My friend Randy Brandt, who blogs at Contend 4 The Faith, has written a short article speculating on whether or not the producers of the upcoming film The End of the Spear have committed financial suicide with their casting. Let me fill you on the controversy.
But first, here is a brief synopsis of The End of the Spear: “A savage killer from a remote Amazon tribe becomes grandfather to the grandchildren of the North American man he killed. End of the Spear is a dramatic feature film based on the true story of the documentary film Beyond the Gates. The screenplay for End of the Spear was written from the perspective of Mincaye one of the Waodani tribesmen from the spearing raid that killed five North American missionaries.” The missionaries are Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully and Roger Youderian. This story has previously been told in both books and film. It is a powerful story and one most Christians are glad to see on the big screen. It seems that the film is well-made and faithful to the actual events.
However, as Randy points out, controversy is brewing. “A controversy is growing as the movie’s January 20 release date nears. It revolves around actor Chad Allen, who plays both Nate Saint and Steve Saint in the movie, with the Nate Saint role being a key part of the story.” The actor’s site tells us why this actor might cause some controversy in Christian circles. “Courageously, in the October 9, 2001 issue of The Advocate, Chad came out as a gay man. He also acknowledged past problems with drugs and alcohol. He also has spoken to a number of groups and at events about gay rights issues including taking part in a forum on Larry King Live on the issue of gay marriage.” Allen has spoken at Youth Pride events and has acted in a production called Corpus Christie which is described below:
“The play, set in modern-day Texas, features a hard-drinking gay named Joshua and 12 other gay male characters, most of whom bear the names of Christ’s apostles…
Different from other boys because he is a homosexual, Joshua grows up in isolation and torment, an object of scorn. He flees Corpus Christi in search of a more accepting environment, gathering along the way of a group of disciples who are bound to him by his message of love and tolerance.
According to Time magazine, McNally’s play is “a serious, even reverent retelling of the Christ story in a modern idiom — quite close, in its way, to the original.”
Randy also points to an article which describes his obviously New Age spirituality:
Two years ago, (Allen) co-founded his production company Mythgarden, with Robert Gant and Christopher Racster. “We’re working to bring the next generation of gay and lesbian storytelling to the screen, and we’re really excited about that.” Their upcoming project, Save Me, takes place in an “ex-gay” ministry that’s run by Judith Light, in which Allen and Gant begin a relationship. Also coming up is a project called The Way Out, which they are co-producing with David Duchovny. “It’s the story of two gay men who fall in love in a senior citizens home, and it looks at the issues of elder gay housing. It’s a fantastic love story.”
Allen also stars in the upcoming film End of the Spears, based on the true story of a group of Christian missionaries that make contact with the Waodani, a notoriously violent Ecuadorian tribe. Having grown up in a Roman Catholic family, Allen saw this project as a challenge he wanted to undertake. “There were a lot of people on both sides that weren’t particularly interested in me doing this movie. I am from a Christian background, but I have a personal spirituality that spans the distance from Buddhism to Hindu philosophy to Native American beliefs. That aside, this movie is about the power of love. I knew it was an opportunity to bridge these two disparate communities that are believed to be enemies- the gay and the Christian communities.”
Thus the question is, did the producers of this movie take too great a risk in casting a known homosexual in the role of the Christian hero? Will Christians refuse to watch the movie because of this actor? And further, should Christians support such a film or should they avoid it?
To be honest, my first reaction to this controversy was sheer frustration. Millions of Protestants were only too happy to watch a devout Roman Catholic portraying Jesus in a film written and produced by an even more devout Tridentine Roman Catholic - a film that really did little more than recreate the mass and the stations of the cross. Is it possible that many who were only too glad to watch a Catholic portraying our Lord and were willing to label Mel Gibson a great man of faith, are the same ones who will be protesting a homosexual portray a missionary? Is there not a great inconsistency here? Should we not hold that theology is of foremost importance?
And so, like Randy, I will ask you: Do you intend to see this film? Do you feel that Allen’s involvement in the film will damper your enthusiasm for it? Did the producers of this film fall upon their own spears?