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)

    According to recent FBI figures 50% more deaths occurred in 2011 from blunt and sharp instruments than firearms. Twice as many people were murdered by fists, elbows and feet than firearms in the same period.

    Does that mean we should outlaw baseball bats and hands?

    How does making self-defense illegal create a safer environment? This is just one more instance of tyranny and idiocy in government.

    but that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

    January 13, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Darwin's Dog

      Abortion and heart disease are the number one takers of human life in America. I don't see them banning abortion or fast food anytime soon...

      January 13, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  2. christopher reid

    Gun rationing ?

    January 13, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  3. Rick

    Where does the Media get their crap...

    January 13, 2013 at 8:51 am |
  4. Lushrimfire

    1 of 350 million Americans, killed 27 of 350 million Americans, using 1 of 300 million gunsand people feel we have a gun problem? I think we have a math problem.

    January 13, 2013 at 8:43 am |
  5. HappinessWarmGun

    This is from the most conservative SCOTUS in Generation regarding the reasonability rule:

    All nine Justices agreed that a wide variety of gun laws are presumptively lawful. The Court listed many types of laws that would not be barred by the Second Amendment and stated that this list does not purport to be exhaustive.
    •Bans on gun possession by dangerous persons such as felons and the mentally ill
    •Laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings
    •Laws imposing conditions and qualifications on gun sales, which could include background checks, licensing, and limits on bulk sales of handguns
    •Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons
    •Prohibitions on dangerous and unusual weapons, such as machineguns and military-style semiautomatic assault weapons
    •Safe storage laws to prevent gun accidents.

    January 13, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • rob

      may you should look you should look up the criminal

      January 13, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  6. stevie68a

    Religion wears a cloak of "love", just to hide the hate. jesus christ is imaginary, jesus christ is imaginary. Shout it from the

    January 13, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  7. Sagebrush Shorty

    Do any of these people actually work?

    January 13, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  8. whatever

    Have yet to talk to anyone liberal or conservative in my community that supports more gun regulation or bans.

    January 13, 2013 at 7:18 am |
  9. Chick-a-dee

    Of all the posters who have opinions here, which of you has had an experience with a crime during which you did or could have had to take extreme measures for protection(NOT military or police experiences)? What was it? What were your thoughts during it? What did you do during it? What was the final outcome?

    January 13, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      I had a time while doing an archaeological dig for the BLM that some 'pot hunters' (artifact thieves) came into our dig armed with handguns. My shotgun ended a tense situation by merely being shown to them. They left in a huff, but they did leave.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Scott Nacke

      When I lived in Denver 25 years ago I didn't live in a very nice neighborhood. I was broken into twice. Once was through my kitchen window and the other was through the back door. The one coming through the back door was met by my german Shepard and the one that climbed through the kitchen window was met by my .357 revolver and he quickly dived out the window he came into.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • rob

      had, none because I still have the right to protect myself

      January 13, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • KatTrax

      Had to hold a repeat burglar at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived, about 15 minutes. We will never know what would have happened if we had not been armed. We had been advised previously that the thief would probably be high on drugs if we ever encountered him in the act of yet another burglary to the same property. Law enforcement praised our handling of the situation and re-affirmed our right to protect ourselves and our property. Peaceful end of story. The guns served their purpose without harm to anyone.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  10. JP

    The most ridiculous pro-gun arguments are coming from the most idiotic people. For instance, the notion that if more people carried guns, the safer we will be, is ridiculous because those people are not protecting themselves from criminals but from one another. When a lot of people carry guns, then one is forced to carry gun. If you don't believe me then watch the old Western movies. This is what pro-gun (Republican) people want - to revert America to the days of the Wild West where everyone carries a gun and lives in fear of the big bad government in the East. Just look at at their most revered speaker at the GOP convention, Clint Eastwood. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, that's how they envision the future of this country.

    January 13, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      You post this trash and have the nerve to call others idiotic?

      January 13, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • Matt

      To think banning guns will eradicate evil is just plain wrong (I am being nice here).

      January 13, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • dave duffey

      In the 'old western' movies there were certain people-outlaws and lawmen- who wore and used guns. Most people shut the doors and hunkered down when there was gun'play'.Guess that's where we're headed. Welcome to the new old west.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • rob

      may be you should have went to school instead of watching movies

      January 13, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • KatTrax

      People who do not realize that movies are fiction, entertainment, are the kind who commit mayhem in places like movie theaters, malls, and schools. You are the reason I support background checks but also my right to defend myself. Get some help.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  11. Peter Grenader

    The idea of a church arguing gun rights is as preposterous as some super-dad packing heat amongst the chaos of another mass shooting being able to actually land a debilitating shot in an area that's not covered by the maniac's protective gear is a fallacy.

