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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. snarks

    They would never ask if islam is dangerous. Instead, they cater to it. Liberalism, the greatest mental disorder of all. Find a cure for it, and the world heals.

    October 16, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • Howie76

      Not a real happy person are you?

      October 16, 2011 at 6:17 am |
    • LOL

      Any system of beliefs that argues against common sense and asks you to do things an otherwise rational person wouldn't do is probably bad news. I don't much care what they're doing and in who's name they're doing it in. That and they have to pass the 3B test before i'm inclined to trust them. Bacon, Beer, and B00bers. All 3, no exceptions.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • withoutgod

      Christianity currently poses a far greater threat to America than Islam. It enslaves far more American minds.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • Joe

      Have you been around CNN recently? They've had all kinds of articles discussing whether Islam is dangerous.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:23 am |
    • snarks

      Ignorance is bliss, but it doesn't mean you should accept it as your savior.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:24 am |
    • Heather Morrison

      I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the difference between a fundamentalist Christian and a fundamentalist Muslim is not any greater than which side of the paper a person is taught to begin his/her sentences. When CNN is asking about the dangers of evangelicals, don't bother your ornamental head about making sure Muslim bashing is getting the same amount of press time. Anyone who knows the world is greater than 4,000 years old, knows ignorance is dangerous and that fundamentalists roll in this ignorance like pigs in......

      October 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  2. Atomic Lobotomy

    Darwin was Jesus in wolf's clothing. What is clear is we've begun process of de-evolution (or devolution)–we are regressing at rapid rate, ensuring planet will be uninhabitable and human species will be extinct in matter of decades, or at least within this century. Second Coming here we come! Whee ! ! ! ! !

    October 16, 2011 at 6:13 am |
    • Howie76

      So your saying you believe in Darwin since we are de evolving. And you are happy for end times. Your hurting my brain or it is too early in the am.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  3. Dave

    I believe when you have a large group with a lot of political power and and the use it to oppose and put restrictions on things like basic science than there is a real danger that the United States will fall behind and we will no longer be leading in technology through out the next century.However, evangalicals believe believe that God is punishing the United Stated over our immoral behavior and only politicians who meet a purity test should be elected. Yes they are dangerous.

    October 16, 2011 at 6:12 am |
  4. This is why...

    "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."

    This.

    I don't think the RR is dangerous because they believe in God. I think they are dangerous because they seem to have a driving need to force their belief on others. As for the suggestion that the rest of us are forcing our sciency beliefs on them, I submit to you that one set of views is based on concrete observable evidence and the other blind faith that someone a few millennia ago heard a voice coming from a burning shrub.

    October 16, 2011 at 6:12 am |
    • withoutgod

      Evidence is such an inconvenient thing for believers. They can either accept evidence and deny religion, or deny evidence and accept delusion.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  5. Howie76

    These cult like christians only come out when emotional issues such as abortion come up because the conservative politicians fuel the flame. They do very little to help the poor and disenfranchised. The sermons are nothing more than motivational speaking and has little to do with religious belief. They need to start paying taxes and mooching off the American tax payer.

    October 16, 2011 at 6:10 am |
  6. Carmen

    I don't care what your beliefs are. I shouldn't have to care what your beliefs are. Your religious views should not effect my life in any way shape or form. Laws based on your religious views should not even be considered. That is why Evangelists are dangerous and not better than the Taliban. They want a country where their religious views are law.

    October 16, 2011 at 6:06 am |
    • Doris

      Laws influenced b your secuar beliefs should have no affect on my life in any way.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:12 am |
    • withoutgod

      @ Doris
      Not according to the Founding Fathers. They made it quite clear that they did not intend for religion to dominate the country in any way. A government separate from religion is, by definition, a secular government.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • LOL

      Then move to Iran, Doris. the founding fathers built in an escape clause to make it like that.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  7. Susan Nunn

    Every country has their radicals, and they are ours. Are they dangerous? No more so than the radicals in every other country. When one does not recognize the rights of others and is insistant that their way is the only way, and then the press gives them so much air time.... dangerous, yes.

    October 16, 2011 at 6:00 am |
    • jay

      I agree. If they talk the talk, not dangerous. But watch out when they walk the walk.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  8. Fmark

    Evangelical Christians have become the Christian Taliban. Unless you believe exactly what they do, worship THEIR God, THEIR way, you don't count. For all the blabber about anti abortion, all life is sacred, they're also the first ones to impose the death penalty. More people have been killed in the name of religion than any other cause.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:57 am |
    • Thinkagain

      If Maths is creating a lot of problems in your grades, that does not mean math is the root cause of all evil. If there is a scientific chemical element that is causing certain undesirable results that does not mean science is the problem and we should stop studying it. If religion has been misunderstood and misinterpreted that does not mean we should discount GOD. If you do that my friend I am afraid you are an extremist. GOD does exist and the right thing for you to do will be to just pray one line every night asking him to reveal himself to you, instead of commanding him to appear in front of you as soon as you call. Look he is GOD and he is the one who made us. We have to ask him with humility all due respect, and you will feel peace and Christ will reveal himself to you, as he himself said, taste and see that the lord is good he made us and we are his people. God himself does not want you to believe blindly, he first wants you to humbly approach him first and get a feel of his goodness and then you have to believe in him.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:24 am |
    • Fmark

      Thinkagain, thanks for making my point. I never said I didn't believe in God. Religion however, especially how the Evangelists portray the practice of THEIR method of worshiping God as the only true way is no different than the Muslim Taliban.

