January 12th, 2013
12:04 PM ET

Gun issue divides religious community

By Athena Jones, CNN

Washington (CNN) -– There is a split in American pews over gun control. In the weeks since the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, many Christians are wrestling with gun control, an issue they once held as a sacred, untouchable right.

For years gun control was championed by Catholic and mainline Protestant churches, but now many evangelicals are joining the growing choir of Americans asking what can be done.

“Maybe the most interesting meeting we had was with the interfaith group,” Vice President Joe Biden told reporters after meeting with a wide range of interest groups on guns. Biden was tasked by President Barack Obama to head up a task force to provide recommendations to reduce gun violence.

Biden said he was surprised to see a new face at the table: “evangelical groups, who generally have been reluctant to engage in this, because it's been viewed as maybe an attack on cultural norms relating to rural communities and gun ownership.”

Newtown could mark a tipping point on gun control for evangelicals.

Daniel Darling, an evangelical pastor from the Chicago area, called on fellow evangelicals to speak up on guns in an article on CNN’s Belief Blog.

He urged support for what he called “common sense regulations” - like restricting sales of high capacity magazines and assault weapons.

"I think it's a conversation we need to have and as evangelicals not be afraid to have," Darling told CNN. "The Scriptures call us to love our neighbors more than we love our guns."

“Most religious groups actually line up in support of stricter gun control laws,” said pollster Robert P. Jones, CEO of the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute.

“The group that really stands out is white evangelical Protestants as the group most strongly opposed to stricter gun control laws," he said.

An August survey by the research institute found about 60% of Catholics and religiously unaffiliated Americans support stricter gun control laws, compared to just 35% of white evangelical Protestants and 42% of white mainline Protestants. That survey came after the mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater but before the shooting in the Connecticut elementary school.

Jones said culture and geography also played a role in the differences among groups.

The research institute found that white evangelicals are also the most likely religious denomination to own guns. Many live in southern and rural areas where guns are a way of life.

"We have separation of church and state, but not separation of religion and politics," Jones said.

Shaun Casey, a professor of Christian ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington who advised the Obama campaign in 2008, said the split among Christians on gun control nearly mirrors the split among Christian voters in the 2012 presidential election.

Casey points to biblical interpretation on weapons as a way to explain the difference among Christians. He said he believes some Christians misinterpret an episode late in Jesus' life when his disciple Peter tried to defend him from Roman soldiers with a sword.

"Some people say 'Well, that clearly means that disciples of Jesus Christ can carry personal weapons,'" he said, before adding that those readers ignore the part of the story where Jesus orders Peter to put the sword back in its sheath.

“People who look at that story and come away thinking that it's permissible for Christians to carry concealed weapons really misconstrue the whole story. The story is in fact about how Christians have in fact been disarmed by Jesus Christ."

The focus cannot be on guns alone for many Christians, but also on the environment that gives rise to this type of violence, according to the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian advocacy group. They said the focus should not only be on the guns themselves, but also on the environment that gives rise to this type of violence.

"When you have 40% of America's children being born into homes without fathers, we shouldn't be surprised to see this rise in violence. You cannot look at one aspect of this and say that it's simply because we don't have a ban on assault weapons," said the council's president, Tony Perkins.

"I'm not saying there is not merit to have a discussion about gun ownership,” Perkins said. “I do believe we have a Second Amendment right and that a law abiding citizen should have the right to protect themselves. What we are saying here at the Family Research Council is when we have a discussion about the violence that is taking place here in our nation, we cannot overlook the role that the family plays in this environment."

Biden has committed to getting his task force's policy recommendations to the president by January 15.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Catholic Church • Christianity

soundoff (277 Responses)
  1. Jason

    Why does media persist in claiming there is a rise of violence? FBI dot Gov shows that all violent crimes, including murders have been decreasing since the 70's! There is NO increase of crime in the united states.

    January 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It would ruin their angle. Be it guns, video games, films or teen pregnancy (it depends on which station you watch), the media need somebody to blame for a mostly non existent problem (although the number of mass shootings lately is worrying).

      January 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Argonaut

      The only mention of any increase in violence in the article was not made by the nedia but by an agenda-pusher from the Christian "Family Research Council."

      Why did you attribute his position to the media?

      January 12, 2013 at 3:50 pm |
    • End Religion

      It's religion pushing fear and/or pushing end of times bullshit. They need to sell more "dead god on a stick" jewelry and books.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Dave

      I thought it was zombie-on-a-stick.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  2. truth be told

    All so called atheists are all liars all the time.

    January 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Atheist

      Everything I ever said was a lie. Including that.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
    • truth be told

      It does not matter what you say unless it would be the sinners prayer of repentance, other than that prayer, everything you say and think you stand for has been and is a lie.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • redzoa


      Mind you, no prayer of repentance preceded this. Still a lie?

