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. Science

    Gravity is not up for debate ! ............E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas..........that do not lie or sin !!!..........

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN


    Gravity is not up for debate ! ............E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas..........that do not lie or sin !!!..........

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet

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    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

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    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

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    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

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    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

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    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

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    Make sure to read comments

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    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

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    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

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    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”


    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420


    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

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    February 16, 2013 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |


    May 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  2. Haime52

    Sandy Hook was a horrendous and hienous thing. One for which many Americans are, apparently, willing to give up a measure of their liberty and rights to attempt to see not repeated. I do not wish to diminish the tragedy of that occurence. Yet, I remind everyone that tens of thousands of children die of starvation every single day. We Aremicans throw out enough food every years to feed the rest of the world. So where is the moral outrage, for these victims? Restrictions on guns will not cost the average american one cent in taxes, so no problemo. To fix the problem of staving little children, will cost money out of each pocket. Whoa! Stop! Someone's trying to pick my pocket. Can't help those people, it costs. Really? Are we all that shallow?

    January 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yes, what's mine is mine so keep your hands out of my pocket and off my guns.

      January 14, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  3. Ann

    I find it kind of annoying that our Vice President is wasting his time talking to these people who do nothing but push ancient fairy tales.

    January 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Saraswati

      That's how a democratic government works. You hopefully elect people who know a little more than the electorate to represent the interests of the people. You talk to them for many reasons: to understand what they want to represent it as far as you can, to understand the way the people you disagree with think, to work on getting across your ideas, and simply to show respect. In this case you are also bringing together people. Of diverse views hoping to create a new consensus. These are the people who elect you as a politician, to ignore them is to bite the hand that feeds you...it is to hand the next election to you opponent.

      January 14, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
  4. niknak

    Guns, and guns and more guns!
    THAT is what is preached in xtian households.
    After preaching hate of gays, blacks, woman, "ferrenors", different religions, atheists, hippies, liberals, city folks, basketball, rap music, education and science.
    I know I left some areas of hate out, so anyone not included don't feel bad, because the lily white fundies hate you too.

    Get your guns fundies, hating time is here!!

    January 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • lol??

      Wel,l it my fly as rap.

      January 14, 2013 at 4:18 pm |
    • lol??

      Whoa, lollipop. Well, it might fly as rap.

      January 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • An evangelical voice

      You make some incredible claims about the hatred of evangelicals, making these claims with great authority as if you know the minds of all evangelicals and in doing so, you display your own hatred. You tell us what we preach in our churches and our homes with stunning authority. I have NEVER heard hatred taught in any of the churches I have attended, though I would hope we would be allowed to disagree with some of your perspectives on issues. Do you hate us for disagreeing with you?? I've never heard any stand on gun control in any pulpit in 50 years of attending different churches, and people within the church I attend have conversations on both sides of that topic. We are not demons. Please stop demonizing us. Isn't that the very sin you claim we are guilty of? "Thinker"- no evangelical I know of has thrown out "do not kill" from the Bible (although the translations that are closest to the original Hebrew meaning translate it "you shall not murder)" We aren't sitting around thinking about whether murder is OK or not. We don't sit around and wonder if we should be violent or not. There are a few hate-mongers who claim to represent us (Westboro Baptist for instance). We become as angry at them as you do and question the reality of their faith. However, we are frequently the victims of violence, especially in some of the third world countries and more frequently the victims of baseless accusations in which we are categorized as worthless and vile. By the way – I personally am in favor of certain aspects of gun control such as doing away with the gun show loop hole and ownership of what I would term as guns of mass destruction. I'm also in favor of figuring out why our society is so much more violent than similar societies around the world and addressing the issues we find.

      January 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  5. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

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

    That's for sure.

    January 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  6. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    From the article:

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

    Curious observation that. Is there perhaps a historial rather than a theological cause?

    I suggest there is.

    From the (English) Bill of Rights from 1688 (1689 Gregorian) signed by King William and Queen Mary you will find the following:

    Subjects’ Arms
    That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law

    There are things that we forget consciously but nonetheless are part of our cultural DNA. The impact of the wars of the reformation (and I include the English Civil War in this group) had a huge impact on the 17th century and in particular, the founding of the American colonies during that time.

    January 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Bill Deacon


      January 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  7. Thinker

    A friend of mine was murdered this past thursday. another victim of the NRA. The NRA is drenched in blood, and the socalled christians are also covered in blood. Thou shalt not kill has been thrown out of the bible by evangelicals. They say they are struggling with this. If they were truly as christian as they claimed they would want to stop gun violence, but they encourage it. They are sick.

    January 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Have you any proof that the NRA were involved in your friend's death?

      January 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • lol??

      Trail of blame.

      January 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  8. donner

    Thank you, Fox Fake News, for making America's trailer trash even dumber than before.

    January 14, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • lol??

      donner, quit jumping out in front of cars, purty puuhleaze?

      January 14, 2013 at 4:22 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.