Sunday, December 16, 2007

End of the Spear

"The End of the Spear" is a movie of the true story of a fierce and suspicious tribe who martyr the first missionaries who come to them, only to be won over to Christ in the end. The heart of the evangelical struggle is convincing the tribe that God does not want them to live by the code of vengeance that is destroying them.

The famous story behind this film is of Nate Saint and four other missionary men making contact with a band of Waodani in the jungle of Ecuador in 1956. The men were speared to death. The rest of the missionaries, including the widows and children of the martyrs, continued to try to reach the Waodani. Eventually they broke through and won them over with Christ's love. Steve Saint, son of Nate, came back as an adult to establish a friendship with his father's killers. Eventually Steve and his family moved back from the United States to live with the Waodani as family. The "end of the spear" is not only how the martyrs died, but ending the way of spearing and vengeance.

The best part of the film for me, though, was not the dramatic reconciliation of the killer and the son who would not avenge his father's death. Rather, it was the moment when the gospel was first conveyed to a member of the tribe, who saw the possibility of a better way of life. A woman, who had fled to the Christians as a child after her family had been slaughtered in intratribal warfare, later became the crucial interpreter between the two groups. One of the men of the tribe, spear in hand, asked her why they should trust the Christians not to kill them in revenge. She said that the creator God of the Waodani had a son who was speared, but he did not spear back, so that the people who speared him could have a better life. As a result, his life is changed, and he helps change the rest of the Waodani to a new way. This, I think, is the main point.

The movie has been panned by most critics for wooden acting, and attacked by some anti-missionaries for obscuring the "real" motive of the missionaries as tools of the rapacious oil company. Audiences, though, have liked it better, and the film has been among the most successful of Christian movies. All of which is beside the point to me.

"The End of the Spear" gets the moment of evangelical contact right, when the gospel changes a life.

1 comment:

The State Of . . . said...

Please spare me the poetic language about bringing Christianity to the Americas (or Africa). The introduction of Christianity was just a small part of the money play by European financial powers. The church was just the business interests' stooge and you should be ashamed of yourself for co-signing with that process.

Have you ever read about what Junipero Serra, for example, did to Native Americans?