whose" to say? 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  10. Cheap rhetoric

    And a big resounding baloney to the so called self professed atheists. Duh our politicians are not priests but there are morals and laws every society abides by. If you can personally uphold those morals by appeal to some personal secular creed go ahead. But you certainly have your own beliefs and ideas about what laws the country should have. Well Christians aren't demanding anybody pray or go to church if they want to, but they happen to have and interject a good moral voice in this country and they have every bit as much right to free speech as the oft loud mouthed atheists. Amazingly I bet most "atheists" and Christians would agree on many or most of the laws the country should have.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Me

      No we would probably disagree that churches should be taxed on both property and as a business. You also wouldn't support my law that if you try and indoctrinate your silly bible in to my kids head, you go to jail for child abuse. How is that for agreeing, you delusional religious moron?

      October 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      Me, wrote on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm, stating, "No we would probably disagree that churches should be taxed on both property and as a business. You also wouldn't support my law that if you try and indoctrinate your silly bible in to my kids head, you go to jail for child abuse. How is that for agreeing, you delusional religious moron?"

      Your politically cultivated stance on citing to tax churches is something that I, a Christian do find reasonable provided there would be a tax-exempt clause for those churches who give a percentage of their seeded money gifts/donations to their community's poor and needy.

      As for the teaching of children and religion within "PUBLIC" schools, I am at odds and against only teaching evolution and forbiding Creationism and/or Intelligent Design. The "public" has a right to know all there is to know and not be witheld from knowing such ideas as Creationism and/or Intelligent Design within a sysytem of "PUBLIC" Schooling.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  11. J.W

    Wow already 52 pages of comments. It is almost as if some people on this blog do not like evangelicals.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  12. Bev

    Christianity was an integral part of the world view of the Founding Fathers. All you need to do is read primary source material that has not been severely edited. Washington's 1st inaugural address is an excellent example when his first act as President was to commit this nation to God. In the Federalist Papers, Madison stated the whole purpose of government: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." They too were considered 'dangerous men' by the British who wanted to suppress true freedom of expression.
    All viewpoints should be welcome at the table of discussion, not just the secularist who is trying to drown out all opposition in the name of 'separation of church and state." When evangelicals ask for a seat at the table and some react in such a violent, knee jerk way, it is a sad indictment on the lack of freedom of expression that exists on the left. Only your voice can be heard; no one else is allowed to speak.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • David1018

      That's because when you "sit" at the table you want to dominate the conversation and try to "covert" us. We don't need converting. Just do what you what, and we'll do what you want. Stop sticking your nose in other peoples lives.

      That's why you aren't welcome. Not because of your choices, but because you try to crap your choices down my throat every change you get.

      I have a life. Go get your own.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  13. sandcanyongal

    What hypocrites. God is the earth, not false gods like evangelists. They are against killing fetus' but will trash the earth. Go to a wind turbine construction site. The bulldozers kill all of God's children living in the trees, on the land and under the ground. It is murder. Yet these nuts worry about abortion? Man is more like the monsters on War of the Worlds, taking everything over for ourselve.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      I saw the movie, 'Avatar' too and I am in agreement with your words! 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  14. tcaud

    Psycho.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You should be aware that the name closest to the word "psycho" is "tcaud". Was that your intention?

      October 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  15. bookgirl

    Yes, the least Christ-like people on Earth, bar none. Jesus would never shove his beliefs down other's throats.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • Reading Books Correctly Helps - if its in Context

      Book Girl, oh the contrary, if you read, he did not "shove it down their throats" however he did show them what needed to be done correctly. It was their own demise to be lead astray and choose the path they wanted to go down. God does not take sin lightly, but he will not force you to believe in his beliefs. I suggest you sit down with somebody who knows the difference between text and context and read the bible in the manner it was written. Not pick and choose the verses of scripture in hopes the ignorant follow.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      Jesus wouldn't shove his beliefs down the throats of someone because he didn't exist. Only those stupid enough to believe in him push the beliefs down the throats of others.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  16. Unknown

    Iran is what you get when you put the clergy in power.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Actually...

      Peace in your heart is what you get when you put Jesus in power... and that's just for starters. But don't misunderstand; there will still be trials.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • sybaris

      If the [unoriginal] ramblings of a dead 2000 year old megalomaniac is all that stands between you criminal behavior then you really have deeper issues.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • David1018

      Just another diagreement over who has the better "Imaginary Friend"

      October 16, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • withoutgod

      To: Actually

      Matthew 10:34 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

      Try again.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • newsreel

      For actually: Peace in your heart eh ? But couldn't resist a threat all the same, I don't see any peace from you, just hatred to the point of threatening others with your imaginary trials. If there was any trial, it should be for the organization perpetrating crusades, inquisistions that killed thousands of innocents, then persecuting scientists, then benefit from the fruits of science, and abusing children and covering it up. The trial will be for this organization and all those who support and make it powerful.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  17. Charms

    Hey, Albert Mohler [author]
    Yes Christian evangelicals are dangerous.
    They blow stuff up
    decapitate people
    hijack planes and slam them into buildings
    cut off a thieve's arm
    treat women as 2nd class citizens, etc.
    We ought to be afraid of them!
    What a joke you are.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Colin

      Charms, you understand he argued against that proposition, right?

      October 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • sandcanyongal

      Save a fetus, kill the abortionist. They are crazy!

      October 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • David1018

      No, they just blow up abortion clinics. In most religions the "ends always justify the means"

      October 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  18. Richard Kaiser

    John ECCLES – Nobel Laureate in Medicine and Physiology

    “If I consider reality as I experience it, the primary experience I have is of my own existence as a unique self-conscious being which I believe is God-created.” (Eccles, as cited in Margenau and Varghese 1997, 161).

    October 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  19. Actually...

    @ Real Deal – He said it. Check it out at Biblegateway.com.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  20. Jeff Slammer

    In answer to the question "Are evangelicals dangerous", I have just two words: Westboro Baptists.

    October 16, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Actually...

      Westboro Baptists only speak for themselves. I would be surprised if 1% of evangelicals agree with them. I do not know any who do.

      October 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • PopeJon

      Gee "actually", I have not herd one major Christian group denounce the Westboro Baptists as being non Christian. Yet I do constantly hear Christians demand that all Muslims be marching in the streets everyday denouncing Muslim extremists....

      October 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Cronus

      Within the Christian community, the Westboro Baptists are recognized as a fringe; atheists need to recognize that there are fringe elements amongst the secular also. More lives have been taken by godless beliefs then the other way around.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • PopeJon

      Cronus, prove it. Both your claims....

      October 16, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
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