Get ready for the Da Vinci wave

apr282006 874 875 lgSo, how many of you are already fed up with the mainstream coverage of The Da Vinci Code?

I think the nice puff piece interview with Ron Howard and Tom Hanks in Entertainment Weekly was the official start of the tsunami. Not that you will learn much from it other than that — believe it or not — there are uptight Christians out there who are upset about what is clearly, clearly just an ordinary work of fiction.

Oh well. Whatever. Never mind.

In recent months, a very interesting debate/discussion/argument has broken out in which people are asking how traditional Christians should respond to the movie (since 40 million books failed to get the attention of some church leaders). Some people think the right approach is to ignore it. Some want to “debate it,” using the movie as a hook for evangelism. I have not, praise be, heard anyone talking about some kind of attention-grabbing wave of protests. There have been interesting variables on these positions. Click here for a USA Today story on the various sites dedicated to all of this.

Now I am a “debate the culture” kind of guy and have been for years. I think this novel is impossible to ignore. The question, to me, is whether the definitive statement of Dan Brown’s evangelistic screed — for his own postmodern, semi-Gnostic version of Christianity — is the novel or the movie.

Thus, I wrote an article for the controversial Da Vinci Dialogue site (part of the actual publicity campaign for the movie) entitled “Who is Dan Brown?” In it, I argued:

… (It’s) crucial to note that Brown is not opposed to faith or to Christianity. He is only opposed to forms of Christianity that hold fast to the faith’s 2000 years of doctrine on issues such as salvation, Christology, moral theology, the Trinity, the Resurrection and a few other picky details. …

Truth is, Brown is a liberal, feminist Christian whose views would be right at home in thousands of mainline, progressive churches and the seminaries that prepare men and women to stand at their altars. He also sees himself as someone who is searching for that crossroads where modern science, the sexual revolution and all the world religions meet and work out their differences in the embrace of an all-embracing goddess, god or pantheon of gods to be negotiated at some point in the future. But the key to the Gospel According to Dan Brown is not who is right, but who is wrong.

The bottom line: Anyone who truly wants to know what Brown is all about should skip the movie and read The Da Vinci Code instead, along with Angels & Demons, which preceded it.

tn davincicode poster2There are many articles to read on these subjects (let us know the best you have found), but I want to point to one in particular — Catholic-nun-turned-screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi’s piece in Christianity Today entitled “Let’s ‘Othercott’ Da Vinci.” For her, the bottom line is that The Da Vinci Code is so warped and anti-Christian — yes, anti-Catholic most of all — that it is wrong to urge people to go see it, even if the ultimate goal is some kind of piggyback evangelism.

Thus, Barbara is a bit ticked off:

DVC as great opportunity for evangelism? Hmmm. The climate of evangelism is not consistent with a posture of defiance and cynicism. Is slander an opportunity? Is angry superiority an opportunity? DVC represents all the “opportunity” that the Roman persecutions offered the early Church. Rah. And here’s another thing that troubles me about the “opportunity for dialogue” stance. The debate is all on hell’s terms. … DVC represents a debate in which the questions start with Satan’s presumptions.

So what does Nicolosi want people to do?

Here’s the twist. She wants people to buy a movie ticket the day that DVC comes out, only for a different movie.

On DVC’s opening weekend — May 19-21 — you should go to the movies. Just go to another movie. That’s your way of casting your vote, the only vote Hollywood recognizes: The power of cold hard cash laid down on a box office window on opening weekend. Use your vote. Don’t throw it away. … The major studio movie scheduled for release against DVC is the DreamWorks animated feature Over the Hedge. The trailers look fun, and you can take your kids. And your friends. And their friends. In fact, let’s all go see it.

Here’s my point in bringing this up.

Legions of reporters are about to spill oceans of ink during the next few weeks about The Da Vinci Code. I think it’s important for journalists to realize that there are people out there in Middle America and even the blue zip codes who have viewpoints other than one that can be called “fundamentalists who hate open-minded people in Hollywood.” It’s time for reporters to be creative and find some alternative “experts” and quote machines.

