I’m kind of upset over the whole Chad Allen controversy. But I don’t feel like writing a well-organized blogpost about it now. So here are some random thoughts.
1. Was this movie supposed to be strictly a ministry thing, using Christians at every step of the way? Were they trying to cast only Christian actors? If so, well yeah, they goofed pretty bad. But it’s apparent that they weren’t.
Then what were they expecting? What is so especially bad about a gay activist, compared to all the other sorts of worldly people out there? Did they need some “minimally moral” unbeliever? Should there have been some sort of morality test for prospective actors before they got to audition, so they could keep out the “really bad” sinners? Doesn’t that negate all our proclamations that all are sinners in need of the grace of God, that the homosexual is no better and no worse than us, apart from that grace?
It seems that people were worried about what kind of message it would send. That to cast him in the movie was to endorse his choices and beliefs. That to watch it would be endorsing his choices and beliefs. But why? I don’t follow the Hollywood celebrity news/gossip…but I’m aware of it (and the sorts of things in it) enough to know that chances are the actors in the movies I watch think and do things that I would find abhorrent. If the intent was to create a movie for the world in the world and with the world, it seems to me that something like this was unavoidable.
It has been pointed out repeatedly that Allen is worse than other unbelieving sinful actors because he is an activist defending the advancement of and rights related to his particular sin. But I would point out that this is only because his particular sin is the one that happens to be under attack. If we were trying to roll back remarriage rights for divorced folk, or advocating for laws against sex outside of marriage, or fiercely crusading against greedy, self-indulgent lifestyles, I would bet that things would be very different in terms of who’s involved in activism. Allen’s fighting, not because he’s just that much more willfully perverse and rebellious than the rest, but because the Christian right is putting up a fight against his sins. We’ve pretty much buried the hatchet with the rest of the world’s sins. In fact, in all too many cases, we’re working hand-in-hand with them to normalize them. So saying that Allen is worse because he’s an activist looks like some sort of double jeopardy of hypocrisy to me.
2. I notice in the reactions from Christianity Today Movies readers an interesting pattern. Those who support the decision to let him play the part tend to describe Allen primarily as a lost sinner, in need of the grace of God. Those who oppose the decision tend to describe him as an enemy, as a “militant homosexual.”
To me that disparity just indicates the tension between two “lenses” we Christians have to choose from when looking at the world. We can see the world as an enemy, as being opposed to many of the values we hold dear, and no doubt it is that. But we can also see the world as a place of need, deep spiritual need, as lost sheep, full of those whom Christ came to save, full of those he called us to share the gospel with. Full of those who while perhaps opposed to our values, are doing no differently than we would do, if we did not have the undeserved blessing of the Holy Spirit residing in us.
I don’t think we need to choose absolutely one lens or the other. But I would hope and pray for myself that I predominantly see the world first as full of lost people in need of grace, and act accordingly. To me this seems more in line with the teaching of Jesus. I feel that the church as a whole too often opts for the other lens, the lens of the culture war. Not too long ago, a church I attended held a panel discussion to address the gay marriage issue. The large room was packed with people concerned about how to stop that threat. Now this was a good evangelical church, not a place where bigotry and hate rained down from the pulpit. But still, I had to wonder, how many of these people would have showed up with such enthusiasm had there been a panel discussion on how to reach out to gay people? I can’t imagine 10% of the number showing up for that.
3. Some clearly feel it is a disgrace to the memory of this heroic missionary to have this sinner play him. Ok. But why is the gay man more disgraceful than any other sinner, or at least any other unbeliever? If they wanted to have men of God play the men of God, that’s one thing. But if they’re otherwise content to use the devil’s men, I’m confused by this tendency to hold their noses when they come to the gay guy. Actually, that’ s not true. I’m not confused by it. I’m suspicious of it. It looks like “gay sin is worse than straight sin” to me. It looks like “holier than thou” to me.
4. Some people are upset because we’ve allowed Allen to get airtime. By casting him in the movie (and getting upset about it afterwards), we’ve drawn attention to him, causing him to end up on Larry King Live, where he said things like:
These days I judge all of my actions by my relationship with God of my understanding. It is a deep-founded, faith-based belief in God based upon the work that I’ve done growing up as a Catholic boy and then reaching out to Buddhism philosophy, to Hindu philosophy, to Native American beliefs and finally as I got through my course with addiction and alcoholism and finding a higher power that worked for me.
What are we worried about? He’s playing right into our hands! By being a textbook example, he’s inadvertently supporting the view that gay people create a God of their own choosing, that they pick and choose what suits them in the Christian faith. It’s not as if he’s even pretending to be a serious evangelical Christian, so that people would be misled by that into giving up a Biblical stance on homosexuality.