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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. Lester

    Every movement has its moderates and extremists. This article tries to justify religious extremism by claiming that there "really" are only moderates, and extremists are only an insignificant minority. At the same time, the author attacks his opponents by mentioning just a few of their most extreme members. These are grade school level debating tricks and don't contribute much to understanding the situation.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  2. Pastor Smith's green bean casserole is people!!

    It's people!! Aaaaaaaah!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Dubya

      This is true. It's made of people.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  3. GOP Hate America

    With religion they dont need any proof. and with science there is never enough proof for them. dumb.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • stanknasty

      Junk science is no science at all... your thinking " I came from a monkey and my word is law and I cannot be questioned" is arrogant and stupid. More like stupid.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Dubya

      Your forgot to mention that "junk science" is any science that contradicts what they've decided to believe despite the facts.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Dubya

      stank

      You clearly know nothing about the science that you criticize or the God that you believe in on faith without evidence.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • somehow

      Funny how science is proven wrong so many times and yet people believe in it so much. (At one time scientists believed the Earth was flat.)

      October 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Dubya

      Funny you should mention the flat earth theory. It was a scientist that shattered that idea and the church destroyed him for it. The Bibull also says that the sun revolves around the Earth.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • somehow

      dubya–Please quote it and state where exactly is says that....

      October 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  4. stanknasty

    We need less irrational thinking in goverment. Anyone who believes in moral relativism and that ole hoky idea of "we came from the monkey and my word is law" need to be bannished on the island with Gilligan. There, they can do us no harm.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Funny, seems to me that most of the people asserting "my word is law" have cited God as backing them up. Science, OTOH, very specifically eschews appeals to authority, preferring to stand on findings of fact that can be tested and replicated by anybody.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Dubya

      Well said Richard.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • somehow

      @richard–How about what was once believed science fact: The Earth was flat and the center of the galaxy. That surely proves science is always correct all the time. Ignorance in action.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • rick

      Stanknastry-The Evangelicals need a lot of patience to the train the Apes. Looks like you are doing well against these monkey lobbyists.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  5. Steve (NYC)

    The denial of evolution in favor of a magic wizard creating the earth & humanity 6000 years ago is simply dumb. I feel bad categorizing an opposing argument as dumb, but there really isn't another appropriate word. It's not simply incorrect. It's literally idiotic on a cosmic scale. When every bit of evidence the universe presents to you tell you you're wrong (whether it's about the age of the world, it's position in the universe, fossils of complex life that lived hundreds of millions of years ago or single celled life from billions of years ago) and you insist you're right without even a single piece of evidence, you're making the case for why you shouldn't be allowed to vote. The surprise you have at non-believers condemning your viewpoint is baffling. Were I to say that the sun is a tangerine that rotates around the earth 100 miles above the surface, I would (or at the very least should) be condemned for being a half-wit. And yes, people who insist the alternative 'scientific' theories of intelligent design be taught in public schools are dangerous to society. Your baseless worldviews deserved all the mockery they get and your agenda that involves making kids less intelligent should be opposed at every turn.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Well, as Isaac Asimov once pointed out, the world IS flat, to a very good 1st-order approximation. And it sure LOOKS like the Sun goes around the Earth, not the other way around. And the only thing evolving fast enuf for us to observe are microscopic bacteria, invisible to the naked eye. So it's not hard to understand why people who aren't inclined to think deeply about such things might accept the 1st good story that comes down the pike purporting to explain it all. The thing that baffles me is how insistent they are that their naive, unexamined, untested beliefs are the rock-solid truth and should be believed in preference to the conclusions of really smart specialists who've spent their whole professional careers using the best instrumentation technology can provide.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  6. mervel

    I am shocked that these comments are so viciously anti-Christian! Get a life we are not going anywhere and we vote. Get used to it.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • somehow

      It's easier to jump on the bandwagon of the masses and bad mouth your fellow man than it is to stand up against the crowd for what's the right thing to say or do.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  7. JustPlainJoe

    If one person has a psychotic experience, he needs to make a peace with the world. When a group has a psychotic experience, we call it religion and the rest of society has a right to not be influenced by it.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • somehow

      Given how messed up society is, how do you know that you don't have it backwards?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  8. Lindsey

    I challenge anyone who reads this article to go to a Southern Baptist Church and afterward declare that the congregation is dangerous to society! You may not disagree with their theology etc. but dangerous? Hardly! I believe this applies to pretty much all churches whether they be Protestant, Catholic, Mormon etc. etc. Try attending a church this Sunday! You may like it!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • *frank*

      You are deluded.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • withoutgod

