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People like Sam Childers do not pop up often on the Hollywood publicity circuit. The subject of the unlikely action movie Machine Gun Preacher sported a leather biker jacket and chewed on a toothpick during our interview in Washington, D.C., looking like a patron of the rougher sort of bar. However, his speech was peppered with words like "born again" and "spirit-filled" and Bible passages.
Hollywood script writer Jason Keller, also in the interview, admitted he did not originally know what to make of his subject, but grew to respect him. "What I started to see in Sam [was] a man who's a preacher, who's a good Christian, who was flawed, but trying to be the best man and Christian he can be."
Gerard Butler stars as Childers, a drug abuser and criminal whose Christian conversion is unapologetically portrayed in the movie. On a church trip to Africa, he feels a call from God to shelter and protect children in Sudan, children who were routinely kidnapped and forced into prostitution or into the militia. Childers not only built an orphanage but picked up a gun and ambushed militia in Sudan's brutal civil war to rescue the children.
Because of its somber subject matter, the film is rated R. Nor does it shy away from Childers' rough past. To portray its subject honestly, the movie includes high levels of violence, lots of swearing, and a married sex scene.
Because Childers feels God's call to rescue orphans so deeply, he nearly despairs when he fails. His crisis of faith becomes the strongest part of the film. The film always respects the faith that drives the story, but it raises more questions than it answers.
Don't look to Childers for answers. He doesn't have time to debate the theological implications of toting a gun or his heavily works-based preaching. "I never try to claim that what I do is right," he said. "But I will claim the defense that over a thousand children will say that what I do is right."