The Da Vinci Code continues to reign atop the best-seller lists and now the hype for the movie based on the book is beginning (even as a copyright infringement suit against the author, Dan Brown, is being tried in London which could delay the movie release). Christians around the world tried to respond to the twisted version of early Christian history that was presented in the novel as an integral part of the plot because Dan Brown claimed it was the "real" story that the church had suppressed for centuries.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a movie worth a million? Here's a real challenge for people of faith--how to respond to the many movie-goers who will believe that Jesus was not the son of God, that he married Mary Magdalene and that from that child came the heirs to the throne of France. The mischaracterizations of groups like the Priory of Sion, the Catholic Church heirarchy and Opus Dei are equally insidious.
Sony Pictures which is releasing the movie version, has created a website for Christian critics of the book so they can present their views of the movie. I've read that the company is concerned about a Christian "backlash" against the movie and is trying to avoid that possibility. We don't know how faithful the movie will be to the book, but there is no way to present the story in the novel without including much of the controversial background created by Brown. Scrolling through the list of "experts" who were invited to contribute, I found that they represent a broad theological spectrum and I am familiar with many of them.
The first week of April I will begin a new class at church for our Wednesday evening program to address the issues raised for Christians by the book, and presumably, by the movie. It's a real challenge because showing the fallacy of Dan Brown's version of early Christian history involves a knowledge of early Christian and Gnostic texts, early Christian history, the development of the New Testament canon, background in ancient languages and even an understanding of art history.
I think the movie presents Christians with a wonderful opportunity for evangelism. Everyone will be talking about it and some will wonder if the assertions made in it are really true or fictional. That gives believers an opportunity to show why the New Testament canon may be accepted as a reliable record of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit among his disciples and the early churches of Asia Minor and Rome. So I am going to try to concentrate on giving class members some background and information on these issues that they can share with family and friends so they will feel comfortable disputing the movie's version of the life of Jesus and the history of the church.
Several video documentaries and a slew of books have been published in response to The DaVinci Code. Some of the books provide lengthy academic analysis and others are written for the layperson. There is also a lot of information on the internet from authors with varying degrees of credibility. I am going to use a video that has 15 minute presentations covering themes in the book--for example: The Gnostic Gospels, the formation of the NT canon, Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper, etc. -- and supplement it with handouts for the class to keep.
A couple of people have told me they plan to attend the class but refuse to read the book and don't plan to go to the movie. I told them that this isn't going to be a "book club" type of discussion where familiarity with the text of the book is important, so they are welcome to come. I read the book and thought it was an absorbing thriller--but when I got about 25 pages before the end of the novel I guessed where the plotline was going and went "OH NO! Not THAT old canard again"! I have no problem with the subject of the novel as long as it is understood as COMPLETELY a work of fiction--but that's the crux of the problem, isn't it? Dan Brown has stirred up a lot of controversy (and MILLIONS of book sales) by pretending it includes new revelations of fact about the life of Jesus.
If you are leading, or planning to lead, a similar study in your church I would love to hear your plans and what materials you are using in the comments. If you would like to attend a class like this I'd like to hear what questions about the book and movie you would like to see addressed.