“Jesus wouldn’t join the NRA,” filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail E. Disney insisted in a Reuters “editorial” that really amounted to free advertising for her directorial debut. The Armor of Light follows a crisis of conscience for Evangelical minister Rev. Rob Schenck as he struggles with the question of whether it’s possible to be pro-life and pro-gun, a false assumption from the outset. Schenck is joined on camera by a mother questioning “stand your ground” laws following the shooting death of her son. With just that information, it’s not unfair to assume the film is anti-gun. Approving reviews by politically-supportive film critics don’t dispel that expectation.
It’s also not unfair to assume Reuters has an agenda, and one that’s being pushed with a theme. Simultaneously appearing on their “Analysis & Opinions” web page, along with the Disney piece, was a bit of wishful thinking by George Mason University professor of public and international affairs, Bill Schneider.
“Public opinion on guns seems to be going in the same direction as it did on same-sex marriage,” Schneider wrote. “The religious right lost the fight against same-sex marriage. The gun lobby may lose the fight to stop reasonable gun-control laws.”
On the one hand, there’s a secular “progressive” presumption that Jesus is squarely in their camp. On the other, the “religious right” is presumed irrelevant. As for Mason, he warned “To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” What he would have thought of an anti-gun academic stumping for disarmament under the banner of his namesake university is probably not debatable.
But back to Abigail. Yes, it’s that Disney. She’s the granddaughter of Roy, Walt’s brother and co-founder of an empire. As a beneficiary of a staggering fortune, she’s following in the footsteps of heirs looking for significance by patronizing “progressive” causes to make a mark on the world of their own. And she’s found what may be her optimal collaborator, albeit one that many religious conservatives may find surprising: Rev. Schenck, heretofore associated with the “political right.”
“First, it’s important to know I am the principal subject of Ms. Disney’s film,” Schenck tells readers in a column he penned for The Huffington Post, a curious forum for hosting an evangelist. Suddenly, an activist, who has defied injunctions as part of his anti-abortion commitment, is finding himself the toast of the left, writing a guest column for a site that, before he became useful to them, was dismissing his defenses of traditional marriage and of rights of the unborn to life, as “below-the-belt broadsides.”
“She is an unabashed left-leaning, pro-choice, Planned Parenthood-supporting feminist,” Schenck admits of Disney. That may be the reason he wished to engage with and attempt to convert her. But despite his transformation into an anti-gun propaganda tool, aside from superficial appearance gestures, his new “friend,” hasn’t actually budged an inch. All the conversion has been on his part.
“Abby and I have talked for countless hours about God, the Bible, prayer, and Jesus. In fact, it’s only since I’ve known her that she started reading the Bible,” Schenck reveals. “And she’s joined a church—a Baptist congregation—after being away from organized religion most of her adult life.”
That’s significant, because Abby has a national forum to promote her opinions on what Jesus would or would not do, just like she’s some sort of Biblical scholar instead of a dilettante novice who just happens to have a net worth of $500 million. And she’s not the only one out of her element, although don’t expect her target audience to question what she wants to manipulate them into thinking. Because when it comes to the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the star of her propaganda opus is also a newcomer to the discussion.
“Evangelical Pastor Rob Schenck was a radical anti-abortion activist who hadn’t put too much thought into gun rights,” rabidly anti-gun Mother Jones informed its readers in another significant publicity boost for the film. Notice that when he deviates from their narrative, he’s suddenly a “radical.” Still, we now see that a person who doesn’t know the Bible—Disney—presumes to lecture us all on the will of God while a person who doesn’t know guns—Schenck—is the new face for making “control” efforts palatable to Christians. For some reason, New Testament references to the blind leading the blind come to mind.
Unlike them, we’re not going to get out of our depth here. There are plenty of sources available to those who wish to learn more about the right to self-defense in light of religious texts and traditions, and this is, after all, a gun magazine. Suffice it to say, secular “progressives” are all for shoring up that “wall of separation” when it suits their purposes, but when they can exploit religion to draw more into the collectivist fold, they suddenly put on airs of piety. Instead, let’s consult historical references, not Biblical, but appropriately, representative of religious thought as understood from before and after the era when “a long train of abuses and usurpations” warranted a Declaration of Independence and a war of rebellion by armed citizens to back it up.
“He that suffers his life to be taken from him by one who has no authority for that purpose, when he might preserve it by defense, incurs the Guilt of self murder since God has enjoined him to seek the continuance of his life, and Nature itself teaches every creature to defend [it]self,” a Philadelphia sermon from 1747 observed.
“The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments but where, I trust in God, it will always remain, in the hands of the people,” Continental Congress delegate Tench Coxe declared 41 years later in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Schenck, enjoying his popularity among the “heathens” as long as he’s useful to them, does not seem to have given much thought to the reasons behind the historical and continuing reasons behind the Second Amendment, and the human costs of citizen disarmament where it’s been tried. He also doesn’t seem to have even considered what he and his new friends are prepared to do about it when infringements are met with defiance.
No, “Reverend.” No, Ms. Disney. We will not comply. Your move.
Schenck has already alienated enough of his base to where a growing number of supporters are finding other religious leaders, with corresponding reductions in contributions to his efforts. He compares it to Jesus being attacked by the Pharisees for associating with sinners, and says, “I’ve taken some heat for my friendship with Abby Disney and many others like her. At least I’m in good company doing so.”
That seems foolishly presumptuous at best. And what those “many others” will say about him when they have nothing more to gain by playing nice is something Schenck had best prepare himself for. Disney’s film, not exactly date night material, will come and go, and soon be out of the public mind, maybe even by the time the print version of this magazine hits the newsstands. Schenck’s turning away from those Obama says “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion,” will not be soon forgotten.
By David Codrea