I’m glad to see that none of the critics took the recently released movie, Machine-Gun Preacher, seriously. The premise of the movie is, “You may not fear God, but you best fear Sam Childers.” Sam Childers, played by Gerard Butler, is the ex-con turned missionary turned warrior-of-God, finding himself in war-torn Sudan, saving orphans from warlords by gunning them down with AK-47s, Rambo-style. Had the director been Sylvester Stallone, or even Quentin Tarantino, I’d know what to expect: an action-packed movie of odd with crazy wrapped in great. But Machine-Gun Preacher takes itself seriously in its mission to save African children, unfortunately, through the eyes of a Spartan muscleman. The movie’s contexts of somber Sudan, and style of Yosemite Sam-showdown, disagree, making the film a recipe for a wreck.
Butler’s holy mess for a film parallels Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s holy mess of a campaign. The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania has adopted a take-no-prisoners evangelical approach to his campaign. Santorum’s platform runs on trumpeting “family values,” halting abortion practices, interrupting gay marriages, and stopping Obama’s class warfare. He believes that “America is a moral enterprise, not an economic enterprise,” in rebuke of Mitt Romney’s businessman appeal and Romney’s super PAC’s “Restore the Future” support. What Santorum lacks in business experience, he makes up for in Machine-Gun Preaching:
“The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. And that is what the perception is by the American Left who hates Christendom… What I’m talking about is onward American soldiers. What we’re talking about are core American values.” This was said at the Oakbrook Preparatory School in Spartanburg, South Carolina to 200-plus students.
Santorum’s devotion to his Christendom seeks to win sideline support from socially conservative voters, especially in South Carolina, where evangelicals account for 60 percent of the Republican primary vote. Indeed his tough church-boy act has curried favor from the Carolinians. In Mount Pleasant, SC, he raised “over $3 million in a week.” For Santorum, South Carolina will be the make-it or break-it state. Since 1980, winners of the South Carolina’s primaries have gone on to capture the Republican nominations. Thus the predictions of the Republican race will weigh on the Palmetto State (SC) primary. If Mitt Romney were to win the Ames Straw poll (IO), the New Castle Straw Poll (NH), and the Palmetto State primary, which no one has ever done before, “it should be over” (as commented by R. Sen. Lindsay Graham on “Meet the Press”). Regardless of whether Santorum can pass the stepping stone that is South Carolina, he will probably sink when it comes time for the Republican National Convention
Santorum’s success so far has come from endorsements from evangelical leaders. Back in the Iowa caucus, Santorum managed a surprise capture of second place to Romney, behind by only eight votes, because of strong backing by religious voters. In Texas, 150 social conservatives represented by the Family Research Council agreed to support Santorum over native Texan candidate, Rick Perry. Indeed there have been times when the light was shining on Santorum.
But pockets of churchgoers are not enough to carry the tide of support within Santorum’s campaign. Republicans are looking for a guide through the financial and healthcare problem, not the moral crisis (there is none). The U.S. national debt is at $15 trillion; the unemployment rate is at 8.5 percent; this year, states are expected to spend 7.4 percent on healthcare coverage; tensions with the Middle East are escalating. However, at the top of Santorum’s Family, Faith, and Freedom home-page, is his stance on pro-life issues. Although the issues of abortions rights are not inconsequential, they are not the national issue to address. Thus Santorum shows no promise as a political leader because he is a spiritual leader — his beliefs reside in the church.
Indeed, this Machine-Gun Preacher in fuzzy cashmere sweater-vests has had good runnings in the political boxing ring. But I see the same demise in him as I saw in Jon Huntsman — the falling-out. Had Santorum not taken his mission-for-God campaign so seriously and instead focus on the bigger issues, he might have appealed to a wider audience. His overall campaign had what I would call the “Gerard Butler effect”: the man may not understand his demographics, but he sure knows his Bible.