Statistics show that there are some major differences among faith groups when it comes to their views on gun control. Naturally, more progressive Christians are going to favor additional restrictions on firearms when compared to their conservative peers. But what about differences as they exist between specific denominations? In a recent blog entry on the Washington Post’s web site, Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), highlighted why he believes that evangelicals and Catholics differ so fervently when it comes to this key issue.
Previously, TheBlaze reported on a study that was conducted by PRRI and Religion News Service (RNS). It found that people of divergent faiths — mainly the Catholic, Protestant and evangelical traditions — do, indeed, have diverse views on gun control. Jones relied upon these results to detail his theory on the matter.
Conducted in early August, the study found that 52 percent of the nation wants stricter gun laws, while 44 percent does not. But when it comes to Catholics and evangelicals, differences over firearms control are even more notable. While 62 percent of Catholic adherents want stricter laws on the matter, only 35 percent of white evangelical Protestants agree (and 42 percent of white mainline Protestants). White evangelicals are also much more likely to believe that people should be able to carry concealed firearms in churches and places of worship.
In his blog post, Jones provides even more of these intriguing indicators, showcasing that America’s faith community surely doesn’t speak with one, cohesive voice on the issue. Additionally, he explains the reasoning behind these differences, particularly when it comes to Catholics and white evangelical Protestants:
But religious groups do not speak with one voice on the issue of gun control. On one hand, the religiously unaffiliated (60 percent), minority Protestants such as African Americans (69 percent), and Catholics (62 percent) all favor stricter gun control laws. On the other hand, a majority of white mainline Protestants (53 percent) and more than 6-in-10 (61 percent) white evangelical Protestants oppose stricter gun control laws.
These findings-from a survey conducted after last summer’s mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater but before the Newtown shooting-expose an intriguing rift between Catholics and white evangelical Protestants, religious groups for whom a “pro-life” ethos is central. Approximately 8-in-10 white evangelical Protestants (80 percent) and Catholics (77 percent) say that “pro-life” describes them somewhat or very well, yet Catholics are far more likely to connect their “pro-life” identity with gun control issues. This divide is embedded in three fundamental differences between Catholics and white evangelical Protestants: divergent native strains of “pro-life” theology, contrasting cultural contexts, and conflicting approaches to social problems.
These three elements, according to Jones, can be boiled down to the different lenses through which Catholics and white evangelicals view the “pro-life” issue. While Catholics have a history of extending this worldview beyond abortion (to addressing poverty, the death penalty and other related issues), evangelicals generally do not have this same ideological tradition.
(1) Pro-life theological constructs, as Jones contends, have “no parallel history of flourishing over such wide terrain” in evangelical circles. Plus, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a history of calling for gun restrictions (read this 1975 proclamation detailing a push to crack down on handguns) — something that might impact their current agreement that the government must do more to crack down on weapons.
(2) On the cultural front, geography matters. Catholics are generally more likely than white evangelical Protestants to live in urban areas, thus they are — according to Jones — less likely to live within cultures that embrace firearms, hunting and similar societal themes. While these evangelicals overwhelmingly live in households that possess at least one gun (59 percent), fewer than one-third (32 percent) of Catholics report the same. This, of course, translates into personal views held on the issue of gun control — opinions that differ greatly based upon levels of experience and familiarity.
(3) Jones also contends that Catholics are more likely than their white evangelical Protestant counterparts to agree with “institutional rather than individualistic solutions to social problems.” Obviously, some will disagree with this notion, but based on polling numbers, the majority of adherents to the Catholic faith believe that stricter laws are the way to go when it comes to reducing gun violence. For more about this issue, see TheBlaze’s previous report.