In a previous post I tackled some of the critical questions arising from my recent viewing of The Da Vinci Code, including the burning question of how Audrey Tautou outran various pursuers in 3 inch heels. I still have not fully mined the depths of those questions, but here are some more critical ponderings:
As previously established, The Da Vinci Code is fiction.
My friend Pastor Frank takes issue with my insistence that the movie is fiction, but I’ll have to hold my ground on that one (sorry, Frank). Just because something is fiction does not mean it cannot enrich our relationships with God (case in point Mary Doria Russell’s incredible novel, The Sparrow).
The reason I insist on remembering The Da Vinci Code’s fictional nature is the same reason I insist on talking with my daughter about certain things she hears on the school bus . . . there are some things in life about which you must really have the facts, you know what I mean?
So, given that the movie is fiction, I have to say I’ve been puzzled about why exactly folks are so stirred up (but then, if you recall, large portions of The Passion of the Christ are also fictional and folks got a little hot under the collar about that one as well).
But even after I recently saw the movie I have to say: I am still confused.
I’d read the book, of course, and I knew folks were talking about it, but I was not prepared for the protestors outside the movie theatre right around the corner from the church the weekend the movie opened. They were wearing red capes and their signs read: “I love our Lord Jesus Christ! I reject The Da Vinci Code!”
Seeing them rattled my cage a little. I thought to myself, “Let me get this straight. This is a group of people who feel so strongly that viewing of the movie The Da Vinci Code violates their faith that they would don red robes and spent a whole day on the sidewalk in downtown DC with heavy signs picketing?” (People dying in the Sudan . . . our own country at war . . . homeless folks up and down the very same sidewalk . . . I’m still puzzled . . . .)
I wondered when I saw those protestors why they cared so much about a Hollywood creation they’d never even viewed that they would spend all day picketing a movie theatre.
Could it be that this movie threatens the tenuous toehold of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Could it be that the credibility and future of the Catholic Church hang in the balance?
I doubt it!
Could it be, then, that people might actually think Jesus was a father and that his fathering a child would immediately invalidate everything we believe about his divinity?
It’s true that the movie does raise questions about the identity of Mary Magdalene and some of the more shadowy parts of church history. And I guess it’s true that some people care very much about the identity of Mary Magdalene.
But as I kept thinking and thinking about why this movie touches such a nerve I decided that really, there are not too many people who care that much about distortions of church history.
Or the virtue of Mary Magdalene.
My guess is that it all boils down to who you and I need Jesus to be.
I mean, do we need Jesus to be a real, tangible human being who lived and died on this earth, breathed the same air we breathe and felt the same feelings we feel? Stubbed his toe, endured bad haircuts, had the flu?
Or is our faith predicated on the Jesus who was divine, holy and untouchable, so much so that there’s no way we could fathom his falling in love? Fathering a child?
Come to think of it, it’s really more than even these questions, isn’t it?
The real thing that makes us nervous, pushes us to rush out and see this controversial movie or even sends us out on the streets protesting is that all we’re all looking for answers.
All anyone is looking for is a set of tangible, black and white, definitive assurances that everything we always knew to be true about God is absolutely, positively, without a doubt verifiably accurate.
Not knowing, or having everything we thought we knew called into question is rather uncomfortable.
But this is the paradox of our faith. God, the un-containable contained in human flesh, tangible for a short time but now separated from you and me by thousands of years of history.
After much pondering, what I finally realized is that The Da Vinci Code, if it does nothing else, reminds us that relationship with God is an uneasy prospect. God is not for us to contain in 2 ½ hour movies, ancient books, official doctrines or established institutions. The mystery of God with us is just that . . . mystery.
Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that as we ponder these questions raised by The Da Vinci Code, we also head into the celebration of Pentecost this Sunday, when we welcome God’s Spirit . . . real and tangible like the whisper of a breeze or the flame of a candle . . . elusive and uncontrollable like raging fire and howling hurricane: simultaneously an answer for those of us longing for God and a question for those of us working to contain God with easy answers and infallible definitions.
And if watching The Da Vinci Code makes anyone besides us strange preacher-types think that hard about God, well, then, I have nothing to protest.