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August 19, 2011

'Machine Gun Preacher' for Two Audiences

Studio releases "secular" and "faith-based" versions of poster for film; see trailer below

Coming to theaters next month, Machine Gun Preacher is a movie that will appeal to some Christians because of its subject matter. It will also turn off some Christians . . . because of its subject matter.

The movie, opening in limited release on September 23, is based on the true story of Sam Childers, a drug-dealing hell raiser as a teen and young man who began to turn his life around after finding Jesus. Today, he spends much of his time in Sudan and neighboring countries, allegedly fighting pockets of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) with his own band of gun-toting rebels while sweeping up orphans who have been left behind -- and then putting them into orphanages that he has built in the area.

Some Christians will love the film for showing Childers' path from rebellion to redemption. Others may avoid it for the same reason; the first 15-20 minutes are as in-your-face and gritty as anything you'll see in an R-rated movie (which it is), with a sex scene, drug dealing (and taking), brutal violence, and foul language. Even after Childers -- played terrifically by Gerard Butler -- finds God, he's still got some rough edges, and his flaws stick with him through the rest of the movie. Sounds pretty realistic to me, and I appreciate the filmmakers' boldness in showing those character flaws. But it's also a bit much for the "safe-for-the-whole-family" folks who prefer their "Christian" movies to be G-rated fare.

Relativity Media, which is distributing the Marc Forster-directed film, realizes this, but knows it's also got a film on its hands that can have terrific crossover appeal -- for Christians because of the redemptive arc of the tale, and for secular audiences who appreciate character development woven into what is in many ways an action movie, with Childers as its real-life action hero.

In an attempt to reach both audiences, Relativity has released mainstream and faith-based versions of the movie poster. They also plan to release "exclusive" clips for the faith-based market in a week or so. Stay tuned.

Here are the two posters -- "secular" on the left, "faith-based" on the right. Both include the phrase, "Hope is the greatest weapon of all." In the latter, the cross motif is evident, but seems forced, especially as it cuts off Butler's forehead. But there seems to be a clear focus on the children -- the main motivation for Childers' work -- in the background.


Finally, here's the trailer:


Mark - the movie is about rescuing kids in SUDAN not Somalia. Actually since they have voted for their independence earlier this year lets make that officially South Sudan. Please correct you review. Thanks.

Lets have a moment of silence for those poor Christians who might be "disgusted" by this story. I guess they still have their "Christian TV, movies & music to escape back into away from the world. Reminds me of Tony Campolo's old 3 point sermon involving bovine scatology.

How would you go about making a "safe-for-the-whole-family" film for those folks who prefer their "Christian" movies to be G-rated fare - that involves fighting the sheer evil of the Joseph Kony & the LRA? You simply can't. This is the best attempt I have heard of to simply show a little of the story of our brothers & sisters in that part of the world who have endured so much, both from the Sudan govt itself & from militias like the LRA.

We are their family & you either stick up for them or you walk away & do nothing because it disturbs your "sense of peace." Get over it christian America. Wake up & open your eyes, arms & wallets to the real world. Grow a spine & take a stand - from child exploitation to sex trafficking to the horrendous evil of the LRA.

One day we will stand & give an account. We were given so much & have done so little. Lets change that.

I'm saddened by the release of this movie not because of the idea that it's not "safe-for-the-whole-family" but because it is patently false. All you need to do is ask the dedicated missionaries who work in the nation of Southern Sudan or the leaders of the army there and they will laugh. They know most of this story has been invented and that the character that it's based on has not done most of what he claims.

@David Please try to remember this is NOT a documentary. Although the film is clearly based on the life of a living man, it is, without a doubt, "Hollywood." Written & produced to be a viable, commercial film -- to make money for all involved. That is to say one would be ill-advised to go into this film expecting to see nothing but factual scenes and acts. Is it a "rebel to redemption" film that may cause a struggling soul to search and, possibly, realize it's never too late to make a better life for one's self? You betcha. Is it a comedy designed to make "dedicated missionaries who work in the nation of Southern Sudan or the leaders of the army" laugh? Unlikely, but who knows?! HE works in mysterious ways!

