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More on the Machine Gun Preacher story

September 28, 2011

It has been almost a month since my first post about Sam Childers and his actions. A lot has happened in that time and I felt the need to write a new post and catch everyone up. Since my last post the movie came out as did a number of new blog posts and articles. I wanted to highlight some of the issues these articles discuss as I think they lend more weight to the argument that what he is doing is not helpful and that he is doing more harm than good.

Brett Keller has a few more posts here and here, and even one at Foreign Policy, which, while just a summary of his past stuff, has gotten the message out to a much wider audience.

The most disturbing news comes from a story by Mark Moring at Christianity Today (with reporting in South Sudan by Uma Julius and Esther Nakkazi). They seem to be the first ones to journey to Nimule and the orphanage and ask the harder questions that others have not been asking. It is sad that up to this point the media has just been allowing Sam to paint the picture of his work and actions and they have not been talking to anyone else. That is not ok.

I was going to write a lot about the Christianity Today story, however, being late to the game as usual, Brett has covered everything that I was going to highlight and talk about. Please read his post. It highlights the fact that the community the orphanage is located in, might not be as supportive as Childers has alluded to. It also discusses a number of people who have seen the orphanage first hand, including a former employee, and their descriptions of the terrible living conditions faced by the children. He also quotes from another post written by Seth Trudeau, who works at a different orphange in Nimule, and what he has heard and seen.

Hopefully the following quote from the Christianity Today story should be enough to get you to click over and read it and Brett’s post:

Witnesses have said that the children at Shekinah Fellowship Children’s Village are malnourished, unhealthy, and unhappy. Several locals—including pastors, government officials, and a high-ranking member of the military—tell Christianity Today that Childers has exaggerated or outright lied about his work in the African nation.

Community leaders want his orphanage in Nimule—near the border with Uganda—to be shut down immediately, and for local ministries to take over. In a September 2 letter to Childers, 14 local leaders—including the man who says he gave 40 acres of land to Childers to build the orphanage—wrote that Chiders has “dishonored our agreement” to take care of orphans, and that they demand “immediate closure of the compound.” Childers told CT he never received that letter.

One of the many arguments put forward by those that support Mr. Childers is he is doing what no one else will do or can do. Now obviously from the Christianity Today story and from a post written by Seth Trudeau, we know that there are others working with children in the area and that there are even other orphanages in the area. Thus, this argument cannot be referring to that aspect of his work. The argument must then be referring to his actions in actively going out “rescue” children, armed to the teeth. I stated in my last post that this was a terrible idea and stated that in other places NGOs rely on national militaries to do this and then the militaries hand over the kids to the NGOs. The reason for this? Militaries can be held accountable for their actions. Individuals running around in the bush cannot.

In an article at the St. Louis Today, Tim Townsend writes:

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations special representative for children and armed conflict, said she understands the frustration many feel with Kony and the LRA, which she said has a “horrific” record in its treatment of children.

But she said there are proscribed, systematic ways that humanitarian organizations have to rescue and reintegrate children abducted by such groups.

“We prefer that regular armies doing this kind of work because they’re subject to international law and standards, and we can hold them responsible,” she said. “With vigilantes, who are they accountable to? That becomes an issue.”

Obviously then, I am not the only one that holds to this view. This woman is the foremost expert on children and armed conflict, so I believe her thoughts should not be taken lightly.

All of this new information coming to light should make those who support Mr. Childers or those thinking of supporting him stop and ask some very hard questions. It is not enough to just have good intentions.

There is also another aspect to this movie that many people have not thought about. It will be the first movie about South Sudan and it is sadly from the perspective of a white man coming to save the day.

Bored in Post Conflict discusses this issue:

Anyways, at the moment, my biggest problem with this is that this preachy piece of shit is going to be the first movie about South Sudan. And I mean movie movie, documentaries don’t count because most of the world’s population can’t quite be bothered to watch a documentary.

However this movie portrays South Sudanese is how the world will come to see them, a nation who needed a single white knight to come and rescue their children. Forgotten will be the struggle of the South Sudanese soldiers who fought for decades to achieve their freedom. From what I can see in the previews, this movie may even go so far as to portray the SPLA as being an impedance to the protection and rescue of the children.

For me that is probably the worst crime of this movie.

