Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Just before President Obama announces his new gun control policy proposals, including an assault weapons ban and better background checks for gun buyers, Dr. Robert P. Jones illuminates the religious divide on gun control in a column for “Figuring Faith.” Despite the centrality of the “pro-life” ethos for both Catholics and white evangelical Protestants, Dr. Jones writes, the two groups have very different perspectives on gun control:
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.
To read the full piece, head to Dr. Jones’ Washington Post blog, “Figuring Faith.”