Salvation Not Needed
As a teenager, Chad Allen used to lie awake at night convinced that God hated him and that he was going to hell.
At 20, addicted to drugs and alcohol, he paced alone in his Malibu condo, gun in hand, agonizing over whether or not to pull the trigger.
And for years, he thought all Christians loathed people like him—because he was gay.
Today, at 34, the veteran actor says he's gotten over all that. Allen is now convinced of God's love, has been sober for eight years, and no longer thinks of taking his own life. And he counts among his good friends a number of evangelicals who object to his lifestyle but have reached out to him in love and compassion.
Many of those were Christians he met on the set of End of the Spear, a film about missionaries Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and others martyred in Ecuador in 1956. Allen played the role of Saint, but it wasn't till the production started that the filmmakers realized they had hired a gay man for the part. But rather than breach a contract and ask Allen to step down, they deemed him the best actor for the role and kept him onboard. They decided they would later deal with whatever controversy came their way. (And it did.)
The filmmakers' kindness—especially from producer Mart Green, director Jim Hanon, and consultant Steve Saint (Nate's son)—convinced Allen that there could be more productive conversation between the evangelical and gay communities.
In an effort to advance that conversation, Allen and some colleagues—some gay, some straight—have made Save Me, an indie film opening in limited release this week. The movie concerns a homosexual young man named Mark who, addicted to sex and drugs, hits rock bottom and ends up at Genesis House, a Christian "ex-gay" ministry, where he finds compassion, hope, sobriety, self-respect, and God.
What Mark (played by Allen) does not find at Genesis—an apparent reference to Exodus International—is a "cure" for his gayness. At the end of the film, Mark has changed for the better in many ways. But he's still gay.
"I think the premise of gay conversion is a false one," says Allen.
But the actor very much believes that ex-gay ministries can and do bring hope and healing to the lives of hurting men like Mark, the main character in Save Me.
"I don't think there's any question that Mark was helped by his stay at Genesis House," Allen says. "He's transformed by it."
Allen notes that in the film, "We don't empty Genesis House of all the characters at the end; Mark leaves, but everyone else stays. It wasn't our intention to bash ex-gay ministries. We've seen that done before, but we wanted to achieve something different. We made this film for anybody who wants to have the conversation about God and gay."
'Promoting genuine reconciliation'
Craig Detweiler, professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, says the film accomplishes that goal. He was one of the first to see Save Me at Sundance Film Festival in early 2007, when he brought some of his students for the annual WindRider Forum, which encourages discussion between Christians and indie filmmakers.
"We've seen a steady progression in films about the relationship between the conservative Christian community and the gay community," says Detweiler, noting For the Bible Tells Me So and Forgiving the Franklins. "And we've seen things moving from divisive and contentious to much more bridge-building on both sides. Save Me represents another step forward in conciliatory efforts between artists, filmmakers, the gay community, and the conservative Christian community."