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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. ExCatholic

    Ok, CNN, you win, you have made it too painful to comment, so off to Fox I go.

    October 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      Who are “you guys” ? Where are your facts to support that whoever “you guys” are is anti-American (capitalized because it is a proper noun). I understand the anti-Christian part but everyone is free to believe as they see fit. There are more than enough comparisons between Islam and Christians to put them on the same level of disdain. Do you know what “ironic” means? Apparently not. Your final point should cause all of us to think very hard about ANY commitment to a particular ideal.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      As usual I am not capable of posting in the right place.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      NOOOOOOO not FOX!!!!

      October 16, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
  2. Lauren Thomas

    Question-

    Why do you guys hate Christianity, but love anyone else that has a viewpoint that is anti american or anti christian? why do you guys always cherish every religion, even the psychopathic ones like Islam (The NY times LOVES Islam), unless it's Christianity. You know, I don't really believe in the evangelical faith, nor am I that much of a Christian. I just find it ironic.

    Also, every single Communist country is atheist. Just saying.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Dumb and dumber. What nonsense are you blowing out your ear?

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

      Ditto.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Simon

      Who is this 'you guys' that you address? What evidence do you have that they 'hate Christianity, but love anyone else that has a viewpoint that is anti american or anti christian'? Is it based on anything other than they don't believe the things you believe?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • 21k

      warren jeffs, an xtian. what a great role model. same with newtie boy gingrich, tom delay, bill clinton, sandford, the captains of industry running wall street. you sure the world according to xtians is all that it's cracked up to be versus countries that don't base decisions on some deity?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Spinner49

      I think it's hard to have respect for people who have little respect for me because they are certain I'm going to burn in hell for all eternity because I don't believe in their 2000 year old myths.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      @LT
      Who are “you guys” ? Where are your facts to support that whoever “you guys” are is anti-American (capitalized because it is a proper noun). I understand the anti-Christian part but everyone is free to believe as they see fit. There are more than enough comparisons between Islam and Christians to put them on the same level of disdain. Do you know what “ironic” means? Apparently not. Your final point should cause all of us to think very hard about ANY commitment to a particular ideal. Thank you.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Lauren Thomas

      "you guys"-elitist intellectual liberals. Sorry for not being specific or for categorizing anyone.

      and faith isn't always about intelligence guys. some people have faith, and you need to be respectful of that. i happen to agree with not forcing doctrine on anyone..but to claim that it takes simple "intelligence" to realize religion is "silly" is very, very arrogant.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • Lauren Thomas

      My evidence- watch MSNBC, listen to the rants and hatred spewed at the tea party, umm just watching the occupy wall street morons, the Communist News Network, we only have one, single conservative show and everyone hates fox because it's more successful...gee i wonder why

      October 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  3. 21k

    "...believing that every single human being, at every stage of development, is made in God’s image." I KNEW it! Hitler was made in god's image and likeness. knowing that, why would any person with half-a-brain want to spend eternity with him?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  4. Chris Highland

    A former evangelical and minister here. I still have friends who are "born again" (I gave back my "again"), and I think we agree that people. . .yes, people. . .have to learn to get along together, work side by side, and not be divided by this faith and that faith. For many it seems the "Lord" part means "President" and that just won't work in America (as I often say, if people want a "Christian country" please find Jesusland somewhere else, and show us all how harmonious that is!). Back down on earth here, I think we need "secular" voices AND supernaturalist voices, as long as the point is to include Everyone. By the way folks, "secular" is a very good, respectable word meaning "the present world" which is, by the way, the only world we have to work with.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • 21k

      the only problem being that the "supernaturalists" won't stop until everyone else lives their lives according to the bible. just like in iran, only a different team will run the show here, using a different comic book.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  5. Sir Poohalot

    If you have one foot on Ice and one foot in fire, statistically, you're comfortable. We have fire and ice.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  6. AGuest9

    Let them continue their waterfalls of prayer and speaking in tongues. I'm glad I didn't have to suffer through that again this week.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  7. Spinner49

    "But over recent decades, evangelical Christians have learned that the gospel has implications for every dimension of life, including our political responsibility."

    This is why evangelicals are dangerous to those of us for whom the gospel does NOT have such implications. Any political argument in a secular society MUST be made in terms that everyone can agree on. Arguments based on "beliefs" that are not independently observable have no meaning for those who don't share those beliefs. Even when presented with physically and scientifically observable phenomena some "believers" choose to think they are not true. How can one have intelligent discourse with someone who disregards the observable and tangible in favor of two thousand year old myths?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  8. AnneSD

    This opinion piece assumes that the people disturbed by the evangelicals trying to insert religion into politics are all atheists, secular or otherwise anti-Christian. This could not be more wrong. In fact people of many religious faiths are disturbed by this trend also, because the evangelical movement does not acknowledge any but their own narrow beliefs as acceptable. The faith, morals and teachings of people that follow any other religious beliefs are ignored or denigrated by the evangelicals, including not only the non-Christian faiths such as Judaism and Islam, but also those of other established Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant.

