Friday, January 25, 2013

New PRRI Poll: Large Split Between Catholics and White Evangelicals on Gun Control

Are you aware, I want to ask my fellow Catholics, of what your religious-right bedfellows in the "pro-life" movement actually believe about 1) healthcare for the poor, 2) the rights and needs of immigrants, 3) the obligations of the rich to the poor, 4) militarism, 5) ecumenism (particularly vis-a-vis Islam), 6) endemic violence and gun control, 7) global warming and climate change, 8) workers' rights and the need for a living wage and solid benefits, 9) women's access to contraception, 10) the connection between access to contraception and diminishing abortions, etc.? Do you have any idea why, precisely as a Democratic president is being inaugurated and delivers an address that gives many Americans who believe in human rights cause for hope, your Republican religious-right bedfellows want to talk abortion, abortion, abortion?

And then later in the day, I read Sr. Maureen Fiedler reporting on an interview she did on Wednesday with Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute. Fiedler reports on a poll PRRI conducted last week, in the wake of the Newtown shootings, as well as one the group did in the summer of 2012:

Most fascinating to Jones and to me was the large opinion split in both polls: Looking at the latest poll, two groups that say "pro-life" defines them well have vastly different views on gun control. Catholics are more favorable to stricter gun control laws (67 percent) than are white evangelicals (38 percent). Only 31 percent of Catholics live in a household that has a gun, compared to 57 percent of white evangelicals.  

And then she adds,

Catholic acceptance of the term "pro-life" is not necessarily equated with abortion.  In the new poll, 75 percent of Catholics say "pro-life" defines them well, but 61 percent of those same Catholics say "pro-choice" also defines them well.  Although this poll did not deal with abortion, public opinion surveys have consistently shown that the majority of Catholics favor keeping abortion legal.  

To my mind, these polling data underscore the importance of the point I sought to make yesterday: namely, that Catholic pro-lifers who make common cause with right-wing evangelical pro-lifers need to look very carefully at what they're buying into as they ally themselves with the religious right. The Catholic pro-life stance and the conservative evangelical pro-life stance emanate from very different theological imaginations, and the two are not consonant in critical respects. 

To the extent that many Catholic pro-lifers in the U.S. buy into anti-immigrant, pro-gun, anti-healthcare, pro-rich ideology promoted by right-wing evangelicals, they're removing themselves from the longstanding Catholic emphasis on the common good as the center of Catholic social teaching, and from the notion of the consistent ethic of life, which is the very heart of Catholic pro-life teaching. Catholics who militate against these central aspects of Catholic social teaching have essentially become right-wing evangelicals wearing Catholic costumes.

And I say this with full awareness that the bishops themselves have been at the forefront of the movement to coalesce Catholic and right-wing evangelical values in the religious right's "culture wars."

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