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. SK Dick

    Its OK for us to train Military to KILL people in other countries including children and innocent people it seems. No one stands up for it to ban MASS KILLINGS for materialistic gains. Are the sane??

    People kill pests with sympathy then these guys kill others for fun. Check YouTube for the latest mass killing machine of the day that can fire 5000 bullets in a second to kill other humans of course they are not one of us.
    Who has so much haltered for others on certainly have kids of his own.

    January 13, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • SK Dick

      Talk about BULLYING in schools but Shhhhhhh be quiet don't talk about BULLYING on a larger scale. Nations BULLY others by showing weapons.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • SK Dick

      Does that mean:

      After I take your LAND kill your people Indians natives. Eliminate your race because you can not protect your self.
      Once all is said and dont and I rule your land. I will be glad to limit weapons so you cant take your LAND back.


      January 13, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • SK Dick

      Failure to provide jobs?
      Failure to boost economy?
      Failure to provide health care?
      Failure to stop Wall street ROB people in day light?
      Failure, Failure , Failure
      Failure to protect innocent people?
      Failures in Wars?

      Guess what you are going to do about it. I am your Boss. Are you going to mess with me. You and what army. What weapons. We just unarmed you too.

      So behave .... go to job if you have one if not we don't care stay out of my face ... LOL Just kidding

      January 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm |
  2. GiaoHoan

    God waas not able to settle the Catholic-Protestants, Xtians-Xlam conflicts. Only when one side has more guns or swords does the conflict gets settled.

    January 13, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • SK Dick

      I totally agree. My hat off for you in respect. Great way of putting it. Thanks

      January 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  3. Surthurfurd

    A state is not safer because of guns or the lack there of. It is safer based on a common moral respect for every member of the state. Afghanistan is awash in guns and lacks common moral respect. Switzerland is ranked 4th (us 1st) in gun ownership and has a high common moral respect. The NRA is right.. it is not about the guns. The NRA is wrong... they effectively promote division and a lack of common moral respect.

    January 13, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  4. Bill

    "We have separation of church and state, but not separation of religion and politics." What a ridiculous statement!

    January 13, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      It is against our founding ideals that the Feds should impose religious views on the people. It is entirely rational for people to consult their religion to guide what they ask for from the state, unless what they are asking is for the state to impose their views.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • JC

      Come live in Utah for a little while, and it will make SO much sense to you.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  5. tony

    I can name about 10 million dead people who hoped that their gun would defend them.

    January 13, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • Clif Watts

      Do you think those millions would have had a better chance without their gun? We aren't ensuring our guaranteed safety, we are ensuring our guaranteed CHANCE.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:12 am |
  6. HeyItsJesusIcommandYou

    This is Jesus and I think ya'll are nuts. Follow me sheeples, god made guns and crazy people, child molestors, murderers, liberals and que3rs. Lets all go play in the forest with the animals.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  7. jim

    if you listen to what anti-gun people are saying –
    they would make it harder for a US citizen to legally buy and own a gun than it would be for a illegal immigrant to apply for and get free heath-care, food-stamps, welfare, education, and they can still stay here even if they commit non-violent crimes
    I think owning a gun is a good idea

    January 13, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      I am gathering that you support property rights, religious rights, freedom of expression, all defended by the right to have arms? Great: just back up American Muslims who arm themselves as they defend their right to build a mosque.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  8. KatTrax

    Ban alcohol!!! It kills far more Americans every year than guns. Some deaths are direct, like alcohol-induced diseases. Some are indirect like drunk driving, domestic violence, bar fights, suicides. The news is full of it. And these tragedies are happening every day, in every county, in every State in the Union. Ban it I say! Oh, wait, that has been tried, didn't work. Hmmmm, back to the drawing board.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      So you likewise agree that the anti-drug use laws are ill reasoned?

      January 13, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Bill

      So you think that the primary purpose of alcohol, like the primary purpose of a gun, is to kill things? Otherwise, quit making stupid comparisons.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • KatTrax

      Are anti-drug laws working? Passing anti-drug laws have served no purpose except to make the lawmakers feel all warm and fuzzy, which is the only benefit that will be seen from passing anti-gun laws that punish law-abiding citizens.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • lerianis

      Bill, the primary purpose of a gun is not to kill, nor is it's primary purpose to kill humans. Barely 10% of the guns out there are ever used to kill an animal, and barely .001% of them are ever used to kill a human being that are owned by private citizens.

