Monday, May 22, 2006

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa...

Well campers, this is the first weekday after The DaVinci Code came out in theaters. According to the AP story out today, the movie based on Dan Brown's runaway best seller pulled down $224 million worldwide and $77 million in the US and Canada for the opening weekend. In case you've been hiding out with Osama Bin Laden or spelunking in the Inner regions of Outer Mongolia, or you're like President Bush who has claimed that he doesn't read newspapers, the plot behind the DaVinci Code revolves around the belief held by certain religious scholars that Jesus Christ was married, had desecendants, and that such descendants are living amongst us today. Also according to the book and the movie, the Catholic Church has been covering up the whole thing. Of course, depending on who you talk to, the whole idea of such things happening range from a distinct possibility to outright denial. There were the usual protesters outside movie theaters doing their best Chicken Little impressions buttonholing anyone who stood still long enough to harangue them that this movie is blasphemy and that any "true" Christian worthy of the name would not darken the threshold of a movie theater to watch such clap-trap, and to do so was to give the Devil a foothold into their soul and to further guarantee their speedy descent into the fiery bowels of Hell.

Personally, I have not seen the movie yet, although I will check it out when it comes out on DVD. I'm just not a movie theater kind of guy. Something about people chatting incessantly on cell phones during the show and other distractions tend to put me in a mood to commit grievious bodily harm on people who distract me from getting into the flick, so in the interest of not starting a criminal record and to maintain the general safety and welfare of the movie going public, I tend to stay away from movie houses. Anyhoo... I have no reservations about seeing the movie. I do not believe that I will be committing blasphemy by seeing the movie and I don't believe that my soul is in danger by seeing the movie. I have seen more than a few movies that make light of religion and mock the stories of the Bible and come through no worse for wear. Besides, anything that gets the Evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church's knickers in a twist, is cool with me. I just love seeing leaders of those bodies getting into a state of high dudgeon and getting their righteous indignation on. It's high comedy. Don't get me wrong, as I have said numerous times in this blog, I am a Christian, I can say the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds without crossing my fingers. However, I am becoming quite skeptical about the ways that the organized church has taken the simple Gospel of Jesus and perverted it, used it for political gain, excluded certain minorities from exercising their God-given abilities in the Church, engaged in inter and intrachurch warfare, and have used it as a cudgel to keep people in line rather than a tool to bring people into the Church. I don't mean that the whole Church is guilty of such things, but when you have a divinely created organization that's staffed with humans, many of whom have agendas, and the desire for power, bad things will happen.

What I do find encouraging is that some churches, instead of spazzing out and going into the usual "Let's boycott this Satanic abomination" mode have decided that discussion and dialog are far better responses to movies like the DaVinci Code. I read in a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article that a local church bought out the first night's showing of the movie in a local theater in order to foster dialogue about the movie, and approach hot button issues from a rational point of view. This same church also did the same thing for Chronicles of Narnia and The Passion of the Christ. And upon reading this article, I said to myself " Finally, a church that has a clue!!!!, Brilliant" This congregation is doing the right thing. Instead of being afraid and defensive, it is encouraging people to see the movie, make up their minds and come out to discuss their feelings about this movie. There other churches that have taken this approach to their credit. This is what the church should be doing instead of always beating people upside the head with the Bible and always going into crisis mode. There are times when it is necessary to raise the call to arms, but this isn't one of them.

This movie is fiction, like the book that spawned it. The church will not topple because of one controverisal movie. This is a church that has survived for over 2000 years, and has seen all manner of off the wall teachings come and go. Some of those teachings have a grain of truth in them. The Catholic Church has covered stuff up before, maybe there is something about Christ having a family. The witnesses that walked and talked with Jesus wrote about their experiences forty to seventy years after His death, how much have memories faded over that time. It's a well known fact that many fragments of writings from many people who hung around with Christ were stricken from the "official record." History is written from the victor's perspective and usually to make the victors look good. In various church councils, many historical accounts were declared non-canonical or deutero-canonical. Most of these accounts were patently absurd, but how many of them were true? Truth exists in many different perspectives. But I believe that holding debate and dialog is much more constructive than church leaders assuming their flock are too ignorant and uneducated to handle deep theology and witholding controversial teachings from them. Not just nonbelievers are seeing the DaVinci Code, devoted Christians are watching it too, and no impassioned yammering or threats of excommunication from the pulpit will stop them doing it.

Church leaders, give your flocks benefit of the doubt. Don't treat them like little children who must be kept away from the Boogie Man. Any Christian who's faith is solidly grounded will not be affected by the seeing of the DaVinci Code, and if there are those who question what they believe, maybe it's not a bad thing. It's not always good to believe everything we're told. And the smart person will check out the facts, do the research and come to their own conclusions. I've read the book and will watch the movie on DVD, and most likely move on, but who knows, maybe there is something to all of this.

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