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End of the Spear


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I believe Jason Janz was on the Christian radio station here in Detroit two days ago and it is his site that seems to be the cause of much of the controversy of a gay activist playing a missionary that is surrounding this movie.

Sharper Iron Forums

Frustrating. Absolutely frustrating. "Narrow minded" is a rather over-used term, but I think it fits well with this man.

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"That "End of the Spear" is a no-holds-barred Christian movie..."

The thing I find weird with this comment is that I would NOT call this a "no-holds-barred" Christian movie. The characters are missionaries, that's true. There is certainly the theme of forgiveness, and a comment about "they are not ready to die, we are" that reflects a Christian missionary worldview. But the movie did not come across to me as a bible-thumping-make-sure-there-is-an-altar-call effort.

Jesus is not mentioned by name (that I remember anyway). But the gospel is presented in word and action. Does that make it "no-holds-barred"?

As far as "true story" - the filmakers have been pretty open in interviews about some of the changes made to the story for the purposes of this "retelling". And the movie opens with the disclaimer "From a true story" - indicating (or at least implying) that details have been changed.

B

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Frustrating. Absolutely frustrating. "Narrow minded" is a rather over-used term, but I think it fits well with this man.

And what with all that Mr. Janz has said about this movie is with his disclaimers? If it is as ANTI-CHRISTIAN as he spells out, why would he STILL RECOMMEND people to see it? He definitely would not make any hard-core-Fred Phelps type friends. I mean, THEY have THE Christian position on how to respond to the decadance of Hollywood. I'm sure Fred would AT THE LEAST ADMONISH Jason to turn from his wicked ways. The worst he would do is attempt to exile him for being a heretic.

Brandon

"God is so great and merciful that he does not require that we name him precisely. God is even willing to be anonymous for a time. Remember how God led the Three Wise Men from the East to Christ? The Wise Men did not know the God of Israel or Jesus. They worshipped the stars. So God used a star to lure them."--The Twelve Steps for Christians

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I believe Jason Janz was on the Christian radio station here in Detroit two days ago and it is his site that seems to be the cause of much of the controversy of a gay activist playing a missionary that is surrounding this movie.

Sharper Iron Forums

Frustrating. Absolutely frustrating. "Narrow minded" is a rather over-used term, but I think it fits well with this man.

Try reading his "interview/phone call" with the director of the film and the president of the production company. There are reasons why some should tape phone conversations of this nature.

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Here is a Larry King live transcript that mostly focuses on Brokeback Mountain & gay marriage & all the usual stuff. But, one of the four contributors is Chad Allen. There is a lot of interesting (although off-topic) discussion, but at the end there is this:

KING: And, Janet <conservative radio host>, do you think you're losing this battle? <homosexuality & culture>

PARSHALL: No. Truth always reigns, Larry. It will be debated for a long period of time. And you know what? Chad Allen stars in a wonderful film called "End of the Spear." He plays a fellow by the name of Nate Saint, who was macheted to death by a very, very aggressive tribe in Ecuador. And you know what, Steve, his son, is now alive today. He travels with the man who macheted his father to death.

And they didn't say to the Wadoni (ph) tribe, hey, make it up, you can find your own path to God. They told them exactly how to find God, and their whole lives and their entire culture changed because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, Chad, it's a great film, and I'm going to be happy to be seeing it.

ALLEN: Thank you very much. And I appreciate that. I couldn't agree more. Steve Saint called me today, and he said, I need you to know that I'm sitting here with Mincayani. We'll be watching you tonight. We love you. We are on your side. And I know that we have those differences, but we are walking through this together. That's where we're going to go.

Allen either didn't catch or gracefully ignored what Parshall probably meant as a dig with her "find your own path to God" comment. But I thought this was interesting.

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Parshall is wrong about one thing:

He plays a fellow by the name of Nate Saint, who was macheted to death by a very, very aggressive tribe in Ecuador. And you know what, Steve, his son, is now alive today. He travels with the man who macheted his father to death.

Nate and the other 4 men were speared, not "macheted."

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Yeah, well, she's not a theologian and just spouting off biblical texts sure ain't gonna cut it.

Brandon

"God is so great and merciful that he does not require that we name him precisely. God is even willing to be anonymous for a time. Remember how God led the Three Wise Men from the East to Christ? The Wise Men did not know the God of Israel or Jesus. They worshipped the stars. So God used a star to lure them."--The Twelve Steps for Christians

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Steve Saint: forgives, embraces and fellowships with the REAL MURDERERS of his father.

Jason Janz and other conservative Christians: do not express the same charity toward the REAL homosexual ACTORS who PRETEND to be Steve Saint's father (even when Steve himself has shown such charity).

How ironic. Thank you for your example Steve. I needed that.