      Military weapons are different, the main purpose of those is to defend this country and kill people if they choose to attack the United States or our military personnel.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • the AnViL

      everyone who believes the prohibition of anything works – or is even a mildly good idea... is incredibly ignorant and should be bludgeoned with something heavy.

      any time you make anything illegal you create a black market for it.

      there is no lawful arbitration for disputes... and people die.
      also, people hate going to prison... they kill to stay out.

      attempting to prohibit law-abiding american citizens with no mental health issues from owning firearms is stupid.

      making improvements to how we test, evaluate, gauge, trace, and track the mental health of americans would go a long way in fixing things.

      making improvements to education and awareness of mental health for everyone, including friends, family members, associates, teachers and employers of those with mental illnesses would go a long way in solving some problems.

      encouraging firearms manufacturers to improve safety and security mechanisms on their weapons would go a pretty good distance in helping...

      bludgeoning all the stupid people who retard change and improvement would really help – a lot.

      stop being ignorant.


      January 13, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  9. the AnViL

    those of you who believe in an imaginary man in the sky are delusional, and should never be allowed to vote, hold public office, purchase/own firearms, or teach public school.

    tolerance of religious idiocy has to end.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Origin of Life

      @the AnViL

      BRAND NEW FOR review All starts with the brain.

      Don't need religion to tell us where Origin of Life began OR how LIFE 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.

      It is called Separation of Church and State

      Can't teach ID/creationism in public schools in US as fact. PERIOD

      NOVA | Intelligent Design on Trial – PBS
      Nov 13, 2007 – Featuring trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, including expert scientists and Dover parents, ...

      New science standards created by MAJORITY of 26 states for 2013 (Stem).

      Origin of life

      Simple blood test will tell you what % of Neanderthal is in your DNA

      Origin of Life no religions needed.

      They just want $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ and votes

      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 13, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  10. chris

    devide and conquer, load your guns america and start shooting, your blood will flow and feed the lands and the lands will be at peace, the rest of the world sits and watches.. It has begun.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • End Religion

      chris, eat a peach. It's good for you.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • the AnViL

      yes chris, eat a peach.... if you have friends – you can divide it and share.

      sharing is caring

      January 13, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  11. tony

    The second amendment says you can bear arms. Nowhere does it say you can transfer or trade arms. If you only want a gun to prevent future tyranny, then you need it for life. You'd never need to part with it. And it should be destroyed when you die

    So it should be both unnecessary and illegal to give, transfer, bequeath, or sell, a working gun to someone else.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      That does not make sense. How would one obtain a gun?

      January 13, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • rhino

      you are a fool. we are a free people. we are free to acquire an transfer firearms to other law abiding citizens. this is not nazi germany yet.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • tony

      You get your personal gun when you are ready from the local armory by showing your birth certificate. And then your name is checked off. Just like the way you get a SS# number now.

      Works for the Swiss. Having a gov't provided emergency assault rife at home with a sealed pack of ammo is mandatory if you are of military age, but gun violence is almost non-existent there.. And they've never been invaded or conquered in the last coupla thousand years.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • JC

      So you are in favor of personal property being confiscated upon your death? I'm as liberal as anybody but that's just ludicrous. I have a sword that was handed down to me that was captured in battle. What if it was a musket used in the American Revolution? Should I hand over a family heirloom like that, simply because it's a gun not a sword? Use your brain Tony. Family heirlooms are not the problem. Pick a battle that makes some kind of sense.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  12. Edwards

    Guns are not the problem, it's the disturbed people. I can't believe we think that by putting regulations on gun ownership well be deterring criminals and disturbed people from getting them. If they want to hurt someone they'll do it and obtain the means either way. We should be looking at the influences on our kids and providing better help than wasting time restricting the rights of the people who try to follow the laws.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      What suggestions do you have on dealing with those influences that do not limit someone's rights?

      January 13, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Thomas

      There are disturbed people in every country in the world. However, it's America that tops the list in gun violence and gun deaths.

      By far.

