A More Dramatic Ending

District Fellowship News

January, February 2007

Just a month or so ago, I finally had the opportunity to watch the movie, “The End of the Spear” which tells the story of an indigenous people known as the Waodani and the intersection of their lives with a group of missionaries who had come to share the Gospel with them. The story of their encounter with these missionaries and the tragedy and subsequent changes that came about because of it has been told before most notably in Elizabeth Eliot’s book “Through Gates of Splendor”, but the interesting part of this movie was that it was a theatrical release told from the Waodani perspective. Having heard the story before, I was intrigued to learn more of the background to the events that so completely changed the Waodani way of life. However after watching the movie and then researching for myself what different sources have said, I was disappointed with a few additions that were made to these events.

As the movie starts Steve Saint and Mincayani are traveling down a river together. Their trip serves as a literary device to bring in the story of the massacre of the missionaries and how the wives of the missionaries brought the Good News that changed the Waodani’s way of life. At the end of the movie we return to the two men traveling together down the river to the beach where the massacre took place and where a confession and confrontation result in forgiveness. However, in history this trip never took place. Did Steve Saint find out who murdered his father? Yes. Did he forgive and build relationship with that man? Yes. So what is my problem? The story of the canoe trip that starts and ends the movie is a tool that was used to make the story more dramatic and climactic. If this was just a fictional story told to prove a moral point this would be fine, but for those who do not know the truth of the tale, this new version becomes truth that will be told, shown, used as sermon and talk illustrations, and such. Is lying to tell a better story because most of the underlying facts are correct but not quite dramatic enough justifiable? Is using literary and theatrical devices okay when you are just trying to make the story more compelling?

This is the exact accusation many scholars throw at the Bible. They would say that the events in the Bible never happened the way they are portrayed. They were just tweaked a little or maybe a lot for their literary impact. Sure maybe the Israelites were escaping from Egypt, and there was some water in front of them, and the Egyptian army for some reason couldn’t find them and bring them back, but wouldn’t it be more dramatic if instead of them walking through the water, the water parted. And instead of the army of Egypt getting confused or lost or whatever that they drowned in the water as it came together again. Soon we begin to doubt whether Moses or the Israelites even existed at all. See once you start playing with the facts, all the facts become suspect. In general throughout the world today, the facts are not as important as the story. If the story needs to be more compelling or exciting, change the facts. If you need to hold someone’s attention, change the facts.

For Christians, this should create a dilemma, one that can only be resolved by turning to the words of the Creator. If we truly want to be like Him, then we should follow His truth. And there is the key, there is no lie found in Him. If you are telling a story, then tell a story, but don’t pass it off as historical. This isn’t just about a movie, this is also about you. Tell the truth about yourself, and others. It might seem great to expand a little on your part in events, or what you did or said, but your testimony about God will be adversely affected when others find you are adding a little to the truth. They will see your stories of God’s greatness to be that same thing, an expansion of truth. Be truthful in everything you do and say about your life, about your faith, and about history. The truth about God is compelling enough, He doesn’t need a more dramatic ending.