“The last thing Christ wants is our heart…what God wants from us is our feet, our legs, our hands, our arms. He wants our entire body,” Sam Childers recently stated during a roundtable interview for his new film, “Machine Gun Preacher.” The film chronicles the story of how Childers went from selling drugs in Pennsylvania to building an orphanage in the Sudan. Both Childers and Jason Keller, who wrote the film’s screenplay, sat down with Townhall.com and several other media outlets to talk about the film.
The film shows Childers only a few decades ago as a drug dealer who spent much of his time abusing drugs and alcohol. He begins to turn his life around after one awful night leaves him panicked and frightened of what his life has become. He becomes a Christian preacher and eventually visits the Sudan, where he founds an orphanage and becomes a passionate advocate for the children of that war-torn country.
Although he fights for the children of the Sudan against the “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA), a group that brutalizes innocent people and recruits children into war, some of Childers’ real-life tactics are extremely controversial. The preacher is well-known for using violence to fight against the LRA. The film shows him attacking and killing several members of the LRA without hesitation.
When pressed on violence and its relationship to his role as a preacher, Childers stated that he believes that “the God that we serve does not condone violence” and added that “I don’t ever try to claim that what I do is right.” However, he also said that he will defend himself by noting that the children whose lives he saves from possible mutilation or death believe that what he does is right.
Keller, who wrote the screenplay for “Machine Gun Preacher” and said that he is against violence himself, noted that the current situation in the Sudan doesn’t lend itself to easy answers on the question of whether violence is sometimes needed in order to save lives. “When I traveled to Sudan,” Keller said, “and I met those kids and I saw the scars of war literally on their faces and I saw a land decimated by twenty-plus years of civil war, the answer to that question becomes really complex.”
Since he originally visited the Sudan, Childers noted that the situation has improved and that South Sudan now has its independence. “There hasn’t been anyone killed in Northern Uganda in three years,” he said adding that “there hasn’t been anyone killed around the orphanage in two years.” However, that doesn’t mean that the situation is settled. Childers noted that Joseph Kony, the head of the LRA, has abducted over 1000 people and killed over 200 individuals this year alone.
Keller worked hard to make the film as accurate as possible, even visiting the Sudan to interview some of the children featured in the film. Although the timeline in the film is off, Childers stated that “they’ve done an unbelievable job to take 30-plus years and put into a two-hour movie.” “When you sell your life rights to Hollywood,” he said, “you don’t know what the end result’s going to be.” However, he said that everything in the film “is based on the truth.”
Nowadays, Sam spends about seven months of the year in the Sudan. Wherever he is, his faith in Jesus Christ goes with him and he spreads a religious message.
“Every Sunday, I’m preaching somewhere,” he said. He also noted that he hasn’t gone back to drinking and drugs for twenty-something years. He often spends his weekdays visiting high schools and talking to teens about the dangers of using drugs. The dangers of drugs are clear to him from both his firsthand experience and from losing his own son to heroin.
Childers hopes that after the movie comes out, the story becomes less about him and more about the audience and what they can do to help. He helped found a nonprofit called the “Angels of East Africa” that people can donate to. If you’re not comfortable donating to that organization, he said that people should find another nonprofit they are comfortable with.
Regardless, he said that there is something everyone can do to help the children in the Sudan.