      January 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  3. Banjo Ferret

    Ferretians are not divided on guns, for they are not allowed on the Great Energy Bubble Ride. Tim the Destroyer of Worlds is the only gun you will ever need. Repent!

    January 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Sfiffy Bob, The Yodeling High Priest of Aardvarkism

      Everyone knows that the "Great Energy Bubble Ride" is just Tim farting in the hot tub. Tim isn't a destroyer of worlds; he is a destroyer of hot tubs.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  4. lionlylamb

    Micah 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

    Silly Christians cannot see the gospel truth despite it being in their view.

    January 12, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Yeah

      But there is another passage where Jesus tells his disciples to buy swords. Not contradictory or anything.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  5. Bradley

    This is an outright fabrication.

    Aside from a few pacifist denominations, all Christians are required to defend themselves. Catechisms 2263-2265 in Catholicism cover the obligations to defend your life, and the lives of others.

    Luke 22:36 specifically tells the disciples of Christ to arm themselves, for their self-defense.

    January 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • End Religion

      Christ meant each of you to use a spork for defense, not a tank.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Arm themselves with the weapon most popular back then (more than likely a sword), not with weapons like the AR-15 that is meant to take out large groups of people in a matter of seconds!

      January 12, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
    • Theodore

      That's the cool thing about the Bible: It has so many different mandates in so many different places that you can support just about anything. You can support being a pacifist if you want, you can support buying weaons and starting an insurrection against your government (this passage).

      January 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
    • billy

      and what about eating shellfish?

      January 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  6. Origin of Life

    Don't need religion to tell us where Origin of Life began OR how the 2nd works

    Origin of Life: Just add WATER !!!
    Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

    Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Nice reference, thanks.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • It is Called

      The power of the dollar = greed on all sides

      January 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • Origin of Life

      Your welcome

      January 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
  7. capitalist

    God saves, but guns are better at protection.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      guns are more powerful than god - got it.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Plato

      An guns are even better at killing a loved one in the house instead of a criminal!

      January 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yep, I'd reach for my .38 before I'd kneel down mumbling to Santa if an intruder entered my house.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Robert Klugman

      Add Rational Libertarian to my list of gun owners who actively fantasize about situations in which they can kill people.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • ???????

      Better protection than g-od too maybe.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Add Robert Klugman to my list of liberal d.ouchebags. I bet you have a shrine to Obama which you jack off to regularly.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Robert Klugman

      Oh Ratty, was that really the best you could do? Just about any kindergartener could come up with a better insult . . unless they were gunned down first, of course.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      You're the one fantasizing about infanticide.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Robert Klugman

      Really? Look, I'll give you a do-over so that you can have another chance to make your wit actually . . . witty.

      On the other hand, you do qualify for handicap plates due to your comedy-impairment.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Hmmm, and you criticize my witticisms?

      January 12, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Robert Klugman

      I would if I ever saw any. Keep practicing; you might get there one day.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  8. ???????

    From article above:
    Daniel Darling, an evangelical pastor from the Chicago area, called on fellow evangelicals to speak up on guns in an article on CNN’s Belief Blog.

    Strictest gun laws and highest murder rate thought i read that some place
    Maybe the pastor needs education on evolution and the 2nd.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Peterson James

      No, Chicago is way down the list.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      look around the world. the safest countries have the highest gun control - coincidence? there are a couple that break that - mexico for one, but by and large, the safest countries in the world all have strict gun control - check norway for instance.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Tell that to the parents of Breivik's victims.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Lexie

      RL: One massshooting in Norway. One. =>1<=. Next you're going to suggest if those kids had been armed, this wouldn't have happened? Norway is doing quite spectacularly, thank you, one abomination notwithstanding.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Actually . . .

      Breivik was a right-wing libertarian zealot with a gun.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Calling Breivik a libertarian is retardedly misinformed or just a lie.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:42 pm |
    • Actually . . .

      "The Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv writes that Breivik sought to start a Norwegian version of the Tea Party movement"

      His manifesto contains many ideas you have actually spouted here.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Who said the Tea Party movement was libertarian? You can call a rose a weasel but it doesn't make it so.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • Actually . . .

      According to the Libertarian Party's own website, the Tea Party is heavily Libertarian.


      January 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The Tea Party is a conglomerate of various right wing zealots (with the odd genuine economic and social libertarian) who believe that the best way to combat the current regime is to set up a theocracy masquerading as a libertarian regime. Thankfully most genuine libertarians see them for what they are.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Actually . . .

      I am glad that you have the sense to not fall for their insanity. There's a lot of lunatics in that fringe.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  9. Libertarian

    Let's ban all objects used to murder people, in the order of their use, most popular to least popular.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Peterson James

      Very efficient use of the Slippery Slope Fallacy and the Arguement ad absurdum fallacy.

