My Thoughts From The Machine Gun Preacher Movie

I just got home from the preview of Machine Gun Preacher.

The movie is gritty and raw and easily earns the R rating within the first 3 minutes of the film. The reason is because Sams’ life has been gritty and raw and straight up rated R. There are enough F bombs to make Quentin Tarintino proud and your momma blush.

I’m certain that there will be the cadre of Bible belt conservatives that will blast the movie because of it’s excessive language and violence and not make any mention of the powerful story of redemption of Sam’s life. I actually chuckled at how those Christian movie ratings sites will rate this film. On paper, this might seem like a movie that “good Christians” shouldn’t see. Of course by that standard, we should hope Song of Solomon or 1 Kings are not made into movies and especially not the sequel, 2 Kings.

Most of my circle of friends are aware of the story of Sam, and the movie, but just in case, here is the trailer.

The movie was intense enough that afterwords I kind of just wanted to vegetate, and as most people know, the best way to vegetate is to scan facebook status updates. It’s like cotton candy. Each bite is a small snippet, and tasty for a second and then gone.

It was the normal cadre of “job interview in the morning” and “wow it’s hot out side” stati. (that’s the plural of status?) There were also the status updates with pithy theological word prose, or quotes from theologians who have been dead longer than Abraham Lincoln, and invitations to check out rad new bands.

And it just rang so hollow. So empty. So cotton candy. After what I just witnessed in this film which is based on the real story of Sam Childers and his work rescuing orphans in Sudan and Uganda.

And before you get all defensive and self righteous with me, I understand that every facebook status can’t be about changing the world. You can look at my status feed and see that I’ve got little room to talk. (anti monkey butt powder anyone?) I just think it speaks to our priorities in America. And as best I can tell our priorities are finding creative ways to spend the weekend; to out wit the others in theology pissing matches; and pounding our political positions into the 2-3 people who disagree with us in our friend feed.

The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I think that means that what we talk about the most is what our hearts are most full of. And as best I can tell, as a culture our hearts are full of, well.. ourselves.

While we are sitting around debating Arminianism vs Calvinism on facebook the violence in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan is flaring up again. While we are jousting about grace vs works doctrine in competing status updates, there are famine stricken children starving quite literally to death in Refuge camps in Kenya. In the time it took to cut and paste that political video clip that makes fun of Sarah Palin, another child died of a preventable disease in the developing world.

To be clear, I’m a big fan of sound doctrine and if you know me, you know I have political opinions. But theology debates, philosophy debates, political debates, those are a luxury in much the same way that running water and air conditioning are. They’re pretty vital unless you’re life is on the line. Anything above our natural needs for survival are luxury.

To hit closer to home, the church planting world. While we’re planning how to “blow up” our attendance at churches, or implement the latest church growth model, or studying the latest statistics and demographics to understand what kind of postcard mailings to send; there are women in Northern Uganda whose lips are being cut off because they argued with a soldier in the LRA.

For years I’ve looked the other way because it was a problem for someone else. I went about my life thinking that I’m not “called” to that type of thing. I was an expert at compartmentalizing and just not thinking about it. After all, what can I do?

What kind of BS thinking is that?

Do I really have to be “called” to stand up for a child whose parents are murdered in front of him in Sudan? In fact, there is no five fold ministry gift for Loving someone as myself. There is no separate calling for missionary anywhere in scripture. It’s assumed in our very salvation that we would be going. It’s incumbent upon whatever our calling is. If it’s music industry, or pastoral ministry then those career paths or ministry offices are a highway or platform from which we can love our neighbor.

We can be goers or senders. We can be both or either, but we can’t be neither. Not if we’re a Christian. Jesus simply didn’t give that as an option. His invitation was to follow him. It denotes he was going somewhere. I’ve spent too much of my life inviting Jesus to instead, follow me.

The other side of that is there is no social gospel, or social justice gospel. There is only the gospel. The good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, was resurrected on the third day as the scriptures foretold, and that now I can have a life more abundant promised from Jesus himself. My previous misunderstanding was that the “abundant life” meant prosperity, comfort, and health. Those of you who have spent time in the slums of a developing nation loving on children know what I know.. there is no better feeling, there is no more abundant life than loving someone who can’t possibly repay you for your gift.

I guess I’m figuring out that the gospel includes, in fact demands action from us. How on earth did I think the point was going to church Sunday, tithing, singing, listening to a sermon. It’s part of the journey. And as a Pastor, I suggest it’s a great part of the journey. But it’s not the point of the journey. It’s a vehicle for the mission but not the mission.

I’m excited to spend time with Sam Childers this Sunday. He may not have done everything right, but he was at least doing something. He wasn’t particularly qualified or gifted or trained, he was just willing to do what was in front of him. And maybe more importantly is what he wasn’t willing to do; look the other way.

I’m basically thinking out loud, and not pretending that I have any specific answers for where to start. Perhaps it’s as simple as my friend and founder of Place of Hope Mike Coupe says, “do the next right thing”.

How long will we sit and let our churches look the other way and do nothing. How long will we ourselves do nothing? I’m done with asking God why He didn’t do anything, and ready to start asking myself.


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