It's E*N*T*E*R*T*A*I*N*M*E*N*T for adults that are tired of the PG13 candycrap they like to call "movies" these days. As a conservative Christian living in the Heartland, I cant wait to see MGP & hope I get the opportunity to do so!

Now, if you want to dispute and refute the "documentary," you'll have that opportunity when "Another Man's War" is realeased by Point Man Films later this year. ;-)

My post was incorrectly directed to "David," when I was, in fact, replying to "Bob." I apologize for the error.

Somalia has been changed to Sudan. My bad. I've been working on a news story on the famine in Somalia for the last three days, so that accidentally slipped in as I blogged this. It's now correctly Sudan.

I saw the movie with Sam Childers, friends and family on Aug 18. The basic events in the film are all true or are a combination of true events. Sam has indeed done everything he has claimed to have done. It is sad to know that people are reading blogs by those who have read only thirdhand accounts and misquotes from articles as true rather than believe firsthand testimony. The theatrical film has some Hollywood grandeur but it is still based on the facts and true life actions of Sam Childers. The documentary Another Man's War will be released early next year. Sam is not a liar, but he is dangerous--to the LRA and other terrorists who steal children, murder their parents, burn villages and destroy wells.

I am excited to see a movie about redemption that takes place in the R-rated world we live in.

What I am not excited about, although I will suspend judgment until after I see the movie, is a line from the trailer. The main character says "you fight evil your way, I will fight it my way." His way, of course, is lots of shooting. After all, it is the machine gun preacher.

What gets me a little nervous is that some of these redemption-amidst-violence movies basically end with violence creating lasting change and the non-violence doesn't actually change anything. Again, this is not my conclusion, but my fear that comes from a trailer clearly meant to gain the widest audience possible. Hopefully, a story of redemption and the gradual rehabilitation of these children will wow me when this movie comes out.

Hey! Thanks for sharing.

First of all, I'm amazed by the amount of hatred this movie has. It is based on a true story, what can get more real than that (other than documentaries of course :-))! If you are struggling to get the picture, the moral of this movie is that people are out there suffering and proving to these lost places in the world that there is a God.

However, sometimes you may not be dealt the right cards - or you have to play "their game". Not only is this movie inspirational, but it shows the amount of effort Christian ministries work to get lost people to Christ!

So what I'm trying to say is, it's a great movie! I can't wait to watch it myself, and I hope you do too! Thanks for sharing :-)

To the great movie!
- Filemon L. Nava

Concerning any movie which has an R-rated sex scene in it, remember one thing. That girl in the sex scene is somebody's daughter.

Rather than excusing it as "quality moviemaking", or being one of those who gratuitously obtains pleasure from watching her, imagine yourself as her father watching this scene. If you have the guts and the heart to do so.

I wrote an article on Sam at my blog. I have met and worshiped with the man personally, though I believe he is misguided. Sam falls in line with the multitude of other Christians that believe we are to use force and violence to achieve God's goals. He has been chasing Kony with very little success and killing children while trying to save other children (The LRA are mostly Children). There is a movie called "An Uncoventional War" which shows how the Christians in Uganda pushed Joseph Kony out through the power of prayer and supporting the local military with prayer. They did not personally participate in the violence but let the government be the sword and because of their prayer Kony was defeated and many in the Ugandan military became Christians. While it is easy to cheer for Sam, his application of the gospel is a false, carnal application. We are not called to bear the sword but preach the gospel. Nevertheless...I KNOW Sam loves the kids he saves, tries to raise them in the Lord within his orphanages and suffers terribly because of the violence he has seen. One other thing to consider, John said false prophets would be known because the world would hear them. Because Hollywood loves this mans version of the gospel so much..it should tell you something. Don't be sucked inn by this lie. Pray for Sam to repent and fight the good fight with the weapons God has given him. Real Christians Don't Choose War.

I'm all for it being in-your-face realistic, but would have preferred they cut the sex scene. Don't think that brings Christ honor. That being said, I plan on watching it and averting my eyes during the scene.

All in all, I'm glad this is out there. At the least, it will be a conversation starter/lead in to talking with others about God's forgiveness of my own life; and how he can change theirs too.

