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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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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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