"End of the Spear," a movie that depicts the slaying of Protestant missionaries in South America, is provoking a side debate among some religious conservatives because lead actor Chad Allen has advocated for gay causes.
"Spear" tells the true story of bush pilot Nate Saint, played by Allen, and four colleagues who were killed 50 years ago by jungle tribesmen in Ecuador whom they wanted to evangelize. The film opened at No. 10 in U.S. box office rankings, and was 14th last weekend, beating features in wider release including "King Kong."
Protests about Allen originated with sharperiron.org, the Web site of the Rev. Jason Janz, a self-described fundamentalist and assistant pastor of Red Rocks Baptist Church in Lakewood, Colo.
Janz cited the Allen fans' Web site, TV interviews and articles from gay magazines to complain that the actor is not just homosexual but an activist who advocates same-sex marriages and adoptions, produces gay films and has starred in a stage play about a gay Jesus figure.
"What were they thinking?" demanded the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This week, Janz posted a corrected version of his protest statement after speaking with the independent film's producer, Every Tribe Entertainment. The Christian-oriented company, based in Oklahoma City, prepares inspirational fare for general commercial release.
Janz originally charged that Every Tribe purposely cast Allen as Saint despite his viewpoints and lifestyle. But he now says Every Tribe only learned those things after Allen had been offered the part, and the company decided it would be wrong to renege on the commitment.
Jim Hanon, director of the movie, confirmed in an interview that Every Tribe learned the information about Allen a week after the commitment was made in 2004.
Hanon, an evangelical Protestant, said: "We don't endorse Chad's lifestyle. We disagree with him on homosexuality, and we knew some in our audience would be sensitive to it. But we decided to proceed." Hanon said if the company had known about Allen beforehand "he probably would not have been offered the role."
A prepared statement from Every Tribe tells inquirers that the only thing it's promoting is "what it can mean to live what the Bible says is true" and "we cannot single out the personal choices of one of the cast for scrutiny."
Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based evangelical organization that strongly opposes same-sex relationships, endorsed "End of the Spear" on its media review site though it knew about Allen's activities.
Bob Waliszewski said his Focus Web site assesses the content of entertainment offerings "rather than the skeletons in the closet of every actor, producer, cameraman. We just don't go there." What matters, he said, is that "it's a wonderful story. It's well done."
The Allen flap went unnoticed in the review from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which recommended "Spear" for adults only due to violence. It far preferred Every Tribe's documentary video about the martyrdoms, "Beyond the Gates of Splendor."
On the Net:
Movie publicity: http://www.endofthespear.com
Janz complaint: http://www.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t2244