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. DC M

    Weapons designed for mass kill of people belong ONLY with the trained, supervised troops in war and for state militias. The 2nd amendment protects "normal" guns handguns and rifles for protection of hearth and home and hunting for food.
    What sportsman like hunting can be done with a semi auto +/or/ assault weapon? What child should be near one?

    January 14, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • lol??

      A trained child, preferably a not nutso child.

      January 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  2. Reality

    Only for new members of this blog:

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

    January 13, 2013 at 11:54 pm |
  3. Banjo Ferret

    Guns don't kill people, Tim the Destroyer of Worlds does! Ferretianism is the one true religion! Repent! (banjoferret d c)

    January 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm |
  4. Oldprof

    I've owned guns for over 60 years – but always appropriate guns for the purpose. I've been in the service and fired military weaponry. I've fired fully-automatic police weapons. But I don't buy into the NRAs propaganda that the average citizen needs to call himself a modern-day patriot and arm himself with a military grade weapon. The 30-30 Winchester is great for hunting. Even the military uses 22s for beginning target practice. As to home defense, if you really want to risk it a revolver will due just fine. Purchase of military weaponry by a civilian is more likely because he is short of some manly attribute and is seeking compensation.

    January 13, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • Reality

      Excellent points !!

      January 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm |
  5. Bugzie

    Did This Shooting Really Happen Or This Just Wicked Media!? You Be The Judge: The Sandy Hook Shooting Exposed


    January 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm |
    • wjmccartan

      Your sir and those that think like you are beyond the realm of stupidity and bad taste, hopefully nobody in your life is ever torn from your arms. Take your propaganda and stick where the sun don't shine.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:27 pm |
    • An evangelical voice

      Bugzie, don't believe everything you read or every video you see or they'll take you for a fool. http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/newtown.asp

      January 29, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
  6. Charlie

    What issue does NOT divide the religious community? Why do we think religious people are cookie cutter people all believing the same thing? If that were true and they all believed the same thing, I would suspect our country must have been very peaceful and without problems and it must have been the immigrants of a different religious belief that caused all the problems we now have. Silliness...of course issues divide even within families of two.

    January 13, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  7. MIKEY

    Funny article. My experience comes from largely Catholic Connecticut and the number of my Catholic friends seeking pistol permits and buying guns is growing. Do I somehow believe all Catholics are doing that? No.

    January 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  8. niknak

    I say bring it!
    Let's let everyone who wants a gun to have a gun.
    And any type of other armament too.
    RPGs, shoulder launched surface to air missels, AAA, flame throwers, granades and bazookas.
    Hell, if you can afford it, thermo nuclear devices.

    I want the kids armed too.
    The second ammendment does not have an age restriction. If the Sandy Hook kids had been armed, they could have fought back. Kids are people too and should have the same rights as adults when it comes to guns.

    Arm everyone. Let's do this!
    Everyday I read the papers or turn of the news I want to see another story about people shooting up their job, their home, their neighborhood, their school.

    Because nothing says how much you love jeebus and follow his teachings like using your gun to kill another living being.

    January 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Really??

      or...kevlar burkas for every child.

      January 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • lol??

      Ah, the swiss. They know how to make cheese.

      January 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  9. Culver Chief

    I am a child of God and I have guns. I fill my freezer every year with food for my family! My guns are not for killing people! I lock them up when not in use. I teach my children responsible gun qwnership and usage. So why should I have santions against me for owning firearms. Why should I be accused of not loving my God, wich I do with all my heart because I qwn tools to provide for my family?

    January 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • Really??

      Do you need military assault weapons with extra large clips to feed your family? If not then you have no sanctions being imposed.

      January 13, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Culver Chief

      I don't have assult guns, however the discusion is owning guns has something to do with my love for God???

      January 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
    • Culver Chief

      Sorry about the bad typing, I am having a very hard time with this new keyboard!! Anyway I know something has to be done, too much evil and too many lives lost! I just think we need more love for each other! And I pray daily for those that have to deal with the evil people do!

      January 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Joey Navis

      i am with u culver, i used to hunt as well. but i don't think anyone is talking about shotguns and hunting rifles. in all my life, i have not known anyone who used an assault weapon in the field. while i am sure it could be done and it would be effective, anyone who does so is just trying to make a point. a browning 270 will take care of anything but the largest game and down south, where i am at, shotguns are much more effective because of the density of the foliage. what we are speaking of here are weapons made for the killing of human beings, and aside from the argument of a tyrannical government nothing else holds water. in my view, neither does the tyrannical government thing, as one would be fighting drones and a well equipped military with virtual popguns there is no earthly reason for citizens to own assault weapons and it must start somewhere. mho

      January 13, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Oldprof

      Your question is out of place – no one is talking about deer hunting rifles. The discussion is about military grade weapons that would make hamburger of venison. Stay with the discussion.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Banjo Ferret

      I am a child of Tim the Destroyer of Worlds and have no guns. I provide for my family by stabbing unsuspecting armadillos with a sharp stick. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

      January 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm |
    • lol??

