Thoughts on Machine Gun Preacher

WARNING: This is not a review.

Having watched this movie on Tuesday night, I couldn’t help but churn out a quick response. I’ve just written a few thoughts down here. There are sure to be people who agree with some stuff and disagree with the rest, and I really invite your feedback and responses if you have any.

I struggle to watch movies like ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ with a critics eye. I can’t sit back and judge films that are either to do with Africa, or to do with matters of faith. I immediately switch into some other mode and am either struck to the heart, infuriated, or educated in some way. God will generally reveal something to me, teach me something or at least stir me towards Him and His cause in some way.

This film is not made by, or for Christians, so as a believer try and not sit there as if this was a theology lesson or a guide toward sound doctrine. Simply accept this for what it is… a true story of an ordinary human being… and then see what lessons can be learnt from it, or deal with any stirrings you may have in the aftermath of watching it. I don’t think it’s good enough for someone to simply dismiss this film as rubbish, or bad doctrine and then walk away. There are lessons to be learnt both good and bad. I write everything from a very humble state, will try not to make assumptions, and stand to be corrected or at least challenged on any points. These points are in no particular order and do not necessarily follow the narrative.

Firstly, I was reminded that we are missionaries. We have one life on this earth and we need to make it count for the cause of Christ. Sam Childers, the central character in this film, became a follower of Christ and had his heart stirred for the the kids in Sudan. He then went and assisted. It’s that simple at first. He did something. He initially obeyed God’s call and went to serve, the same as many others have done throughout history. Before you even comment on anything else that followed and point fingers at him, or complain that this movie simply glorified this one man (which it may have done, and I’m not advocating that), have you checked your own heart? Are you serving the poor, or evangelising to people, or even just praying for your friend, OR are you sitting on your couch pointing out where he went wrong.

I found it very interesting when Sam was faced with several moral decisions. Some in hindsight, we could perhaps easily spot the right choice, whereas there are others where we still perhaps can’t tell what the best thing to do was.

Three times throughout the film he is faced with the choice or helping some (but not all), or helping none. First is when he chooses to let as many children as he can come and sleep inside. The second, and toughest, was when he takes an abandoned group back to the orphanage but is forced to leave the rest in the bush for the night. They are slaughtered before he can get back for them. What a choice he was faced with. He couldn’t see all ends. At that point he made a tough choice, and I can only begin to imagine the weight and strain that this man felt.

You them might want to zone out and dismiss this as just another movie about ‘a good white American coming to help poor Africans’. Even if it is, you still have a choice! You can get upset with the filmmakers and American’s for wanting to come over here and look like heroes! You can do that. But I ask you, have you checked your heart? Have you gone there? Have you gotten off your butt and just walked to the underprivileged areas in your own city, let alone leaving your family to travel half way across the world. Have you seen the need? Before you criticize him and others, check yourself. Don’t be immediately critical.

There is SUCH a need in this world… for God’s word and Gospel to be heard and for us to be hands and feet in helping those who are in need. There is a bigger picture, far removed from our world of comfy sofas and capuccinos.

This man was not perfect. Did he do things wrong? I think so, and the question we must ask is – what can we learn? My opinion is that he got far to caught up in DOING God’s work that he lost sight of God himself. I base this purely on what I saw in the film and nothing else. His decision to go out and actively attack guys and seek them out because of a spirit of vengeance is wrong in my opinion. The debate (and I’ve been a part of one) of whether or not killing in defense of the innocent can be had and I’m free to argue about it, but in many parts of the film he was not acting out of desperation. He was actively killing guys and I don’t agree with that. Had he been truly obeying the Holy Spirit and walking close with Him, I would have made some different decisions.

Finally, his neglect of his family was also something that struck me. There is one scene where he harshly denies his daughter a limo ride for her prom. On one hand, it must have been a tough thing, after seeing what he has, and knowing how that same money could be used to save lives. On the other hand however, is the fact that as a Christian man, and his major responsibility is first and foremost to his family – His wife and then his daughter. He very much lost sight of this and suffered because of it. What was his solution? Practically, I won’t offer one. But somewhere in the midst of it all he lost sight of God and his family and became a slave to the WORK.

