Finding Common Ground
“Finding common ground” evolved as a theme for May. It was the theme for conversations around the documentary The Armor of Light a film by Abigail Disney and Kathleen Hughes.
It has been an amazing experience to participate in several of the engagement activities and conversations for The Armor of Light in Washington, DC and New York City. Additional screenings and conversations took place in community spaces nationwide leading up to the national PBS broadcast as part of the Independent Television Service’s (ITVS) Indie Lens Pop-Up engagement initiative film series.
Whatever personal experiences attendees brought to the conversation – and many offered personal testimonials about guns and/or gun violence – a consensus is building that “Yes” there is a gun violence problem in the United States.
The Armor of Light tracks two people of faith — Reverend Rob Schenck (a well-known anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right), and Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis (an unarmed teenager who was murdered in Florida and whose story cast a spotlight on the state’s “Stand Your Ground” laws) come together to explore the contradictions of a nation rife with gun violence. Rev. Schenck risks losing followers when he questions the morality of gun ownership, while a Lucy dedicates herself to creating change after the shooting of her unarmed teenage son. She has been a national spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
It was an honor to meet Reverend Schenck and Lucy McBath at the special event screenings in New York and on the Hill. Rev. Schenck is no stranger to Congress where he’s offers his pastoral services to lawmakers on the Hill.
The Armor of Light challenges interpretations of the 2nd Amendment with a moral imperative grounded in spiritual beliefs and values. Lucy McBath says the film has been an awakening for her – “how radically guns have been infused with Christianity.” Filmmakers Abigail Disney and Kathleen Hughes are clear about their purpose with this film. Abigail Disney believes politics are not going provide answers to the questions about gun violence. People will have to address “the ethics of life.”
Creating change with a moral imperative and spiritual grounding are probably what keeps Rev. Schenck and Lucy McBath going when losses are a reality, and gains and victories aren’t immediate.
At Indie Lens Pop-Up screenings in DC persons who identified as Christian were surprised to discover they can have a conversation about gun violence through the lens of their faith. For the un-churched, humanist or secular sect the a-ha moment was discovering these conversations can happen with persons who identify Christian and Evangelical Christian.
Often, the most difficult disagreements we can have are with persons with whom we are for the most part in agreement. This is Rev. Schenck’s challenge in The Armor of Light. He’s taking a leap of faith when he asks his fellow Evangelicals “Can we be pro-life and pro-gun?” Rev. Schenck says Abigail Disney has helped him frame the conversation with his fellow ministers and to honor everyone’s perspective.
Recently, the PBS NewsHour held a town hall meeting with President Barack Obama (June 1, 2016) in Elkhart, Indiana. The following clip when the President addresses a question from the audience about gun control. The video of the President’s response and gun control myth busting has gone viral.