      Since America has allowed guns to flow freely for so many years with so few restrictions, placing a "ban" on any kind of weapon now would only be a small and largely ineffectual step in curbing gun-related deaths. If you want to make a more significant impact in the short term, halt the sale of ammunition. You can have all the GUNS you want under the Second Amendment. The BULLETS, on the other hand......

      January 13, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • SK Dick

      I totally agree with you. Idiots are jumping the gun. Ignoring the issue. P Morgan has taken it personally for his show what a LOOSER don't even know hoe to talk to people who put him there need a Slap on his face and kick on his ass.
      Talk about Failure of Govt. to stop mass shootings where were the cops and intelligence before it happened.
      People who are suppose to protect us are sleeping. Who let us down on 911 did the Govt. stopped it from happening.
      We have to protect our selves and be ready for the worse.
      How will you protect your self if some LUNATIC decides to enter your house if you dont have a GUN???????

      January 13, 2013 at 11:21 am |
  13. tony

    Ypu. Religious communities are divided by those whose follow Jesus "Turn the other cheek", and those who follow Caesar and his Guns.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      It has been hard for Christians to follow Jesus ever since the religion was Romanized to serve the interests of the powerful.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  14. Brad

    If it's not guns it will be something else. Guns aren't the problem. Look at Europe and Australia. Both have extreme gun control laws preventing law abiding citizens from owning firearms and both countries have huge criminal gun problems. If third world terrorists living in caves can get guns, criminals in developed nations such as the United States can get them too. Laws only keep honest people honest!

    January 13, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • End Religion

      So you're in favor of no law whatsoever? No law against rape or murder at all?

      January 13, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Surthurfurd

      Just like the laws against people using drugs?

      January 13, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  15. popseal

    Now that the SCOTUS has denied America's Judeo Christian heritage and ethos, I no longer serve willingly on any jury.

    January 13, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • H0nky

      Are you inbred?

      January 13, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • rhino

      we dont need "permission" to possess whatever form of defense we want to use and we dont have to explain anything. it is our right, as a law abiding citizen, believe it or not, i dont need my government to limit my freedom in this aspect and tell me "its bad. you cant have that. " im a grown man and not a threat to anybody except those that wish to trample on my freedoms. gov is supposed to protect our freedom and serve us. not limit our freedom and treat us like kids.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Reverend

      I am an ordained reverend and I conceal carry. Christians have a right to protect themselves. Jesus never said we had to become a human doormat for the evil. Christians are to be on the offensive. That is what it means to storm the gates of hell. This article on CNN is stupid and it is no wonder a liberal Methodist seminary in Wash D.C. supports taking away guns from law abiding citizens. That is why the UMC is dying. It is too liberal.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • End Religion

      @rev: religion is an anachronism. It is dying because its time has come. The moderation of religion was only a reaction to the beginning of its death.

      @pop: so anytime a law is passed you don't care for, you'll go ahead and start breaking other random laws as you see fit? Excellent. The private jail system wants more folks like you: criminals.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  16. JennyTX

    Guns for hunting and self-defense, OK. Guns designed for mass killing sprees, not OK.

    January 13, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Taco

      The problem is a lot of the weapons used in mass killings are the best weapons suited for home defense. Look at the woman who emptied her 5 round revolver on an intruder and it didn't kill him. Had there been a second or third or fourth intruder, they'd have been in trouble as she was out of bullets. I'd rather empty my rifle and have 25 bullets I didn't use than run out and wish I had more.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Jack

      There are no guns designed for mass killing sprees. No manufacturer sits down with the intent of producing a mass murder weapon.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • rhino

      they are desinged to protect against other people/soldiers with high power rifles. people dont need lambourghinis and hummers, but are FREE to get them if they want. we are not children. you may feel pacified, but not any safer. adults dont need pacifiers.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • End Religion

      taco, you've been watching too many movies...

      January 13, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  17. politicsnewsaja

    Wyoming Bill Would Nullify Obama Gun Control, Jail Feds http://www.prisonplanet.com/wyoming-bill-would-nullify-obama-gun-control-jail-feds.html

    January 13, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  18. ElmerGantry

    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 | Report abuse | Reply

    Exactly right.

    Not only that, if you shoot a deer with 30 bullets you will not have much meat to feed your self and win the least likely hunter gather to survive award.