      It's not a matter of disagreeing with the theology. It's a matter of evidence. Evangelists want rational people to believe the earth is 6000 years old, was once covered with 5.5 miles of water in 40 days, and that dinosaurs are a hoax. Yes, those types of beliefs are dangerous, because they are delusional.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • somehow

      @withoutgod–To believe there is no chance of a higher powered being in this universe and that we humans are the ultimate masters of intelligence? Now that's a laugh. What are you smoking?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  9. GOP Hate America

    all religions are dangerous. It thwarts progress at every turn. its the original mafia. and the day the global religious war breaks out I will be shooting at both sides as they are all parasites to humanity.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  10. ashrakay

    Religion is junk food for the morbidly obese mind. It encourages intellectual laziness and moral hypocrisy.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • stanknasty

      Junk food is the religion of choice for your wasted mind.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • somehow

      So intellectual laziness and moral hypocrisy equate to religion attempting to persuade man to become a better father, dad, and husband to his wife and kids, huh? Hmmm. I wonder what your definition of someone or something doing good is?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • ashrakay

      @somehow, You don't need religion to be a good dad. And you can do it without trying to impress your invisible superhero friend in the sky

      October 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • somehow

      @ray–Yeah, and that's why our society boasts a 48% divorce rate and broken families. I never said religion made one a better dad, what I said was that it helps to promote it rather than discourage it, big difference. And to think we humans are the ultimate intelligence in the universe, phhh, yeah. Arrogance at its finest. We can't even get along on this planet together.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  11. us1776

    Religion is the ENEMY !!

    .

    October 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • somehow

      The enemy of who?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      It's the enemy of your brain. It wants to conquer your brain and turn off the switch that lets you question things you don't understand.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • somehow

      Nice Russell. Obviously you can't put intelligent thought into written word without belittling someone, huh? Says a lot about you...

      October 16, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  12. If horses had Gods their Gods would be horses

    Religion is a very personal thing, please keep it that way & out of my government.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  13. Lenny

    Million of children die of starvation, lack of shelter, and no healthcare.......Will you defend those children??? That is something to protest.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  14. Hmmm

    To answer the question ask yourself the following;

    Does anyone want to live in a society where evangelical Christians decide what is legal or not?

    If you say 'yes' and you are evangelical ask yourself why can't you live by your faith's rules without it being the law.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Dubya

      Well said!

      October 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • stanknasty

      Most laws in the Bible (Ten Commandments) have been codified: 1) thou shall not murder 2) thou shall not steal 3) thou shall not bear false testimony etc.... you are a little late to the party...you may want to hang around a more intelligent group of people, it will help your development.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Hmmm

      So those laws did not exist before the Bible?

      Say in something called Hammurabi's Code?

      October 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You don't even know what the word "codified" means, stankybutt. Our laws are not based on the commandments; the precepts are older than that by far, and are not limited to Christianity.

      Ask your god to give you a working brain cell or two.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • twiddly

      But clearly this guy has god's ear!
      Maybe if you prayed more, or harder, or louder or... something... anything... then god might talk to you too!
      And if he doesn't, well, the only conclusion one can draw is that satan has you firmly in his evil grasp and you are lost.
      Oh well...

      October 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Kim

      I have always wondered why murder wasn't illegal in China before the Bible got there. Now I know.

      (sic)

      October 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Nukegumby

      Other way around, Stank. Since man wrote the bible and the bible tells the story about the ten commandments. The law of man came first.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  15. Times

    The big question is-

    Are the evangelicals a threat to the apes?

    October 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • rick

      Looks like it ,look at the comments.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  16. Dubya

    Unifying church and state always corrupts both.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  17. oneone

    “Above all, evangelicals are those who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and are most concerned about telling others about Jesus.”

    Translation: Our goal is to proselytize, preferably to children in public schools.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • bnoyes

      These people think the end of the world is a good thing. If you don't think that's dangerous, you are an idiot.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • bnoyes

      Sorry, that was meant to be a general comment, not a reply to you. Not sure why it popped up there.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  18. stanknasty

    Please make a sane argument instead of this babble you sputed on this blog.

    October 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Dubya

      Please notify us when you have anything intelligent to contribute.

      October 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • somehow

      That goes for you too, Bush jr (W).

      October 16, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  19. "Super Evangelist Baby"

    QUESTION ME NOT, MALACHI!!! EAT YOUR CORN!!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  20. 1bignose

    If you have no proof that what you are saying is truth...then it belongs behind closed doors in your home, or your church, or your research lab until you have enough evidence to make it public. It does not have any ethical reason in trying to influence government of a diverse People. If your first priority is to be a christian, a muslim, a jew, or any other of a number of man-made faiths...then that's what you need to focus on and you need to stay out of politics. Every book of faith will tell you that in one way or another!

    October 16, 2011 at 7:00 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.