Reading through post titles at the latest Christian Carnival (#108), which is now up, by the way, at Part-Time Pundit, I discovered another End of the Spear-related post (besides mine) was included. Naturally, I just had to read it.
Now, my thought is this: shall I put down my spear, or take it up again? (joke). Actually since the post by Applejack seems to well represent a common view I've encountered in blogs about Spear-- that all the ranting and raving by Christians about this movie is ridiculous, and that such ranting just shows Christians in a bad light-- I'd like to respond. The supposed overly harsh criticism of the makers of the Spear, our "homophobic" reaction to Chad Allen playing a missionary, our pulling back of support for this film -- all of this represents to some, the backwards "culture warrior" mentality. I'm not saying that all of the critics of Spear have done everything correctly, or that some of the critics haven't displayed inappropriate meanness of spirit and sarcasm; however, I think Applejack and others seem to place (almost) all their focus on these issues and not necessarily engage the legitimate biblical arguments made by EOTS' critics, the best of whom have been civil, reasonable and willing to make amends for errors.
The state we're in
Western culture is in its current moral state because Christians have slowly but surely lost their influence in it. Yes, sometimes the focus of the culture war may be wrong-- something like the infamous Janet Jackson episode at the Superbowl, for example, is probably not the most important battle.
Salti-ness or salti-less?
Still, we are the "salt of the world", right? Jesus says:
"But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men".
If we are not fulfilling the role of preserving what is good and true in human society, who is going to do it, unbelievers? If we're not salty, Jesus says, we're not good for anything. How will we as "salt" preserve what is good and true unless we do our job of pointing to the objective standard of the revealed word of God? I think that is precisely what many who have criticized the film are trying to do.
The makers of End of the Spear wanted to make a film to appeal to Christians, yet also reach a wider secular audience. So they fashioned a film with a subtle Christian message, reasoning that the story itself would communicate its gospel intentions. They marketed the movie carefully, wanting non-believers to come, but perhaps aiming not to scare them away by overtly advertising the film as Christian. During this process, however, they also courted evangelical support for the film. Of course, Christians would likely make up the core audience for the movie. They asked churches and pastors to promote the film by saying it could be used as a great evangelical tool. And at first, they did not reveal the fact that they had chosen a homosexual to star in the film. Later of course, they would have to explain that choice.
If the film was to be used as an evangelical tool, and ETE was asking evangelicals to view it in this way, then it is understandable that the evangelical community would ask: what gospel message is being communicated by this movie? And that is exactly where the movie falls short, for many (Steve Camp has a strong post on this). I won't go into it in depth here, as I have already talked about these issues in other posts, but suffice to say that film is not particularly clear about the gospel motivation of the five missionaries and only manages to paint caricatures of the missionaries and of the Waodani. The seriousness of these young people, their earnestness, intelligence and most of all, their passion for the gospel, is not revealed, and the transformation of Mincayani as a result of the gospel is not convincingly shown on screen.
Combining the shortcomings of the film with ETE's decision to cast a homosexual activist as its star, and the ultimate message communicated by the film does not appear consistent with the true gospel. Instead, it seems to give a message of love that means "tolerance", without a clear call for repentance.
Do all Christian-made movies have to present the gospel? No, I dont think so. I think there are other truths that Christians can talk about and illustrate. But this particular true story, in which the gospel message was so essential a part of everything that happened, needed to include it. As I said in my comments over at Steve Camp's site, perhaps if the filmmakers had followed more the lead of the missionaries who reached the Waodani, being true to their spirit of uncompromised boldness, they would have made a film that truly shines out with the gospel (and was a great movie to boot).
In the words of Forrest Gump: "and that's all I have to say, about that".