Luckily, there are those out there who want to do justice. Lekan Ayinde and Dare Folder. Two Nigerian film makers who have come to Juba to produce “Salt of The Nation”

The director says that “Salt of the Nation” is about “the Sudan of yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Folder said the movie addresses the struggle South Sudan has gone through and the challenges it will face after the referendum.

I for one will be saving my popcorn for this film to be available (I think the movie might already be out, but I have not been able to find it anywhere).

Also, if you are looking for one place to go to see many of the articles and posts that have been written on this subject, Tales From the Hood has created a page just for that. Just click on the image of the blue lizard and it will take you to the page showing the articles.

I have been asked by a number of people to lay out my view on why Sam Childer’s actions are not Biblical. I am sad that I even have to do this, however, I am currently working on that post and will hopefully be able to post it by the end of the week. Stay tuned.

Finally, because of some recent comments, I now have a comment policy.

COMMENT POLICY: I welcome feedback, but for the sake of keeping some standard of quality here to encourage others to read the discussion, I will delete comments that have a) gratuitous profanity or other NSFW (not safe for work) material or c) nothing but ad hominems that don’t add to the discussion.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn permalink
    October 25, 2011 1:02 pm

    You make a strong case against Sam Childers’ and his methods, but the comment by Bored in Post Conflict regarding the SPLA is not without error. I have not and probably will not see the movie, so I can not comment on how the SPLA is portrayed. What I do know from 10 years of work among the Lost Boys is that the SPLA is not without its own horror stories of impressing young boys to fight. The Lost Boys tell stories of the SPLA freely entering Kakuma refugee camp and with impunity compelling underage boys to join their fight, intimidating them and sometimes worse! Of course, their fight was against Khartoum, as evil a regime as Kony is a monster, but the ends do not justify the means. I would hope that the SPLA today is more professional, and my sympathies unequivocally lie with South Sudan, but the SPLA is far from blameless in its forced conscription of very young South Sudanese youth from the civil war with Khartoum–their reputation is far from spotless.

    • October 25, 2011 2:31 pm

      Carolyn, I agree with your sentiments. I included that quote because it was discussing the fact that the first movie of south sudan would be from the perspective of a white person coming to save the day. I don’t agree with the comment about the SPLA and child soldiers because, as I referenced in my first post about this topic, I do believe that the SPLA used child soldiers in the past and does not have a spotless reputation. Thank you for bringing up this issue again though, as I do think it is something people need to know and understand.

  2. Patty Dunn permalink
    September 21, 2014 3:27 am

    I have just been to a charity dinner for Sam Childers and met the man himself. He has been traveling down here in Australia raising money for his orphanage. Fortunately, my ticket was paid for, so I didn’t give any money to his charity. Before I went to this dinner, I did some research because I had never heard of him, and wanted to know what I was going to. All I knew was he had once been a drug induced, gun toting, violent man, and had turned a new leaf and was now a preacher with an orphanage in South Sudan. To say the least, I was very apprehensive about going after doing my research. Listening to him, I gathered the only thing different about him since he found God, was he that he no longer abused drugs and alcohol. We sat through his documentary and there were a couple of things I found odd. He had spoke about how many mouths he fed daily and how his children had 3 meals a day, but only once in the documentary did it show children eating, and that was 2 children sitting outside on the ground eating. I would think if one was filming a documentary about feeding and caring for children they would show how well they were being cared for. The docu was mainly shots of outside the orphanage, and of course lots of shots of Childers driving around or standing around talking. He talked about how he opened 2 or 3 more orphanages, but nowhere online can I find anything pertaining to this, other than him saying so. I was appalled when he was in his home showing his weapons and showed some kind of black wooden paddle and laughingly says, ” this is what you use to keep your wife in check”. After the documentary, he did a Q & A, and I asked if the FBI were still hounding him. He replied yes, but only because he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut and nobody, not even the government could keep him from speaking. He then went on to say how Pres. Obama was somehow involved with Al Bashir, and we couldn’t trust the President because his half brother was involved in illegal activities, so that meant Obama was too. By then I was ready to get up and walk out, because I knew then what kind of man this guy was, but my friends whom I was with were still hanging on to every word this guy said. There is no way to prove whether everything this guy says is true or not without going into S Sudan and seeing for yourself his orphanage, but after hearing him speak and listening to his answers to questions, I can pretty much sum up what this guy is doing, and the least of it is helping children in the S Sudan.

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  1. Why supporting Sam Childers, aka the Machine Gun Preacher, is a very bad idea « Hands Wide Open

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