Edited by BBBCanada

Brandon

"God is so great and merciful that he does not require that we name him precisely. God is even willing to be anonymous for a time. Remember how God led the Three Wise Men from the East to Christ? The Wise Men did not know the God of Israel or Jesus. They worshipped the stars. So God used a star to lure them."--The Twelve Steps for Christians

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Excellent article, Kent, thank you for providing the link.

Subtlety is underrated
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CT Movies reports on the gay-actor controversy. (FWIW, I pitched something on this to the magazine, but they weren't interested, so Mark, the online editor with the really tight budget, went ahead and wrote something for the web himself.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Well now. CT came out with what has been skirted and hinted at in other sources, namely the courage to stick to your guns, honor professional responsibilities, and back up your decisions with unqualified support and love. CT brings out the honor and respect Allen and Saint have for each other. Saint's dream is really rather fascinating. Let's see what the nay-sayers do with that! Mentioned before and quite often, is Allen's respect for the Saints and their story and the place they hold in evangelical folklore. The nay-sayers are universal in their shunning of his honorable behavior in all of this. The whole thing, rather than making Every-Tribe and the film look bad, is becoming a severe PR burden to the evangelical nay-sayers who are making an issue out of nothing.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Well now. CT came out with what has been skirted and hinted at in other sources, namely the courage to stick to your guns, honor professional responsibilities, and back up your decisions with unqualified support and love. CT brings out the honor and respect Allen and Saint have for each other. Saint's dream is really rather fascinating. Let's see what the nay-sayers do with that! Mentioned before and quite often, is Allen's respect for the Saints and their story and the place they hold in evangelical folklore. The nay-sayers are universal in their shunning of his honorable behavior in all of this. The whole thing, rather than making Every-Tribe and the film look bad, is becoming a severe PR burden to the evangelical nay-sayers who are making an issue out of nothing.

I agree. Though I wasn't as concerned to begin with, the integrity with which Every-Tribe followed through with their commitment is admirable.

Denny

Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

Cinema In Focus Website

Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Website

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I thought the film was a worthy effort. The cinematography of the jungle was excellent, and it was interesting to see the story told from the point of the view of the Waodani, whose actors were pretty decent. I wish the missionary characters had been more fully developed, though. The filmmakers seemed to be trying a little bit too hard, especially with the music, but I got the feeling that with some more experience, the craftmanship of writers and filmmakers will get better. Hopefully we'll see more films like this from these folks in the future.

Edited by Crow
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Time and Newsweek chime in.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I have debated watching End of the Spear, but something is giving me pause. I guess that lately, I've just been tired of theatrical screenings, especially after my experience with all those annoying people at The New World. And to be frank, the movie looks cheaply produced. The cast doesn't exactly inspire confidence with me either. Maybe I'll catch it on DVD.

-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

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Jeff,

Go and see it! No one is pretending that it's Citizen Kane, but how unbelievably good does a movie have to be before Christian viewers will support Christian film-makers? You could quibble with some of the writing and even some of the acting (as I have), but one thing it isn't is cheap-looking. Go see it, I say! (And the aerial shots are great on the big screen.)

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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I strongly agree, Jeff. You will be pleased. It is not cheap either in cinematic quality or in authentic spirituality.

By the way, I have seen some great cinema that is "cheaply" made. What immediately comes to mind is THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN - cheap, cheap, cheap, but good cinema.

Denny

Since 1995 we have authored a commentary on film, cinema in focus. Though we enjoy cinema as an art form, our interests lie not so much in reviewing a film as in beginning a conversation about the social and spiritual values presented. We, therefore, often rate a film higher or lower due to its message rather than its quality of acting or film-making.

Cinema In Focus Website

Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Website

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  • 3 months later...

The Real Point of the Spear

An anthropologist examines faith and deception in End of the Spear, this spring's evangelical film controversy.

Lucas Bessire, TheRevealer.org, May 3

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Bessire's article is wrong in numerous ways. More, it is wrong-headed, with it's 'evangelicals are evil' tone. I don't have the time right now to enumerate the many times my eyebrows shot up while I was reading -- but to portray Steve Saint as being motivated by greed is laughable.

In a widely publicized stunt, Steve returned to Ecuador and made peace with his father's indigenous killer, Mincaye...

(later) Steve Saint returned to Ecuador in the mid 1990s to take over what has now become the family business. Zeigler-Otero writes:

One missionary who continues in Huaorani territory is Stephan Saint, the son of Nate Saint, who grew up with the Huaorani but has adopted an attitude of superiority toward them. He has established himself as the leader of a small community of Huaorani, where he, like his aunt before him, makes all of the rules. He is the minister of the church in the community, and does not seem to have made any effort to establish indigenous church leadership. In his community, he has stressed the importance of capitalist relations of production and distribution. He has established his own store and sells everything in it....

