Friday, August 3, 2012

Machine Gun Preacher

You just have to admire someone who takes radical steps to live out their faith.  Machine Gun Preacher is based on the story of Sam Childers, a low-life biker ex-con who was radically saved from a life of crime and drugs.  Inspired by a guest preacher at his church, Sam, as a new, zealous Christian, traveled to Africa to help with a mission construction project.  While there, he visited the war zone of southern Sudan, and had a first-hand encounter with the senseless brutality of the Lord's Resistance Army.  He dedicated his life to rescuing children from these heartless criminals, opening an orphanage in Sudan.
Because of his going about armed, and his willingness to gun down LRA soldiers in order to rescue children, he became know as the machine gun preacher.  Here's where the story gets complicated.  Childers is out there serving "the least of these."  I mean, how much more needy is a kid who lives in one of the earth's poorest regions, whose parents have been killed by marauders, and who may be forced by the marauders to fight?  I applaud his conviction and celebrate the fact that hundreds of children are safe, alive, and healthy because of his efforts.  Yet, I can't help but cringe at his use of violence.  Pure religion is caring for orphans, but does that mean shooting down their oppressors?  Maybe it does.

I was inspired by Machine Gun Preacher.  In many ways, it is an evangelistic film.  We see Childers's drastic transformation and his living out his faith.  The other Christians in the film are portrayed respectfully (although church was a little on the cheesy side).  We celebrate with Childers in his baptism, share his struggles as he lives out his faith and tries to convince others to join his vision, and cringe (maybe with painful recognition) as he has some failures.  This is a very Christian movie, but the portrayal of sin will bother some.  The language and violence is definitely rated R.  Although we learn that Childers's wife was a stripper before she got saved, there are no scenes of nudity.

Inspiration, action, conviction, controversy, and challenging questions about the use of violence to good ends.  A nice mix for a movie!

Bottom line, 3 stars.

For more about Sam Childers and his ministry, see:

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