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