    The problem with the Evangelical movement is not that they are guided by their beliefs, it is that they truly feel that they have both the authority and the duty to impose their beliefs on everyone else, and force everyone in this country to live by their rules. This is not what our nation was founded on.

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

      I think you just destroyed their entire constructed reality. If other Christians are also disturbed by their actions in politics there is no mutually agreeable boogeyman to rally around.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      There have been disagreements within the Faithful forever. It is why we have denominations. That some Christians do not feel that the evangelicals are right should not be that much of a surprise.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • MaryM

      Good post, thank you

      October 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Rick

      Actually, this is exactly what everyone believes. When non-Christians believe they have the authority and right to impose their beliefs on the Christians, what exactly is the difference? If you would stop and think about it... Every society imposes its corporate beliefs upon its people. I don't care if you examine the smallest society or the largest, they all impose a corporate set of beliefs upon the people. Since this is true, the question becomes, whose beliefs do you want imposed on the society as a whole? Those not Christian, of course, want non-Christian values. Those who are, of course, want Christian vaules. So continues the ongoing struggle between darkness and light.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Outstanding post, Anne. What's also disturbing is that these extremists don't acknowledge mainstream Christian denominations as being Christian at all. If Lutherans don't believe the same nonsense as the fundies, then the fundies pronounce them unbelievers.

      They're a bunch of freaks.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Stuff and nonsense, Rick. Go ahead and list all the things our secular government or other religious organizations have forced you to do. What rights have you had removed by them?

      I'll wait. While laughing at you.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Waiting, Rick....where's the list of all the rights you've been denied? Where's the list of all the secular 'beliefs' (as if there is any such thing) you've been forced to accept?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Still waiting, Ricky Dicky. What secular 'beliefs' are you being forced to accept? What rights of yours have been infringed upon by our secular government? Come on, dude. You made the claim, hurry up and provide the proof.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  9. Portland Tony

    When the hierarchy of the evangelical church(s) give up their entrapments @of riches, their greed for the mighty dollar and specifically get off their fat asses and walk, teach and live among the people they profess to represent, then I will believe evangelical s are not dangerous to our modern society. Until then, try to render unto C......which is....etc.
    ..

    October 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  10. Tessa

    The idea of wanting to run this country based on mythology is scary.
    Although it is rather amusing to watch the GOP argue over who's god is less real.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Where are they saying this challenge of Gods?

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

      every society has been based upon the belief in God or gods in some way or another. The only ones who haven't done this based it upon mankind, commumism. So.... Is that what you really want? Can you say it was better?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nonsense. More complete and utter fabrication. Where's that list I requested, Rick? You know, the beliefs you're being forced to accept by our secular government?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  11. Louis Faihild

    I'll make this short. God is in control. This country is going in an incredibly evil way, in many areas. God is the judge. Only true Christians will be saved. This country will fall. History will continue. The world will end. Revelation 11:15: And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • *frank*

      I'll make this even shorter. No.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Second that no.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      @ Louis Faihild et al,,,,

      No one, not even Christ Jesus nor any of His Apostles know of the End which I dare say is eons away and it, (our earth) will be given up when the sun goes Nova and all the elements here will be forever melted and taken up by the sun's increase.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Louis Faihild

      To Frank and Tom. Your saying no and seconding it is like a 2 year old tryng to say no to his father. He can say no all he wants, but the father is not beholden to him. Just so, God is not beholden to you. Nevertheless, you are free to continue to say no.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, I'm not just saying it, dolt. The fact is that you are full of manure. You aren't in charge, your god isn't in charge, and religion isn't in charge in this nation.

      Get it through your skull. This isn't your church and we aren't worshipping with you. This is a secular country and no one is required to live by your beliefs.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
    • Galloping Ghost

      If god is in control, why is the country going in an evil way? What kind of a god is he anyway?

      October 16, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Really. Either he's omnipotent and a total azzhole or he's not and can't do a thing about anything.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  12. ExCatholic

    Wow, C_N_N has locked this comment_thread down pre_tty_hard. Only 1 reply level? No "Like" option? Disqus_style mo_dera_tion? _WWTTFF_?

    October 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  13. NoName

    Your right to magical thinking stops where my right to science-based reason starts.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Alan

      Where is that science based reasoning going to get you when your life is over?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      @ NoName,,,

      Do you know as to how many Nobel Laureates from Einstein to Richard Smalley believe in GOD and His Son Christ Jesus? Not to mention Nobel Writers and Nobel Peace Laureates and Founders of Modern Science along Great Philosophers who all believe in GOD and HIS Son Christ Jesus? More than an arm full.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      I forgot to ad the site,,,, here,,, http://nobelists.net/

      October 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • MaryM

      Alan, a happy , logical life lived to the fullist

      October 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      ALBERT SCHWEITZER, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

      In Reverence for Life Schweitzer stated: “To hope, to keep silent, and to work alone – that is what we must learn to do if we really want to labor in the true spirit. But what exactly does it involve, this plowing? The plowman does not pull the plow. He does not push it. He only directs it. That is just how events move in our lives. We can do nothing but guide them straight in the direction which leads to our Lord Jesus Christ, striving toward him in all we do and experience. Strive toward him, and the furrow will plow itself.” (Schweitzer 1969, 47).