      That's high-density fallacy you have going on there!

      January 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Libertarian –

      Do you vote?

      January 12, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It's good to know there's more than one of us.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      let;'s start with the most effective and go from there. so guns are number one...

      January 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • It is Called

      In 2011 – the latest year for which detailed statistics are available – there were 12,664 murders in the US. Of those, 8,583 were caused by firearms.

      NCSA'S Traffic Safety Fact Sheet 2011 Data 'Alcohol-Impaired Driving' (DOT-HS-811-700), Traffic fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes decreased by 2.5 percent from 10,136 in 2010 to 9,878 in 2011. The alcohol-impaired-driving fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT) remained at 0.34 in 2011 (same as in 2010).

      January 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Haliburton's War

      Cars serve a valuable social function, whereas guns do not.

      The deaths attributed to cars are mostly accidents and only very very very rarely intentional homicides. The 8,583 were all intentional homicides.

      Apples and oranges.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  10. Robert Klugman

    If you want to get insight into the inner agenda of gun people, get into a nice conversation with them about self defense. Ask them what circumstances the would use the gun, how they would use it, things like that.

    And what you will inevitably find is that gun people spend a lot of time thinking about and preparing to shoot people. If you do this with enough gun owners, you will realize that many actually lust for the opportunity to do it, and they intend to shoot well before any real threat emerges.

    I grew up around gun people, and the majority of them fantasize on occasion about shooting people.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Libertarian

      And anti-gun people fantasize about taking away guns from people – and many other things as well. They want to control your life.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Libertarian –

      Do you vote?

      (posted in the wrong thread above)

      January 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      Yep. They cannot wait to be given the chance to shoot a human. They threaten it, fantasize about it, hope for reasons to do it. They're just frustrated angry people looking for a legal reason to shut you up permanently. Why do their paper targets have silhouettes of the human torso? They want to practice nailing humans to satiate their love for violence.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I don't love violence. I do however love the Second Amendment.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      too bad statistics show otherwise.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Lexie

      Nobody is trying to get rid of the second amendment, and the sooner you get that irrational thought out of your head, "Rational", the better. Get thee back to your Montana compound.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Libertarian

      Don't believe them Rational Libertarian. Of course they want to do away with the 2nd Amendment. And right after that, it's the 1st Amendment. These are the people who invented the concept of "hate speech" after all.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  11. Libertarian

    Soda pop, guns, salt, sugar, cigarettes, and 1000 other things, have become talismans to these enemies of freedom – and choice – coincidentally

    January 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Yolanda

      Soda pop, salt, sugar, cigarettes . . . that's all the food groups in the South!

      January 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  12. It is Called


    New science standards created by a majority of 26 states for 2013. CNN has article. Stem Standards

    According to courts can't teach ID/creationism in public schools in US.
    NOVA | Intelligent Design on Trial
    Nov 13, 2007 – Featuring trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, including expert scientists and Dover parents,

    January 12, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • It is Called

      Oops Seperation of Chuch and State suppose to in include politics !!!

      January 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  13. Libertarian

    Liberals are obsessed with an inanimate object – the gun. They have imbued it with magical powers, evil intent, and will power. They don't see the folly of this bizarre personification of a thing.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • End Religion

      feel free to restate the position falsely

      January 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Peterson James

      Straw man fallacy. Quite the fallacy-palooza you got going on, buddy!

      January 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
  14. michael mcmullen

    .....but then again, I don't really expect anyone to think 'logically'....the media (fourth estate) will see to that....

    January 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      et's hear more about your phobias. Care to fill us in on the Bilderburg and/or Illuminati conspiracy while you're here?

      January 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  15. David Jones

    Guns don't kill people; gun owners kill people. Ban gun owners.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  16. michael mcmullen

    Joe Biden? Why in the world would anyone listen to him? Religion? That simply does not figure into the equation. How do we 'logically' blame an 'inanimate' object for the actions of humans? While 'accessibility' may be an issue, the inanimate object is NOT.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      stupid logic. the gun has nothing to do with it? really? simple math - he couldn't have killed so many without a gun.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  17. Reality

    Why do we need assault rifles for protection when we have tasers, pepper sprays, security cameras, security alarms, gps tracking, OnStar and 911????

    January 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  18. Libertarian

    There may be a split in evangelicalism on more gun control laws, but there is no difference of opinion on that among liberals. To them, gun owners are the Jews of pre WWII Germany

    January 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      I didn't know psychos took Jews into kindergartens to slaughter children in Germany.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  19. End Religion

    If you need 30 bullets to kill a deer, what you really need is more practice beforehand.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
  20. Badda Bing

    Look at the nice hunting rifle. Perfect for kindergarten safaris.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • The Four Fluffy Kittens of the Apocalypse

      The kids ought to get a bang out of that!

      January 12, 2013 at 12:30 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.