      October 16, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  9. Thinkagain

    This is heavy
    The beginning of the video is familiar but continue watching till the end, its humble

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euHwXfLNQSw&w=640&h=360]
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n6boJ3IjgA&w=640&h=360]

    We surely need a standard for humility, and equality.
    Jesus is the right measure, and only he can be.

    China will never be so humble, they are just to proud, even thou they have no idea about their origins just as no one does, or any control over their future. The power of making choices should not be misunderstood for the ability of having total control as some atheist do. Considering the amount of atheist in usa is proof that usa is becoming more chinese, rather than the other way around as it should have been, we should have had a lot more influence over china as we have had else were.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  10. Drake

    The trouble with religion is that you stop questioning what you are told as long as it conforms to the tenets of your particular religion. Religion is a spiritual journey that means different things to each of us. It is not a rulebook that outlines how we think the rest of the world should conform.

    Mix religion and politics and you will drive many of the electorate out of participation and our government will seem to represent a fraction of the population.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:51 am |
    • Howie76

      They really ned to consider taxing these churches.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:04 am |
    • withoutgod

      @Howie76

      They don't want to pay taxes themselves, but ask that, per god's instruction, their followers pay them 10%. Isn't that a tax? And why are so many of their right wing followers who are anti tax happy to pay god's tax? Churches don't build our roads or aircraft carriers.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  11. Saturn

    The language used in these types of pieces is hilarious. "Secular elites" keeps popping up all over the place, as if that were an actual specific group of people, like a box you have to check on the census form.

    The reason why evangelicals are dangerous should be obvious, but evangelicals themselves never seem to get it. What it breaks down to is that secular people believe government should be based on the best choices people can make for themselves, whereas evangelicals believe that government should be based on what their god says is right.

    It's sad that people still passionately defend this kind of nonsense in the 21st century, but I suppose everyone has to wake up in their own time.

    What's this doing on the front page of CNN anyway? I thought CNN was a news site.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:46 am |
    • LOL

      The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary paid an assload of money in advertising dollars to get it put on the front page. that's how CNN works. that's how all mainstream news works.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:48 am |
    • Joe

      First off, this is an op-ed piece similar to those seen in other news outlets around the world.

      Secondly, everyone believes that government should be run morally regardless of your definition of moral. As long as Christianity is a source of moral standards, individuals with Christian beliefs have a completely legitimate place in the political landscape.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:50 am |
    • Yvette

      It's a blog you fool - a blog is an opinion-based collection of writings. People are able to write blogs because of this little thing called freedom of expression - something that the founding fathers thought was necessary for a democracy to thrive.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:56 am |
    • Drake

      Morality is not a uniquely Christian concept (as much as some people would like the world to believe). Furthermore morality is something that is part of the individual not a policy of any party.

      You are just supremely prejudiced towards Christianity and won't admit it (and you have mixed religion and politics).

      October 16, 2011 at 5:58 am |
    • Saturn

      @Joe
      No, not everyone believes government should be based on their definition of morality. That's the whole point. Government is based on a process. It's based on free will, choice, voting, and compromise.

      But Christians, believing their morality is of divine origin, believe it's above the process, that it's too important to be subject to that. They believe God's laws are more important than man's laws.

      That's a problem when not everyone believes in the same god, wouldn't you think?

      October 16, 2011 at 5:59 am |
    • LOL

      it's an even bigger problem when they *DO* believe in the same god. *points at the middle east* no separation of crut...er church and state there. unless there's something about the schism someone's not telling me.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:03 am |
    • Scully

      OK, Yvette, everyone has a right to "blog", but what made CNN decide to put this blog on their main page? Sensationalism? Money? Who knows. Poor choice for a headline, in my opinion.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:05 am |
    • LOL

      Why does the look on this guy's face remind me of Private Leonard Lawrence from Full Metal Jacket?

      October 16, 2011 at 6:11 am |
    • biggy2

      This isn't even classified as op ed, it's tagged as belief. I agree with LOL, money seems to be talking. As if we had any difficulty in comprehending or being informed of the beliefs of evangelicals. Thanks CNN.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:15 am |
    • Joe

      @Saturn: "Government is based on a process. It's based on free will, choice, voting, and compromise."

      Choice, voting, and compromise are based on the personal moral perspectives of the people doing those things. A secular government means that all voices should have a place at the table, including religious voices. Otherwise, government is no longer secular, it's anti-religious.

