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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. Steve wisconsin

    HEY CHRISTIAN HYPOCRITES. If your Holy Party could spend so much time, effort, and money to make corporations people (Citizens United), why haven't you done the same for the "unborn" except to talk about it when you need campaign money?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Reason

      Albert, nice try. But here're the facts:

      1) Last time we had an Evangelical as the President, we got duped into a war of choice that cost us over 1 trillion in direct monetary terms alone. This President repeatedly stated that he believed that establishing Democracy worldwide is America's mission. How do we know what "revealed" mission our next Evangelical President will have in mind and how much it will cost all of us?

      2) Evangelicals consider themselves better than non-Evangelicals and can easily use the Bible to to justify nearly any kind of breaking of ethical rules to trump over non-Evangelicals, especially who have competing beliefs (recall McCain calling on his supporters to vote for Huckabee in West Virginia just so Romney doesn't get the state and Huckabee said nothing to indicate any sort of disapproval of this)

      3) Evangelicals believe what they believe because they read about it in a book of which we have never seen originals and which has more controversial and conflicting statements than they are willing to admit. Moreover, if you don't partake of this medieval make-believe with them, in exactly the way they want, they fully expect you to go to hell (another make-believe). In fact, they fully expect people who've never heard of Christ (think many Chinese and Africans over the centuries, etc.) to go straight to hell also.

      I'll stop here. If this doesn't sound like something that should be reasonably concerning to secularists, then I think you've chosen to close your mind to reason. Which is exactly the point.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  2. taylor

    I don't believe that all Christians are a threat to democracy. However, just as there are extremists on the left, there are extremist right-wing Christians who promote bigotry and who are anti-democratic. Bryan Fischer, a speaker at the Values Voter Summit attended by all the GOP candidates, said that Mormons and anyone else with non-Christian views, should be excluded from first amendment protection. I don't believe that the candidates would have dared to attend a summit where it was stated that Christians should be excluded from the first amendment, but because Christians are the majority religion in this country, they feel they must accept this even if it goes against their own religious beliefs. I have never heard anyone on the left state that people should be locked up or executed simply because they are Christian, but there are plenty of Christian pastors and speakers who say that gay people should be subject to criminal penalties and/or execution. Some of these pastors associated with the group known as "The Family" even encouraged anti-gay bigotry and the "Kill the Gays" bill in Uganda. While discriminating against gay people may have been accepted in society in the past, it is on the way to being considered bigotry, just as discrimination against blacks is now. It's a bit ironic that the Southern Baptists were formed (in the 1800's) in a split with other Baptists over their support for slavery. At that time, they were adamant that the Bible supported slavery, and they didn't actually apologize for this position until 1995. Homeschooling texts such as those published by Bob Jones, Christian Liberty Academy, and A Beka still make statements that gay people and non-Christians should not enjoy full citizenship rights. A recent Bob Jones text that I read stated that gay Americans deserve no more rights than do perverts and murderers. At some point, society has to start calling out bigotry and hatred for what it is. And as strident as the extreme left can be, I have not encountered anyone on the left saying that fundamentalist Christians should be locked up or executed for expressing their beliefs, or that the first Amendment does not apply to them.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  3. Dawn Castle

    This might have more impact if it had not been written by an evangelical.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Steve wisconsin

      HEY GOP CHRISTIAN HYPOCRITES. If your Holy Party could spend so much time, effort, and money to make corporations people (Citizens United), why haven't you done the same for the "unborn" except to talk about it when you need campaign money?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    How about letting everyone in the republican democracy have an equal vote? How about allowing everyone the freedom to speak their concerns and giving reasoned consideration to those concerns.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  5. tomnchrist

    To all secularist. Well let's see how how long your no god society will last. We have functioned pretty well under a God centered majority for 235 yrs, albeit we have been removing Him from society since 1960, and pretty much outlawed him today. Of course you realize he is taking all of his goodness and blessings with him as he leaves. Don't worry, you won't be left alone, there is one who will step in immediately and he comes to kill, steal and destroy, and subject all under him. And the best part is, you won't have to believe in him for eternal life. You will live forever with him, just not in Heaven. And I suspect we will know the results in less than 10 years. Enjoy today, because each day will get worse.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Brandon

      Did you know that human societies have existed for at least 4000 years before Christianity?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • taylor

