Saturday, February 04, 2006

What Was the Point at "The End of the Spear"?

I thought my "End of the Spear marathon" had come to rest with my previous post, but after reading My Two Cents on Randy Alcorn's Perspective on the "“End of the Spear" Controversy by Chris Anderson and A Youderian Family Member's Response by Dan Kachikis, a relative of one of the slain missionaries who feels betrayed by the film-- and I am stirred yet again.

Why Criticize?

I have to thank these men for helping me regain my bearings on the whole issue. I have tried, in the posts here at Jordan's View about End of the Spear, to contend for the truth of the gospel the movie was aiming to communicate, while at the same time, watching myself, that I would demonstrate a Christlike attitude even as I had some pointed criticism of the makers of this film. It's so easy as a human being to allow pride and self-righteousness to sneak in, even if we think the "rant" is a righteous one.

I admit I was feeling rather guilty too, after reading Randy Alcorn's long article about the controversy, and Jason Janz's humble apologies to ETE. I thought to myself-- who am I anyway, to judge these brothers and make proclamations on my blog about the movie? After all, I'm just a sinner here, and it's only by God's merciful, continuing grace that I am able to stand before Him and say anything to anyone.

True. But deep down I know that the burning in my own heart has been the desire that the glorious, precious gospel of Jesus Christ, the only message that saves, be honored and not defamed; preached truly, and not compromised or distorted.

Judging the film, not the people who made it
And let's face it, I'm mad that the film takes the gospel message that was the driving force in these lives and renders it so fuzzily, and, that in terms of quality, Spear is yet another second-rate Christian product. But the thing that frustrates me most of all is that some would have us embrace this mediocrity in the name of what, politically correct ideas about tolerance?

Are we supposed to overlook the fact that the gay activist who stars in Spear is--would you believe-- using the film as a platform to continue his work? Yes, Christ died for him, but the transforming experience of working on the film that was supposed to happen apparently has left him quite unscathed at the moment. Should one accept the idea that this state of affairs is the result of God's orchestrations, or am I allowed to think and state that the producers made a bad choice in hiring Allen, knowing his background?

Put a fuzzy gospel message together with the misguided choice by the producers of Chad Allen for the lead role, and write a script whose missionary characters are incomprehensible because their chief motivation is barely shown. And what do you have? A film that communicates a message as weak as if it were a poorly written Hallmark card: "Reach out in love to those different from you, and you will make them non-violent"... What is that love, where does it come from, who or what makes it happen? Lord help us! I know that the love of Jesus Christ must overtake me, because in myself, I don't want to love! But the men and women who inspired this story, young as they were, had mastered a discipline of radical Christian love that the world cannot fathom and that sadly many Christians too (myself included) have not yet touched.

It was no sentimental love-- like the film says, they found it only at the "End of the Spear". Would that the film then, would have had the courage to show more fully how they got there, what really made these men and women so able to do what they did. We gather from their public statements that Mart Green, Steve Saint and Jim Hanon have really hoped that making this movie would be a transforming experience for all involved. Their intentions were noble. They were inspired by the story of these missionaries and worked so hard work to get this movie to the screen.

But along the way, the gospel message that the producers obviously care about personally has unfortunately been obscured in the film. It seems their direction might have been thrown off course during the process of making the film-- how would they make and market a movie to reach the non-believer, as well as the Church; could the "mission field" of this movie include even its star? I think it's also telling that the cooperation of the Waodani was enlisted by appealing to them that publicizing their story through the movie could help stop violence, in places like Columbine in America. But stopping violence is only an effect of the gospel, it's not the primary message.

I stand by my contention that sadly, the movie they have produced obscures the critical "point of the Spear"-- the gospel message that inspired it all. Maybe they were trying to do too much at once. They tried to give us the story of the missionaries and of the brave women who continued the mission after their violent deaths, and at the same time, tell some of the story through Waodani eyes. But they fail to show the thing that would have made it all make sense: the mysterious power of the gospel that worked in and through the missionaries to touch the Waodanis.

Lesson Learned
The lesson I would like to take away from this is that if one is a Christian voice in the marketplace, there is no need for apology or accommodation as we present a Christian perspective. The great filmmakers today are not only talented, but have a strong point of view. Whether you agree with their views of the world or not, they use every ounce of their talent to convey, without apology, their ideas about meaning in life. And some do it so effectively that they are able to make false ideas seem like truth.

But our message is both urgent and the revealed Truth! Perhaps the arts can mostly point in the direction of Christ, rather than be as didatic and clear as preaching a sermon might be. The arts convey truth in a different sort of language. So a well-made movie will engage the imagination, hearts and mind of people in a medium that is unique and very powerful in the world today. Many are taking their cues about the meaning of life from works such as these. May God bless us then, with the talent, the clarity and the courage to speak His messages through the arts and through films-- boldly, effectively and excellently-- that many might come to know Jesus.

Another reviewer of the film who felt as I did:
"What I saw in "End of the Spear" Tom Ascol, Founders Mnistries Blog

My previous End of the Spear "rants":
End of the Spear- A Review and Assessment
A Few Further Thoughts About End of the Spear
Be Bold, Christian!
Telling A Story

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