eyes on the U.S.

On Sin And Individualism, Why Most Evangelicals Oppose Gun Control

A prayer circle for the victims in Sutherland Springs, Texas
A prayer circle for the victims in Sutherland Springs, Texas
Sarah Pulliam Bailey

The shooting at a Southern Baptist church in Texas is believed to be the worst such shooting at a church in modern U.S. history.

Several prominent Southern Baptist pastors have President Donald Trump's ear as members of his unofficial evangelical advisory council. Even so, it would be very surprising if Southern Baptists pushed for changes in gun policy, because it hasn't been a priority for the denomination in decades.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant group in the country with about 15 million members, has taken up issues like abortion and same-sex marriage at its annual conventions, but it has not taken on "guns' or "gun violence" in recent decades. Every year, members of Southern Baptist churches vote on resolutions often tied to theological or political matters. A 1968 resolution about Robert F. Kennedy's death and the assassinations in the 1960s is the only Southern Baptist resolution that mentions guns since 1845, according to its searchable database.

Most conservative evangelicals don't believe specific gun policies are spelled out in the Bible, and many of them don't believe gun-control measures are constitutional and can solve the problem of mass shootings, said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's policy arm.

"I think gun control proponents are misguided in trying to persuade others of their position in the way they usually go about it," Moore wrote in an email. "There are not two sides here about whether shootings should be stopped, laws enforced, and criminality punished, but rather two sides about whether gun control is a prudent way to carry out those common goals."

Southern Baptists make up one of the largest groups of evangelicals, who are more likely than other religious Americans to oppose stricter gun laws.

How evangelicals view sin and their individual role in the world

Most Americans belonging to major religious groups favor stricter gun-control laws, including black Protestants (76%), Catholics (67%) and white mainline Protestants (57%), according to a 2013 Public Religion Research Institute survey. But evangelicals - who make up about a quarter of the population — are the religious group least likely to support stricter laws (38% favor while 59% oppose them).

Some observers say that evangelical attitudes on guns have to do with how evangelicals view sin and their individual role in the world. For instance, after the Las Vegas shooting, Trump noted the role of evil in the world in his speech on Oct. 2.

"We pray for the entire nation to find unity and peace, and we pray for the day when evil is banished, and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear," Trump said.

Trump's focus on evil was reflected in a statement from Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, after Sunday's shooting.

"Today's horrific church shooting is every pastor's worst nightmare and is proof of the reality of evil," Jeffress said. "Although the Bible never diminishes the pain of evil, it does promise that one day when Christ returns, evil will be defeated forever."

Jen Hatmaker, a popular author and speaker based in Austin, said gun rights have become an entrenched talking point inside evangelical politics.

"I know perfectly reasonable, lovely, non-gun-owning Christian women who will die on this hill of, "It's not about guns . . . it is about the heart." It is baffling," Hatmaker said. "It has taken deep, unchangeable root in the hearts of conservative evangelicals, and it is as sacred as the Trinity."

After evangelist Franklin Graham was invited to pray at the National Rifle Association's prayer breakfast in 2014, he suggested on Facebook that he was not in favor of universal background checks. At the same time, Graham has advocated for background checks for immigrants who are Muslim.

Guns are built into the structure and psyche of American Christianity from its founding, said Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University who has written about why she carries a handgun during her runs in rural areas of Virginia.

"The country was founded to escape religious persecution," Prior said. "America expanded as an experiment in individualism into the frontiers that required weapons for survival, both self-defense and attainment of food."

A duty to protect others against evil.

Evangelicals also place a larger emphasis on individualism and personal responsibility than other religious groups, and Christians believe they have a duty to protect others against evil.

"Having a gun at the ready to stop someone like the shooter Devin Kelley seems like a responsibility of the good guys," she said.

Some people believe the answer for why evangelicals don't want tighter gun laws is simple. Evangelicals tend to vote Republican, and Republicans tend to dislike tighter gun policies. Many evangelicals also oppose regulations of any sort because they believe it could ultimately infringe on religious liberty, said Cameron Strang, editor of Relevant, a magazine for younger evangelicals.

"I think it's completely partisan," Strang said. "Evangelicals vote along party lines, whether or not it makes theological sense. Pro-lifers would see supporting anything but steadfast Republican policy as endorsing part of a liberal agenda, which means ultimately endorsing abortion."

In his analysis of data from a large survey called the 2016 CCES Common Content Dataset, political scientist Ryan Burge compared evangelicals, mainline Protestants and Catholics who answered the question: "Do you support or oppose banning assault rifles?" His analysis found that the differences were dependent more on whether they identified as Democrat or Republican than how they identified religiously.

Joe Carter, an editor for the Gospel Coalition, said that he believes evangelicals are more opposed to additional regulations because they are more likely to own guns. White evangelicals are the most likely religious Americans to own a gun, according to a Pew Research Center survey reported by Christianity Today.

The survey found that 41% of white evangelicals own a gun, compared with 33% of white mainline Protestants (33%), religiously unaffiliated (32%), black Protestants (29%) and Catholics (24%) who own one. (By comparison, 30% of all American adults report owning a gun.)

White evangelicals (44%) are also more likely to be satisfied with gun laws. On the other hand, slightly more than half of religious Americans (52%) think gun laws should be stricter, as do less religious people, according to the magazine.

Carter said many evangelicals would support stricter gun laws if they believed they could be effective in stopping murders. "But they simply don't believe a criminal who would slaughter innocent people would honor firearms purchasing regulations," he said.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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