Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
orphans in the Bible
defending the weak and vulnerable
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer
|Featuring:||Gerard Butler … Sam Childers
Michelle Monaghan … Lynn
Madeline Carroll … Sara
|Director:||Marc Forster—‘Monster’s Ball,’ ‘Finding Neverland’|
“Hope is the greatest weapon of all.”
As the end credits roll after “Machine Gun Preacher,” the film’s subject, the real Pastor Sam Childers, asks the audience a rhetorical question. He tells us to put ourselves in the shoes of a bereaved parent whose child has been abducted,, and he asks, “If it were your child, and I could get her back… does it matter how I do it?” In other words, does a satisfying end justify any means of achieving a worthy goal?
For Childers, saving the lives of children in Sudan meant he should engage in a vigilante war against ruthless mercenaries who had captured kids to become sex slaves and child soldiers. This film asks really troubling questions, and the answers it offers are not easy to swallow, especially for believers in Jesus.
The film drops us into Sam’s early life as he’s being released from prison and returning home to his wife and daughter. His life is defined by drugs, alcohol, and violence. After he attends church once with his wife and gets baptized, his life seems to change for the better. We watch him get sober, start working, and even build his own church in which he becomes the pastor. His change-of-life seems way too fast to be believable.
After a missionary shares about Christians being persecuted in Sudan, Childers (played by action star Gerard Butler) takes a trip overseas to help with construction projects. He meets members of an army trying and failing to protect Sudanese villagers from brutal gangs which descend upon villages and threaten to kill little kids unless they club their own parents to death—depicted in the film’s horrific opening scene. Thus, the audience is primed to desire justice for these helpless children.
Watching this film, I was reminded of other films like “Braveheart,” where a man is pushed to his limits by injustice and responds by going to war. One might also think of Old Testament figures like Samson or David who spent many years destroying enemies under God’s direction, according to the Bible. You might also wonder whether God is using Childers like he used them.
I decided the answer was no, after I listened to the false gospel Childers was preaching, screaming angrily at his American congregation, “God doesn’t want sheep—he wants wolves!” By wolves, Childers means people who take up deadly weapons to destroy what they view as evil.
If you really need to see what a false prophet looks and sounds like, Childers, as presented by the film, is it. Tempting, sometimes achieving noble goals, and willing to sin and destroy in order to build his own kingdom. Just because he builds buildings with crosses in Sudan doesn’t mean Christ is being exalted.
You may watch the film and decide that Childers was entirely justified to kill all the people he killed in service toward orphans. You may even find it entertaining to see Hollywood portray a Christian more like Rambo than Ned Flanders for a change. To the credit of the filmmakers, Childers is not painted as a heroic saint. He’s shown as sometimes violent toward his family, judgmental, and often angry toward fellow believers and kids.
However, I cannot, in good conscience, recommend the film, not because it’s graphically violent and contains bad language. I found it profane primarily because it presents a godless view of the Christian faith and the world in which Childers’ violent form of justice is the only real power available for needy African kids. The film exposes you to the story of a pastor who’s trying to play god and ends up becoming a monster to his family and even some of the orphans. If you get sucked into this film, it may be tempting to follow Childers” example, rather than taking the hard road and obeying God’s commands to believers at the end of Romans 12:
“Repay no one evil for evil… If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine,” says the Lord, “I will repay.”… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
It is admittedly easy to sit in a theatre and judge the actions of another man and quote Bible verses stating why you think he’s wrong. But when you are watching this movie, you are thrust into a world where evil will run rampant unless Christians answer with more violence—it’s shown as the only solution, except for one moment when a kid tells Childers not to let hate rule him. I strongly caution you not to put yourself vicariously in the head of Sam Childers for two hours. Evil does demand a rapid response from believers, and He has given us weapons of righteousness to use that don’t require bullets.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.