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. JFB

    Evil gelicals is nothing but a stupid cult

    October 16, 2011 at 5:25 am |
  2. Sabrina

    No MAN has a right to take away my rights as a woman!!!!!!

    Your religion has NO place in the laws I must abide to, I do not believe in YOUR god!! so STFU!!

    Stop drinking the Kool-aid and use your brains!!

    October 16, 2011 at 5:25 am |
  3. gager

    Evangelicals are a bunch of grinning fools.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:24 am |
  4. rex edie

    many right on and truthful comments here.... fanaticism from any group is negative..... sadly ...such a huge percent of humanity isn't capable of using more brain power to allow themselves to be enlightend... how many more humans with no hope of anything....do we need on this planet...??? we our drowning in a sea of uselessness..... abortion should be the right of the individual..... though these religious nuts dont mind ordering people in the military to die..... when will they learn there is only one god.... and it goes by many different names....???? just depends on the flavor you prefer....

    October 16, 2011 at 5:21 am |
    • Kev

      "Envangelicals believe that the pattern for human relatedness set out in Scripture will lead to the greatest human flourishing"
      Really, so couples should have as many children as possible, men should keep concubines, the poor and colored should be enslaved?
      You honestly worry about poverty and stewardship of Earth? How, by "drill-baby-drilling" and destroying the EPA, welfare, food stamps, and unemployment benefits?
      And Rick Perry isn't an idiot b/c "the American public" questions evolution?
      You really are the worst kind of stupid. You are the kind that indocrinates other stupid people to vote against their own interests. So in this recession, how will your undereducated drones get by without government "handouts" ?

      "Secularism" works because it is impartial. The government of an advanced civilization should not rely on intangible "faith" to govern. Should a disabled veteran just pray a little harder instead of being on Medicaid? Because the bible speaks of unlimited natural resources, should we accept this as true in our decision-making despite universal evidence to the contrary?
      Oh, btw, just so you know, if there is a heaven, you and your ignorant followers will certainly not get there.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:50 am |
  5. A in Pa

    My problem with religion is that they are not satisfied to have freedom of relgion, they want to laws in place that force others to observe and practice their religious disiplines.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  6. Sam

    I used to be Baptist, then Methodist I have zero use for organized religion, in the end its all a bunch of hocus pocus with the blind leading the blind. I do believe in a god, and attend a spiritual (Not Evangelical, Oh Hell No) church. Fred Phelps, Idiot, Jerry Fallwall, Idiot, I loath Focus on the Family, the American Family association. All a bunch of looney tunes. Karma will give Fred Phelps and his followers what is coming to him for what he has done to fallen American Soldiers.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:06 am |
    • A in Pa

      Amen, ex-Mormon here. I also can now see relgion for what it really is. They have no need for God, they god rid of him a long time ago, men are now running the show and they never even consult with God. But they sure like to use his name and claim his authority.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:09 am |
  7. Vynn

    We have only to look at our own pre-democratic history to know what religion can do and be when it is not controlled by a secular government. Christians don't just hate non-Christians. They hate other Christians of a different sectary and denomination. If you were a Pennsylvania Quaker in 1750 it was not wise for you to venture into Presbyterian Massechusettes, where the punishment for your "blasphemy" of adhering to Quaker ideals was death. Secularism tamed Christians. Their push against secularism can only lead to what we saw in the past...just as we see in the unsecularized Middle East where Muslims live and die under antisecular Sharia law.

    "If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England]and in New England"

    [Benjamin Franklin, "Toleration", in _Works, Vol.ii._,p. 112]

    October 16, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  8. Andrew

    RD I said nothing of the sort, in fact, I explicitly stated that your god IS a possible explanation.

    Instead, I was arguing that it is intellectually dishonest to claim 'god did it' because the fact of the matter is, 'we don't know'. Yes, it's possible, you're free to believe that, but it's possible that your god didn't create it, it's no better an explanation than any other explanation because right now there is simply no science to comment on the subject.

