This week’s RNC circus as seen through “The Armor of Light” documentary
“Is Donald Trump a messiah? No. He’s just a man.” –Scott Baio, Republican National Convention, July 18, 2016
While you watch the Republican National Convention this week and scratch your head wondering how on earth one of our two major political parties could have become so corrupted, hateful and afraid, you may find it helpful to watch a documentary, “The Armor of Light” which follows Evangelical pastor Reverend Rob Schenck as he tackles the National Rifle Association—closely tied to the Republican party—and confronts his own congregation and followers, who have twisted their interpretation of Christianity to turn a blind eye to gun violence in America.
“So we need Jesus, and the Gospel, and a sidearm?”—Rev. Schenck
“The Armor of Light” features Lucia McBath, who lost her sun to gun violence and has advocated tirelessly against Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law. McBath helps Schenck formulate theological arguments against guns and has in my opinion the most profound quotes in the film. In their first meeting, McBath tells Rev. Schenck:
“We’re deceived into believing that we’re so powerful because we have something that will protect us, instead of looking to God righteously as the protector–we have replaced God with our guns.”
Rev. Schenck is visibly moved by her statement, and throughout the film we see him become more confident in his inkling: that the NRA has corrupted Evangelical Republicans into believing they must constantly be both maintaining power and protecting themselves from unknown threats, to the extent that guns have become America’s deity.
This film is worth a watch for several reasons:
- It shows the slow, difficult process of changing hearts and minds to believe in and work for justice and the greater good of society.
- Courage is a primary value in the film. Change is scary because we fear the loss of stability and comfort. It takes a lot of courage and trust in something bigger than our own egos to be open to change in our hearts and minds.
- The film asserts the moral superiority of the teachings of Christ over “American” values. “Is the constitution the last word? Or is there another word on these things?” –Rev. Schenck
- The racial break in the Evangelical church is briefly touched on—the reality that black evangelicals are much more anti-guns than white Evangelicals due to the reality that gun violence touches communities of color at a much higher rate.
- Dealing with the issue of abortion in conjunction with gun safety—Rev. Schenck is a huge anti-abortion advocate and in one scene McBath discusses how she supports a woman’s right to choose, but that their differing opinions won’t stop her from partnering with Rev. Schenck. This film reminds us the importance of gentle collaboration.
- The fear which drives many gun advocates is called out: “I sometimes wonder about the ethical dimension of having a constant defensive posture. The gun is almost an invitation to give into the temptation of fear. And fear should not be a controlling element in the life of a Christian.” –Rev. Schenck
The overt fear-mongering at the RNC this week is revolting. There has been continual talk of America needing to be powerful, have our “enemies” fear us, and our “allies” respect us. The purpose of constantly talking about Americans who have been killed (rather than mentioning the countless victims our empire has taken in our endless wars) is clear—to put citizens on the defense, fearing terrorists and anyone with a darker skin tone and non-American accent.
The RNC speeches also simplify the state of America and the world, and that in itself is extremely dangerous. Toward the end of the film Rev. Schenck touches on this reality of political talking points as well:
“Maybe the greatest temptation over the years has been to rely on simple answers. Simple answers can be like heroine in your veins, in an instant you are relieved of all that tension. But in the end it’s very harmful, very dangerous, can be fatal. This journey has been like becoming sober, and seeing things by the way they really are for the first time in many years.”
It is much more difficult to hold onto complex ideas and questions about our world than it is to give a simple answer and sleep peacefully at night. Let’s pray to move away from fear and closer to the spirit—and find a way to hold the dark and the light together as we move forward in this complex year.
Click here to learn more about “The Armor of Light” film (available on Netflix)