Chad Allen: Reconciling "God" and "Gay"

2/2/2006 3:07 PM PST

Chad Allen: Reconciling "God" and "Gay"

When you're a gay rights advocate with the Rev. Jerry Falwell in your camp, you know things have gotten strange.

But that's exactly the position in which popular gay actor Chad Allen ('Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman,' Here! TV's 'Third Man Out') has found himself.

Allen's latest film, 'End of the Spear,' tells the story of Nate Saint and five other American missionaries who were killed while attempting to reach the Ecuadorian Waodani tribe in 1956, one of the most violent known indigenous societies in history. The film, which opened in wide release two weeks ago, has been praised in some evangelical circles and attacked in others.

The reason? Because the leading man is gay in his real life, a factor that was never a serious consideration for the evangelical film company that made 'Spear.' In fact, Steve Saint, Nate Saint's son, worked with Every Tribe Entertainment to hand-pick Allen to play the role of his father and himself.

Allen spoke with TMZ and responded to allegations that his sexual orientation interferes with the film's message. "This movie is about love emanating from the Bible," the actor says. "And anything that distorts that singular message of love, is an example of how fear can distort that message."

The controversy began when the Rev. Jason Janz, an assistant pastor at the Red Rocks Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado, posted critical comments about the choice of Allen to play the role on his blog, His comments lead to a widespread boycott in several evangelical communities; communities which the producers had hoped would be the bulk of their audience. Others, including Focus on the Family and Rev. Falwell, are encouraging their congregations to go see the film.

The film, which was budgeted at $10 million, has earned about $8 million in the two weeks since it has opened (to mostly positive reviews) -- good, but hardly 'Passion of the Christ'-like numbers.

Allen has met with his share of resistance from critics across the country. The hoopla over 'Spear' started when he was confronted by a conservative newspaper reporter in early December. One radio station in Minneapolis practically put him on trial for his sexual orientation. "I was invited on a Christian radio station in Minneapolis, and I realized pretty quickly that they were an extremely right wing broadcaster," the actor says. "The host turned it into a game show called, 'Make that man explain himself!', in which he then goes on to demonstrate how his views are right and his guest's are wrong. We actually ended up having an invigorating conversation. But the need that some people have to attack other's beliefs, certainly doesn't sit well with me. I don't think attacking other people is ever a very Christian value."

At least one other blog has joked about firebombing the homes of the producers of 'End of the Spear,' a threat that Allen finds disconcerting. "It's unbelievable to me," he continues. "We're living in an age of terrorist acts, and that's just completely unfathomable to me. These comments fly in the face of everything that we're trying to do with this movie."

Allen was happy to learn of Falwell's support. "It made me smile," the actor says. "I've said all along that the attitude that 'We're enemies' has got to stop. The filmmakers and I could show, by example, that we could respect each other despite our differences. I am ready to say to Falwell that we can love each other besides our differences. I would be ready to embrace him today despite anything that may have been said in the past. We can respect each other, even love each other, and create together."

Then there's the other elephant in the room -- why does a group choose to protest a film based on an actor's sexual orientation, and not choose to do battles with films casting actors who have committed other sins? "Well I think the most interesting thing is that we don't see anyone protesting films by actors who have maybe cheated on their wives, or whatever other sin," Allen tells TMZ. "You don't see these groups up in arms about anything except homosexuality. Sexuality stirs up fears in people, especially in America, ever since America's Puritan origins. Fortunately or unfortunately, I've come to represent this issue for a lot of people."