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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Machine Gun Preacher

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

When the hard living Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is released from prison in Pennsylvania he is still not ready to reform his wild life though he has a wife (Michelle Monaghan) and daughter. After he and a friend almost kill a man, Sam gets a wake up call and becomes a Christian. He eventually starts a very successful construction business and builds his own church where everyone is welcome.

When a guest preacher fails to show, Sam steps in. Then when a visiting preacher talks about Africa, Sam decides to give his time and efforts to do construction at a mission in northern Uganda. It is 1998. He learns about terrible atrocities carried about by The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony, a  former Catholic and altar boy. He kidnaps thousands of children and uses them as soldiers and sex slaves. Sam resolves to build an orphanage in the middle of nowhere with the assistance of a few soldiers from the Southern Sudanese military – because God told him to.
 
Sam builds the orphanage so that it is secure and can be protected by armed guards but after witnessing a terrible atrocity where a large group of children are burned alive by the LRA,  he reflects then picks up an AK-47 and goes on the attack to rescue children.
 
This story is morally and ethically complex because it showcases the use of violence justified by the Bible – which really happened for Childers. But unfortunately the film reduces the moral dimension to what seemed more like propaganda to me.  Why? Because when the real Sam Childers says at the end, machine gun in hand, “If your son or daughter were kidnapped and you asked me to rescue them, would you then question the means I would use to do so?”
 
I do want to know what is happening in the world, but I don’t want to be told that violence is the only way to deal with problems, even horrific problems. The story should have been left to stand on its own.
 
When you see what is happening to children in Africa and everywhere there are child soldiers (there are tens of thousands in the world and we really are not aware of this), you do want to do something. But is becoming a Bible-toting Rambo the answer? In the absence of government or infrastructure that can protect people, is appointing yourself a one-man crusade the answer? I admit, something has to be done. But groups like www.EnoughProject.org suggest other ways.
 
Gandhi ridded India of the colonizing British Empire without lifting a finger, one Hollywood writer told me in response to the film.

“Machine Gun Preacher” is based on Childer’s 2009 book “Another Man’s War: The True Story of One man’s Battle to Save the Children of Sudan.” In an interview Childers told me to recall that the events in the film happened up until 2009 and that for two years now, there have been no attacks in the region where his orphanage continues to rescue, rehabilitate and reunite children with their families when this is possible. Since the Republic of South Sudan was founded this past July, Sam has extended his activities into other countries.  He also told me that a documentary will be released in January or February 2012 that will fill in and answer questions people may have.


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John Vianney: A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. 
<p>His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained. </p><p>Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.) </p><p>With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home. </p><p>His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day. </p><p>Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil. </p><p>Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.</p> American Catholic Blog The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold on to. –Pope Francis

The Spirit of Saint Francis

 
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