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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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Wolfgang of Regensburg: Wolfgang was born in Swabia, Germany, and was educated at a school located at the abbey of Reichenau. There he encountered Henry, a young noble who went on to become Archbishop of Trier. Meanwhile, Wolfgang remained in close contact with the archbishop, teaching in his cathedral school and supporting his efforts to reform the clergy. 
<p>At the death of the archbishop, Wolfgang chose to become a Benedictine monk and moved to an abbey in Einsiedeln, now part of Switzerland. Ordained a priest, he was appointed director of the monastery school there. Later he was sent to Hungary as a missionary, though his zeal and good will yielded limited results. </p><p>Emperor Otto II appointed him Bishop of Regensburg near Munich. He immediately initiated reform of the clergy and of religious life, preaching with vigor and effectiveness and always demonstrating special concern for the poor. He wore the habit of a monk and lived an austere life. </p><p>The draw to monastic life never left him, including the desire for a life of solitude. At one point he left his diocese so that he could devote himself to prayer, but his responsibilities as bishop called him back. </p><p>In 994 Wolfgang became ill while on a journey; he died in Puppingen near Linz, Austria. He was canonized in 1052. His feast day is celebrated widely in much of central Europe. </p> American Catholic Blog Keep your gaze always on our most beloved Jesus, asking him in the depths of his heart what he desires for you, and never deny him anything even if it means going strongly against the grain for you. –Blessed Maria Sagrario of St. Aloysius Gonzaga

 
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