    I do not want untrained gun owners walking around with weapons pretending to be the first line of defense between me and my safety and when that's allowed, that's when I would consider getting one myself because who the in the f knows what kind of day that guy has had, or how many beers he drank. Then my neighbor gets the same idea, then his sister and pretty soon, everyone is walking around with a six shooter on their belt and they're telling me THAT'S going to make this country safer?

    What's become interesting to me is is how few reoccurring examples are being touted by so many gun advocates on the net right now. It's a short list and I'm wondering where they are getting their talking points, and even who is really doing the typing. There's the more ppl die in cars should we ban them (it's like saying if a man falls off a mountain should be ban mountains – both ridiculous comparisons), then the semi vs. full auto argument that somehow dilutes the ballistic potential of the AR-15, the ten bullet clips will only allow me to kill two bad guys how about the rest of the gang as it stampedes my home and the course the Alex Jones ilk with the tyranny nonsense. All geared to trivialize, just so the NRA doesn't have to answer to Smith and Wesson et al. Meanwhile in a town near you, some will be left dead, some gravely injured and writhing in pain from the collateral damage of our collective indecision – their bodies and lives shattered with those who have just lost their child, parent or spouse.

    January 13, 2013 at 5:24 am |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Using a .40 caliber or larger handgun, hitting the assailant, even with the body armor will do damage. The assailant will be thrown off balance, probably knocked to the ground, thus making him an easier target for the next few shots, and making it more difficult for him to place the next few shots well.

      Something is better than nothing.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • rob

      and what is your solution?

      January 13, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  12. the AnViL

    literal comment from tried and true southern baptist cow:

    "the only weapon god prohibits man to own on this here earth, is the most deadly weapon known to man, and that's the flaming angelic sword! everything else is allowed, by god!" – to a resounding chorus of "amen!" and "hallelujah!"


    January 13, 2013 at 4:58 am |
    • n2it

      Amen and pass the grits? That sounds like mah kinda church.

      January 13, 2013 at 5:30 am |
    • the AnViL

      so long as they're not the bland careless instant type...

      if they're real grits, cooked correctly... maybe with some shrimp – i'll happily take them...

      you can have the church.

      January 13, 2013 at 5:40 am |
    • Bernard Webb

      Well, he's got a point. The Flaming Angelic Sword deals over 100 points of damage (more if it is enhanced with Jesus's Tears). And, if you wear a Shield Of Hellfire while the Flaming Angelic Sword is equipped, you get a +10 Armor advantage and your attacks have the element Fire added to them.

      January 13, 2013 at 6:40 am |
  13. the AnViL

    gun issue divides religious community...
    gay marriage issue divides religious community...
    immigration issue divides religious community...
    science issue divides religious community...
    education issue divides religious community...
    abortion issue divides religious community..
    health care issue divides religious community..
    terrorism issue divides religious community...

    religious issue divides religious community...

    religion is predicate on division.

    January 13, 2013 at 4:45 am |
  14. Darwin's Dog

    All the religious leaders in NY that I have communicated with are backing the 2nd amendment.

    January 12, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
    • NRA Jesus

      And the Lord sayeth, "I tell you truly, I prefer the Kalashnikov to the M-16, for truly it has more stopping power in kindergarten, and jammeth less, so that yonder toddlers can more quickly go to heaven. Amen"

      January 13, 2013 at 12:49 am |
    • Darwin's Dog

      All righty then...

      January 13, 2013 at 8:47 am |
  15. Darwin's Dog

    Thousands of Americans died on 9/11. Not one Box cutter was banned, we blamed the evil terrorists, invaded their countries too. Violence in schools is not new. The largest mass murder at a school was in the early 1900's (Bath massacre) and not a gun was used. The evil guy used explosives. But explosives weren't banned either...

    Maybe CNN should target the true reasons behind this evil that is attacking our schools and stop trying to push a political agenda of gun control...

    January 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • OPIHrlktjnwe

      Box cutters aren't banned? Try taking one on an airliner, buddy!

      Explosives aren't banned? Where do you live?

