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 inDenver, Colorado, posted critical comments about the choice ofAllen to play the role on his blog, sharperiron.com. His commentslead to a widespread boycott in several evangelical communities;communities which the producers had hoped would be the bulk oftheir audience. Others, including Focus on the Family and Rev.Falwell, are encouraging their congregations to go see thefilm.
The film, which was budgeted at $10million, has earned about $8 million in the two weeks since it hasopened (to mostly positive reviews) -- good, but hardly 'Passion ofthe Christ'-like numbers.
Allen has met with his share ofresistance from critics across the country. The hoopla over 'Spear'started when he was confronted by a conservative newspaper reporterin early December. One radio station in Minneapolis practically puthim on trial for his sexual orientation. "I was invited on aChristian radio station in Minneapolis, and I realized prettyquickly that they were an extremely right wing broadcaster," theactor says. "The host turned it into a game show called, 'Make thatman explain himself!', in which he then goes on to demonstrate howhis views are right and his guest's are wrong. We actually ended uphaving an invigorating conversation. But the need that some peoplehave to attack other's beliefs, certainly doesn't sit well with me.I don't think attacking other people is ever a very Christianvalue."
At least one other blog has joked aboutfirebombing the homes of the producers of 'End of the Spear,' athreat that Allen finds disconcerting. "It's unbelievable to me,"he continues. "We're living in an age of terrorist acts, and that'sjust completely unfathomable to me. These comments fly in the faceof everything that we're trying to do with this movie."
Allen was happy to learn of Falwell'ssupport. "It made me smile," the actor says. "I've said all alongthat the attitude that 'We're enemies' has got to stop. Thefilmmakers and I could show, by example, that we could respect eachother despite our differences. I am ready to say to Falwell that wecan love each other besides our differences. I would be ready toembrace him today despite anything that may have been said in thepast. We can respect each other, even love each other, and createtogether."
Then there's the other elephant in theroom -- why does a group choose to protest a film based on anactor's sexual orientation, and not choose to do battles with filmscasting actors who have committed other sins? "Well I think themost interesting thing is that we don't see anyone protesting filmsby actors who have maybe cheated on their wives, or whatever othersin," Allen tells TMZ. "You don't see these groups up in arms aboutanything 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 fora lot of people."