Lucy McBath lost her 17-year-old son, Jordan Davis, in November 2012 when a man shot him in the middle of an argument over loud music at a gas station. Ever since, McBath has embarked on a journey across the nation to prevent gun violence, one that brought her to Battell Chapel Tuesday night to participate in a panel discussion on guns and religion.
“We have replaced God with guns as our protector,” McBath said in a gun-violence documentary screened prior to the discussion.
Tuesday’s event, titled “God and Guns” and hosted by the Episcopal Church at Yale, delved into the intersection between faith and the constitutional right to bear arms.
The 2015 film “The Armor of Light” documented the collaboration between McBath and Evangelical preacher and President of the National Clergy Council Robert Schenck, who has worked over the last three years to prevent gun violence through conversations within the Christian community. The documentary recounts the journey of Schenck, a right-wing activist, as he seeks to warn the conservative religious communities about the recent growth of gun violence across the United States. In the film, McBath — whose personal testimony and stance against controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws carried her to national television — inspires Schenck to discuss the moral, ethical and theological responses to gun violence with his fellow Christian leaders.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion with McBath and Schenck, as well as Ian Douglas, bishop of the Connecticut Episcopal Church, and OrLando Yarborough III GRD ’10, pastor of the Black Church at Yale.
During the discussion, Schenck emphasized that people should not separate theological concerns from political conversations about gun violence.
“The topic [of gun violence] goes to the heart of the Gospel,” Schenck said.
Summarizing what the main message of the film and purpose of her initiative was, McBath said that in order to fully understand the gun-violence problem, one must view the issue through a “spiritual, moral and ethical lens, rather than just the physical lens.”
“We are each other’s keepers,” McBath said. “What happens to me affects you, not only in the natural eye but the spiritual realm.”
The intersection between the Ten Commandments and the Second Amendment — or between God and guns — was an ambiguity that Schenck discussed in both the film and the panel discussion.
Matt Klineman ’19 said he appreciated how the documentary showed the contradictions that sometimes emerge between political and religious views.
“I sometimes do get a little frustrated with how many people in this nation get religion and politics tangled up,” Klineman said. “Although, wherever your morals come from, whether that is your religion or something else, will certainly affect your politics, I think it’s difficult to defend one’s political views entirely based on one’s religious views.”
The conversation also focused around the panel members’ views on the reception of the documentary in states that are predominantly Evangelical and Republican. Schenck said the response to the documentary from these regions had been more positive than he expected, and hypothesized that looking at the issue from a theological standpoint could reduce the tensions which often arise from debates about gun control.
“We want to create a safe space where people do not feel judged from the moment they become present,” Schenck said. “We allow for a safe conversation to take place, and it seems to be effective.”
McBath emphasized the importance of creating consensus among people with opposing ideologies instead of forcing a one-way discussion. She added that Second Amendment rights should still be defended, but emphasized that gun-violence prevention is possible without restricting gun ownership.
“The Armor of Light” marks Abigail Disney’s ’82 directorial debut.