It’s journalism. Just do it.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • BluesDaddy

    What about the rioting in the street? What about storming the studio gates? What about threatening the lives of everyone involved in making the movie?

    Oh, wait. That’s the proponents of that *other* “religion of peace” who do that.

    Never mind…

  • Jackson
  • Jacob

    There has been a question in my mind for a while. Does anybody really believe this Da Vinci code stuff?

    I mean, I know some people buy the theology. But does anybody really buy the false history and the crazy conspiracy cover-up stuff? I mean, the serious scholars of gnosticism don’t.

    In short, is anybody really that ignorant and gullible that they would take the pretend history in the book seriously.

    (I have been assuming that the “Everything in this book is based on truth thing at the opening is just a clever literary device.”)

  • Matt

    While I agree that most of the coverage of TDVC is just garbage, it should be noted that Time magazine did a pretty good piece on Opus Dei in relation to TDVC. I don’t know much about OD but it seemed fair to me. I do think however, that when ever any Christian organization is linked to authoritarian dictators, such as OD was to Franco, it should be noted that that the alliance between the Christian org. and the dictator was usually to oppose athiest communism. Other than that, it was a pretty good article, but it is the only one I have seen that can be described that way. Oh, one more thing… They could have exlpained the theology behind self-flaggelation and wearing the barbed wire for penance. Instead time just showed pictures and said Opus Dei does these “masochistic” things.

  • Matt

    you asked, “In short, is anybody really that ignorant and gullible that they would take the pretend history in the book seriously. ”

    Yes, some people are.

    I was horrified when my son’s Godmother, who had just finished reading the book told me that “It makes a lot of sense that Jesus was married. He was a man, after all.” That from the woman who is supposed to help raise my son to be an Orthodox Christian.

  • Scott Allen

    I’ve already had an opportunity to discuss the Bible with someone due to the Da Vinci Code. I’m not saying that either the book or movie are “good” when all things are considered, but there ARE opportunities and we need to be prepared to address the issues. As others have indicated, there are a wide variety of “debunking” web articles and books available on DVC, so if you have the time please prepare to (1) listen to the other person, and (2) present the many valid reasons for believing in the Christ of the Bible.

  • http://theaccidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    “… is anybody really that ignorant and gullible that they would take the pretend history in the book seriously?”

    I can ditto Matt’s post — my elderly stepmother (a lifelong and devout, but apparently not that well educated theologically) Methodist, fell for it hook, line and sinker. I’m not sure I or my next-door neighbor, a considerably smarter Baptist, were successful in talking her out of it.

    I’ve started referring to the book’s theories as the “Judy Tenuda School of Theology” — “It could happen!”

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    I think it is interesting that so many Christians are wringing their hands and debating tactics over the mangled history and theology of DVC, but that another very popular series of books with similar sins, Left Behind, garnered very little criticism (by comparison).

    So is twisted theology, bad history, and conspiracy theories (not to mention a Jesus that bears little resemblance to the biblical figure) only bad if a liberal “outsider” writes it? I want to know. If the “Left Behind” films had made mega-money would Christian pundits on the right start taking it apart? Publishing tons of books debunking it?

    I still think the “gnostic” stuff in DVC is a red herrring. The hook is the return to the feminine manifestation of the divine. That is why little old ladies and good Christian godmothers are swallowing the (badly written) story.

  • http://blidiot.blogspot.com/ William Sulik

    I like Barbara Nicolosi’s idea — it’s too bad there’s not another good movie coming out that week that’s in the same class as DVC. I guess I’ll see Flight 93 that weekend.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “DVC represents all the “opportunity” that the Roman persecutions offered the early Church.”

    I wonder, does it also represent all the “opportunity” early Christians offered pagan Romans once they were in control of the empire?

    One does wonder. We should always be careful about trotting out persecution metaphors in my humble opinion.