      @Drake: I didn't say that Christianity is the only source of morality, nor do I think that it is. Morality is something that stems from individuals. Democracy is based on the conglomerate of individual perspectives, so unless you want to inhibit those perspectives in politics then Christian perspectives are just as valid and no more dangerous than any other perspective. Mixing religion and politics is appropriate; making sure that religion can't establish politics and politics can't establish religion is the purpose of the First Amendment.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:18 am |
    • Joe

      Let me clarify, morality doesn't stem from individuals, generally it comes from an overarching religion or worldview. However, it does vary from person to person which is is what I meant to say and that's why all perspectives should be included in a democracy.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:27 am |
    • LOL

      When you include all perspectives in a democracy they try to marginalize everyone not like them through legislation. Unless you live somewhere ending in '-stan' then they blow each other up for apostasy and then vote on it later. How about you leave democracy out of your faith and faith out of your democracy. I'm not saying be amoral, i'm saying use common sense.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:31 am |
  12. antichrist i am

    christians are garbage

    October 16, 2011 at 5:44 am |
  13. Beasten

    So a majority of Americans don't believe in evolution? Okay. Don't get too close to the edge of the world, you might fall off.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:44 am |
  14. Mike

    I want secular voices in government because secular voices aren't trying to tell other people what to do based on what they believe. Religion has absolutely ZERO place in government.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:41 am |
    • LOL

      That's why i always fill out religious preference as "Godfearing Athiest". i'm not scared of God. I'm scared of what others do in his/her/it's name(s).

      October 16, 2011 at 5:44 am |
    • Joe

      Everyone is trying to tell other people what to do based on what they believe.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:52 am |
    • LOL

      you are correct, joe, that's why i dont want people who believe in a 2000 year old zombie movie telling me what to do.

      October 16, 2011 at 5:55 am |
  15. Scully

    My personal experience tells me that evangelical philosophy is indeed dangerous, if you are either a female, an ethnic minority, or a child of any race or gender. I grew up in a baptist church that taught that women should not seek higher education because their place is at home, blacks and whites should not mix, children should be beaten, and pubic schools were evil. And this was no fringe baptist church; the pastor was the regional head of the moral majority and local politicians made frequent appearances at our services. I can tell you that at least on an individual level, an evangelical can be dangerous, so I shudder to think of the mass suffering they could cause if given control over a population.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:41 am |
    • Carmen

      Wow things must be really different in the White Baptist Church then in the Black Baptist Church. Because none of that stuff was taught in my church at all. In fact everyone was encouraged to seek higher education.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:11 am |
    • Owen

      Albert Mohler is certainly mainstream evangelical but like most evangelicals he is mistaken in thinking it is atheists who are dubious of or embarrased by this pop version of Christianity. It is those of us who do scholarly study of the Bible who are most embarrased by the narrow minds of the fundamentalists.

      Scully, most of the things things you have observed of these "Christians" are total contradictions to the teachings of Jesus.

      Owen

      October 16, 2011 at 6:17 am |
    • forgethistory

      Scully, you also grew up in a country that believed slavery was ok (actually it still does if you count the money people spend on things from overseas sweatshops). your country also believed that women shouldn't be in roles of authority. Yes, the Church is wrong for suppressing these people but don't pretend like ignorance isn't at the roots of ALL facets of your life

      October 16, 2011 at 6:23 am |
  16. LOL

    I just give anyone who can read that has a half a brain a bible, a quran, and a general science text, and let them figure out for themselves. it's the fastest, best way to make athiests, drive someone completely crazy, or at the very least make them re-evaluate their belief system. the religious are bad enough, really, when they start dabbling in politics and get the taste of power it goes immediately down the drain. You've seen how well the government succeeds in most other areas, you want them mixing it up with religion, too? No thanks. Having faith is fine, whatever gives you your kick and gets you through the day. Do i want someone who talks to imaginary friends with their finger on the button? I shouldn't have to answer that and neither should anyone else. That's pure common sense.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:41 am |
  17. Alex

    Conservative American Christians ARE fascists in every sense of the word.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:39 am |
    • jim dandy

      Agree 110%!!!

      October 16, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  18. Jerry Freedman

    Believing the Jesus is Lord is fine, believing that Scripture has a lot to say about marriage is also fine. Attempting to impose these views on others my hardening this beliefs into laws that affect the rest of us is not fine however. Prayer in schools, Ten Commandments on the steps of City Hall, the Defense of Marriage Act are all examples of imposing forcing beliefs ( or rather someones particular interpretation of Christianity), on the rest of us. This is what I find worrisome and even repellent in current evangelical Christianity

    October 16, 2011 at 5:35 am |
  19. Mighty7

    Ask gays in Angola why Evangelists are dangerous...

    October 16, 2011 at 5:32 am |
  20. Peggy

    I firmly believe in freedom of religion and freedom from religion. My biggest complaint with the most recent crop of "Christian" politicians is that their ideas don't reflect being Christian. Help the poor? No way. Help the moneychangers and the rich? Hell yes. To me the ultimate Christian President who truly reflected the Christian spirit was Jimmy Carter. And he still does. But yet, so many denigrate him as a fool and poor leader.

    October 16, 2011 at 5:30 am |
    • Prettygreenbird

      I couldn't agree more.

      October 16, 2011 at 6:08 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.