The culture war comes home
New AFA movie depicts conflict at ground level.
by Rusty Benson
What happens when an ordinary Christian family is “accidentally” thrown into the fires of a heated culture war battle?
American Family Association’s new movie, Accidental Activist, follows the trials of Ted Murphy and his family as their reputations, friendships and even livelihood are threatened after he signs a petition supporting traditional marriage.
The story is propelled by the friendship of Ted who, along with his wife, runs a custom T-shirt business, and Ron who owns a nearby popular coffee shop. Ron is a homosexual.
AFA staff writer Ed Vitagliano wrote the screenplay. In addition to writing duties at AFA, Vitagliano pastors a church. He has been married to Dianne for 32 years, and they have two grown children. In the interview below, Vitagliano reveals his intentions in crafting the characters of Ted and Ron.
AFA Journal: You’ve been writing about the gay rights movement for nearly 20 years. What have you learned from that and from personal experience that you wrote into the characters of Ted and Ron?
Ed Vitagliano: I tried to portray Ted as an ordinary Christian who reacts in a very human way to his trials. Ted wants to know where God is in the midst of his troubles. Earlier in my Christian walk I sometimes felt like that. I wasn’t yet at a place to understand that stressful circumstances are often used to glorify His name. As I grew older and more experienced with my walk with the Lord, I realized that God doesn’t have to explain to me what He’s doing in my life. Ted faces the same dilemma.
Over the years, I've had friendships with people who are homosexual or have been, and have left that lifestyle when they became Christians. Some still struggle with it. For me, those relationships humanize the struggles of gay men and women. Admittedly, I’ve had limited experience; however, I realize they are human beings made in God’s image.
I wanted to make sure that Ron represented what I think is the ordinary homosexual non-activist who is just trying to live his life and find happiness. I wanted him to be seen as someone with whom a Christian could have a friendship. At the same time, I wanted to make it clear that there was an important disagreement between Ted and Ron.
AFAJ: Do you think such a friendship is possible?
EV: I think Christians would want to maintain friendships with people who have beliefs that are outside Christian belief – atheists, for example.
On the other hand, I don’t know how many homosexuals would want to be friends with a Christian who signs what we would call a pro-marriage petition. But if there are homosexuals who watch the movie, I hope they might give Christians a chance.
AFAJ: What can Christians learn from your portrayal of Ted, the main character?
EV: The message throughout the film is that at some point, a Christian has to trust in the sovereignty of God. You’ve got to believe that trials come to us from the heart of a God Who is a father, and not only cares about us going through the trial, but cares about His glory.
When Ted is blindsided by the things that happen to him, I purposefully made him waffle. That gives the story the opportunity to show Christians the importance of thinking biblically about what we pay lip service to. Christians must dig down deeper and understand the why of what they believe.
On the other side, I’d like for those in the homosexual rights movement to see that just because we Christians see marriage in a way that excludes homosexuals, that doesn’t mean we are motivated by hate. I want them to see that in the culture war, Christians are victims as much as they see themselves as victims.
Accidental Activist is available for $12.95 at the AFA store.