Guns, the f-word (the other one), Disney, evangelicals and Denzel Washington, oh my

What we got here is FAILURE to communicate.

That's a movie reference, you see, to one of the great religion-haunted films in the history of Hollywood. But never mind, I thought that might be a good place to start in a short post about some bizarre mangling of religious language in a piece by The Hollywood Reporter. I've been wanting to get to this one for some time now.

So there is this new documentary film called "The Armor of Light" and the key player behind it is one Abigail Disney. The trouble starts right in the epic double decker headline. See if you can follow this one:

Walt Disney Heiress Courts Evangelicals With Anti-Gun Movie
Well versed in her family's conservative politics, Abigail Disney discusses her new film 'The Armor of Light' (out Oct. 30), which tackles the gun controversy while also reaching out to fundamentalist Christians in a new way: "This film goes to them on their own terms, and they appreciate that."

OK, GetReligion readers already know that use of the term "fundamentalist" is very tricky, for journalists who have any intent of using religious language accurately or, well, paying any attention to the Associated Press Stylebook. As the bible of daily journalism notes:

"fundamentalist: The word gained usage in an early 20th century fundamentalist-modernist controversy within Protestantism. ... However, fundamentalist has to a large extent taken on pejorative connotations except when applied to groups that stress strict, literal interpretations of Scripture and separation from other Christians.
"In general, do not use fundamentalist unless a group applies the word to itself."

But note that the basic assumption of this piece seems to be that the DOCTRINAL content of "fundamentalism" -- or even "evangelicalism," since the story seems to think the words mean the same thing -- has something to do with POLITICAL doctrines linked to gun control.

Now, I live in the Bible Belt and I know that lots of true fundamentalists and also many evangelicals tend to be political conservatives. I also know that political conservatives tend to lean right on gun issues. But there are many folks who are very doctrinally conservative (take me, for example) who are also in favor of stricter gun-control laws, maybe even laws as strict as those that govern automobiles.

Does this matter in this case? Read on:

Armor of Light follows Rev. Rob Schenck, a D.C.-based anti-abortion activist and fixture on the political far right, who breaks with orthodoxy by questioning whether being pro-gun is consistent with being pro-life. In the process, he meets Lucy McBath, a fellow evangelical whose son was killed in a stand-your-ground case in Florida. Disney chronicles the pushback Schenck endures as well as the danger he faces by challenging the Second Amendment faction of his flock.

He "breaks with orthodoxy" on this issue?

Say what? Whose orthodoxy? What orthodoxy? Political orthodoxy or doctrinal, or is the Reporter simply throwing words around? 

Let's be clear: If you know anything about the wider world of consistent-life-ethic activists, you know that quite a few link their views on abortion to their stances on issues such as gun control and the death penalty. And then there is that Pope Francis guy. You can read an interesting post on Pope Francis right here, written by none other than the Rev. Rob Schenck.

Wait, there's more:

But at the first screenings, Disney has been heartened by how many evangelicals are embracing the film -- particularly young, black and female audience members. Still, the older white male demographic continues to be resistant. ...
Armor of Light will screen at the DGA in L.A. on Oct. 14, followed by a discussion with Disney, Schenck and McBath. In the run-up to the film’s theatrical release, Disney is reaching out to notable Hollywood evangelicals and deeply religious Christians like Roma Downey, Mark Burnett, Denzel Washington and Stephen Colbert to join the conversation.

Now that last sentence is just downright awkward in terms of the grammar. Stephen Colbert is an "evangelical"?

The big problem is lumping "Hollywood evangelicals and deeply religious Christians" into one sequence. The faith backgrounds of Downey and Burnett are quite complex, actually, and scores of evangelicals would balk at calling them, well, evangelicals.

Then there is Denzel Washington, who is the son of a Pentecostal preacher and is active in a Pentecostal megachurch. He's a Christian, but the better word to describe him, don't you think, is as a Pentecostal Christian? Finally, that Colbert guy is, of course, a Catholic progressive.

Other than all of that, the story is fine. Not.

Like the man said, "What we got here..."

Is a train wreck of a story. How would editors write a correction for this one?

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