  • dianes

    Link to EW interview with Hanks and Howard

    http://www.ew.com/ew/report/0,6115,1186009_1|114323||0_0_,00.html

  • tmatt

    dianes:

    Thanks! I added that to the text…..

    I could not find it with the search, no matter how many search words I used directly from my copy of the mag….

  • Scott Allen

    Jason, you’re right about Left Behind. But in addition to the difference between popularity (DVC popular to some “christians” and the World, Left Behind to a limited portion of “christians”), these books and movies deal with different portions of history. Left Behind deals with Revelation, a book full of symbolism, but in the future. DVC deals with the past and the very basis of the Christian faith — Jesus as the Son of God.
    Absolutely, we need to be ready for the next Flavor of the Month (it never ends!) but some subjects are more insidious than others.

  • Jackson

    Regarding “Left Behind,” see Carl Olson’s book, “Will Catholics Be Left Behind?”

  • http://theaccidentalanglican.typepad.com Deborah

    “We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t know which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.” John Lennon, London Evening Standard, March 4, 1966

    “You know, if [churches] put up a sign saying,’This Wednesday we’re discussing the gospel,’ 12 people show up. But if the sign says,’This Wednesday we’re discussing The Da Vinci Code,’ 800 people show up.” Tom Hanks, Entertainment Weekly, May 2006

    It just goes to show you — if you wait long enough, both history and the entertainment industry will start repeating themselves.

  • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog.html Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “It just goes to show you — if you wait long enough, both history and the entertainment industry will start repeating themselves.”

    “John was certainly not comparing the Beatles with Christ. He was simply observing that so weak was the state of Christianity that the Beatles were, to many people, better known. He was deploring, rather than approving, this,” – Maureen Cleave, reporter who interviewed Lennon during the infamous “more popular than Jesus” quote.

    “I believe Jesus was right, Buddha was right, and all of those people like that are right. They’re all saying the same thing–and I believe it. I believe what Jesus actually said–the basic things he laid down about love and goodness–and not what people say he said…. If Jesus being more popular means … more control, I don’t want that. I’d sooner they’d all follow us even if it’s just to dance and sing for the rest of their lives. If they took more interest in what Jesus–or any of them–said, if they did that, we’d all be there with them.” – John Lennon, December 1966

  • Horus

    Why the Idealogue Hates Dan’s Idea OR Isis Resurrected.

    Why is there such fervent opposition to this movie from people in fundamental land? If the evangelical Christian is so secure in his/ her belief, why does he/she, with great fervor and anxiety, try to convert other people to his/her faith? OR get upset, vocal and down right worried when a movie comes out that encourages the notion of a feminine side to God.

    The Da Vinci Code is a small hairline crack in the damn of fundamentalism. One of millions of cracks that are encouraged by the quiet revolution that is happening as people awaken to their true, transcendent Self. This is truly the End Jim Morrison, thank you for singing about it.

    Freedom and peace will exist in the world when enough people break the shells of their rigid belief systems. These belief systems all over the world have encased humanity in mental bondage for so long. This has led to 6000 years of humans enslaving their brothers and sisters physically. The outer material is, and always will be, a reflection of the inner metal and spiritual state. In truth, they are one, totally connected and therefore reactive to each other.

    And so feminizing Christ, the redeemer, resurrecting Isis, destroys the rigid conditioning, the repitition, the absolute belief in doctrine passed down, tweaked and used to consolidate material power since times when Rome could no longer govern the masses via Pagan religion.

    Today freedom from these belief systems, dogmas, coincides with rise of the individual. (Are there really coincidences?) Some individuals even have more power than governments these days. Fortunately, a large majority of these people are free, simple, and peace loving, and they are gaining more power everyday all over the world. These are not the Emperors, Kings and Caliphates of our past. Of course, as individuals gain power and influence, some use violence to promote their world view. These individuals are almost always fundametalist. Some fundamentalists even declare war as individuals on the most powerful nation on Earth. A powerful nation full of free, peace loving and brave people.

    This is the End, beautiful friend.
    Of our elaborate plans, the End.
    Of everything that stands, the End.

