So, how many DaVinci watchers have you "dialogued" with?

So, we’re now a few weeks into The DaVinci Code‘s theatrical run.

Sony lured many Christians into promoting the film, buying tickets, going with their congregations to the movie, and even buying the book.

All of this occurred so that Christians could be armed and ready to join a huge “cultural dialogue” because of the great opportunities for evangelism here.

When I suggested we were being duped, I was sternly reprimanded. This, I was told, is what Christians are supposed to do. This is how the church engages with the arts. We send a lot of money to filmmakers who are producing big screen heresy in order to have the privilege of seeing that heresy for ourselves and then witnessing to the people who sat next to us.

So now I want to know… where are the stories of post-”DaVinci Dialogue” conversions?

How many people have YOU shared Christ with since the movie opened?

How has contributing to the film’s ENORMOUS box office success, which has already guaranteed that a prequel is on the way to theaters, enriched YOUR dialogue about Christ with your Code-loving neighbors?

Just curious. Because I haven’t heard anything yet. All I’ve heard is that Ron Howard and company are laughing all the way to the bank with churchgoers’ money.

Of course, now THE OMEN is being promoted to Christians… as yet another great opportunity to JOIN THE DIALOGUE. I received a pamphlet in the mail today, showing me just how many verses in Scripture are related to this movie. I suspect its release will stoke up the fires of revival begun by the release of The Da Vinci Code.

Has your pastor rented out a theater so the congregation can attend?

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Philippians 4:8 has been forgotten.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Early reviews made it pretty clear that there wasn’t much true, or honorable, or just, or pure, or lovely, or commendable, or excellent, or worthy of praise in the film. And yet, even though the verdict was in, Christians lined up for it.

Meanwhile, films that ARE reflecting truth, honor, justice, purity, and all of that good stuff… THOSE films aren’t even being mentioned in most churchgoers’ circles.

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  • FritzPhoto

    Wow, that’s thoroughly impressive. A 5 year old! I’m going to have to have kids….

  • Kevin Shaw

    This story brought me tears. What a good girl.

  • Mo

    How fabulous! I’m passing the link along. We all need a little good news these days!

  • Gene Branaman

    What a wonderful story! Thanks for posting it, Jeffrey!

    More like this lovely little girl, please. May God continue to bless Akemi!

  • Sara Z.

    “Except selling drugs.”
    Indeed!

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, to answer your original question, yes, DVC has brought about a good conversation.

    Last week, I had lunch with a friend of mine, who doesn’t call herself a Christian. We talked about God. She asked if I thought the DVC info could be true. I told her I hadn’t seen or read it but had read several long articles, including Newsweek’s cover story. From there we discussed what distinguishes legends from ancient true stories. “Just because it’s a story from the first century doesn’t mean it’s true,” I said. “Then what makes you think the New Testament is true?” she asked? Good question.

    Though neither had seen DVC, we used it as a jumping-off point to the larger question of whether the Bible can be trusted, whether Jesus’ words are true for me today, and why. I find that as I’m able to let go of trying to change her mind, I’m able to talk about my relationship with Christ with her, and she is not at all upset. And I learn much from her about symbolism, which is her great interest.

    Jesus used people’s lives as a jumping-off point for deeper conversations. “Follow me,” he told the fishermen, “and I’ll teach you how to catch people.” But he did this because he loved them. He didn’t do it in order to switch and bait and hit them with the gospel when they’re not looking. Let’s not go there, whether or not we choose to go to DVC.

  • raymond

    I feel like you should test the waters before reporting on them to others.

    What good are teachers for then?

    Jesus: I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.

    Human being: We’ll see about that.

    Human being after death: crap. I should have listened.

    Not that Jeff is Jesus or anything…but you get the point. We have teachers for a reason: to steer us in the right direction. You may disagree on whether Jeff’s direction is the right one or not. But to discredit his views because he didn’t “take the plunge” is foolish.

    I’m all for Harry Potter, I think its a great book series. But for me to use the argument that “you haven’t read the book, therefore you can’t comment negatively on it” would be a huge cop out. The same principle applies here. No plunge is necessary.

