What do guns have to do with religion? 


Oct. 20, 2021

In this episode of “It's Useful to Know,” Dr. Jenny Wiley Legath talks about how carrying concealed weapons becomes a religious practice for some Americans, particularly white evangelical and Pentecostal Christians. She also discusses how concealed carry practices differ for men and women and what it means to think of these practices as religious.

About the Expert

Dr. Jenny Wiley Legath is the Associate Director of the Center for Culture, Society and Religion at Princeton University. Her current research addresses religion, firearms, and gender in the United States. Dr. Wiley Legath is the author of Sanctified Sisters: A History of Protestant Deaconesses (New York University Press, 2019). 

Start a Conversation

  1. What is religious about the practice of concealed carry for the Christians in the video? Were you surprised to learn about it? How does identifying this practice as religious make you think about it differently?
  1. What can you learn from the images included in this video about the relationship of concealed carry to these Christians’ practice? For instance, go back to the image of the Bible cover at 05:20 or the outlines of concealed carry options for men and women at 02:2. What stories are these images telling about religion and gender in relation to  the objects they depict?
  1. For many people, concealed carry is not something we immediately connect to religion, even though Dr. Wiley Legath shows us that plenty of people do see it as religious. What other practices can you think of that might not appear to have any religious significance at first glance? What would make them religiously significant to someone? Why would it matter if it’s religious or not, to them and to you?
    1. [I’m thinking civic things like voting, environmental like recycling, nature walks, caring for animals, who knows--religion in unexpected places]

Additional Resources

Feuer, Alan. “Brooklyn’s Private Jewish Patrols Wield Power. Some Call Them Bullies.” New York Times, June 18, 2016.

Glader, Paul, and Michael Ray Smith. “God and Guns: Why American Churchgoers are Packing Heat.” Religion Unplugged, June 8, 2020. 

Miller, Eric C. “Beating Guns into Garden Tools: An Interview with Christian Activist Shane Claiborne.” Religion & Politics, April 23, 2019.

Neuman, Scott. “AR-15s are Biblical “Rod of Iron” at Pennsylvania Church.” NPR, March 1, 2018.