My only solution would have been to stay close to God, stay close to his Spirit and love Jesus. I do not believe God would have wanted such issues of abandonment within a family. That is the lesson I would take from this. Don’t become a slave to DOING STUFF for God and lose the heart behind it.

These are just a bunch of thought’s I had. This is not a sermon. These are not lecture notes. These are the first thoughts off the top of my head.

Machine Gun Preacher – A lesson in good theology? No. A perfect example of how to be a missionary? No.

You can hate this film. You can disagree with much of it’s content, but don’t be cynical and just ignore it. Don’t fold your arms, shut it out and pass up the opportunity to learn something…

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7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Machine Gun Preacher

  1. Good one Kyle. There are no easy answers to the challenges and questions raised by this movie. I wanted to be Sam and then I didn’t, and then I didn’t know what I wanted. Its a messed up context and he is a messed up man. I have few answers, only observations. Personally, I’m glad I remain confused. It would be arrogant to feel like one had that scenario and its challenges nicely “boxed” and “filed”.

    God bless Sudan, God protect her children.

    PS. I think you nailed it early stating as you did that the movie was “not made by, or for Christians, so as a believer try and not sit there as if this was a theology lesson or a guide toward sound doctrine. “

  2. 🙂 Love that

    totally agree……… it so easy for people to point out the wrong that he is doing, when all they doing is sitting around and complaining about the situations instead of being the change they want to see.

    The movie encourages me to get up from my bum and change this world for Jesus!

    watch his interview……… the movie leaves a little out…… this guy is changing Sudan and USA for Jesus.

  3. Hi Kyle,

    Thanks for your post. I appreciated the humility with which you approached the subject and especially your underlying points of reflecting upon our own actions.
    One thing I did want to bring to your attention is a lively debate that has been raging for some time between myself and others that have gone specifically to Sudan versus the claims that Sam Childers has made, and which are the premise of his film. Unfortunately, many of the claims in both his book and his film are actually spurious. I have blogged about it here if you are interested: http://bryanadkins.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/the-machine-gun-preacher-the-incarnation-of-the-new-american-foreign-policy/

    I think what I find most disturbing is that Sam Childer’s is using this story to gain immense support for his actions, even financially. As Christians (and I am one as well), I find his actions the opposite of what Christ would do.

    Thanks again for your openness to debate.

    Very Best Regards,
    Bryan

    • Hi there Bryan,
      thanks for the comment. I am going to head over to your blog now. You say that you have been involved in Sudan, so I am assuming you do know more about/of Sam Childers than I do and I appreciate your information. Have you watched the video that was attached in the first comment to this post by Lesedi? I watched it this morning, and although it didn’t go into much detail on the ‘controversies’ I did appreciate hearing Sam himself say that he wanted audience members to not think about him, or what he did, but to rather look at their own lives.
      I guess I can’t be naive and just accept what he says, but I am inclined to hope that he does mean it.
      Will head over to your blog shortly.
      God bless,
      Kyle Peters

  4. HI Kyle, thanks for your reply. Yes, I have watched it. And in principle I agree that Sam Childers is not wanting people to think about him but rather examine their own lives and see what they can do. The major problem I have though is that people are unlikely to dis-aggregate the two. They will see a man in a movie who has said he was called by God to go and arm and kill other people whom he acts as judge and jury over. Many will think that they too can do such things (just read the comments section on his own blog). Non only will people see a violent man who became a violent Christian, but also a violent Christian who became a movie star. Unfortunately, I find nothing in this man’s story to compel me be more active. I would rather read the works and be inspired by other non-violent Christians who were also called to action such as Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa etc. I hope that this is not offending you in any way but I do hope that someday people understand that the claims made by Sam Childers are either fabricated entirely, or more seriously, constitutive of major crimes.
    Best Regards,
    Bryan

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