The Armor of Light
Directed by Abigail Disney
Following the journey of an Evangelical minister trying to find the courage to preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America. Reverend Rob Schenck, anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right, breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life.
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★★★½ review by Scott Renshaw on Letterboxd
Yes, on some level, this is documentary catnip for me: A truly compelling character study of a guy wrestling with what his faith truly calls him to do. Rob Schenk is an evangelical Christian minister who would be a classic villain for the liberal left--someone who has protested against abortion rights for decades--but when confronted with the realities of American gun violence, he got down on his literal and/or metaphorical knees and tried to understand what it means to be fully "pro-life." And the conversations that are captured here, as Schenk tentatively broaches the subject to his friends and colleagues, are impossible to turn away from. I just wanted it to be entirely about him, and not split with Lucy McBath (the mother of Jordan Davis, who was killed in the infamous Florida "loud music"/Stand Your Ground case). Yes, Schenk's meeting with her helps galvanize his sense that he needs to think about this issue differently, and yes, it's valuable to show that devoted Christian faith can lead people in a different direction than 2nd Amendment absolutism. But her story just isn't the real story here. This is a tale of someone who has lived his life doing nothing but try to grasp what God compels him to do in the world, and watching that butt up against political orthodoxy is bracing.
★★★★ review by Evan C on Letterboxd
This documentary runs the risk of being about a subject I too strongly agree with for me to be totally objective. That said, I'm pretty sure this will be my favorite documentary this year. The film focuses on conservative evangelical minister Rob Schenck and his gradual acceptance of the belief that we need more gun control and that gun-control is a pro-life issue. I found his story engrossing, and I thought the way the film showed him more consistently applying a pro-life ethic to gun related issues was persuasive, engrossing, and it's a film I would recommend to almost anyone.
★★★★½ review by Edwin Davies on Letterboxd
Haunting, vital documentary about Rob Schenck - a pro-life preacher who questions the pro-gun stance of many of his fellow Evangelicals - and the work of Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, the black teenager who was shot and killed by a white motorist during an argument over loud music. It's a movie of extraordinary grace and empathy, both from the filmmakers and their subjects, as it follows and captures Schenck's moral and ethical evolution on-screen.
★★★★ review by Chris Monks on Letterboxd
Comforting to see people from very different worlds come together for one cause. The contrast is striking.
You may not learn anything; you may already be grounded in your stance. But you might still walk away encouraged, just as I was encouraged.
★★★½ review by Jay D 's Watching on Letterboxd
Opening with footage of anti-abortion protestors that may, depending on one's point of view, either establish the conservative evangelical bona fides of one of this film's main subjects, minister Rob Schenck, or put you right off of the film altogether--about Rob Schenck and his beliefs (although it cycles back to that anti-abortion stance in the final moments of the film) it's a film about what we believe and why, what it means to be part of the orthodoxy and what happens when you start to think differently from those around you--the difference between accepting a simple answer and accepting a complex one. And for someone like me who has a natural interest in topics such as these where they touch on matters religious and how that affects say, political or day to day beliefs, this was pretty engaging.
Visually, Abigail Disney has a good eye for a shot, and as a documentarian, she doesn't shout--she lets her subjects do most of the talking, in a number of (increasingly uncomfortable) scenes, where we see Schenck (a teenage convert to evangelical Christianity, interestingly) get shaken up after a mass shooting in his neighborhood and start to think about the deep and mutual ties between the community he's part of, and the NRA, and what the bible says about violence, and what it means to be 'pro-Life'. Given his stance against abortion, shouldn't he be more concerned with shootings?
While this is going on, another thread is being established, as we meet Lucia McBath, the mother of murdered Florida teen Jordan Davis, who, after his death, becomes a gun control advocate and lobbyist. She's a woman of deep faith, and references her actions as God's plan for her several times in the movie, and she also (almost casually) alludes to pro-choice abortion leanings, and so when she meets Schenck at the midway point of a film for a sit-down and asks for his help, it's a remarkable scene to see how she connects to him. There are also scenes in NRA rallies, scenes in both black churches and white (the role of race is mentioned as the elephant in the room here, soberly) and scenes of evangelicals arguing over food--bringing up talking points and getting frustrated with each other and their ability to see eye-to-eye, their different perspectives on the role of guns. While the film's central focus is on raising the question of how the evangelical community responds to gun violence, there's a host of issues here that the film lays out efficiently and compellingly, up to the closing credits.
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