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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. NJBob

    I question whether anyone who is religious can really embrace democracy. After all, the very concept of democracy is anathema to most religions, which tend to be highly autocratic. Many on the Religious Right are fond of speaking about freedom, but their real commitment is to their own freedom to impose their beliefs on everyone else. I reject religion precisely because it's autocratic, intellectually stifling, irrational, and untrue.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  2. Jim

    A self-serving circular argument in this article. The point is that this country is about freedom of religion and freedom _from_ religion.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  3. Steve

    Hard to believe how so many of those who dislike Christians are so poorly informed and uneducated on spiritual and religous matters, tale positions based on emotion and resort to typical leftist hate methods. What do you people do for a living? Scary to think that any of you are in a profession requriing deep thought, discernment, analysis or judgement or directly responsibility for the well being of other human beings. Former non-believer, Jesus follower.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Joe

      Not all of us can be ditch diggers like you.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      "uneducated on spiritual and religous matters" being as there are so many there is a great difference in being educated in them and picking a single one.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      Steve, they had a study that was mentioned here some time ago that in general atheists knew more about the bible than regular church-goers. You might want to go look up that study.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Brad

      Ya know, as soon as I heard the concept of Christianity, I guess my Mensan mind rather discounted the whole notion. Let's review what Christianity is: It is the belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically drink his blood and telepathically accept him as your master so he can remove an evil force from your soul that was inflicted upon humanity because some rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. Yeah, uh huh, make perfect sense!

      October 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      Suffer the children yet to be born and those who are yet young for it was of their country's fathers that they will pay the price,,,,of fooleries upon the nation.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Real Deal

      Steve - "positions based on emotion"

      There is nothing as emotion-based as the euphoria that believers talk about when they mention their "relationship" and communication with Jesus/God. It is quite seductive and addictive, but is 100% emotions.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • settino

      you're the one that believes in the super natural. Feeble minded people and sheep believe in this cr@p

      October 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  4. B.A. Jennings

    Message to ALL Christians: Less talk, more action. Invite a tax collector to dinner. Befriend a leper. Defend an adultress. Lay down your life for your friends.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      2Peter 3:8, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

      Celestial Cosmology and the Cellular Cosmologies are of GOD and HIS Sons Kingdomly Domains. We are but their buildings and temples. It is in our consumptions that the Sons of God endure and do live inside us.

      1Cr 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building.

      1Cr 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

      Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is inside/within you.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  5. VoiceofSanity

    "...a majority of Americans question evolution.". Really? What universe are you in? Evangelical Christians are not only the most dangerous group to democracy, they are the most dangerous group to human intelligence. They, like their 2000-year-old religious cult, are the most evil threat to the human species as a whole.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Steve

      Wow, great example of irrational, emotion based thought process

      October 16, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      Being that we are 26th and falling in the world in terms of science and math, I think that still having a majority believe in evolution is surprising.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Richard

      I suppose that Mohler thinks that evangelicals comprise the majority of Americans. That is the epitome of arrogance and quite delusional.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Y'know, it's foolish to quibble over WHETHER a majority of Americans doubt evolution when you can just google it. I did, and surveys show that those who accept evolution as a purely naturalistic process are way down at about 1 in 6 Americans.
       
      I hasten to add that there was a time when practically everyone thot the world was flat, too. Fortunately, science is based on fact, not how many people have the minimal competence necessary to text I-D-I-O-T to "Dancing with the Stars".

      October 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Real Deal

      Steve - "Wow, great example of irrational, emotion based thought process"

      Sorry, bud, religionists have the lion's share of the market of irrationality and emotionalism... in fact it's *all* you have to base your supernatural as-sertions on.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  6. settino

    LOL!!! Americans are as bad and dangerous as Arabs because of their religious beliefs. The rest of the world stopped believing in this cr@p a while back. Tooth ferries, santa , god, all the same author.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  7. GOC

    PSALM 14:1

    October 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Badgers 59-7

      October 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  8. God

    Jesus is right.

    And please, don't forget to kill your children when they are stubborn:

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21

    If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father; or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, "This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

    As long as you sick phux believe in the bible, that genocide is OK when a man in the sky says so, our species is doomed to regress as more of us are made.

    Science cannot explain everything yet, but remember when disease was caused by evil spirits, the earth was flat, and bees got their honey from heaven?

    Come on, give it up!

    October 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Ephasis

      @god, you should really try to quote a piece of the Bible that applies to your agument. You can make and arguement out of anything when it is taken out of context. If you had done even a modest amount of real study of the Bible, you would know that Christians do not advocate what you have portrayed by perverting scripture.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Jose Gonzalez

      NEWS FLASH: The Catholic Church is the Mother of Science; how can religion give birth to science? If it was not for those so call "dark ages" science would have never got off the runway... (Read Thomas E. wood; " HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILT WESTERN CIVILIZATION)

      October 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  9. big Kitchen

    The question is ridiculous outside of being a danger to the gates of hell.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  10. Douglas Messer

    "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."

    I don't agree with Dawkins too often, but he is right in this case. Anyone who has raised their hands when asked if they do not believe in evolution is inherently unqualified to be president of our country. If one doesn't understand science and technology and accept their basic principals, then they are incapable of leading a nation in the twenty-first century.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • JEM

      If abortion is ever banned, it will bring with it a ban on Birth Control Pills, Norplants, IUD's, Contraceptive Shots and Contraceptive Patches. Google "Birth Control Pill Abortion" and check out the first five or ten sights to see what I mean.

