Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Gay actor in missionary movie infuriates some evangelicals, delights others

Christianity Today has been following the story closely. Today's online issue offers opposing viewpoints: Pro:

"Christians are willing to go to tribal people, and seek to understand their culture. At the same time, our general approach to homosexuals is to avoid them at all costs. When we do interact, it's to tell them how wrong they are, rather than trying to understand what has brought them to the place they are in this life. Instead of building relationships and sharing the gospel, we shout rude slogans, and tell them they are all going to hell because they are gay. Instead of realizing we are in a war for men's souls, we say we are in a culture war, and treat homosexuals like the enemy." Article.
Con (by the son-in-law of slain missionary Roger Youderian):
"I'm sure Chad [Allen, the actor cast in the lead role] is a nice guy, but he wasn't the man for this role. Making the 'story the star' and using the best secular means to tell it, sounds like 'the end justifies the means.' Would the Christian community be ok with doing the 'Billy Graham Story' with an atheist pedophile because he had the best audition? Would Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Falwell and the rest, sit silent and just say that it's the story that's important? And why not have secular professionals perform your church music if it enhances the worship of God? If we cannot respond to this firmly, but in love, this is a sad day for the Christian church in the US. This film and it's making have become a parable for the weakness of the American church. How dare we wonder why our divorce and 'lives adrift' counts look just like the secular world. We talk one thing, and live something else." Article.
The film's producers explain why they kept Chad in the role after learning of his orientation in another article. Steve Saint, son of slain missionary Nate Saint (Chad portrays both Nate and grown-up Steve, who was only five when his father was killed) attributes his decision to an inspired dream:

"In the dream, Saint says he was 'being chased by a mob of Christians who were angry with me for having desecrated 'their story.' The answer to their hostility was easy: Just ask Chad to remove himself. But as quickly as this thought came to me, I found myself standing before God. His look was not as compassionate as I had expected. God said, 'Steve, you of all people should know that I love all of my children. With regard to Chad Allen, I went to great lengths to orchestrate an opportunity for him to see what it would be like for him to walk the trail that I marked for him. Why did you mess with my plans for him?'

"'I was fully awake by the end of this sleepy mind play. I knew that there would be a price to pay for any position I would take on this issue, regardless of the fact that I had not wanted to be involved. I knew one thing for sure: I would rather face the anger and even hatred of people who feel I have let them down, than to take any chance of having to stand before my Savior and have to answer for messing up his plans for Chad.'"

Executive Producer Mart Green offers:

"To be honest," Green said, "I would not have hired Chad had I known everything about him. But God had to work around me to get Chad on this project. He wanted Chad on this project. I wish I were able to articulate all the things that led me to understand that. It is very hard to share the ways the Lord leads, especially when you can't fully grasp why he is doing things that don't make sense to the natural man.

"It is hard to see people have to defend a decision that I was responsible for, for people to have ugly things said about them because of a decision I made. But I have total peace about the decision, and that Chad Allen was the man God intended to act in the movie. I will be held accountable for this decision, and I feel I have made the right decision."

CT readers overwhelmingly affirm the casting. I'm with them. The irony that a gay man would play the lead role in a story about love and forgiveness and cross-cultural evangelism that has inspired evangelicals for 50 years is divine comedy.


At 2/08/2006 09:51:00 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Jeremy, Thanks for posting about this. I had no idea about the controversy, but I think the pro argument is right that we've lost sight of the spiritual battle in order to fight the cultural war. As a missionary, I'm humbled by the comment about going to other cultures, learning language & building relationships for the gospel, but failing to maintain the same gospel posture towards the homosexual community.

And while it is totally appropriate to ask about why the American church doesn't look set-apart from the general society in the ways that Jesus was set-apart, it is frightening that the criticism is being directed towards popular culture & the medium of film as the measuring stick, instead of towards the pulpit, the Sunday school, the elders' boards, the missions committees and the older generation to step up & disciple and lead the this generation, instead of program and "preach" and complain about what "the other guy" is or isn't doing.


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