  • J. Caution

    I don’t see any problem with trusting others’ opinions and judgments for your own benefit. But if you claim to be a journalist or a film reviewer, I feel like you should test the waters before reporting on them to others.

    I suppose this whole DaVinci fiasco just gives me a bad deja vu of the condemnation of The Last Temptation of Christ, where some Christians were beginning to believe (based on word-of-mouth) that Scorsese hinted at Christ being a homosexual.

    But you’re right, if your source is respectable and trustworthy, I don’t see anything lazy about listening to them. However, if you’re going to take the extra step and use others’ critiques in place of your own, I think your time, as a film reviewer, could be better used praising art you have witnessed for yourself.

    Comparing a viewing of The DaVinci Code to jumping off the Empire State Building is a little extreme, too. I liked your Hustler analogy better.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Scripture DOES exhort us to “test all things.” But if we take that too literally, we’ll quickly realize that it’s impossible for all of us to study everything thoroughly. A practical application of the verse would be to be very selective in our choices: to “hold fast to what is good” based on experience and discernment.

    No one learns all lessons from their own investigation. I know a few things about history because I read history books and took classes. I trusted the teachers and the books. But clearly, there are contradictions amongst teachers and books, so I have to test the authorities to see whose word holds up to scrutiny.

    I don’t trust Dan Brown. His facts have proven screwy. I will trust those who are scholars in the area, and whose arugments are sound.

    Similarly, as a child, I didn’t learn about the dangers of fire by climbing into a roaring fireplace. I trusted my parents warnings. I saw images on the news of what happened when a house caught fire.

    Sure, there are plenty of people who are lazy, and who will accept whatever others conveniently claim. But it is not lazy to avoid something dangerous or foolish because trustworthy authorities tell you it’s dangerous or foolish.

    It *is* lazy to go and see a heretical movie just because Sony, and some gullible Christian media voices, tell us to.

  • Gene Branaman

    Amen, Jeffrey.

    And, J Caution, I was not just talking about the reaction by critics to a film here. I was referring to books written by folks who are educated in specific areas to refute DVC, which was written by an individual who is, at best, marginally educated in those areas. When a degreed historian like Sandra Miesel refutes specifically how Dan Brown got it wrong in DVC re: his historical blunders about art, architecture & the Church, I’m going to listen. Are you suggesting I become an art historian in order to make as educated a judgement on DVC as Mrs Miesel can? If so, that’s simply not practical for everyone. Sadly, since Brown included the statement “all descriptions of art, architecture, documents & secret rituals are accurate” in DVC, most readers will take him at his word. As inaccurate as it may be.

    Besides, I’ve read part of DVC & it’s prose is so purple you’d think it had been written with a sledgehammer. Add heresy to that & I’ll be more than glad to let other folks do the dirty work of reading the book & seeing the film for me!

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Because it’s a lazy way to go about doing it. Would you recommend a film you’ve never seen based on the praise of another reviewer?

    I do this all the time, if I know and trust the reviewers who have praised it. And if reviewers I trust have told me that something is foul and destructive, I turn away. The trick is learning to discern who is trustworthy based on your own experience.

    Otherwise, you’re like a man who intentionally makes himself blind, confident that another has enough sight for the both of you.

    If you just blindly trust anybody’s opinion, sure. But if my doctor tells me that I shouldn’t mix certain medications, I’m not making myself blind by trusting him.

    I hear that it might be deadly to throw yourself off of the Empire State Building, J. Caution. I’m willing to trust those reports. But I just wanted to be fair… you don’t think trusting the word of respectable and discerning people is enough, so you might want to climb up there and throw yourself off, just so you can be sure. Don’t be “lazy” now!

    But before you go, the corner store has copies of Hustler, which I’ve heard is a particularly raunchy publication. I’m willing to trust what I’ve been told, and I don’t plan to ever purchase a copy. But you, who must sample everything for yourself, are welcome to stop by and peruse them so you can know the truth.

    I’ve been reading Amy Wellborn long enough to know that if she says something is heretical, it probably is. But I’ve also been reading from respectable film critics… both Christian and otherwise… that the movie really sucks. And I’m willing to trust them.

    Otherwise, what good is it to be a film critic if it’s foolish for anyone to accept warnings from others?