      OK, what's with the Big O selling to mexican drug gangs? I wanna be armed as gud as them.

      January 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  10. Sane Person

    Jesus was all about guns, he loved assault rifles. Yep, he was definitely pro-gun.

    January 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  11. dotheflippin'math

    btw: while it is true that 40% of kids are raised in 1-parent homes, most of these mass murderers were not of that 40%. The CT killer's folks just split-up a few years ago. He had plenty of time to learn good family values. Instead, he was taught how to be a good shot. There are too many of the wrong guns in the wrong homes. Ask any parent whose child has been shot dead.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Jimjam77887

      Oh please... The kid had mental problems since he was young. His mother was considering putting him in a "controlled" environment. He stole the gun, killed her for it. Fewer than 400 were killed last year by ANY rifle. 10,228 killed by drunk drivers. out law alcohol, then we will talk about guns...

      January 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  12. dotheflippin'math

    I find the arguments posted here supporting gun ownership and attacking liberals laughable and immature. If these are the kind of people who own guns, no wonder they are used in such heinous crimes.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Jimjam77887

      Interesting, I found your comment laughable and immature...

      January 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
  13. Doug

    Does it give anyone pause that none of the suggestions coming out of the Biden task force would have made any difference or would prevent the next tragedy. It seems to me this tragedy is being used to push through an agenda regardless of whether it makes anyone safer. I think we are squandering an opportunity to bring all Americans together and make real difference. Bans, whether it is guns, drugs or alcohol have never worked. However the left , who like to think of themselves as intellects who value science and history, immediately trots out another gun ban. Of course, when the right hears the word "ban" they immediately stop listening and start circling the wagons.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Keith

      Well give me intellect and science every time over gun toting gun loving right wing zealots.
      Why is it that NO ONE will ever answer this simple question,
      If guns make us safer then how many do we need to make us all TOTALLY SAFE? we already have a gun for every man woman and child, so will 2 guns for every man woman and child be even safer or should the number be 3.
      It seems that the law of diminishing returns applies here.
      When will the insanity end and common sense take over, hopefully before we have even more massacres than we have now. If action had been taken when we only had 100 million guns we would be in much better shape now, instead we have 300 million guns and soon even more. We must start somewhere and every day we delay makes the situation more and more insane.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm |
    • Oldprof

      The 27 people shot were all shot more than once, during a period of less than five minutes – the is no civilian use for such a weapon – most proposals being made are to limit the number of bullets in a legal clip – had such a law been in force the weapon purchased by the mom might well have killed her (a gun in a home is seven times more likely to kill a person in that home than be used to protect it), but would not have resulted in 27 other deaths.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
  14. Greg Faith

    Humans are the problem not the man made devices created to provide a means to defend ones self and to feed a species.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Keith

      Silly boy! if we follow your logic that men are the problem then inventions of these problem men are also a problem. Eliminating all problem men is not possible but eliminating their inventions is possible.
      You REALLY should think you arguments through thoroughly before making a horses ass of yourself.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
    • Oldprof

      You can defend your family with a 22 revolver. You can't hunt meat with a military weapon and expect to eat it.

      January 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm |
    • Banjo Ferret

      Tim the Destroyer of Worlds has a solution: ban Earth on September 5th 2014. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

      January 13, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
  15. Jimjam77887

    1word, you only see the Bible as you choose to see it. Open your eyes, find a better translation, replace the work kill with murder as it was written.

    "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his house, his possessions are safe."
    – Luke 11:21

    "Jesus said, 'But now whoever has a purse or a bag, must take it and whoever does not have a sword must sell his cloak and buy one.'"
    – Luke 22:36

    January 13, 2013 at 12:30 pm |
    • Keith

      Dear me here we go again more proof that the bible and JC speak with forked tongues. JC ALSO said in the sermon on the mount, "whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also".
      Now PLEASE explain this seemingly contradictory statement to me.
      By the way for every biblical quote that you can find to support your cause a completely contradictory quote can be found.
      The bible is a farcical rag.

