Last year, I wrote a bit about the “do it yourself” foreign aid concept (and then I wrote a lot more about it). I find the DIY aid attitude to be misguided and potentially harmful.

machine gun preacher posterBut recently I’ve learned about something far worse: DIY military intervention. Enter Sam Childers – aka the Machine Gun Preacher. Gerard Butler recently portrayed Childers in a movie of the same title, which is sure to raise gobs of money for his misguided and definitely harmful activities.

Rather than discuss Childers further, I’ll just link to what others have written. I have to give credit to Brett Keller for bringing out the full extent of what a nut job this guy is. Keller has covered the story in depth on his blog, and in a shorter version for Foreign Policy. As Keller puts it, Childers is either dishonest or dangerous – but probably a little of both.

You should also check out this piece in Christianity Today, which investigates neglect at the orphanage Childers runs. Finally, the anonymous J. at Tales from the Hood describes Childers most eloquently in one word, and he’s started a collection of related stories here.

Though you may not need to read any of those articles. Frankly, that movie poster tells me just about everything I need to know: the rugged white savior, the AK-47 in one hand while the other protects a distressed-looking African child in tattered clothes, the ominous clouds, the blood-splattered title. All of this communicates an attitude toward American involvement in other countries that shouldn’t exist outside of Chuck Norris films. Worst of all is the tagline: “Hope is the greatest weapon of all.” Well if that’s the case, why are you the Machine Gun Preacher? Why not be the Hope Preacher?

  1. Sorry to be a pedant, but isn’t there a typo in the post title?


    1. Ahem. I don’t know what you’re talking about. (Thanks – it’s fixed now.)


  2. When I first heard about this movie it was in a very positive article in one Russian journal that of course had nothing to do with aid. It talked about “Machine Gun Preacher” and The Whistleblower with Rachel Weizs, praising both movies for portraying “the crisis of the development world”, for showing that aid workers are not always “knights in shining armor”. The reality, as we know, always lays in the middle, but Hollywood rarely is interested in it. I, for one, am glad that Hollywood is making such movies, because in my country it’s the only way general public will even find out about such aid operations or international slave trade phenomenon. Of course, the best way would be for them to start reading development blogs, but in Russia it won’t happen for a long time 🙂


  3. […] titled “Don’t Try This Abroad,” Dave Algoso, a development worker and blogger who writes “Find What Works,” responded with criticism: Yet Kristof’s headline is: Do it yourself. Bring the same […]


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