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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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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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