The Rev. Rob Schenck is having lunch with four friends. All are high-level executives within various anti-abortion organizations. In front of them, the plates have been cleared, replaced with open Bibles. And they are all shouting at one another.
The documentary “The Armor of Light” follows Schenck, an evangelical minister and founder of the D.C.-based Christian outreach organization Faith and Action, as he begins to examine the near-inexorable link between conservative Christianity and support for gun rights. Largely known for his anti-abortion work, Schenck starts to wonder whether gun rights reflect the “culture of life” that he believes all Christians should aspire to. Eventually he meets Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, an unarmed Florida teenager who was shot dead in 2012. The two begin to work together to at least start a conversation about gun control within evangelical circles.
How does it go? There are awkward silences from congregations, pointed uses of scripture in group discussions and, of course, that restaurant shouting match. So, not well.
“So much of this [animosity] is generated out of personal fear,” Schenck says. “Fear often indicates a failure of faith, so it’s a spiritual crisis. And it does lead to very emotional reactions, because suddenly people feel terribly threatened.”
Abigail Disney, the film’s director (and grandniece of Walt), sees a different reason for the fighting over gun rights. “When you’re talking to people who are really invested, they are armed — and I can’t stop using gun metaphors — with facts that confirm what they already believe, and this is on both sides,” she says. “I have my fact, you have your fact. It’s dumb. I felt we needed to take it back to a conscience place: What is right and what is wrong?”
Disney uses the personal journeys of Schenck and, to a lesser extent, McBath to pull back from the grandstanding by gun rights advocates and gun control supporters. “I think the most important politics come out of your heart,” the first-time director says. “When it comes from your heart, you get into other people’s hearts with personal stories better.”
“Her big heart is what I sensed when we first sat down to dinner and Abby proposed this project to me,” Schenck says. “She was creating a truly safe space for me to explore this. And if we create safe space [for conversation], we can make progress. And I think we’ve seen a little of that.”
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