    I prefer the honest approach to subst-tuing an answer just because 'we don't know' isn't satisfying enough for people. But again, to stress, your god is in no way necessary for the big bang. It's possible, but not a needed explanation. Certainly does not go against physics to see a universe without a god.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:03 am |
  9. Jim C

    Any religious group that doesn't believe in the "separation of church and state" is dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:54 am |
    • Roscoe

      So by believing and trusting in God that makes me an idiot. Because my views do not follow those of a collective bunch, I'm a moron. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Everyone preaches that religion is bigoted by those that preach it but it also those godless individuals that are also out committing murder, abusing children, and a host of the other atrocities that alot of you are contributing to Christians. None of us are perfect. With or without religion we all deserve hell. The difference is I am not ashamed to admit that Christians have fallen and are guilty for as much that has gone wrong in the world as nonbelievers. Still I remain committed to my God and seeking out His will. Do I think you should, yes. Am I going to force it upon you, no. But I am not sitting here telling you that I am better than you just because either. Even though I am a Christian, that does not make me any better than you. What I am is prayerful that He gives me everlasting rest in His kingdom.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:30 am |
  10. Leonard Durham

    So what do you secular people want me to do? Join the party on the broadway to hell? NO THANKS! Jesus is Lord wether you believe or not...

    October 16, 2011 at 4:54 am |
  11. Greg

    Check out the cracked(dot)com piece:

    "The four idiots who show up at every Internet discussion of religion:

    (1) The aggressive atheist.
    (2) The guy who attacks the other person's religion. ("Islam = terrorism." "Christianity = Crusades")
    (3) The guy who says if you don't join his faith, you'll burn in hell.
    (4) The all purpose troll."

    October 16, 2011 at 4:53 am |
    • Joe

      Nice! Literally laughing out loud right now. 🙂

      October 16, 2011 at 4:55 am |
    • Mike

      So Greg, just out of curiousity, which one of the four are you?

      October 16, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • Answer

      Do not forget to include the number 5 item:

      5) The devote defender.

      You see your little minds always leave out most important details. By posting your incomplete list you are just ignorant of who you really are.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  12. Joe

    The business of politics is supposed to be moral leadership. Dissenting views working together to find the best moral and practical solution to problems and then leading the country in that direction. I'm not so naive as to think this is what always happens, but that's certainly the model. Therefore, as long as Christianity is a source of morality, Christians will always have an undisputed place at the political table, unless we want to create a wall of separation between morality and state.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:50 am |
    • Denise

      Maybe that depends on your definition of "moral." Most christians I know aren't moral at all, in my opinion. The loudest ones are almost always hypocrites.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:53 am |
    • Joe

      Denise, you can say that about any people group that has a source of morality; we all fail to follow our standards more often then we'd like. That doesn't affect the point I was making.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:58 am |
  13. ravenrdr

    Evangelicals believe in the words of Jesus Christ? Really? Jesus was one of the greatest liberation theologists the world has ever known, a huge advocate of the poor, disenfranchised, and ostracized, Even so, evangelicals ignore this while speaking about abortion (which Jesus did not mention). Evangelicals are just reformulated, con artists who have latched onto a popular belief to attain power by exploiting others. Shame on them, and shame on their gullible adherents:they are either ignorant or evil. Let us hope they are only ignorant–history, unfortunately, tells a different story. . .

    October 16, 2011 at 4:50 am |
    • Joe

      How many times did Jesus exhort the Roman government to help the "poor, disenfranchised, and ostracized?'

      October 16, 2011 at 4:51 am |
  14. cho

    People are trying to forget our patriots who believed in God (Jesus) and built our nation. Because of them our country was come to being.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:49 am |
    • Brad

      Incorrect. Treaty of Tripoli. Learn history.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:57 am |
    • Brad

      Specifically Article XI and the quote, "The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." by....your favorite go to kind of guy, a Founding Father! Sorry, Please Try Again.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:01 am |
    • withoutgod

      Thanks and nicely done Brad, beat me to it. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin all were not Christians, nor did they feel that Christianity, or religion, or God at all should be involved in government. It's sad to see people constantly saying that the Founding Fathers intended this to be a Christian country even when it is entirely untrue. Ignoring valid evidence that does not support your beliefs is delusion. If you are unaware, then it is ignorance. There's no excuse.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  15. Samuel

    Actually, the author of this piece is utterly incorrect, and just demonstrates his bigotry against atheists. He had no evidence, and just posited claims without this evidence. Much like his religion, no?

