The makers of a new documentary about a high-profile anti-abortion activist from the United States, who also holds passionate pro-gun-control views, will offer free entry to firearms enthusiasts for the film’s opening weekend in cinemas.
Armor of Light centres on the Reverend Rob Schenck, an evangelical minister and popular rightwing figure who believes – controversially for many conservative Americans – that pro-life views and advocacy for gun control are natural moral bedfellows.
Directed by Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Disney studio co-founder Roy O Disney, the film follows Schenck as he meets Lucy McBath, a mother whose unarmed teenage son Jordan Davis was murdered in Florida in November 2012 following a petrol station row with his killer.
Distributor Fork Films hopes to find success for the film by targeting it at areas with large Christian populations, even though such audiences often embrace gun rights. The company aims to make the film free to card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association at 10 of its key locations for the film’s opening weekend on October 30.
“He [Schenck] is really trying to get Christians to do their moral homework and look at their belief system and ask themselves questions about how their pro-life beliefs fit with this country’s gun culture,” said Jeff Reichert, distribution executive at Fork Films.
He told the Deadline website: “The broad themes of the marketing campaign have always been to elevate the conversation away from the anti- or pro-gun issue. This is really about dialogue and conversation between people with different backgrounds who may come from opposite views.”
Schenck is president of the US National Clergy Council and president of the nonprofit organisation Faith in Action, which promotes evangelical values in politics. He and McBath have screened Armor of Light for pastors across the US and have also appeared in person to answer questions alongside Disney and co-director Kathleen Hughes.
Schenck’s right-wing stature has not helped the film get an entirely free run in the conservative media. Writing on the faith website Patheos, Bristol Palin, daughter of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has labelled Armor of Light “nothing more than liberal propaganda camouflaged as ‘thoughtful commentary’”.
She added: “You would think – based on the noise around the film – that [it] includes some courageous spiritual and moral guidance on guns. Though the pastor says repeatedly that he isn’t trying to have a ‘political conversation’ but a theological one, he never, ever, ever looks to the Bible (which does speak to this issue).
“Instead, he only looks to politicians and political issues … he conveniently skips the Bible passages that talk about being armed and protecting one’s family.” – © Guardian News & Media 2015
Ben Child is a Guardian film writer and blogger