As an artist, I am highly sympathetic to the mission of Every Tribe Entertainment, which they describe as "to create quality entertainment for a broad audience that inspires hope through truth". As artists who happen to be Christian, they should be allowed artistic freedom just like other artists and not have to pigeonhole themselves into a box that allows them to release only pre-approved fare. Doing this is a surefire way to kill true creativity and inspiration.
ETE was marketing this film beyond the church, and perhaps the way they frame the presentation of the gospel in the movie has to do with that. But having seen the film, I think its Christian message is clear, just not very well done.
I don't see why, as self-professed Christians making a movie about the most famous Christian missionaries of the last century, the filmmakers need to be shy or apologetic about showing the strong faith that inspired these men and women to give their lives in the service of the gospel.
This film simply doesn't do that-- it tries to tell the story from too many points of view (the Waodanis, the missionaries, Steve Saint) but does justice to none, in terms of making the characters seem like real people you can connect to emotionally.
Generally the people I've read praising the Spear film are Christians bringing an emotional attachment to the material with them. They don't seem to get beyond this to objectively judging the film's cinematic quality. But despite better than average production values for a Christian movie, the film's effectiveness as drama is mediocre, and a less than clear gospel message is conveyed.
As for Chad Allen's casting, the fact that he is gay in itself doesn't bother me as much as the fact that
1. I don't think he brings anything that special to his portrayal of Saint.
2. The directors could easily have avoided controversy by hiring someone else. They never asked Allen to remove himself once they found he was gay.
3. Surely there are Christian actors that would have jumped at playing this great part and in my opinion would have brought depth of insight to playing the role way ahead of Allen by mere virtue of being Christian themselves. Of course I think they would also have to have talent as actors as well.
4. My impression from his interviews is that Allen viewed Saint as a good man who gave his life for a decent cause, which resulted in the saving of lives. That's fine, but misses the deeper significance of what Allen and the other missionaries did: they gave their lives in service of the gospel message in order to save souls-- not just to stop violence!
Unfortunately, the film also does not convey this deeper significance about the mission. The movie's theme also seems to be more about stopping violence, or, in the "story behind the story", its purpose has become about being a bridge to the gay community-- by reaching out to its gay star. But the real story was all about the gospel working through men and women who had courageously dedicated themselves to its unapologetic proclamation, and who, by God's grace, were effective in this proclamation. End of the Spear shows the Waodanis stopping their violence as a result of a mission of a group of "nice" people, and shows us reconciliation between Steve Saint and the Waodani who killed his father, but doesn't emphasize or show us enough that it was the power of the gospel that worked in and through the missionaries and which changed the lives of the Waodanis.
These missionaries were not Gandhi-followers, they were Christians. Tell the real story. Be bold, Christian!
See also my previous posts End of the Spear- A Review and Assessment, End of the Spear-- The Story Behind the Story and End of the Spear: Is the Real Message of Jim Elliot and Nate Saint Being Overshadowed?