      October 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • *frank*

      Schweitzer was a racist prick.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  14. BradW

    Jenna: don't forget that there also have always been atheists. Religion of any stripe is not necessary for sentient humans to know what is right and wrong in their particular cultures.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  15. stu

    Evangelicals would rather save a lifeless embryo than stop the suffering of actual humans with spinal cord injuries. Anyone who doesn't support stem cell research on "right to life" grounds is not only dangerous, but is helping set this Country back in science and medicine while the rest of the world keeps right on trucking. You think any of these Christians would pass on a spine-saving treatment 20 years from now just because it was developed using embryonic stem cells? Me neither.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  16. grist

    If you want to participate in the debates about public policies, then you must be willing to accept challenging of the basis for your opinions. And if it has to do with your god, born magically to a virgin (like countless other mythological gods), then those of us arguing based on rational thought should feel free (really obligated) to subject your opinions to the same scrutiny as those of secularists. And it is just not playing fair to say that your beliefs should not be directly challenged, sometimes with as much scorn as other philosophies are challenged. You have no immunity. On the other hand, if you want to simply pray in a closet like it is said that your Jesus said you should do, then secularists could care less and will leave your beliefs alone.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Richard Kaiser

      Concerning the fanatical atheists 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.” (Einstein, as cited in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology, Princeton University Press, 2002, 97).

      “The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations.” (Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years, New Jersey, Littlefield, Adams and Co., 1967, 27).

      October 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Are you willing as a public official to have your atheistic beliefs open to challenge as you have suggested that those of Faith should? I only heard you offer what they should do but you did not state that you should have to do the same.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • No, I'm the best.

      Agree. Obviously we are engaged in a ti'tanic struggle, with those who cannot give up the worldviews of the ancients, in favor of human progress, because they are afraid of what they have to face, when that happens. 50 million years from now, assuming Ho'mo sapiens still exist, there is NO WAY they will look back at an itinerant preacher from the Galilee, and say he was "god". They will look at our quaint debates, just as WE do, about the Greek and Roman gods, and Baal, and Ashura, and Amun, etc.,etc. We think we are better, and unique. We are just as boring.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Why would one feel the need to challenge reality?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"Obviously we are engaged in a ti’tanic struggle"

      I will offer you this.... Outside of the Belief Blog and similar forums .... Folks do not care. What you see as this huge struggle does not exist in our society.

      Most atheist and Faithful do not care. What you have here is Apple vs Windows .... Geek conflict but dealing with Faith and religion.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Rick

      you are absolutly right. All ideas brought forth into the public forum are up for public debate. And, i doubt any U.S. Christian would argue with you about this. Nor do I think the Evangelicals would argue the point. The point of the article was not that these ideas should not be debated. It was that you shouldn't believe everything anyone says (from the left or the right) about the opposing group. I have seen more people (from both the left and the right) declare that the other side is the devil without a shread of evidence. I have to wonder why we can't all realize that both groups want the same thing: a strong solid U.S. True, they may disagree about how to get there; but they are both trying to get to the same place.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, they are not. I do not believe for a moment that the fundies are interested in a diverse country in which individual freedoms are protected from a tyranny of the majority and in which the separation of church and state remains an important principle. I don't believe for a moment that they have any other agenda than to impose the same sort of control over women as the Taliban does. I don't believe for a moment that they will allow science to be taught in our public schools, which are paid for with our taxes, without the taint of religious dogma.

      If you do, you're delusional.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
  17. Hypatia

    yes, they are.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  18. Lou Vignates

    The phrase about human beings, "made in the image and likeness of God," is very interesting. Does it mean that the obvious deficiencies in human beings are copied after deficiencies of the Christian God? Or does it mean that the Christian God is imagned as being like human beings? Whatever it means, it is rather obtuse and odd.

    October 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Lewis

      God is an eternal being and like Him we have been made eternal beings. Where will you spend Eternity?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • *frank*

      These freaks and their book resemble those insane people who live with the corpse of their deceased spouse for decades–it seems normal to them, but it's repulsive to anybody in their right mind.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Same place you will, Lewis. In the ground as worm-food.

      October 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  19. Terry Brookman

    There is a reason for separation of church and state, look at Islam and and know why, If the church does not detach from the state here we will end up the same.

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

      You do remember that the_foun_ding fa_thers, who were be_lie_vers, are who_drafted the_Con_sti_tu_tion which ensures the se_para_tion of_ch_urch_and_state, right?

      October 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Lou Vignates

      Right on, Terry. Those of us who use our brains know that "faith" has no rational basis. Sort of like little kids being so sure that Santa Claus exists.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  20. Roman G

    The Evangelicals are the Taliban of the USA STOP this crazy nuts right wing insects with no brains

    October 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • jerry

      I agree, just another form of extremism.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • ExCatholic

      Not. Even. Close.

      October 16, 2011 at 8:53 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.