      TomnChrist, I just wonder if you count among that you claim that God bestowed on the U.S. in the past social ills such as slavery; the bloody Civil War in which Christians on either side of the issue claimed that the Bible supported their view; violent "water wars" in the West; strife over child labor and the wretched condition of immigrants in slums, etc. I'm not saying that America doesn't have many things to be thankful for, but I don't understand overlooking the bad things in our history that many people, Christian and non-Christian, have worked to change for the better. I doubt that you would really want to go back to many of the previous times that you claim were so much better, particularly if you had to live them as an African American, Native American, immigrant from a despised group (which at one time has included nearly every immigrant group), woman who did not have the right to own property or vote, etc.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Jenn

      My magic invisible friend is better than yours.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • NoName

      Well said, Brandon,

      Christians are hypocrites. End of story.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Epica

      You of course realize the founding father's did not want this country to be a Christian nation. They were mainly Deists or Unitarians. If you need your bed time stories from an ancient book and your make believe friend more power to you. Do not think for a single second though that society can not function without your religion. There is a reason the founding father's wanted a separation of church and state. We are not England.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • JF

      "We have functioned pretty well under a God centered majority for 235 yrs"

      No. We have separation of church and state. When christianity controlled the government, non-believers were burned and the stake.

      " I suspect we will know the results in less than 10 years. Enjoy today, because each day will get worse."

      Great...another apocalyptist. Just what we need. You know Jesus was an apocalytist. He predicted the end about 2,000 years ago. It's amazing that people are still doing this in the 21st century.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • ashrakay

      Yes, please leave so we can test that theory.

      October 17, 2011 at 5:42 am |
  6. Anglican

    Any extreme of any belief or unbelief can be very dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  7. Joe

    You and other evangelicals are dangerous, Mr Mohler, because you want to enforce your religious beliefs on people like me through the law.

    If you want to see why trying enforce religious beliefs - of any religion - through law is bad idea I suggest you merely look towards history.

    Or you could consider what your opinion of Muslims doing the same to you would be. Have you ever thought of that? Yeah, I bet YOU wouldn't like that too much, huh?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Lou Vignates

      Very good statement

      October 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  8. Chad

    To the contrary, evangelicals are dangerous to the secularist vision of this nation and its future precisely because we are committed to participatory democracy.
    ......
    We’re dangerous only to those who want more secular voices to have a virtual monopoly in public life."

    EXACTLY

    Very well said!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • CCW

      Mohler articulated this article very well in his usual eloquent style.

      Great Job Mohler!!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's telling that you are completely blind and deaf to the problem with this idiotic vision, Chad. And not in the least surprising, since you are a complete knuckle-dragging mutton-head.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  9. J

    If a woman believes in wifely submission, then I don't see how she can be elected president. How will we know if her decisions are hers or her husband's? It is very relevant.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  10. Seriously

    In 2004 the Sunday before the presidential election my then girlfriend invited me to her church. I knew she was evangelical (although she knew how to sin very very well) but I decided to attend anyway to better understand where she was coming from. Halfway into the sermon the pastor started telling everyone it was their Christian duty to support the president on Tuesday or else 'we would have more degenerates on the Supreme Court like those six who decided that case in Texas (Lawrence v. Texas)'. He also railed against people 'different than us' causing the 'moral destruction of our nation'. I watched as the 1000+ people in the audience screamed their support for his words. During the sermon he repeatedly and proudly referred to himself as an 'evangelical God-fearing Christian'. When we left he noticed I was new and offered me recording of the sermon. I asked if he was afraid that one of the copies may find their way to the IRS and church would lose it's tax exempt status. Suddenly there were no more copies left to offer me.

    No, not all evangelicals should be feared in politics but some should be. And yes me and my girlfriend didn't work out (too bad because she was amazing at 'sinning').

    October 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Lou Vignates

      Your experience demonstrates the hypocricy of many of the god-fearing.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  11. rosa, b'ham al

    Yes.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  12. Mr Mark

    Here's the problem, Mr Mohler – your religion is based on make believe. There most likely was no Jesus, just as there most likely wasn't a Horace. In short, you believe in the religious equivalent of Santa Claus. Your entire religious beliefs stem from this fact, and you're trying to impose your belief in Santa on the rest of us as if it has a historical and factual basis. It doesn't.

    And THAT'S why we secularists feel uncomfortable with you Xians.

    If you don't understand what I'm saying, simply go back through the article you've written and replace every instance of the word "Christian" with the word "Druid." Go back and replace every instance of the name "Jesus Christ" and replace it with "Anubis." Replace every instance or reference to the word "Bible" with the word "Koran." Then let us know how comfortable you as an American feel with what you're reading.

