This weekend I finally watched Machine Gun Preacher, about Sam Childers‘ transformation from being shotgunner for a drug dealer and drug user to preacher and rescuer of African children. Certainly his is a compelling and unusual story, but unfortunately, the movie did precisely what I expected — it lacked an explicit gospel message, made little use of the Bible and had little to distinguish it from a humanitarian crusade.
I should point out that I do not mean to criticize Mr. Sam Childers with this post. I have not met him nor have I read his book to know what he believes or proclaims (and whether it lines up with the Bible).
My complaint is that the movie which failed to present a clear message about Jesus, the cross, our need for his salvation as well as his transformation of us (we cannot save ourselves or sanctify ourselves).
For example, the message that proceeded the altar call Sam responded to failed to explain that repentance is necessary for salvation. I should say that I am not opposed to altar calls. I’ve personally witnessed biblical gospel presentations that were followed with an appropriate altar call. But I have a big problem with easy-believism altar calls, like the one in Machine Gun Preacher.
Most of the preaching in the film made little use of the Bible, and at least one of the preaching scenes was actually full of error. In that case, Sam (played by Gerard Butler) was preaching at his Pennsylvania church and condemned his congregants by calling them “sheep,” and proclaimed that God doesn’t want “sheep” he wants his children to be “wolves.” That statement actually contradicted scripture since the Bible repeatedly calls us sheep — just as it calls Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. Christians are called to obey and follow in blind faith and the term wolf is repeatedly used in scripture to label false teachers and those who appear to be Christians but are not.
There was so little Christ in the story it was difficult to ascertain whether Childers pulled his life together and changed to do something for God, or if he was saved and transformed by Christ.
If the movie had presented a clear message about Jesus it might have been worth watching in spite of the vulgar language (mostly early in the movie when Childers is still using drugs and his life is spiraling out of control) and violence. But sadly it did not. So I have to say skip it.