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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. Dave

    If "polls indicate that a majority of Americans question evolution", the problem isn't with evolution - it's the fact that that many Americans are so ridiculously ignorant of basic science! This is the same phenomenon behind those polls showing Americans aren't sure about global warming. The Right has done a bang-up job of perpetuating ignorance. Of course, if the masses lack knowledge of their world, it's that much easier to bend them to your own theories...

    October 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • newsreel

      In ancient time, the "majority" also believed in the thunder "god", the flood "god", the harvest "god". Weak minds always in need of pray, and belief that could calm their fear was welcomed. Today, we all know what a fool they were to worship a make belief "god" of thunder, well, in 2-300 hundreds years, our descendants will look back at today's religious no different than we look at the ancient ppl now. History will repeat itslef, only ignorants will ignore it...

      October 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  2. God

    You will notice that Louis Faihild is no longer posting. I smited him. Bill, your prayers are answered.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Louis Faihild's Ghost

      Oh cr.ap. the atheists were right. There is no god, no 72 virgins, no nothing. Not even a British chick with an underbite. It sucks being dead.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  3. GARY

    Fundie, You are so right. We are to take care of eachother. The "Lost Causes" setting right next to you in a Worship Service.
    reach out and give hope to the hopeless. not the government.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Erm

      Do you honestly think that enough people give to charity to take care of all of the downtrodden? They don't. Obviously.
      That is why sometimes the gov't must step in and mandate that everyone give.
      Take away that safety net and things will be 100x worse than they already are.
      Individual philanthropy is great, but people simply cannot be counted on to be charitable.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Realist

      The US is the largest contributor to help the poor and those in need. Not even all religions combined do so much to help others..

      That's correct, the USA and that includes the kindness of atheists.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
  4. Realist

    If a god exists, then we must assume he gave us our intelligence, which includes having choices. This is where we must begin. Next, when man arrived on earth it took 100's of thousands of years before man developed to the point he could write. Given that, it would mean that god informed man quite a bit after mans initial existence. Next, an all knowing god would understand that man would change anything he might tell them. Why? Because god would know man sensationalizes, we witness this every day. If a god had any part in the bible, he would have written it on some object that would last for thousands of years without worry for decay. Yet he didn't. Why? because a god had nothing to do with the bible. The bible was mans spectacular creation by some lunatic out to gain some popularity. We see this even today, look at mormon belief and origins.

    The new testament, same as the old one in that it too was a man made concoction of sensationalism. No, there was no jesus that said to create the catholic church, period. The New testament was put together by the early bishops. They destroyed much of what might negate their agenda, re-wrote parts to create a blend and shoved in what might fit their plan.

    Religions origins were with early shaman who brought people into dark caves to scare them. Fear controls people. Yes, and when both the old and new testaments were written, man had no concept of volcanoes and earthquakes, as to what caused them. Man was easily scared.

    Today, we scare little children into believing, that is called brainwashing. Instilled fears make it more difficult to drop religion.

    Now back to where I began, if god exists and he created our intelligence, then it would be an insult to him if you were to believe anything other than what I stated here.

    Hope I helped with honesty. Expect the religious to now deliver dishonesty to you, things they can not prove and most importantly, as they insult their god, use reasoning that is is purely lunatic.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • newsreel

      All your logics are very good, but it is a waste with religious, who don't want to bother with details and explanations. They are weak minds in need of anything to calm their minds, and avoid thinking, reasoning. They are simply happy with a book that just order them to believe, no proof. They will without fail criticize us who believe in science, but even if science hasn't YET got all questions answered, at least we get some good results with science including cars, plane medicine, internet (which they also enjoy while still rather believe in fairy tales then the thing that gives them REAL comfort.). With religion, there is absolutely NO proff, just hearsay, or as you very well put it: a writing fabricated by humans to fool other humans for personal gain.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  5. Cosmos42

    What's dangerous about evangelicals?

    Well, how about that they generally haven't the foggiest clue as to American history, and they vote (example: most think that the United States is a Christian nation, when the reality couldn't be more opposite). But the largest thing is that these are a bunch of people who think that the Earth, indeed the universe, is 6000 years old and that every species on Earth lived within walking distance of Noah's house. They actively and relentlessly try to undermine the education system. And that makes them one of the most dangerous groups out there.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  6. God

    Anybody who kills Louis Faihild will be rewarded in heaven.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • BillyBones

      Dear God, please kill Louis Faihild.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  7. R. Albert Mohler, Jr's Tater Salad

    Is PEOPLE!! IT'S PEOPLE!! AAAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  8. donotfeedthetroll
    October 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  9. nigel

    Sorry, Richard Dawkins. I am fallible. Sometimes I get he names of great scientists confused...

    October 16, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
    • Realist

      That's OK.. Christians have multiple gods, they no longer name them. Hey, the bible says there are many. Guess they don't read it.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  10. dick

    Every sperm is sacred. Every organ shared.

    No potential life should be killed. Masturbation is murder. So is abstinence. Poor little egg was deprived of a chance at life.

