All it takes for evil to triumph………..

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Blogger and soon to be biker. Ray Haakonsen

All it takes for evil to triumph……….

Recently, together with my son Dillon, I watched a movie called Machine Gun Preacher, featuring rugged actor Gerard Butler in the role of Sam Childers. Childers from Pennsylvania, USA, grew up in a Christian family, but got into drugs and gang life as a teenager, eventually becoming the hitman for a biker group. After a jail sentence and continued spiral to near self-destruction, through a loving wife’s influence, he returned to church and dramatically surrendered his life to Christ.

On a missions trip to Sudan in the early 2000s, he came across a boy who’d had a limb blown off in a minefield. Childers helped rescue the boy, and felt compelled and called by God to return regularly to Sudan and Uganda.  The area was being controlled by the infamous, callous and cruel guerrilla leader Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who were carrying out unrepeatable atrocities against the common defenseless villagers

Because of the LRA terrorising the area, he had to sleep with two machine guns by his sides. He was given the nickname “Machine Gun Preacher”. He knew how to handle firearms due to his upbringing in the woods of Pennsylvania and later as a hitman for the biker gang. This decision to carry firearms caused him to lose some churches support for the orphans he was rescuing from the ravages of war. These churches didn’t believe a pastor should carry weapons, despite the orphanage being right in the middle of a war zone.

Because of this stand he has become a very controversial figure among church and non church circles alike. At the end of the film which vividly portrayed the atrocities of the war in that region, Sam Childers puts a question to viewers  along the lines of “If your son or daughter had been abducted and was living in fear, being trained as a terrorist or prostitute, being abused and damaged by their abductors, and I told you I would get them back no matter what the cost would you ask me to do it?”

I found this a compelling question and as a follower of Christ, I have my own opinion of whether his stand to show compassion to the orphans with one hand and fight off guerrillas with the other is justified. You may also have your opinion if you wish to check out what this controversial individual has done with his life.

However this story somehow reminded me of David, perhaps one of the most controversial figures in the Bible. As a diminutive shepherd boy, he bravely slew Goliath with a sling and a stone, only to become hunted by King Saul because he became too popular and strong. We can read about this in the Chapters from 1 Samuel 20-26. But that is another story.

The parallel for me with David and Sam Childers comes in Chapter 30 of 1 Samuel. David and his men had been away fighting on the side of the Philistines due to Saul’s jealousy and hunting him down. David and his men returned to Ziglag their home village only to find the Amalekites had raided their home and abducted all the wives, children and livestock of David and his men. David was distraught and even more so when his own men wanted to stone him because of their own losses and grief. David did what was the only thing he knew to do…he asked God if he should pursue the enemy.

God told David to pursue the enemy and promised that he would overcome them and recover all they had lost, families, animals and other possessions.  The story goes on in 1 Samuel 30 that David and his men hunted the Amalekites down They were now down to 200 as 400 rested by a brook, too exhausted to continue. The account tells us that David and his men smote the enemy from twilight of one day through to the evening of the next and that only 400 youths got away. David and His army must have killed many that day.  They recovered all that belonged to them, and he shared the spoils the enemy had stolen with other tribes who had lost their possessions as well.

This account showed me that in certain situations God gives His people permission to take severe action when defenseless people’s lives are at stake! David and his men’s families were without their protectors when the Amalekites came. God told him to g0 and surely knew David would need to kill the enemy to get their possessions and families back.

As I watched Machine Gun Preacher I was struck with a thought that my wife and I lived with every day for 10 years  after founding a care center for abandoned and HIV/AIDS babies called Beautiful Gate Lesotho. We were rescuing babies that were being left for dead in ravines, long drop toilets, on the side of the road on hospital beds.  Whilst our compassionate response was to step in to help these babies and toddlers, we were really responding to the result and not the cause. Much more work was needed to discover why this was happening and to find radical responses to stop babies being abandoned. In the same way, Childers initial response was to care for the orphans who were so radically impacted by the ongoing viscous wars in Uganda and Sudan. His efforts to build an orphanage from scratch (twice because the first time the rebels burnt it down) were nothing short of heroic, but his controversial decision to take up arms to fight fire with fire against the heartless Koby and his viscous followers have become extremely controversial.