    Finally, Christianity is the only religion that I know of whose imaginary godman mandates that his followers go out into the world and inform everybody else about the religion. With that comes 1. the implication that you should be converting people to the belief, and 2. that those who hear and are not turned into believers are now subject to eternal punishment in hell for rejecting Jesus as their savior. That is an incredibly odious mission to be forcing on the world at large. It's more than odious when you try to force that mission on our secular democracy.

    And that's why we will fight you and your make-believe mission and fantasy-based beliefs at every turn.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • LKylerR

      @Mr Mark - With your reasoning how do we know that anyone in the past actually existed?

      Christianity is no more make believe than Darwin's THEORY of evolution.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
    • S1N

      You obviously don't understand the concept of a scientific, you stupid Christian hick.

      An accepted scientific theory is a hypothesis that has been thoroughly tested, consistent with the evidence available, AND peer reviewed. A theory explains WHY something happens, while a scientific law is a mere observation. I would go into more detail, but I suspect you are too stupid to understand even this much.

      Exactly how much evidence can you present for creationism? The fossil record? Nope. Extreme genetic similarities among diverse species? I can keep going if you like. EVERY single shred of evidence supports evolution. All you have is a book that wasn't even written until a couple hundred years AFTER the alleged events of the New Testament. Hell, the Old Testament was only written a a few thousand years ago, while the planet is thousands of times older, yet you have the ARROGANCE to think that your book explains it all, despite the massive amount of evidence to the contrary.

      You are an imbecile. Your ilk (ALL evangelical Christians) should be summarily executed, to include your women and children. You are tainting the gene pool.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • S1N

      Obviously, that rant is aimed at LKyler and his fellow spaghetti monster worshippers.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Mr Mark

      LKylerR

      @Mr Mark – With your reasoning how do we know that anyone in the past actually existed?"

      Another argument from ignorance.

      We know that certain persons from antiquity existed because there is physical evidence they existed. Hadrian had his wall. Julius Ceasar's image appeared on coins WHILE HE WAS LIVING. Historians who were contemporaries of Julius Caesar wrote about him WHILE HE WAS ALIVE. The physical evidence of Caesar's military campaigns is vast and compelling.

      There is nothing in the historic record about Jesus. Nothing. The earliest references we have to Jesus don't occur until roughly 30 years after he supposedly died, and those references are from St Paul who never mentions a single incident from Jesus' supposed life story, and who writes of Jesus not as a corporeal being, but as a spirit who fought his battles in the spirit world. The Gospels came later.

      But most of all, the life story of Jesus is cobbled together from parts of the life stories of numerous "gods" and godmen that were rife in the region during that time. Jesus isn't a carbon copy of any one god, but his story does contain elements that were popular in the god myths of the time. Virgin births and resurrections were quite the rage back then. in fact, if your god wasn't born of a virgin, he was the exception.

      I suspect some religious type has told you that there is historic proof that Jesus existed. They are lying. There isn't.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  13. PJA

    I find this to be menacing... my interpretation is "as long as you do it our way, you are not in any danger"

    By implication, if we don't follow their dogma, we are at risk

    These people are sickening hypocrites !

    October 16, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  14. carolyn

    Evangelical Christians are "most concerned about telling others about Jesus"? Really, this says it all. That's the Number One Prioirity? More important a "concern" than the economy, the bank bailouts, the inequities in income and taxes, joblessness, health care and getting our educational system in order? "Telling others about Jesus"???? This really does invite comparisons to the fanatics who believe in space aliens.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  15. zach

    I'm wondering how he even writes this article knowing full well they have committed murder in the name of their beliefs against medial professionals providing a legal service.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  16. I'm The Best!

    Haven't read the article, but "are evangelicals dangerous?"... Yes.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  17. Dennis K. Biby

    "Are evangelicals dangerous? "The vast majority of evangelicals are not attempting to create a theocracy, or to oppose democracy."

    Really? Isn't democracy a system that enables each citizen to educate themselves, employ logic, to make an intelligent decision about leadership? Religious zealots of EVERY faith usurp that choice from the sheep!

    October 16, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • AGuest9

      If we actually lived in a democracy, perhaps. We do not, we live in a consti.tutional republic.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  18. josh

    I just wanna say that Christianity is not a threat to America. Freedom of religion is very important. Also Athiest, leftist and conservatives all try to push there own agendas on others. The gay community is trying to push it's beliefs on us and so is the media. Whether being gay is right or wrong it makes no difference. Trying to push ourselves against the freedom of belief for American citizens on which this country was founded is the wrong answer. The fact is that these arguments against Christians are about as absurd as anything that has ever been written. The fact that CNN publicly endorses an end to Christianity and claims that Christianity is a threat to democracy is in itself an unamerican and against all human rights and ideals.