    Every one has an obligation to provide free access to their organs to anyone who needs it. Require organ donations of all. Refusing access to your organs to a person or potential person who will die without them is murder.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Cosmos42

      Shouldn't have used the exfoliating body scrub in the shower.

      Poor little skin cells were stripped right off, deprived of a chance at life.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  11. nigel

    I'm sorry, but no religion gives you the right to deny reality. I hate to break this to the author, but evolution was long ago proven beyond any shadow of a doubt. Dawkins is right and you are wrong. Sorry about your 3000 year old creation myth.

    There are a lot of religions. In the end there is only one science. Scientists disagree at times, but only because they are trying very hard to arrive at he truth. And there is only one truth. It's called reality. It doesn't change, only our perception of it gets better.

    Religions such as Christianity have some useful moral lessons. Science admittedly is basically amoral (although the vast majority of people alive today owe their existence to scientific advances such as the discovery of bacteria and vaccines). But just because you have belief in a book gives you no right to question reality. Or Charles Dawkins, who if ever said anything untruthful, did so by accident.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  12. georgeintexas

    So long as preachers are more interested in building empires and political power than advocating for the poor and disenfranchised, they should be considered nothing but a brood of vipers and scorned for not following Jesus in the way love and poverty. Doing away with their tax exempt status would help them find their way back to the light.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Fact check

      The vatican has enough wealth to feed the hungry 10 times over. Guess the pope would rather please his god by looking good in gold lined wardrobes.

      Wonder if the pope is gay? Find it odd that he wears a dress, ruby red shoes and hat, yet hates other gays.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  13. God

    There is a pecking order of intelligence in my toy humans.

    1. Atheists – the most intelligent
    2. Agnostics – generally smart, too
    3. Liberal Christians – tend to sort of believe, go to church to praise me periodically and are pretty relaxed about the whole thing.
    4. Catholics – we're getting toward the bottom of the IQ ladder now.
    5. Evangelicals – now, we are really scraping the bottom of the barrell. I so regret making these fools, they drive me nuts.I wish they would shut up and let me not exist in peace.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Louis Faihild

      You must be both smart and stupid, since it takes one to know one. What are you now? Let me guess... I'll get back to you. I wouldn't want to make a mistake and fall under your wrath because I am stupid, because we all know how these takes one to know one's hate stupid people. Well, I think I'll just go to the stupid area of town and love the people, while you continue to say how great you are...

      October 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      @Louis
      Pay attention! We are all trying to help you. Say thank you for be a fool!

      October 16, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Erm

      Takes one to know one?
      Is this grade school?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
    • Fundie

      "Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become 'fools' so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness'; and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'" (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

      October 16, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • newsreel

      You are doing good man, you got a religious to acknowledge you as god. It is hilarious to see him fight tooth and nail with his GOD. What a fool he made himself to be, in public.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
  14. Gaven

    What is so scary about America’s evangelical Christians? Ummm...perhaps it is because they are a bible page away from being just as much a zealot as a Muslim jihadist. These freaks stand out on the corner of a sidewalk or in front of business or restaurant yelling and screaming we're all going to hell and that we are sinners. Why? Because they are so brainwashed and so close to becoming a zealot that they simply can't grasp that they are infringing on other people's rights NOT to have religion shoved down their throat. Evangelists are extremists as far as Christians go. Any thing taken to the extreme is dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Rules

      We see that today in Africa, where the christains are terrorist. Fortunately the USA keeps these religions in check.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  15. Dave Mathers

    Wow!!! Absolutely no bias in this story.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • Erm

      I know, right??

      October 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  16. Badsah Mukherji

    I believe a free democracy should allow every person to practice religion – or not practice it – as he or she sees fit. The majority religion should not impose itself on the rest, or make others feel like their path is the only path and all others are blasphemous. This is why, as a practicing Buddhist living in conservative Orange County, in Southern California, I constantly feel like the Christian Evangelists have declared war on those of us who will not accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Such people believe that they are the only ones with a monopoly on morality and truth. Well, guess what? Buddhists have been practicing morality since 600 years before the birth of Christ. Another thing: while I don't believe Jesus was a god, I find how he lived his life an inspiration for all humans. It's pathetic that too many Christians don't follow his example. Greed, materialism, and selfishness, and a lack of empathy for the poor, are signs of hypocrisy.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  17. D

    What's so "scary"?
    Hmm, maybe a group of people trying to force their lifestyle choices onto society and make everyone comply with it, whether they subscribe to it or not.

    October 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Fundie

      The argument goes both ways. Secular humanism is being imposed on us.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • S1N

      Too true. I made an evangelical REALLY mad last week. He wouldn't leave me alone until I accepted his mini-New Testament, even after declining politely twice. The third time, I happily accepted and set it on fire right in front of him. You should have seen the look on his face. It was priceless!

