The story behind The Armor Of Light comes off more like a fictional made for HBO movie rather than the documentary it actually is. In Abigail Disney’s perfectly timed doc we follow two Christians on opposite ends of the belief spectrum on certain aspects of Christianity, trying to work together in an effort to spread the word against gun violence in America. On one end we have the unlikely candidate in the form of far right, pro-life, evangelical minister Rob Schenck. On the other side of the bench is pro-choice, pro-Obama Christian Lucy McBath – mother of murder victim Jordan Davis. In the film they set out on a “crusade” to discuss everything from gun reform to stand your ground laws with folks who aren’t exactly eager to change their ways.
We all know that complicated subjects make for some of the most interesting documentaries. Just look at the films of Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Tony Buba & Josh Oppenheimer for further examples. The Armor Of Light is no different, although it doesn’t have same amount style as the films of the aforementioned filmmakers. While Lucy McBath and her son’s senseless gun murder are key elements to this film, Rob Schenck is the main focus here. At one point in the film Rob Schenck openly admits to having an affinity with the tea party – a group of people who clearly hate our president because he shares the same ethnicity as me. And if you had to label me politically (along with many of people who will more than likely seek this film out) I guess I’m a liberal. So Rob Schenck isn’t exactly someone I’d want to hang out with or even associate with. But he isn’t your stereotypical fire & brimstone minister. Rob Schenck comes off as a cool, calm and collected figure and I sometimes forget he’s associated with groups like the tea party. He even steps outside of his comfort zone in the film and shows a little open-mindedness. In one scene he puts aside his hatred & fear of guns and goes out to a shooting range just to know what it feels like to fire a gun.
I guess I could say it takes courage to stand in his position. The demographic of folks that Schenck typically preaches to aren’t exactly eager to hear about gun reform or owning fewer guns (as pointed out in the film, many members of Schenck’s church are loyal NRA members). And not to be presumptuous but I feel like his flock of listeners and followers wouldn’t really care too much about a murdered black teen like Jordan Davis. I’m not going to get too deep in to things because it would lead to a book’s worth of material, but anyone with common sense knows that folks within the far right/tea party and young black teens don’t exactly travel in the same circles or mix well. I mean just look at a lot of the scenes in the documentary. The people that Schenck tries to spread his word to aren’t exactly racially diverse. So I give him some credit. But at the same time, there are plenty of people doing the kind of activism as Rob Schenck, so he doesn’t necessarily deserve all the credit he gets in The Armor Of Light.
I would like to give a lot of credit to Lucy McBath for not only sharing a piece of her deceased son with us, but for also essentially stepping in to the lion’s den in terms of her anti-gun activism. This is a woman who, after the murder of her son, has received death threats for her activism. I feel like I have to be extra cautious or sort of walk on egg shells with this review as I don’t want to judge evangelical Christians too hard. Sure there’s an endless amount of material to judge from, and this documentary provides plenty, but I’d just be falling into their way of thinking. Again, sorry for being presumptuous, but evidence only shows how judgmental evangelical Christians can be at times. That doesn’t mean the political left are always the “good guys” either. At times The Armor Of Light shows left-thinking folks in the same unsavory spotlight as the far-right — the film opens with archival footage of aggressive Buffalo pro-choice protesters picketing during the Barnett Slepain murder.
It’s going to be tough for a lot of folks to try and not judge some of the people in this film. As you can see it’s tough for me. There are quite a few scenes of gun-loving Christians trying to defend their stance on gun ownership that I just found upsetting. It’s also easy to forget where Rob Schenck stands on most issues outside of gun laws which can be problematic if you’re a liberal or a democrat or whatever. While this one particular crusade in the film is something I can get behind, the driving force behind it is still someone who represents a set of beliefs I don’t support. But perhaps that’s part of the problem and why we, as Americans, can’t get anywhere these days. We can’t separate one belief system from the next and that makes us stagnant. I’m nowhere near the political right in any way, but I’m not beyond calling out a lot of the left-thinking/so-called progressive folks I walk alongside on their bullshit. I fall into it myself. I can be very close-minded against people who don’t think the same way I do in terms of politics. The Armor Of Light is an example of people putting aside certain personal differences in an effort to work together for what they feel is the greater good. Say what you want, but the gun violence statistics in America are appalling and something needs to be done. The effort put forth by Rob Schenck and Lucy McBath is an example of people stepping in the right direction. This is a challenging film and that gets you brownie points in my book. Do we have enough documentaries that follow around some kind of a religious figure to last us a lifetime? Yes. But this is a relevant film worthy of your time.