      January 13, 2013 at 12:50 am |
    • n2it

      Did you still buy into that whole official box cutter story as you watched the twin towers AND a 3rd building that wasn't even struck free fall straight down? I never will...Or the plane that crashed into a P.A. field that left no wreckage?

      January 13, 2013 at 5:34 am |
    • Darwin's Dog

      Uhhh... Shampoo is banned from airplanes.... And how about that 10 day waiting period on box cutters? No? Is the ATF notified every time you buy one? No, thought not...

      The point with explosives, that you missed, was that evil people are doing these acts, it wouldn't matter if guns were banned, they would use whatever they can. And explosives are much worse...

      January 13, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  16. George

    "Darling pastor of an evangelical church in the Chicago area..." Whooeee talk about rural how did they ever find a gun control liberal in a back water like that and do they have any gun control laws in this obscure berg of Chi ca go? How about gun deaths. Just curious.

    January 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm |
  17. Brampt

    In Canada gun control is pretty good, and we have %50 less gun killing then in the US. Clearly the US is a country that stopped back in the time of the cow boys!!

    January 12, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • Beth

      Canada generally is also less religious, and the lack of religio-dogma sure helps people there be more rational and less violent. Sweden is another great example of similar.

      January 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm |
    • Poltergeist

      Russia's % population of Nones is nearly three times greater than Canada's. It's #5 internationally for murder and up to 50% of the economy is linked to the black market.

      January 12, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • Fun with data

      Russia's murder rate was very low under communism, but the murder rate went up right alongside the rate of religion.

      See? I can lie with statistics too!

      January 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
    • rob

      Russia doe's not have freedom of speech they only publish what will impress the dumies of the world

      January 13, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • Darrell Birck

      And Canada has 1/10 the people America does...so if we simply apply math like you did with no real analysis...their crime problem in 5 times worse than ours...

      Stop showing 1 piece of data and drawing all you self made conclusions...

      January 13, 2013 at 11:28 am |
  18. there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

    guns have no hinduism, corruption of truth called religion, but a tool to defend from hinduism, criminality of hindu's, criminals of any sort, a GOD given right and enshrined in consti tution of USA, hindu Jew's, criminal self centered, secular have no right to take away GOD given right, have no doubt right to bare arms was made part of American consti tution just to defend from hindu Jew's, criminal secular s, the one who want to deny citizens right to bare arms.

    January 12, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      It's a shame that crazy people like this guy aren't in a mental ward. But we are happy as a country to let crazy people run wild. Should the guy who posted this be allowed to buy a gun?

      January 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      It's a shame that crazy people like this guy aren't in a mental ward. But we are happy as a country to let crazy people run wild. Should the guy who posted this be allowed to buy a gun??

      January 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • Jeremy

      The Second Amendment says the right to bear arms in uninfringable, and denying arms to crazy people is an infringement.

      Kalashnikovs for Kooks!

      January 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • there is no other truth but truth absolute, and truth absolute is LORD AND GOD OF THE WORLD.

      I already own a gun, not one but two to defend my right to bare arms from hinduism criminality of hindu Jew's, criminal secular s. hindu's criminals denier of consti tution of USA.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm |


      January 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  19. Mohammad A Dar

    can they duel like gentlemen to sort their issues out?

    January 12, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      On the subject, duels should be re-introduced as a way to settle arguments, assuming the consent of all parties of course.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Bang!

      Originally duels were fought with swords. Then, with the advent of firearms, duels were done with pistols. In consideration of this adaptation to technology, I think pro-gun Christians should duel anti-gun Christians with flamethrowers and clusterbombs.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I second that motion.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      I think it would beat the heck out of drive-bys and mass murders.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  20. Origin of Life

    Origin of Life MEANS seperation of church and state means
    No need for religion to control our lives. or POLITICS !!!

    Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.

    January 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • Origin of Life

      NOVA: Decoding Neanderthals – PBS Pressroom
      NOVA: Decoding Neanderthals. Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET. Check your local listings. Decoding Neanderthals Ep Main. Find out what

      January 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I tend to think people who use 'god' to apply to non-conscious enti'ties like nature or universal laws are either attempting to be manipulative by hijacking someone else's term or pathetically desperate to cling to an old notion they can only partially move beyond. Language is not a perfect tool and definitions are rarely as precise as we would like, but it is the tool we have, and stretching it too far will break communication.

      January 13, 2013 at 7:11 am |
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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.