I watched the movie "Machine Gun Preacher" the other night with my family. It's rated R and I would not recommend it for younger kids because of the content and the moral questions it provokes. I spent a good part of the next ruminating, reading, listening and revisiting my own journey of thought and action in relationship to violence, peace and mission in following Jesus into East Central, Spokane.
The movie is about a rough biker dude who 'finds Jesus' and is sent on a new path that eventually includes church planting and mission work in Africa among orphans and the terror of the LRA. In the movie the 'machine gun preacher' ends up using weapons to defend, rescue and retaliate in the work with orphans. The repercussions, both externally and internally in the man and the mission are wrestled with and yet the conclusions are left for you to really process and decide as far as the moral outcome of it all.
In the credits you get a chance to see and hear the real man the movie is based on, Sam Childers. In closing he asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of a bereaved parent whose child has been abducted, and he asks, “If it were your child, and I could get her back… does it matter how I do it?”
In other words, do the ends justify the means, if you achieve a worthy goal?
Afterwards our family talked for about half an hour about the film, the frustrations, contradictions and moral dilemmas it sets up for families, followers of Jesus and churches. My youngest's (12) first response was 'Lets get a gun" a response I understood but didn't want to be the only conclusion of his viewing the film. In the end of all our discussion, we were left with more questions than answers and more ambiguity than clarity, but settled on a directive to do our best to act and react to this world as we would desire it to be, not as it is. We are following Jesus not for a eternal lollipop at the end but because His teachings make this world a better place to be.
This morning I printed off a picture of our dear missionary friends in Southern Sudan that we sent from our church this summer. It's a picture of their two young children sitting with a little African boy with beautiful but haunting eyes. I put it on our fridge with the words "Pray & Give" written on it, a gentle reminder that we as a family in Spokane are connected in some small way to the work of justice and love in the same part of the world.
God willing, I hope to do that without blood on my hands.