So what do you think? I leave you with this quote from a school teacher who caught a child with a weapon at school back in 1969. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men (or women) to do nothing!” (Italics added)

Pic below: Childers outside at the Shekinah Fellowship
Children’s Village. Photo: Kevin Evans

Childers outside at the Shekinah Fellowship Children's Village. Photo: Kevin Evans

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

10 thoughts on “All it takes for evil to triumph………..

  1. Very thought provoking. M L Kiing once said that he loved his enemies (white supremesists) yet hated there actions. It takes a special heart to love the victim as well as the perpetrator. As believers under the new covenent we are instructed to love our enemies. Chinese and eastern bloc believers where and still are persecuted terribly yet they would never sanction terror cells as muslims do. I would never judge the machine gun preacher as I have never been under threat of my life or had to protect my fam in self defence. The biblical principal of loving your enemies still has to be the hardest command we are given. But time and time again it proves itself to be true. Only love can defeat hatred and fear.

    • Interesting thoughts Paul. I have had to face up to life threatening challenges and needed to choose how to react. I agree love needs to prevail but at times the love is disregarded and action is needed…..just an opinion……not saying I’m right. I believe there is a time for ‘righteous anger’ and justice to be stood up for.

  2. Living according to one’s concience – the Lord is faithful and who are we to judge how Sam approaches the work he does. I think the results speak for themselves and if there is a better way, the Lord will reveal it to Sam in His time. I think he is a hero.x

  3. I agree, a great blog thanks Ray.

    I have not seen the movie but I am sure that Childers would have prayed a lot about arming himself… or that God would have given him a check against that if required.

    I believe that one day we will have to answer for not just what we did but also what we did not do.

    If Childers went there unarmed and was martyred on day one he would most likely have been hailed as a hero. I don’t think that’s right. It’s easy to be tortured and have your head chopped off and then be celebrated as a martyr. I think Childers is a true warrior. And like him, I think we need to ‘martyr’ ourselves every day that we’re here on earth to bring glory to God Almighty – in his case he decided to arm himself to extend his time here doing what God called us all to do.
    It is God alone who will judge if what he did was right or not and we should all be less inclined to pick up stones.

    Blessings to you my friend!

    • I enjoy your comments Paul and agree that at times we are called to be “warriors” in Christ and will have to take a stand on behalf of those who don’t have a voice. I also agree ‘martyrdom’ means laying our lives down each day for Christ’s sake

  4. Great blog as always. I have not seen that film but i would like to and have heard a lot about it. I agree with that quote entirely which is why i proably always get myself into trouble trying to do something!
    Keep writing…………….

    • Thanks for your comments Jenny. I recommend the film although it is pretty graphic in places. I think it depicts the evil we are up against as we try share the love of Christ (sometimes even aggressively) with others.

  5. I enjoyed the movie and generally agree with Sam on the issue of carrying a gun and using it when necessary. I think most pacifist Christians have been duped into believing that Jesus said we should turn the other cheek when a foreign attacker comes into our house/town/land to destroy it. In fact, he was referring to they way we should react to aggressive behaviour from a neighbour acting like an enemy, whom we would have to live with after the fight.

    Scripture is one leg we must have as foundation, but so are:
    * The leading of the Spirit,
    * The experiences we’ve had with God, and
    * Even the traditions of our forefathers
    (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/08/is-the-bible-really-enough-for-christian-theology-no-and-the-bible-says-so/)

    In some cases one of these defines our actions, sometime more than one of them do, but they are never in contradiction with each other, rather they compliment and support each other.

    All in all, it’s about getting the job done. And is to take care of the widows, orphans, sick and the poor, reach out to those that have lost their way and in Paul’s words “by all means save some”.

    • Thanks for comments Roland…….I enjoyed your comments and perspectives. Our call to share Christ with others is such an important one and we need the Spirit’s guidance in each situation as to how to do that

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