Machine Gun Preacher
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
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
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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