    Stop the blind absurd hate and lets use our intellectual capabilites to reason with each other. As much as you wont reason the other side will not reason.
    Come on people now smile on your brother, everybody get together got to love one another right now.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Josh, all Americans deserve equal rights. Even the gay ones.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Clyde M

      No one is trying to push their beliefs on you. No one is asking you to be gay or do anything "gay." The only push is for EQUAL rights under the secular laws of our land...because we ARE a secular nation. Right now it is YOUR beliefs that are being forced on them–forced by law.

      Christians can believe whatever they want for themselves and their families. They can act on their own moral beliefs all day long. What they CANNOT do is seek to encode those beliefs into secular law so as to use FORCE to restrict the lives, liberties, rights, and property of others and COMPEL others to follow their own personal belief system. Yet this IS what Christians do constantly. And so long as they do, they WILL face opposition by those of us who prefer equality over theocracy.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • S1N

      Conservative Christians are hilarious. They claim to want to limit the size and power of government, but as soon as they see something that goes against their stupid little fairy tale book (which should have been burned thousands of years ago), they want to vilify and outlaw it. The only thing that needs to be removed from our society is Christians.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  19. Clyde M

    "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."

    Good thing science isn't decided by democracy. Appeal to majority fallacy.

    Turns out, the "majority" of people can question evolutionary theory AND STILL BE WRONG.

    The science is overwhelming. Because some people want to feel specially designed doesn't change that. The earth is NOT at the center of the universe and we evolved from previous organisms and share common ancestors with other species...no matter what the church says.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Michelle

      FACT is it's still called the "Theory of Evolution" for a reason. Though many treat it as a proven fact, the science may be overwhelming, it remains a theory.
      Maybe I'll be proven wrong but I would much rather live with a belief in something and find out, when I'm dead, that I'm wrong than live with a belief in nothing.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Galloping Ghost

      Give me a theory with empirical support over an unsubstantiated belief any day!

      October 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Lou Vignates

      "Forty million Frenchmen can't be wrong." Oh, how wrong they were. How wrong were the majority of people who invested in over-priced homes. How very wrong were those who voted for George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Half of all people are below average in intelligence--and average isn/t all that great.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • S1N

      @Michelle – It's called a theory because it provides an explanation that is consistent with the evidence. By definition, theories cannot become laws. Theories explain WHY something happens. Laws explain HOW something happens, and are primarily observations. Laws do not give reasons for something happening. A theory, even if it is a verifiable fact, cannot become a law. It is not a matter of proof.

      Hell, I'm sure you learned a LOT of theorems in math classes. Good luck ever proving any of them false.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • S1N

      By the way, I don't need a God to have belief in something. I believe in MYSELF. That's all I need in life.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "FACT is it's still called the "Theory of Evolution" for a reason."

      Agreed.
      It is called that because–scientifically speaking–a theory is the HIGHEST FORM OF ACCEPTANCE that there is. It is called the THEORY of evolution for the exact same reason that science calls it the THEORY of gravity, heliocentric THEORY, atomic THEORY, cell THEORY, and germ THEORY. And that is the FACT of the matter.

      And, just like falsely deciding that you can vote out the validity of the evidence through popular opinion, acting like the word theory–in a scientific context–means anything other than what it actually does mean only shows one of two things. Either it is your own ignorance of what a scientific theory is (in which case I don't care to follow your misinformed opinion on the topic) or that you are purposefully being disingenuous (in which case I don't care to follow your dishonest opinion on the topic).

      October 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Galloping Ghost

      Where did people suddenly get the idea that a theory is unproven, or on shaky ground scientifically? I always learned that a theory was an organizing framework which provided the best understanding to date of a phenomenon. To me,calling something "only a theory" seems like an oxymoron.

      As I mentioned on a previous post, give me a theory supported by empirical evidence over an unsubstantiated belief any day.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  20. DP

    If someone believes life begins at birth and still wants to restrict abortion, then I'll whip out the Facist allegation. Until then, I'm going to calm the hell down.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Lou Vignates

      Onc also needs to consider that the egg and sperm that combine to form a new individual are ALIVE. Life does not begin at birth. Life is a continuing thing. Of course, slogans such as "life begins at conception" are very much liked by the ignorant.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And my answer to those dolts is that life begins long before conception. Rights do not.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:12 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.