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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Armor of Light is an intense documentary about an evangelical minister who changes his position on gun control after meeting a mother whose son was murdered. Directed by film producer/activist Abigail Disney (grandniece of Walt Disney), the documentary is pro gun reform but looks at the issue from a politically conservative perspective, so there are thought-provoking messages for viewers on different ends of the political spectrum. The film includes potentially upsetting news footage of gun violence, murders, and protests, as well as one early (and brief) exchange in which someone curses at the reverend. Parents and teens will have plenty to discuss afterward about faith, politics, and values.
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What's the story?
THE ARMOR OF LIGHT is the story of how evangelical minister Reverend Rob Schenck and Lucy McBath, the mother of a teenage shooting victim, both confronted their ideas about gun rights and ultimately became spokespeople for organizations advocating for additional reform. Schenck is first introduced in older footage of an Operation Rescue rally as a clergyman on a mission to force people to think about abortion as a moral issue. Fast forward, and he's older and still committed to the cause -- but he's also politically entwined with the religious right. While going through a spiritual crisis about gun use, he meets McBath, whose son, Jordan Davis, was murdered in Florida by a man invoking the "stand your ground" defense. Schenck and McBath's ensuing friendship convinces Schenck that, biblically, he must take a stand in favor of gun reform, not gun rights.
Is it any good?
Fascinating and thought-provoking, Abigail Disney's directorial debut will make audiences think about what it means to be both pro-life and pro-gun reform. Schenck's story is as compelling as McBath's is heartbreaking, and each has much to say and to offer viewers about their personal journey. Both are individuals of deep faith, and, from very different perspectives -- he a white evangelical and she a black mother of a murdered son -- they come to the same conclusion: There's too much gun violence in the United States, and something needs to be done about it.
It's so interesting to see Schenck debate his fellow evangelical ministers, almost all of whom think God wants them to have guns to protect their families and who think Schenck is turning to the "dark side." Hearing Schenck say that he's afraid of being painted with a scarlet "L" (for liberal) is enough to make it clear how intertwined politics and religion are in the United States. Schenck is still pro-life and a political conservative, but when it comes to guns, he no longer believes there's a faith-based reason to follow the party line. In The Armor of Light, Disney doesn't shy away from how alienating it is for Schenck to decide to take a stand -- a strong contrast to how empowering the decision to become an advocate is for McBath. Two people, two stories, one message that might make you angry but will still make you think.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about documentaries that have a clear political message. Is it OK for documentaries not to be wholly objective? In The Armor of Light, how does the director present different sides of the same issue?
Does does the film have a call to action? What are its messages, and who are they meant to reach?
Does the movie offer political commentary on gun reform laws? What about the stance of conservative clergy on gun laws? How does the movie's stance align with your own views? Why is it important to hear arguments that challenge our beliefs?
How is Schenck's journey both about faith and politics? Why was it such a risk for him to share his feelings on the subject of gun control?
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