Another admission: I've never read Elisabeth Elliot's, Through Gates of Splendor. It was one of those books I just never got around to. Sure, I know the story. Or at least the major points. And I was excited over the weekend when I sawa theatrical promo for a movie called, "End of the Spear," which looked suspiciously like that story. On Saturday, I found a mention of the movie at a blog and decided I'd best check up on this.
Eventually, my blogosphere travels took me to sharper iron where there was a post about a problem with the film. It seems that one of the starring roles is being played by a homosexual. And not just any old homosexual -- a"homosexual activist", whatever that means. Me, being a few years behind on my pop culture, hadn't a clue who this man was. I still don't, aside from the homosexual activist tag. And to make a long story short, there is a huge outcry about this actor playing one of the martyred missionaries. (I might add that there is some kind of concern about a watered-down Gospel message in the movie as well, but I haven't found any documentation on that yet. Since I haven't seen those specifics, I won't address that whole argument.) But I wonder if it's really that big of a deal concerning the private life and private sins of the actors in a "Christian" movie. I considered the dilemma and thought it really shouldn't matter.
Then yesterday, I had a chance to do some thinking on the issue. I realized that I had faced this issue previously -- twice, in fact. In college, a Christian buddy and I went to a neighboring school to watch a presentation of Godspell, the musical based on the Gospel according to Matthew. I did not know any of the actors, but I knew the girlfriend of the man portraying the Jesus character. I waited until after the show to ask my friend a question based on my inside information.
"So what did you think of the guy playing Jesus?"
"He was OK, I guess."
"Would your opinion change if I told you that the actor isn't a Christian?"
"He isn't?! Well, that just ruined it for me!"
The lead actor was a young man who knew all the Christian terms but didn't believe. He had been "acting" as a Christian while he was sorting out what to do about religion. Now this made a big difference (at first) for my friend who, when ignorant of this information, had no problem with the actor's performance. Of course I knew the young man's spiritual state going into the theatre, so for me it wasn't a big deal.
During the summer after I graduated high school, I was in a production of Godspell. No, I didn't play Jesus. I played Judas. (Now there's a topic for a whole new post!) Anyway, the 18 year old actor given the part of Jesus was a homosexual. Let me clarify. I don't know if he was at that point, but everyone suspected it. Today he's living with his boyfriend, so we can quibble about the timing, but for all intents and purposes the person playing Jesus in our production was gay. Did that destroy the message for anyone? I really can't say since I was a part of the cast. But I don't think the knowledge of that kid's questionable sexuality affected the show in any way.
So looking at my personal experience, the only shock is the sudden gaining of information which we really don't care to know.
Looking at it from the vantage point of another sin, if I found out that one of my favorite actors had been convicted of beating his wife and smacking his girlfriend, my opinion of him would go down. However it wouldn't get in my way of seeing him play the part of another person. I still watch The Naked Gun movies and laugh at the performances of an alledged murderer. I watched an old Jewish man portray God Almighty. I've even seen liberal Alan Alda playing a Republican! I'm sure I've watched homosexual actors before and survived the experience. I've found that I have no confusion between character and actor. I'm betting that I'm not alone on that count.
So I'm back to square one on this issue. Why should we make a real issue about the lifetstyle of an actor, especially if there is questionable doctrine in the motion picture? As Christians we need to know when and when not to pick a fight. In my opinion, this isn't a good fight.