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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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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog A hero isn’t someone born with unconquerable strength and selflessness. Heroes are not formed in a cataclysmic instant. Heroism is developed over time, one decision after another, moment by moment, formed by a deliberate, chosen, and habitual response to life.

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