    January 13, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • Taco

      30 Round magazines aren't for hunting...they are for defense of your home. Better to have too much that you don't use than to run out of bullets before you run out of bad guys...

      January 13, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • The Founders

      The 2nd amendment had nothing to do with hunting, so that's another fallacious argument

      January 13, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Evan


      why would you need 30+ bullets to defend yourself? If you can't hit an intruder or someone in 30 shots at point-blank range, then you're just a danger to everyone else.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • billybill

      The 2nd Amendment is about being a deterrent to tyranny. If you think your government is incapable of tyranny look up the Kent State shootings, also known as the May 4th massacre.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • The Founders


      First, you're making the assumption that one would only ever have to face one intruder. The reality is that invasions by multiple intruders happen regularly. Also, for people like myself who live in hurricane or other natural disaster zones, the possibility of having to defend our homes from looting mobs is very real.

      I will close by saying the .223 round is not the godless killing machine you see on tv. I have seen people shot by it, and know that it is necessary to achieve multiple hits. 30 round magazines are a necessity

      January 13, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • rhino

      there are plenty of countries in the world without guns. the united states is not one of them. it never has been, and it never will be. if you envy gunless countries so much, go become a citizen there. this is one of the safest places in the world to live. the cost of freedom is not free. casualties occur overseas and at home.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • ElmerGantry


      30 round magazines are not needed for hunting...

      Tell that to the gun nuts who post that they need this to hunt with.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • End Religion

      Taco, you're watching too many movies. I don't have the stats but I imagine the incidence of homes being invaded by evil sub-machine gun toting SEAL teams is pretty low. If it's more than one intruder, the second one would likely run as fast as possible to the nearest exit when he heard gunfire.

      But even if we grant you this one incident every 10 years where an entire fearlessly evil seal team invades someone's home to steal their wallet and TV, I don't think that's worth letting any old madman in the country have 30-bullet magazines at their disposal.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  19. truth be told

    Atheists have tortured and murdered more people in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries. Lets ban atheism !

    January 13, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Nuke4224

      Where did you get that statistic? I guess you can just declare anything you want if there are no fact checkers.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • tomh

      And yet Christian crusades killed how many non Chesterton just to expand and force their religion onto others over 100 years, see its not so hard to throw truth or there is it, religion is bad.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • tomh

      Damn where is the edit button, lol.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:52 am |
  20. Darwin's Dog

    We, by far, have the most guns of any country in the world. Yet rank 10th in the world in gun violence. And you can thank gang violence in all those gun free cities where firearms are banned for that. Including Obama's home – Chicago...

    It was safer being in Afghanistan during active combat operations than in several of America's cities. including Detroit, Chicago, DC,...

    And the majority of these incidents are caused by, oh don't say it, don't say it!

    Young African Americans....

    Maybe we should ban minorities?? That statement is about as logical as the liberal's push to ban guns...

    January 13, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Grahame Rhodes

      And why do you suppose that is Doug? Obviously that's because the vast majority of White Americans have held down the black community since slavery. People join gangs because they have no hope otherwise The point is though the use of guns should be left to the professionals instead of some panicked teacher (whatever) who sprays bullets in all directions or would you call some other dead 12 year friendly fire?

      January 13, 2013 at 9:09 am |
    • rob

      We are the only free nation left on the planet ,now why don't you go to another country and say what ever you wish too

      January 13, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Terry

      @Graham...why are they professional, because they have had training? I have seen combat and I have seen people react way differently under stress than you would think. I have had guys freeze that I thought were going to be bold and decisive and I have guys that I thought would fold be the leaders and these guys were trained constantly. People react differently under stress, and one other thing that people tend to forget is that the professionals are usually reactionary in nature and respond well after the incident and the person has either killed themselves or the crime has been committed.

      I do not like the fact of armed teachers but I think that a person has the inherent right of defense and when we take away that right then we open the door for crimes. Why do you think that most of these target areas are picked? Little to no defense, they are easy targets. Think a criminal wants to make his job hard? He's a criminal and he's going to take the easiest and weakest target. Why make their job easier?

      January 13, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • whackojacko

      So you are saying we should ban the whites who own the gun making companies?????

      January 13, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • whackojacko

      so you are saying ban the whites who support gun ownership??? then we can all br gun free??? i am lost in your genius sir

      January 13, 2013 at 9:37 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.