Christians and Gun Ownership: An Interview With the Makers of ‘The Armor of Light’ Documentary

Schenck: Since you mention the death penalty, I’ll mention that, in some of my conversations with Christian leaders around the country, I’ve raised the risk that Christians face the possibility of lawlessly carrying out the death penalty when they carry a firearm because you have to be the police officer, the prosecutor, the judge and the jury, all in one millisecond of time.

Disney: And the executioner.

Schenck: And the executioner. All in one person, which even our Founders knew—the reason they put in due process [in the Constitution], because they knew no single human being is capable of all those judgments, in and of themselves. It’s supreme form of arrogance, that I can carry out all those roles in one instant of time because I have to judge you to be guilty, to be a threat, and I have to mete out the supreme punishment of death. All in a millisecond of time.

And that leads to a kind of lawlessness, which again, is contradictory to even conservative values. It’s a kind of anarchy. All of these things factor in. It’s a very big, very deep, very complicated question that cannot be answered with a bumper sticker slogan.

Any parting thoughts?

Disney: Church leaders are the precisely the people I want to reach with this, because the absence of their voices from this conversation has been deafening. It seems that church leadership has wanted to weigh in on almost every other major social issue. They need to ask themselves where they have been, why they have been so quiet and where they think they now need to step forward. As risky as it is—and I know it’s very risky—so were Civil Rights. So was slavery. We have always benefitted in this country when church leadership steps out on social issues. They need to take their place at the front of this now.

Schenck: I pose the same questions and remind pastors that more and more people are present in their sanctuaries now, armed or thinking about being armed. So it’s coming right to the floor, and it’s probably in the front row during a worship service. If a pastor isn’t already aware of people armed in their sanctuaries, they soon will be. Because more and more people are thinking,
“Churches are soft targets. I have to be ready to respond.” That’s a reality now that a pastor has to deal with.

We just had a shooting in a church in a sanctuary. It was terrible. Over whether a guy had taken someone else’s seat, and he was shot dead by someone with a legal, concealed-carry weapon. And that will not be the last such incident. So this violence is coming into the sanctuary. Not just into the church, but into the sanctuary during the worship service. And now is the time for pastors to address this, not after the tragedy occurs.

We’ve opened up a new web platform called The Sword of the Spirit, which of course is the Word of God. And that’s the place, especially for pastors, to bring their voices, and we’ve created it as a safe zone, where there isn’t going to be trolling and all-caps denunciations. It’s going to be a thoughtful place on the web.

The Armor of Light—the full film and a special town hall with Christian leaders—is available to stream until May 17 on PBS.org

The film is also available for screening at your church. For more information: ArmorofLightFilm.org/Host

James P. Long
James P. Longhttp://JamesPLong.com

James P. Long is the editor of Outreach magazine and is the author of a number of books, including Why Is God Silent When We Need Him the Most?