    October 16, 2011 at 4:49 am |
    • withoutgod


      October 16, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  16. bigfoot

    Evangelicals that advocate no separation of church and state are indeed the most dangerous people on the planet. History proves this statement out indefatigably.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:45 am |
    • withoutgod

      Hi bigfoot! I hope that you won't take offense, but I often use your believers as an analogy to religion and its believers.

      "There exists a Bigfoot Field Research Organization. Among those followers of this organization, many have borne witness to Bigfoot, and offer you their testimony of Bigfoot's existence. There have been books published about Bigfoot. There are even those who are not a member of this specific organization, but still believe in Bigfoot, and have borne witness. Therefore, Bigfoot must exist."

      October 16, 2011 at 5:24 am |
  17. Denise

    Here we go again. Another evangelical christian pretending to be persecuted.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:42 am |
  18. AesopsRetreat Dot Com

    All murderers of our time, from Ghengis Khan to Pol Pot to Stalin to Mao, to Lenin, to Hitler etc (google murderers of history); were all agnostic, atheist and Left of center. Yet you still think you should fear Christians (whose worst fault is that they habitually turn the other cheek) even more than the Charley Mansons of this world because they want to save the lives of unborn babies. That's really smart of you. Very bright indeed.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:42 am |
    • Denise

      What about George Bush and Dick Cheney? They were/are serial killers who were pretend christians.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:47 am |
    • Samuel

      Hitler wasn't atheist. He was very deeply catholic, and utilized that position to justify persecution of the jews. The only reason these are the greatest murderers in history is because they lived in modern times, with the weaponry that gave them the power to do these terrible deeds. Take your bigotry to your church, because listening to people like you spout forth rhetoric without a second thought is incredibly frustrating.

      October 16, 2011 at 4:53 am |
    • Dave

      Aesop: you have your facts wrong- was Hitler left of center? How about the murders from the Crusades? George Bush is left of center? what are you thinking?

      October 16, 2011 at 4:53 am |
    • pt6071

      By your logic, it makes as much sense that since Hitler and Stalin both had mustaches that mustaches are the root of all evil. I'd say that the collective suffering caused European colonialism across the globe, including the genocide of virtually the entire native North and South American populations, shows Christians are not inherently more moral.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:02 am |
    • withoutgod

      Aesop, what about the 2,476,633 people God kills in the Bible? Note those are just those for whom the Bible gives numbers. Doesn't include the Great flood, the plagues of Egypt, the Massacre of the Midianites, the Jericho massacre, the Canaan massacre, the Ammonite massacre, or many other killings ordered by God.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:29 am |
    • jorgath

      Furthermore, you're correct only in that you can ascribe their murders to a single person. See, back in the 17th century, there was this thing called the Thirty Years War, which was fought between Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists, and killed massive numbers of people, especially civilian peasants. More people died in that war than died in the two world wars, including the Holocaust and Stalin's purges. And while there were too many people at fault in the Thirty Years War to pick a single person to blame (although my personal preference is the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, for a number of reasons), all of the ones you could conceivably blame were either Catholic, Lutheran, or Calvinist. Also known as...Christian.

      PS: Other candidates, in no particular order - that silly ass known as the Winter King of Bohemia who got himself thrown out a window, Elector John George of Saxony, Alfonso Cardinal Bedmar, Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, Pope Urban VIII, King Gustav II Adolph of Sweden, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. All Christian of various stripes.

      P.P.S. Oh, I'm actually a Christian-influenced Deist myself, just like...hmm...Thomas Jefferson. Just for the record, so I can't be accused of disliking Christians. I just dislike that particular idiotic claim.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  19. Denise

    Evangelicals terrify me. They are the terrorists.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • withoutgod

      Science flies people to the moon. Religion flies people into buildings.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:30 am |
  20. Snidely Whiplash

    Baptists aren't Christians. They're nothing but a cult. Just look at that Fred Phelps and his disrespect for fallen soldiers. Or Pat Robertson, Mr Cult Leader himself who probably wears flavored shoes because he sticks his foot in his mouth so often. They're the loony, distant, inbred cousins of the Xtianity world.

    October 16, 2011 at 4:38 am |
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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.