Machine Gun Preacher Gets Real


photo taken from

The real Sam Childers (from

Several months ago, my son and daughter-in-law told us about the movie Machine Gun Preacher starring Gerard Butler. It’s based on the true story of Sam Childers, a biker dude from Pennsylvania with a dark past who got right with God and ended up building an orphanage in Southern Sudan and leading armed missions to rescue children from Joseph Kony’s LRA.

We finally watched it over the weekend. It’s the wildest missionary story I’ve ever seen.

Before I go any further, LET ME BE CLEAR. THIS MOVIE IS RATED R for a good reason. There is a generous amount of foul language (the F-bomb is freely tossed around at the beginning of the movie). There are guns, blood, violence, and killing. It is disturbing to watch.

They won’t be showing Machine Gun Preacher on Sunday night at your local church, believe me.

Based on the little bit that I read about the real Sam Childers, the movie is apparently quite accurate.

But here’s why I’m telling you about it today. I thought it gave a great representation of the contrast between life in America and the realities going on in Third World countries. Several scenes depicted this contrast. One of Sam’s greatest struggles wasn’t just fighting in a African civil war but raising awareness and support for his orphanage from friends in the States.

One scene shows him talking to a friend who is a wealthy businessman. Sam is asking him for $5000. His friend nervously rejects Sam saying he can’t afford it. Instead, he invites Sam over to a party at his house over the weekend. The party scene shows an opulent house with expensive cars in the driveway. The mansion and the party itself is a statement of American wealth gone bad.

Sam’s friend pulls him aside and gives him an envelope with some money for the children. Sam slips into another room to look in the envelope and sees that it’s for $150. The next scene shows him storming out of the house with his family saying, “He probably spent more than $150 on salsa for this party!”

The scene below also shows the contrast as Sam calls his wife back in the States while she’s in a local grocery store. Sam’s orphanage has just been burned down by enemy forces. The call illustrates one person in the land of plenty and the other in a land of need.

I’ve never seen that many eggs in one grocery store! But hopefully you get the point.

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve faced as a veteran of many short-term missions is translating the great need in other parts of the world to my friends in the States. I know career missionaries struggle with the same thing. It’s difficult to put into words how desperate billions of people are on this planet. Almost half of the world lives on less than $2.50 per day. At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 per day!

If you put poverty into pictures, many people turn their heads in disgust and try to ignore it. How many times have you changed the channel when one of those Christian Children’s Fund commercials comes on TV? Be honest.

While I have to careful endorsing an R-rated movie such as Machine Gun Preacher, I will tell you that from my perspective, it’s a pretty raw and realistic look at the sufferings in this world and the ignorance that most Americans have toward those who are in need.

If you can stomach the language and violence, I would encourage you to watch it. It’s a real picture (okay, maybe it’s a little extreme) of the dichotomy between life in America and life in the uttermost parts of the world.

Sometimes we need something raw and real to wake us up. Machine Gun Preacher does it.

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