May 2, 2006

Code breakers

Predictably, some in the European Catholic Church are calling on Christians to boycott The Da Vinci Code movie. As I've noted in the past, however, most American evangelicals have learned that boycotting (becoming anti-consumers) is a less effective means of impacting the culture than alternative consumption — which is why there's a little-noticed grassroots movement (if it works, which it won't, remember that you heard it here first) to get all US Christians to go on May 19 to the only studio movie opening opposite the DVC: Over the Hedge. The idea: shock Hollywood when a family-friendly cartoon triumphs over the big-budget, Christ-hating Da Vinci.

Um, yeah. It's a slightly more sophisticated approach (and the low-key grassroots element means that nobody outside the church will notice when it fizzles), as is the slew of books aimed at refuting the evidence of the DVC (expressing your ideas is always better than shutting out other people's), but, frankly, the most sophisticated thing Christians could do is to be more secure in their faith and not get into a panic about a stupid summer movie.

And, of course, some are doing just that. Last weekend, I met a woman who works at an evangelical theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I happened to ask what kinds of books she reads, and she answered, "Right now, I'm reading The Da Vinci Code. I wanted to see what all the fuss is about." Noticing my surprise, she said, "It's fiction. I can read it as fiction. It's certainly not going to shake my belief in the Bible." Damn straight. I'm Jewish, but I'm more than capable of enjoying a book that distorts and misrepresents ancient Jewish history and theology. Like, say, The New Testament.

Besides. Over the fraking Hedge? Is that what we want to teach our children? That talking animals are superior to suburbanites?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Of course talking animals are superior to suburbanites. It's the cartoons that imply that talking animals are superior to city dwellers that must be stopped.

Jesse - You're right, obvs. I was adopting the voice of the typical megachurchgoer. I also meant there to be an implicit rejection of evolution in there. Did it register?

I got that the last paragraph was a joke, but didn't catch the evolution connection. But given how mind-numbing my job is, I'm lucky I can still read by the end of the day...

And my response would have been better if I could have actually come up with a cartoon in which talking animals outsmart sophisticated urabnites. Even after spending way too much time thinking about it, I've only got Babe: A Pig in the City (which probably doesn't count becasue it's not a cartoon, and also takes place in Australia) and maybe Madagascar (which I haven't seen, but I know it's set partly in NYC).

Point taken, sir, but there is a reason for the anti-DVC books. People like Amy Welborn (De-Coding DaVinci) will tell you that a great many people have been swayed by the novel, even had their faith shaken, because while the novel is up front about its being a novel, the characters in the novel make claims about the historical record which are treated as fact.

Compare it to a novel like Jane Allison's The Love Artist, which treats of Ovid's banishment. Reading it, I don't suppose that Allison thinks she's presenting the truth about how Ovid came to be banished, but I do believe that she is working from a historical fact: Ovid was banished. Similarly, the DVC reader may not believe in the modern-day albino assassin monk of Opus Dei, but may be tempted to accept what is presented as history in the novel.

And that presentation of history does not merely distort and misrepresent; it flat-out denies the very foundation of Christianity (even the New Testament can't be said to do that to ancient Jewish theology, I don't think). The book denies not only the divinity and resurrection of Christ, but also the notion that the early Christians even believed in such things.

If the Gospels and Acts aren't history, then "faith in the Bible" is merely an act of the will. Hardly in keeping with Paul's command to "always be ready to give reason for the faith that is in you." Faith doesn't fare too well when it tries to deny truth. If the Gospels and Acts aren't history, then the Christian faith is in vain. And sadly, many Christians are so poorly formed that the historical claims in DVC sound more like genuine scholarship, and the Gospels more like wishful thinking.

So yeah, it's just a novel, and yeah it's just a summer movie. But it's doing damage, and so I think the books are warranted.

Good Lord, did I just type all that? I need to head down to Ho West.

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