    The Da Vinci Code is a crack that keeps growing as it coincides with other cracks that support the same spiritual notions.

    The end of fundamentalism is quite near – and the idealogues have no idea.

    Love in Freedom,
    Horus

    A cardinal in the Catholic Church was quoted privately saying “We just can’t have Paganism slip in the back door”. Paganism might be the Catholic Church’s only chance of survival. They flipped once, I am sure they can do it again.

    There is only one. Seek Truth. Love Yourself.

    “Emancipate Yourself from Mental Slavery,
    None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds.”
    -Robert Nesta Marley

  • Jon

    Uh, about the previous post: whatever. Hmmm…uh…anyway.

    The “Code” is our pay off in this culture of:
    1. Not teaching the laity proofs of the Faith, and their provenance.
    2. Protestants creating from history an apostate Rome, dating from about…ta dah!…Constantine! I grew up cutting my teeth on Protestant, anti-Papal theories of history (The most famous being Ellen G. White’s, and yes, even John Wesley)which make the Church in Rome an enormity of evil. The problem is: it’s not that simple, as anyone who’s ever actually read into Early Church and medieval history.
    3. Our educational system’s refusal to actually require students to know ANY history, and specifically, the history of European nations.
    4. The replacement of logic and reasoning with “feelings,” and subjective truth over objective truth.
    5. The relegation of Religion to private experiences, choices, and by extension now, private truth.

    Jon

  • Horus

    The Truth is nothing but intimite, holy, private, quiet and sacred.

    Not in the entire Universe does a objective spot, place or space exist. Show me a place with an objective reality and I will show you an observer. I observe many beautiful wonders and create infinitly. And me, and you, well we’re not so seperate you and I. And so, the question becomes “do you love your Self?” Well, do you? Who are you anyways?

    There is only one.

    Love,
    Horus

  • Craig Goodrich

    Horus remarks:

    Freedom and peace will exist in the world when enough people break the shells of their rigid belief systems. These belief systems all over the world have encased humanity in mental bondage for so long.

    Ahh, yes, well of course the Romans were theologically extremely tolerant — everybody’s gods were OK, as long as you include ours — and we know how the Empire spread freedom and peace throughout the ancient world…

    Then we get really, really profound:

    Show me a place with an objective reality and I will show you an observer.

    Mmmpf. Is the implication that the objective reality is due to the observer, and ceases when the observer leaves? Are we disputing that many things (probably nearly all things) that have objective reality have never been observed?

    It is objectively true, for example, that transistor #45302 in the Pentium chip in your computer occupies an area on the die of m by n nanometers and has an overall thickness of x nanometers. Yet no human — and probably no robot — has ever inspected it.

    Boundless silliness…

  • Horus

    Craig,

    There is no mention of the Roman Empire being theologically tolerant in any of my posts. However, it is interesting to see how your perception binds these two things together in an argument against what I’m saying. As if by stating that the Roman Empire was not theologically tolerant you somehow are able to ignore the real point.

    Fundamentalism, evangelicalism, forcing your beliefs on others does not and has never created happy, peaceful and productive societies or individuals. When individuals see the world through a prism of rigid or forced beliefs reality becomes distorted and the perception of seperation is enforced. This creates tension in relationships on micro and macro levels – the result is conflict, bondage, suffering.

    In regards to objective reality. Objective reality is the greatest myth of all the great myths of history. The great-great.

    Of course it is objectivly true that your Pentium chip has certain characteristics, but this does not give your Pentium chip an objective reality in which it exists. You so easily assume that you understand reality, that the obvious is so obvious, but is it? Have you ever delved deeper into your Self, into your day to day reality, into this moment right here?

    There is no objective reality Craig, I’m sorry that is just the Truth.

    Boundless silliness indeed!

    There is only one.

    Love,
    Horus

    Horus also remarks:

    “The outer material (reality) is, and always will be, a reflection of the inner metal and spiritual state (or reality). In truth, they are one, totally connected and therefore reactive to each other.”