The Waodani themselves declined to permit a film based on their story, but changed their minds after news of the Columbine massacre. It was their own history of killing each other and the transformation that they had experienced that convinced them to attempt to share with America that there was a better way to live.

The film was certainly not perfect, and the missionary efforts in that area were not either -- as quite honestly admitted by Jim Elliot's widow, Elisabeth, in her writings. If Bessire cared to know, he could easily get a much different perspective on the events of 1956 from the writings of these men, and from conversation with people like Mincaye himself.

Edited by Tim Willson

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Notorious SIL, eh? I'm not convinced. Did anyone read the Summer Institute of Linguistics link? The article smears them as notorious and assumes CIA connection, as does the link (this is something that Wycliffe/SIL has spent much time and energy for 35 years dispelling, yet the accusations continue).

The link and article assumes nefarious connection with "repressive governments" and the right wing insurgents in Nicaragua and by extension, the CIA (lumping in the contras with other repressive governments is in and of itself a slam, ignoring the repressive nature of the Sandanista government). As one who has friends involved in this ministry and who counts the son of the "notorious" Cam Townsend as a friend and schoolmate, I have to say that these folks have it exactly backwards. It is SIL policy wherever they go to get licensure from the governments in control of the areas the work in, selling their services as general benefits such as literacy. They then translate scripture and teach the indigenous people how to read it.

It should be noted that missionaries rightly fear communist revolutionary groups. They slaughter missionaries when they can find them, merely because they are of faith. Only missionaries more overtly social in their gospel and not evangelistic are spared and often make common cause

As a former MK (from an organisation, Trans World Radio, "linked" suspiciously to SIL and of course by association to the CIA [just a little joke there] by the SIL link) who still keeps track of many para-church mission organisations, they are rigorously and fastidious to a fault in being non-political in their ministries. They are usually recruited from a sub-culture that is given to conservative politics and anti-communism, but are rigorously indoctrinated in their training to stay uninvolved in political affairs. It is always a tenuous stretch, or aping of revolutionary rhetoric to argue that they are actively politically involved.

I've never seen good proof and in fact, the link does not substantiate the accusation. It merely repeats it and assumes CIA connection while being an eye glazing compendium of the social and religious sevices such missions as SIL and Central America Mission provide and have provided for more than 100 years.

I dare say that if they can get SIL so wrong and be willing to smear them, the veracity of the allegations in the rest of the article come into question for me. To be most charitable, there is a profound and possibly willful misunderstanding of the sub-culture and theological worldview that such missionaries come out of. It's not a nice thing to say about anthropologists, but based on my experience, that is about as charitable as I can be. I know little about the modern ministry descended from the original five missionaries depicted in the movie that survives today.

I question the interpretation of Nate Saint's journals that says he was cash driven (unless this misinterprets the frustrating drive for financing that was the second obsession of all para-church missionaries back then). The "deputation" that is casually mentioned in the SIL link is actually a millstone around the neck of para-church missionaries. Far from being a cash cow for young missionaries on the make, it is a cruel way for them to harness their zeal God's work into self financing. We are talking three and four figure annual contributions that are solicited most delicately (you really can't bring up money at all during the pitch to a church, or even when you touch base in letters, or when back in the U.S. on vacation except maybe to thank the church for their previous generosity) from any church of which one is aware and plus a list of many provided by the mission organisation.

It's almost as bad as cold calling. Not every presentation you make results in support, but you build "prayer warriors". Even the financial commitments you do nail down can be inconsistent. Churches experience boom and bust cycles just like everyone else. I remember times when the checks were late in coming and the "end of the month" stretched a week or two into the following month. Very often the "end of the month" started early, say midway through the second week after the support checks came because not everyone came through as promised with their monthly commitment. I say this despite the fact that my father is a fanatical budgeter willing to use calculus to augment the precision.

Boy would I like to see actual dollar amounts for this empire that the article vaguely sketches, yet hangs its criticism on. The more I think of it, the more suspicious I become. I can't say much for Steve out of ignorance, but I'd be surprised if Rachel Saint made much of any money at all other than a good pension from this. Not growing and cultivating indiginous leadership is a devastating critique, but is a separate issue and should not be linked unless you are determined merely to slam the subject. I gaurantee that missionaries themselves would not link the two issues, whether they were paternalistic or working under local indicinouis leadership (by far the trend and operating philosophy since the early '70's in practically all para-church organisations).

I'd be far more skeptical if I were you folks. I suspect that there is a definition of "self determination" at work that sees missionary enterprise as hostile to self determination merely because it argues for rejecting indiginous peoples' traditional faith. If that is so, such criticism should be read and understood with that glaring fault uppermost in one's mind.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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