      January 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
  16. 1word

    Thou shalt not kill. Those who have guns to protect their family are willing to break Gods commandment to save their own life.

    Matthew 16:24-26

    King James Version (KJV)

    24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

    25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

    26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

    January 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Jimjam77887

      "Though shalt not commit MURDER." Matthew 16:24-26

      You need a better translation!

      January 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  17. upclosepls

    Liberals Exposed: The Obama administration and his liberal media followers, are trying to con naive American’s by demonizing semi-auto rifles. How? By calling them “assault weapons” which is a lie (look up the definition). They also keep saying “assault weapons are not needed for hunting”. The real truth: the second amendment was not designed by our founding fathers for hunting (and liberals know this). This is nothing more than a con job to confuse naive American’s into following their ideological beliefs. It’s really about power and control from both liberals and the Obama administration. History shows that if you strip the guns from the people you control the people. Hopefully the liberals and government will not continue to test the power of the second amendment and push this into an ugly repeat of the past.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Jimjam77887

      Upclose, you have written the truth. I hope more understand what you are saying.

      Fewer than 400 killed last year by ANY rifle, yet the media wants you to believe banning them and hi cap mags will make America safer. Truth is, it will make America less safe, and less free.

      10,228 died last year alone from collisions with drunk drivers. Which to you honestly think it the problem we should address???

      January 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Oldprof

      The founding fathers didn't anticipate the military weapons of today. You admit they are not needed for hunting – what is there use? Does the 'power' make you feel more 'manly?' Or are you buying into the propaganda of the NRA that it's OK for their members to own tanks?

      January 13, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
  18. GayAtheist

    I wonder what kind of gun Jesus prefers...He likes drama, so I suspect Christ prefers the Bushmaster Streetsweeper.

    It's time to get rid of the Second Amendment. America has no room for 17th century nonsense.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • rhino

      trollin? believe it or not, some people enjoy shooting as a hobby. how about i take away your hobbies? we are a freedom -loving people. we also enjoy owning guns. we are free do to so. if you dont like it, go to one of the many countries that outlaws guns. the usa is not one of them. safe travels

      January 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      It's time to get rid of religion. The world does not need 1st century myths.

      January 13, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • Banjo Ferret

      I'm pretty sure Jesus prefers a Beretta 9mm. Tim the Destroyer of Worlds prefers his own flaming paws of doom. Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

      January 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm |
  19. Jimjam77887

    Home Land Security purchased over 500 million round of 40 caliber pistol ammunition last year... What on earth do you think they intend to do with that??? Could it be they are preparing for civil unrest? Like when they come to take American guns????

    January 13, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • UncleM

      Stock up on tinfoil

      January 13, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      jimjam..I think that the government will always have bigger guns than the general population. If they really wanted your collection gone I am sure it would not take many minutes.

      January 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Oldprof

      You have a great penchant for quoting non-information, and making a hypothesis about non-events.

      January 13, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  20. Chuckeroo

    The 2nd Amendment is there to protect We the People from foreign and domestic dangers.. So hitlers and pol pots and edi amines can't appear in our own government and harm us. Unfortunately our forefathers could not imagine our government destroying our country financially. When they get through with our finances "We the People" will have ashes to rebuild with. 16 trillion in debt and climbing! No matter what, Americans will protect their children and their homes. All around our country police firemen citizens are at the schools. (Good guys with guns) Teachers are taking gun saftey courses. people are looking for ways to finance protection for their children, By the time our government comes up with laws to restrict law abiding, Tax paying citizens ("We the people") will have the problem solved. We don't need more gun laws, we need laws to govern politicians.

    January 13, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Raven

      I agree but there aren't enough people with guts enough to face those dangers left in America to actually be effective if needed.
      Men used to be men but now they are an endangered species. True patriots are in decline and mob rule has replaced logic.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Jimjam77887

      Raven is wrong. There are plenty of men left in America. With fewer than 400 killed by ANY rifle last year, an AR ban, a hi cap mag ban makes no sense what so ever. Where is does make sense is in disarming the American public. Stop sending America jobs over seas. Stop giving tax breaks to companies that send jobs out of country. More mental health care for those that really need it. We have enough laws, we don't need more, what we need are politicians with the guts to say the real problem isn't guns.

      January 13, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • UncleM

      We have a democratically elected government. Right wing gun nuts talking about overthrowing the government are not patriots, they are potential terrorists.

      January 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      It's going to be very interesting when the first fire fight breaks out in a school between the good guys and the bad guys, and the children in the middle killed by good guys are referred to as "collateral damage due to friendly fire."

      January 13, 2013 at 12:18 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.