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The End of The End or only The Beginning?

Friday, February 03, 2006

If you have been in anyway reading the Christian blogosphere over the last couple of weeks, you have surely read about the controversy surrounding the movie, The End of the Sphere.

For the two of my readers that may not be aware of the movie and have missed out on the controversy, the story around which The End of the Sphere is based is about the martyrdom of five missionaries by the Auca (now Waodani) tribe in South America in 1956. These five men - Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully - desired to reach this tribe with the saving message of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. When the tribe killed these missionaries, some of their widows and other family members came back and managed to reach many in the tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Elisabeth Elliot's books, Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty are great sources for further reading on this topic for those who have not read them.)

The controversy over the issue has centered on two issues. 1. The watering down of the Gospel message in the film and 2. The selection of homosexual activist Chad Allen to play the two parts of Nate Saint and Steve Saint in the movie.

Pastor Jason Janz, an Assistant Pastor at Red Rocks Baptist Church (formerly South Sheridan Baptist Church) in the Denver area, has written a lot on this topic in the last couple of weeks on his blog SharperIron. Since I kind of assume that almost everybody who actually reads my stuff has probably already been to and regularly visits Sharper Iron, I don't want to be too redundant with what is already over there. If you have not kept up with this, but would like to do a little catch up, Jason has posted a Summary of the Movie Controversy that gives the relevant information and links.

I have been kind of reluctant to post anything about the issue over here for a couple of reasons. 1. I have been waiting anxiously to read Jason's post on the lack of Gospel content in the movie, and 2. The topic is pretty much everywhere else and I am just one more voice adding to the noise and I think most of us are getting very tired of the subject. I actually have only even posted over there about three or four times regarding this issue.

On a side note (and hopefully humorous to you as it was to my wife and I), there is a new poster over at SI that goes by "Frank". My wife, who in general has been kind of negative about SI, was reading SI the other day for the first time and was reading the comments by "Frank" and becoming more and more upset - at ME! She had to stop reading and ask me (in essence), "What are you thinking?" because she thought that "Frank" was me and could not understand how in the world I could be making the kind of arguments that were being made by that person and she said, "this doesn't sound like you at all". She was incredulous that I would make the kinds of arguments being made there. Thankfully, I was able to relieve her fears and explain that I was not the poster named "Frank" and pointed her to a couple of my posts on the topic, which restored her confidence in knowing her husband. (BTW, "Frank", if you are reading this, please do not take offense - my wife knows me and was sure that what you were saying would not match her thinking about what I would say about this topic or how I would say it.)

Back to the issue itself. Just a few random thoughts.

1. I wish that somehow the issue of the lack of clarity of the Gospel message in the movie had taken a larger role in all the hub-bub about this movie.

As I said in an email about this to some friends a couple of weeks ago,

To be honest, I don't look for Hollywood to ever present a clear presentation of the Gospel in a favorable light. I don't go to movies and I don't rent movies (not condemning others here, just stating where I am at) and I don't get this latest "evangelical" obsession with viewing every movie that may have some remote Christian connection as the "next great thing" in the way of evangelism - e.g. The Lord of the Rings, The Passion, Chronicles of Narnia, Left Behind, etc.

2. I am tired of seeing this issue equated with secular movies that Christians like also having homosexuals playing key roles (e.g. Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire).

This is not the same issue for a couple of reasons.
1. The company that made this claims to be a Christian company.
2. The company that made this has claimed that they made this with a Christian goal.

The films that they are comparing it to were made by secular companies with the primary goal of producing an interesting and profitable story.

3. I am also tired of seeing the comments that this is only an issue because of Chad Allen's homosexuality - and that if it were a different sin, then it would not be an issue. Usually comments like this are made in the manner of "if it was an adulterer, no one would have objected."

The reality is that this is confusing a couple of factors. The issue not really one sin versus another. The issue not only involves the sin itself, but the promotion of that sin and the antagonism against Biblical Christianity in that promotion of the sin. Chad is not merely a homosexual actor, he is a homosexual activists. IF the choice had been Tom Cruise to play the part, I would have a problem with it as well - not just because of his (alleged) fornication with Katie Holmes (?), but more importantly because of his outspoken advocacy for the cult of Scientology.

4. I am really annoyed at the treatment of Dr. Kevin Bauder by ETE and the NY Times (assuming that the NY Times is reporting the words of ETE accurately and they really did call the FBI over his comments). The way that they have twisted his words to turn a non-threat into some type of threat is disgusting, if not libelous.

5. I am as disappointed in the justifications for the actions and the follow-up comments that have been made by Mart Green and Steve Saint as I am in the original casting decision. They have used a "dream" as justification. They have said (or at least been quoted by Chad without disputing Chad's quotes) some things about Chad and his sinful lifestyle that make it appear as though they condone it (which I am pretty sure they don't).

6. It is disappointing that what Chad seems to have gotten out of the movie is that it is a message of forgiveness and love, without having an understanding that both of those concepts are centered in Christ if properly understood.

7. I am reminded again of the fact that no man is an island (HT: John Donne) and all that we do and say has potential to effect others.

8. I pray that God manages to use the story and the controversy for His glory and rejoice in the fact that God is in control.

Just my thoughts,