  • J. Caution

    Folks like Welborn (Cracking the DaVinci Code), Olson & Miesel (The DaVinci Hoax), & athiest historian named Tim O’Neill (www.historyvsthedavincicode.com), amont others, have done the dirty work for us – so why not take advantage of that? It’s been pretty successful for me!

    Because it’s a lazy way to go about doing it. Would you recommend a film you’ve never seen based on the praise of another reviewer? Of course not; you observe what you see and then judge it. Otherwise, you’re like a man who intentionally makes himself blind, confident that another has enough sight for the both of you.

  • Gene Branaman

    “Are the previews for Cars really that impressive?”

    No, Peter, not the trailers. But I was flippin’ channels over the weekend in between the Giants doubleheadder & caught a bit of an extenced “movie surfer” segment on the Disney channel. Changed my mind! That 10 minute spot showed more about the movie than any of the trailers. For example, I did not know it had to do with Route 66 & that many of the characters are based on actual Route 66 personalities. I’m still dicey on the plot but I’m now stoked to see it. While it might not be up to Pixar’s standard, it won’t be far off, I’m thinkin’.

    And I agree with you, Joel – the marketing of DVC to Christians is insulting. Check Peter Chattaway’s blog for an entry entitled “Chesterton, Frank Rich on The Da Vinci Code” – he makes an excellent point about this. (Please think about expanding on that entry, Peter!) But I’m of the camp that we don’t have to read the book or see the film to effective refute it, so long as we do our research & know our info. Folks like Welborn (Cracking the DaVinci Code), Olson & Miesel (The DaVinci Hoax), & athiest historian named Tim O’Neill (www.historyvsthedavincicode.com), amont others, have done the dirty work for us – so why not take advantage of that? It’s been pretty successful for me!

  • Joel Buursma

    To answer your question, “Sadly, none”. But that’s just me. Gene, your comment inspired me.

    I agree that Christians should be engaging & dialoging & salt & light. But for a movie studio to release a movie that is sick and wrong and marketed it to Christians as an opportunity?? (I’m referring to DVC — I don’t know about The Omen.) That is offensive to me. Should I go out and commit a crime to give society the “opportunity” to state its objection to my criminal behavior?

    So, thanks but NO thanks. But I can see that this is in danger of becoming a trend. Even if The Omen has themes Christians can profitably discuss, I am very suspicious of a movie studio trying to “help” that along.

  • Adam Walter

    Somehow, I have not run into a single person who wants to admit they saw it–whether they be Christian or non. Oh well, I guess this was a anti-event in my life. Not really sorry about that either.

  • Thom

    Well, he waves…but not in a menacing way…more like “Hi doggie!”.

  • wngl

    Honestly, I don’t know a single professed Christian who went to the film -they all skipped it! The impression I’ve gotten is one of fatigue; all the fuss, muss and bother exhausted them and all they have found time for, rather than going to the movies, is to read scripture.

    My cohort did go; he is not a churchgoing man nor is he particularly spiritual. The only real impression the movie made on him was that it was very long and he slept through most of it.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    Are the previews for Cars really that impressive?

    Thom wrote:
    I mean, I have issues with the film based on the previews (which make it clear that Damien knows he’s evil-what worked for the original was that he *seemed* innocent).

    Hmmmm. I could see that. That could certainly be true where the tricycle/scooter scene is concerned. But doesn’t Damien wave to the evil dog at the birthday party in the original version of the film, too?

    The first films producers worked closely with Christians to try and follow end time theology as much of the American Evangelical movement understood it (rightly or wrongly) in the 70′s.

    Yeah, the producer of the Omen series says the whole thing began with religious adviser Robert Munger — a Presbyterian minister who was professor of evangelism and church strategy at Fuller Theological Seminary at that time, and who went on to executive-produce the film version of Charles Colson’s Born Again (1978).

    And then the filmmakers went and made all the Christian characters Catholic! Arrrrgh. (Just like Contact turned a fundamentalist preacher into a lapsed Jesuit, just like Amistad turned the evangelical abolitionists into fatalistic weirdos and added a non-historical Catholic character at a pivotal point in the story, etc., etc.)

