“The Armor of Light” is not about gun control. Fine, it totally is. But take a step back and you’ll see it’s really about what happens when we start examining why we believe what we believe — and what happens when it turns out we’re not happy with the answer.
At the center of the documentary is the Rev. Rob Schenck, founder of the D.C.-based Faith and Action and a major player in the anti-abortion movement. He’s an evangelical Christian and a political conservative — two things that usually go together. After the shooting at the Navy Yard, he begins to wonder if the right’s stance on gun rights reflects what he refers to as a “culture of life.” That in and of itself is a pretty amazing step; Christian fundamentalism and Second Amendment absolutism are so linked in our culture it’s as though there’s a Bible verse where Jesus says “Go, therefore, and get thee concealed carry permits.” (There is not.)
Because Schenck is not really a gun guy, he tries to get a better understanding: He goes shooting. He talks to gun owners. He talks to Lucy McBath, whose son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012. He talks to black churches; he talks to white churches. Then he makes up his own mind and finds that disagreeing with evangelicals on this one issue is enough to make a lot of people freak right out.
Sometimes we think what we think because “we” think it — meaning, it separates us from “them”; it’s a matter of tribalism rather than facts. And that’s true on both ends of the political spectrum: It’s hard to find someone who supports marriage equality, for example, that doesn’t also believe in man-made climate change. There’s no overt link connecting the two issues that isn’t as tenuous as the one between belief in a six-day creation and the right to own large-capacity magazines.
I worry no one will see “The Armor of Light.” Liberals may not want to see it because of Schenck’s hard-core anti-abortion views; conservatives might avoid it because of his ultimate stance on gun control (to appeal to the latter group, some theaters are offering free tickets to NRA members). And that would be an utter shame.
So many of us are unwilling to pull up planks of our personal political platforms, let alone bother looking to see where the wood might be weak. Schenck’s journey is a lesson to everyone whose politics are even partially based on knee-jerk us-vs.-them sentimentality — so, everyone, pretty much. So go see it. You don’t have to change your mind; you just have to open it a little.
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