      October 16, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Fundie, that is total nonsense. What lifestyle is being forced on you? Is anyone trying to get you to marry someone of the same se.x? Is someone trying to force you to have an abortion? Is anyone trying to stop you from praying anywhere you wish? Pray tell what atheistic lifestyle anyone is trying to force upon you?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      There is when some athiest have no words when there is controversial art displays in buildings such as state colleges and community centers but when Christmas time comes around they then want to say what people can and can not see on the same property. It's little things like that in which militant athiest are no different in attempting to restrict and conform people as the evangelicals.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  18. Louis Faihild

    Jesus is Lord. This is real.
    vote
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Maybe
    4. If yes, then I am out of luck
    5. If yes, then I am happy
    6. If no, then I am sad
    7. If yes, then I am glad
    8. If maybe, then I'll think about it

    October 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Rules

      Why the partial list? Your brainwashed mind can't bear the truth?

      Ans: No need to worry about a jesus. Just happy helping others in life without false rewards.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Louis Faihild

      I would rather be "brainwashed" by the Lord than by Satan.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Colin

      Louis, you realize atheists no more believe in the big bad sky-fairy than we do in the big good sky-fairy, right?

      October 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      You're special aren't you? Listen carefully...I'll use simple words so you don't miss the meaning. Jesus is a character in a book...like Sherlock Holmes...and just as fictional. He's a figurehead used to promote an mythical idea. A 2000 year old urban legend. Created and written by unknown scribes decades after he was already apparently dead to wow the ignorant into the new fashionable religion. Nah....you can keep your twisted death cult...I'm going to focus my energy on maximizing my happiness in this life...you know...the only one that we all know is real. You go ahead and worry about protecting your place in line for the pearly gates. And good luck with that..34,000 different sects of Christianity....hope you chose correctly.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  19. Louis Faihild

    OK, so everyone knows that Jesus was a liar and an idiot, so when you die and go to hell, you can just call to witness the fact that what Jesus said could not have been true or been what he really meant since he was a liar and an idiot. Everyone knows Jesus was highly immoral and an idiot. After all, he didn't even know how to speak English!

    October 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • newsreel

      Aaahh, a so called religious out here to defend religion, but you are so spiteful, argumentative, fighting with everybody. Where is the self-claimed "peace"? "serenity "? "love" of your fellow or enemy ??? You are the real representative of the religious today, just red boiling blood out to fight word for word with evryone. You give us one more good reason NOT to be in your spiteful group. 🙂 where there is no peace, let alone salvation....

      October 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  20. JennyTX

    Didn't Jesus tell his followers to take care of the sick and the poor? Then why do so many Christian conservatives oppose universal health care??

    October 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • S1N

      That's easy. When he said "take care of" the poor, he meant permanently.... mafia style.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
    • Louis Faihild

      S1N
      do you eat out of dishes made of your relatives skulls? They must be delicacies. I have never heard of anyone eating anything mundane out of bone china. Your posterity will no doubt eat out of dishes made from your skull too. I can taste the sumptuousness!

      October 16, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Fundie

      Personally, I see no problems with it, but some oppose it because Jesus' call to care of the sick and the poor was originally intended at *individuals*. In other words, the argument boils down to "it's the role of the Christian community rather than the government."

      October 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • S1N

      I don't normally use relatives. I prefer to use the skulls of newborn babies. They're the perfect size for the cup holder! Sometimes, they even come with some leftover brain matter. It's delicious!

      October 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • Louis Faihild

      but to ensure that you are drinking from true boneheads, don't you think you should always use the skulls of your relatives? I know your posterity will be sure to use yours, for everyone is taught these days how delightful it is to drink from china made from boneheads. but maybe someone stole your relatives bonehead china, if so I heard you can have a certain surgery where part of your skull is removed and you can use it as bonehead china; you're appearance will change a little, but the tastebuds actually become more perceptive.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      When Jesus was still kicking there were no governments of the people, by the people, for the people. We are the government and the government is us. We have the ability to help more people now that the government represents all of us inclufing Christians. Christians seem to want the government to enforce religious beliefs until it involves helping others, then all hands off. That just shows exactly what these people are about. Government as enforcer of religious persecution.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • PsiCop

      Because they aren't following Jesus. They just SAY they are. Really, they haven't the first clue what Jesus actually taught. They have no idea what "blessed are the poor" or "turn the other cheek" or "when you pray, pray in secret" or any of the rest of Jesus' admonitions mean. They don't read those words in the gospels. They read other words ... words that the rest of us can't find there, and which they think justify their avarice and hatred of others.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • Erm

      Fundie...do you really think that's what he intended? It doesn't say one way or the other...as an individual or as a society. Do we want a society or a gov't that doesn't care about and for the downtrodden? I don't think Jesus would have been cool with that, just based on the rest of the stuff he preached.
      The people who I see arguing against Universal Healthcare actually seem like they would not help someone if they fell down right in front of them, not if it came with the possibility that they would have to spend some of their "hard earned tax dollars" to do so. They are not charitable in the slightest...the ones who argue against it the most...that gov't shouldn't force them to give their money to someone else...so that leads me to believe that they don't give on their own, either!

      October 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • newsreel

      Good observation, and that tells you about the reality of those religious. They are in for formality only. Their real goal is the promised (fake) ticket to heaven. So go to church, give the contribution and be satisfied that the ticket is secure. All real charity is a bother, let alone an expensive proposition that raise their taxes.

      October 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
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About this blog

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.