  • Gene Branaman

    I’ve spoken with a number of other Christians about DVC, too, & they’ve been great conversations. What’s really interesting is they really don’t care where the debunking of DVC came from; it could be Evangelical, Catholic, secular, etc, so long as it refutes it well. The folks I’ve spoken to have been very ecumenically minded re: DVC. (And perhaps they are anyway.) I’ve not spoken with any Christian who’s parroted the “it’s just fiction” meme or said anything like, “well, some of that stuff is true” etc.

    I have spoken with a good number of non-Christians about it. But the problem there is the conversations haven’t yet gotten to a point where I can share the Gospel in any real way; I’m too busy refuting the falsehoods in the book/film. And I’ve been pretty darn successful with it, too! Folks actually feel duped by DVC when they realize how badly researched & ahistorical it is. While the conversations I’ve had have not been condusive to actually sharing the Gospel, I have thrown a few tidbits into the conversation that will hopefully get folks thinking. Such as just how reliable the Biblical documents are & those by the early Church fathers, too. People get very curious. But there are always way too many other questions about DVC to effectively evanglize, in my experience at least. But all conversations have been great – people really are hungry for the facts.

    The Omen just insults me. Perhaps Julia Styles will get a decent part in Bourne 3 & redeem herself for taking this role! It just looks dreadful. Bring on Cars!!

  • wngl

    Bravo, Jeff.

  • Thom

    Sorry, that should have read:
    “Um, the Omen? A film that supports the point of view of plenty of Christians (End of the world, the rise of the anti-Christ, etc)?”

  • Thom

    Um, the Omen? A film that supports the point of view of Christians? This is hardly the Da Vinci Code. Many Christians believe this stuff. I mean, I have issues with the film based on the previews (which make it clear that Damien knows he’s evil-what worked for the original was that he *seemed* innocent). But the fact is, this is not a film denying Christ’s Divinity or claiming the Church is an evil organization oppressing women. The first films producers worked closely with Christians to try and follow end time theology as much of the American Evangelical movement understood it (rightly or wrongly) in the 70′s.

  • Matt Page

    I realised I had to find out something about the book/film when someone at my Rugby Club asked me about it, and I had to say I knew nothing about it, and the conversation closed. I walked away gutted and kicking myself. I’ve prayed a lot, over the ten years I have been at the club, about the lads at my club and wanting to have conversations with them about God on theitr terms rather than mine. (i.e. not wanting to go around saying to everyone “hey let me tell you about God. Blah, blah, blah.”. I’ve also put a lot of hard work into earning their respect both as a player and as someone who is true to his beliefs, but a true friend to them rather than just a lobber of evangelistic hand grenades. But such conversations come along very rarely.

    So I was gutted to have a had an opportunity for one, and missed it. So I borrowed the book (so as not to pay for it!), and read it. Read some stuff on it. Reviewed it etc.

    A week before the film came out. Two of my friends from the club asked me about it, and the result was a really positive conversation with the guys where I got to explain my faith, answered lots of questions, and they didn’t feel pounced on. Admittedly it was before teh film was released, but it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t have watched the film.

    I also led a seminar on it at church after watching it, whic ha lot of our not-particularly-clued-up on the bible, church history, etc. members found it encouraging, helped them process their own reactions, decide whether to watch the film with friends, or wheter they could just talk about it without seeing it, and so on.

    So whilst I do think we’ve been a little duped, I do think there’s something in engaging with it. And I do also thinkg that the film is less damaging than the book.

    Matt

  • MikeknaJ

    Nice.

    Personally, I’ve talked with a ton of other Christians about it. But non-Christians? Only in the online world. Which I guess counts for something, but I suspect that you do have a point here.

  • Nate

    Unfortunately, the sheer badness of Ron Howard’s film put the kibosh on any sort of intelligent conversation in my circles. I watched it alone (for free, I might add), squeezed out a quick review, and practically forgot about it the next morning. However, my roommate and I did manage to share a brief, meaningless exchange whereby we imagined what Jesus’ kids might look like: Would they all be perfect? Would they all have cool powers? Would they all be as attractive as Audrey Tautou? And so forth…


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