The night after Thanksgiving, 2012, a man named Michael Dunn gunned down an unarmed, 17-year old kid in the parking lot of a mini-mart because the kid was sitting in an SUV that was blaring music which pissed Dunn off. At his trial (he was tried twice before being convicted of Murder One) Dunn claimed that he saw a gun, which turned out not to exist and in fact he drove off after the shooting, went back to a motel room he was sharing with his fiancée, went out for a pizza and drinks but didn’t mention what had just occurred. For all I know Dunn was going to tell his girlfriend what happened, but perhaps the issue simply didn’t come up because he wanted to make sure that the pizza had the extra anchovies that they both liked on their pies.
The other night I finally got around to watching the documentary The Armor of Light, which begins with an appearance by a woman named Lucy McBath, a veteran flight attendant who appears at public events for Moms Demand Action, that gun-hugging gang led by Shannon Watts and supported by you-know-who, the former Mayor of New York. So I’m watching Ms. McBath as she shows some cute pictures of a young child named Jordan Davis, and all of a sudden I realize – hey! – that’s the kid who was shot by Michael Dunn. And right as I realize what the film is all about, the scene switches to a monologue from Reverend Rob Schenck, whose journeys through the gun-owning Evangelical heartland is what the movie is really all about.
Reverend Schenck has been a major force in the pro-life movement and runs an organization, Faith and Action, which calls itself the ‘missionary to Capitol Hill,’ but basically promotes pro-life policies in the Senate and the House. Back in 2013 following the September 13 at the DC Navy Yard, Schenk decided that it was time for him to speak out against gun violence and to line up support for gun-control regulations in the wider Evangelical community as well. In this regard, Schenck was treading on unsteady ground, because white Evangelicals happen to be the most pro-gun religious group around. Not only are white Evangelicals the only religious group with gun ownership registering more than 50%, but they often lead the charge for the expansion of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’
Much of the movie, directed flawlessly by Abigail Disney, moves back and forth between harrowing testimonies from Lucy McBath to polite confrontations with other Evangelical ministers whose requests by Schenck for a more liberal view on gun control invariably fall on deaf ears. It’s to Schenck’s credit that he has embarked on this lonely crusade to spread gun-control views throughout the Evangelical fold, but I’m not sure that a scripture-based argument for gun control gets to what the gun violence argument about is really all about.
One thing which unites most Evangelicals is that the Bible represents the immutable word of God. And while you can find Biblical texts that endorse both unarmed (Matthew 5:39) and armed (Luke 22:35-36) responses to threats, the one word you won’t find anywhere in the Bible is the word ‘gun.’ The debate about whether you should or shouldn’t use a gun to defend yourself and your family is a false one because there are many ways to defend yourself from a threat, and anyone who says that guns are more of a protection than a risk is saying something which simply isn’t true.
Every time Schenck talks about gun control with other Evangelical ministers, the first contrary words out of their mouths are the falsehoods and bromides about armed self-defense that come not from Scripture, but right from the playbook invented by the NRA. Schenk might believe he’s talking to men of God, but when it comes to guns, he’s talking to the self-same crowd that stands up and cheers whenever someone dares Obama, Hillary or Bloomberg to take the guns from my ‘cold, dead hands.’