US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Have gun. Will preach. Seriously? Christian ethics and Machine Gun Preacher

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The reviews are in: Machine Gun Preacher is, um, what was that again?

That would be the movie based (loosely) on the life of ex-con and ex-addict Sam Childers, who came to Christ in prison, became a preacher, and went on to build an orphanage/relief effort in the Sudan. The movie about him has him packing ammo, blowing away the bad guys in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in defense of his orphans.

The video interview with Childers, in which he says he doesn't mind being called the "machine gun preacher," is both inspiring and puzzling. He clearly has no problem with his portrayal as a Christian vigilante in another part of the world. At the same time he's trying to raise awareness about the plight of children in conflict zones throughout the world, especially when the combatants have no problem turning children into soldiers or sex slaves.

There's no doubt the the LRA is evil, pure and simple, but is the lock-and-load approach a legitimate Christian way to go? If the reviewers are to be believed (Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, Betsy Sharkey of the L.A. Times), this is a blood-soaked vengeance tale given a Christian veneer because the subject is a preacher. In the end I wonder if the bulk of the folks who do the real relief work on the ground want to be associated with this kind of army. (Hard to say how much of the "action" has roots in real life; Childers has no problem with the portrayal.)

I guess we're stuck with the usual question: Do the ends (saving Sudanese children) justify the means (dispatching your enemies with an automatic weapon)?