Machine gun preacher
Director: Marc Forster
Writer: Jason Keller (screenplay)
Stars: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan and Michael Shannon
This is a Hollywood film. It stars Gerard Butler, has high production values and tells the story of Sam Childers, an American citizen who still spends much of his time in South Sudan, seeking to help children affected by the terrible atrocities that have taken place there in recent years.
Childers is both a preacher and a man unafraid to use his machine gun (no doubt, he is better with his gun than as a preacher). Most Christians will not want to see this film, as it is not only violent, but in two sections uses vile language, reflecting the period before Childers made his decision for Jesus and another time where he seems to lose all profession of faith in Christ.
This is a general problem with films that depict modern life, especially where someone has come to Christ from a godless life. Murder and drug taking are easy enough to simulate, but, without actually committing the sin, swearing is not.
After an important initial episode in Southern Sudan, the film begins with Childers on the day he is released from prison. His stripper wife appears to have found faith at a local church, but Childers is resistant until eventually making his decision, after coming close to a serious crime. It is through contact with his local church that the work in East Africa flows.
Anyone who can get through this unpleasant opening section may find that there is enough stimulus in this thinking man’s action film to keep watching, and then discuss with others the issues raised: man’s depravity — to what extent is it progressive (this in light of the appalling things children have been made to do in Southern Sudan)? poor theology — how dangerous is it? American self-belief and the gospel — what are the main differences?
One brief section in the film struck me, where Childers tries to teach the children in the orphanage he founded in a war zone how to play baseball. They are not interested and only want to play soccer. It doesn’t quite fit, but seemed a partial metaphor for the fact that his American get-up-and-go only takes you so far.
Life is complicated and, without a rigorous theology, compromise is inevitable. This is not to suggest that theology can solve everything; this film shows that is far from being the case.
Childs Hill, London