'End of the Spear': missions buffeted by U.S. culture war
There is much controversy in the Christian community concerning the movie End of the Spear . (I will carefully note this is all happening just after the movie is released in theaters, and the most crucial money-making time for the studio and distribution company.)
The movie's been panned by critics, glorified by many Christian leaders who don't yet know about Chad Allen's sexual orientation, and boycotted by some Christian leaders and lay people who do. I remember Chad Allen when I was a kid. He was on the cover of every Teen Bob and Tiger Beat magazine for a time. He was the latest heartthrob for teenage girls to pin to their walls. I never thought much of him as an actor; he was mediocre in talent as far as I could see. Not that he had many great roles, but still. And sure I thought he was cute. I was 12.
I went to see End of the Spear the weekend it opened. I loved the book "Through the Gates of Splendor" and didn't know Steve Saint's story - a powerful and redemptive story of forgiveness which the movie reveals in an unexpected way - often how God will teach us life lessons. The way we don't expect or even want.
But I don't really want to talk about the movie. I've told everyone I know that I enjoyed it, it's worth going to see and the story itself is moving. After all, a son not only forgives the man who killed his father, but now considers this man a grandfather to his children. The two now work together to share Christ with other tribes in the Amazon. You can't deny that's powerful. You simply can't deny God worked in the hearts of both men to change their lives forever.
What bothers me is that Chad Allen's sexual orientation is now overshadowing the message of the movie. I admit I was surprised to learn a movie that's about Christian missionaries starred a gay man, but so what? Once again, the fundamentalist Christian right is managing to muddy the waters of what could be a clear evangelistic tool - a movie that shows forgiveness is possible no matter the sin or depth of hurt. That mercy triumphs over justice. Many can relate to that message - Christian or not. What it does is open all kinds of great discussion and opportunity. But if all anyone can talk about is the personal life of one of the actors in the movie, those opportunities might be lost.
I do, however, appreciate that so far the bigger names (i.e. men who many uninformed Christians consider their word gospel instead of forming their own opinion) have remained silent on the issue. Names like James Dobson and Jerry Fallwell. But there are still others speaking out in an attempt to prevent Christians from going to the movie in the theater so that the company that made this movie might loose money. That's why this is happening now - the critical time when the studio needs to make it's money to recoup costs.
There are so many other issues to be discussed about this movie - both negative and positive - but I choose this one. Don't ruin the message because you despise the messenger. After all, Jesus was despised, yet his message spread. Let's not put God in a box and claim that only a few chosen are "good enough" to spread the gospel. Let's stop putting actors on pedastels and take responsibility for what we tend to idolize. But most of all: Let God do his thing. Let him use this man and this message to redeem. God knows way better than us anyway.