Matthew 26:52; "Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Many Christians will take this line and decide that what Sam is doing is wrong. So, lets take a closer look at the saying that Christ said to his Disciples.

First,lets take a look at the situation. Mathew 26:47; While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

So, now we can see from this statement that Jesus and his disciples were out numbered and out gunned. If the disciples were to have fought they all would have perished and all the time Jesus spent training them for the next phase in spreading the word would have been for nothing. It is obvious now that Jesus was issuing the order for them to use common sense. Now ask yourself the question, if your wife and child were being raped and beaten in front of you would Jesus want you to turn the other cheek? If our bodies are to be the temple of the Holy Spirit then common sense says to protect them. Indeed Jesus did say to turn the other cheek, but even Jesus used violence when appropriate, John 2:13-16. Never once in the Bible does it say to through out common sense.

you cannot take one incident in scripture and make a doctrine out of it. You must take the WHOLE scripture. Peter said that Messiah left us an example that we should "Follow in His steps". Were those steps we are to follow ones which Messiah used violence and force against His enemies? Did He join the Patriotic Zealots to over throw the Roman oppressors? No. We are called to preach the gospel not wage carnal war. the scripture is clear that the Christians enemies are not flesh and blood, and our weapons are not Carnal. those are commands. John said if we say we know God but do not obey His commands we are liars. The first 300 years of Christian history also dispute your ideology. They would excommunicate anyone who joined the army, refused to defend themselves under severe persecution, and declared that true Christians would not bear the sword. Both Scripture in its full context and early Christian history is something you should explore before deciding it is ok to shed blood in the name of Jesus. It could e a mistake that has eternal consequences, or demonstrate the fear of men, rather than obedience to the word even if it costs us our lives. Self defense on a personal level is not comparable t war. Also you are assuming the only proper response to someone about to commit evil is to hurt them violently. Do you believe there are other options besides attacking that person that a Christian could use in such an rare scenario which you have developed?

One more correction: LRA stands for Lord's Resistance Army, not Lord's Republican Army.

I don't intend to watch "Another Man's War" and will advise others to do the same. As a Christian I don't like deception, in fact Scripture warns us about it. I don't like going to movies to be "entertained" by violence. I think there is enough of that all around us in our everyday world. Knowing the facts from first hand experience, having visited one of Sam Childers' orphanages,I would feel nauseated by the lies that will be portrayed about his care of children when in real life they were obscenely neglected. I hope and pray the real truth will be exposed and if it isn't I wouldn't want to get to heaven and have to explain how a multi -million dollar movie gives huge profits to Sam while hundreds of children have suffered as a result of his "helping."

Looks like a great movie! Looks like the Neo-Anabaptists have found the movie beyond salvagable. Look, at the risk of over simplifying things the message of peace everywhere all the time is just unrealistic. We live in the friction of a dark world and blanket judgments before people know what's what are unacceptable. The only reason any pasifist Christians are alive is because armed Christians kept them from the violent clutches of violent Fascist and Communist regimes as well as Ottoman expansionism and all other manner of rampant and unbridaled violent evil history has ever produced.

Christian or unChristian...I definitely want to see this movie! Even if it isn't a totally true story, maybe it can inspire more of us to take action against the injustice and violence that inhabits many parts of this world. Let's spread this movie around!

Also you are assuming the only proper response to someone about to commit evil is to hurt them violently. Do you believe there are other options besides attacking that person that a Christian could use in such an rare scenario which you have developed

Buying the book was a waste of $13 but allowed me to figure out who Sam Childers is by his own words. The best sub-title I can come up with is ; Gratuitous Self Promotion.

As the entertainer, Rush Limbaugh often says, if you listen they're telling you what they are really doing. Sam tells us in the book that he went from eating $1.00 meals to eating the best meals in the best hotels and restaurants. Then he boasts of leasing the finest quarter of a million dollar home in Uganda's capitol. Although posed in a regretful tone, he also boasts of his old exploits with surprising joy.

Yup, Sam seems to be just what he says he is, a self absorbed, self important and self sustaining man.

Sounds like it would be an interesting movie, not sure why any Christians would be against the film if it is about a man who turned his life around after finding Jesus.