      Those who would make it happen are already organized and have lawyers ready to go. In court, they can probably win.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  11. martinipaul

    Anyone up for pistols at dawn?

    October 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  12. Jason

    "Evangelicals are only dangerous if you're a rational person. As long as you're crazy too, you'll barely notice them..."

    October 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  13. Jeepers

    What if the majority of Americans were Muslim...and you were still Christians? What if the principal of separation of church and state were eroding away and a large part of a candidate's energy went towards showing people that he's more Muslim than the other guy?

    Well it is that way. It's just that it's Christianity that everyone feels they need to parade around in order to get votes. It's Christianity that is starting to find it's way into policies and it's Christianity...just like every other religion that is out there that has no place in politics.

    Yes, I would like for secular voices to be the most heard because the separation of church and state is a good thing. Just ask those who didn't enjoy being ruled by the Taliban.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • Tom

      What if monkeys were the rulers of this nation and we had to sling poop at each other over the internet to make someone stfu about 'what ifs'?

      October 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • MaryM

      Good point jeepers

      October 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  14. Jesus Christ

    Hello my children, thank you for continuing to serve me and my evil bible:

    Matthew 10:34-35

    "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household."

    Exodus 21
    [21:2] "... When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing."

    [21:7-8] "When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do."

    [21:26-27] "When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free for the eye's sake. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free for the tooth's sake."

    Numbers 31:17, 40
    [Verse 17, Moses says:] "Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

    [Verse 40:] The persons [women who had not known man by lying with him] were sixteen thousand, of which the Lord's tribute was thirty-two persons.

    I love genocide, slavery and murder. Keep up the good work humanity!

    Love,

    Jesus

    October 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Wigsnot

      You are worse than the Evangelists....you distort and twist the word of God. wow

      October 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
  15. jimatkins

    Regarding Penn Jillette's quote- the reason Christians were singled out were we don't have nearly as many bugnut Muslims, bugnut Orthodox Jews, or bugnut Scientologists to affect the electoral process. And regarding Dr. Dawkins;it is a primary symptom of bugnuttiness to ignore evidence and cling to an explanation that provides absolutely no evidence for its claims. Without evolution, nothing in biology works. Biology, as shown by things like modern medicine and genetic engineering, works. .

    October 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  16. johnborg

    You have to be kidding me. Evangelicals are only dangerous if there is no secularization! Well, sorry, we live in a secular society. The US should be a secular state. Secular does not equal anti-religion, it merely means that government isn't directly influenced by religion. In other words, a religious argument against abortion and gay marriage are a no go.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why don't they understand that?

      October 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  17. peakarach

    Christianity was and is not a White religion because it was imported from the Middle East country.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • johnborg

      Christianity as we now it is a "white" religion. It preaches diversity, but it is white normativity. Furthermore, individuals around the globe, who convert to Christianity, now must abide by Western (aka white) standards. It started in ancient Palestine, but looks nothing like it did in 100CE.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      That's like saying Americans don't speak English because it was invented across the Atlantic.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      As any Mormon will tell you, Jesus lived in America.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  18. SAW123

    What this secularist is concerned about is a block of people whose political beliefs are based on texts that are thousands of years old and are interpreted by a handful of elite "scholars" that tell their worshippers what to do and say. The only difference between evangelical Christians and other cults is that there are lots of them in the US. This makes their influence even more worrisome than the smaller, more notorious cults. The belief in and references to imaginary beings as the basis for their political views should be just as worrisome as is any other form of ignorance in politics,

    In the sentence that begins.... "We are deeply concerned about a host of moral and cultural issues"....

    Scientific studies have failed to show any correlation between religiosity and morality and in the same paragraph as this quote you acknowledge that there is not much agreement on these issues among Christian evangelicals, So apparently evangelicals have no claim to the moral high ground that they seem so intent on claiming.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      Concerning the fanatical atheists Albert Einstein pointed out:

      “Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who – in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium for the people’ – cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.” (Albert Einstein, as cited in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology, Princeton University Press, 2002, 97)

      “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.” (Albert Einstein, as cited in Clark 1973, 400; and Jammer 2002, 97).

      Copied from http://nobelists.net/

      October 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      Richard, nonetheless, Einstein was essentially a non-deist. He did not believe in a God that you pray to for strength or help, or to know what to do. He did not believe Jesus was his or anyone else's savior. He was against fanaticism in any guise. He did not condemn anyone who believed in God, nor do I. But he himself didn't believe in a God like Christians believe in.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  19. awfton

    Separation of Church and state insures the survival of both. Mix them and you have neither a free democracy or a church free from governmental interference. It's worked for over two centuries, let's keep it that way. If a/the church wants to tell people how they should vote, then the state needs to take away their tax free status.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  20. Byrd

    Evangelists are in the same category as politicians: snake oil salesmen. Most are self-ordained with little or no theological training or actual knowledge of either the Christian religion they corrupt or the damage they do to society as a result of their blatant intolerance of anyone different from themselves. America is not a Christian nation and never has been, but you'll never hear that from one of these fundamentalist bozos. And good luck with that redemption thing, by the way, because things aren't looking too promising for most of you fundamentalists so far.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:10 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.