Friday, June 23, 2006

Just when I thought we were done

with DVC, it turns But this is a good article from Monday's USA Today . Entitled "A green light for blasphemy", here it is:

When The Da Vinci Code hit theaters last month, like other Christians around the world I faced a dilemma: to go and see it, or not. At first I considered arguments in favor? mostly so that I could be in the loop culturally, and because the story and settings are so intriguing. But then I started thinking more seriously about what my small vote, my "yea" or "nay" to The Da Vinci Code, would say.
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I finally made up my mind between innings in our church softball league.

"I'm not going to see that? no way," Brian Williams, the first baseman for our opponents, the Oakland Christian Church team from Oakland Township, Mich., told me as he pounded his mitt getting ready for a new batter. "That's blasphemy, pure and simple. I don't want any part of it."

Brian's matter-of-fact resolve helped me form my own decision. I also passed on the movie. It wasn't because I was worried that seeing Dan Brown's yarn depicted on the big screen would make me question my faith. It wasn't because, by most critics' accounts, Code isn't that good a movie. Nor did I avoid the film because I'd already read a borrowed copy of the book a couple of years ago.

In the end, my reasoning was much more visceral: I just didn't want to be a party? especially a paying party? to what I consider blasphemy. I didn't want to give money, time or any other homage to a film that is not merely heretical but also attacks my faith at its foundational levels and seems fully intent on reshaping how the world views Christ.

The 'B' word

I may eventually forgive Ron Howard and Tom Hanks, two of my Hollywood favorites, for their decisions to direct and star in the movie. I don't for a minute dispute Dan Brown's right to write The Da Vinci Code or to contribute to the theological trend du jour, which seeks to scramble orthodox ideas about Jesus and about Christianity's beginnings. And, true, I almost was seduced by the evangelical leaders who said that I should go see this movie because it would be a convenient way into a discussion of Christianity with non-believers who also had seen it.

But instead, I ended up being much more impressed by the spine displayed by the Catholic Church on this issue: Don't go see it because it is blasphemy, some Vatican officials and church groups have suggested.

Blasphemy is something that no one talks about anymore because it's now considered a backward concern in our relentlessly secularizing Western culture. Basically, blasphemy is demeaning the sacred or the supernatural through speech or action. It was considered such a serious sin that, according to the Book of Jude, the archangel Michael refused to badmouth even the devil. Nor did the ancient Greeks and Romans take it lightly when someone defamed their pantheon.

Nowadays, however, blasphemy is a cottage industry in American entertainment and letters. Whether it's the Code's professor Sir Leigh Teabing, or Madonna in her blood-red shirt pinned to a huge crucifix to kick off her latest concert tour, or even Hollywood's cynical attempts to cash in on The Passion of the Christ with tasteless TV dramas such as The Book of Daniel, Christianity has become a permissible whipping boy. Rather than some kind of new pinnacle of cultural enlightenment and progress, this trend is only another troubling indicator of the disregard for the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western society.

'A flaming contradiction'

But that doesn't mean Christians have to take it lying down in the name of a misplaced tolerance and sophistication. If someone came into your home, looked through your family heirlooms and then told wild fabrications about your Aunt Martha and your Uncle Herman, would you welcome it as great entertainment and a saucy enhancement of the family legacy? or would you kick that person out on his rear?

Or if a major motion picture were based on the premise that the iconic emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, secretly was a slave-owning megalomaniac, would you eagerly line up to see it because you owe the other side a look at its interpretation of our 16th president?

That's basically what the Code does. It's "a flaming contradiction to what the Gospels say about Jesus, undermining his deity and his ministry, relegating his significance to the earthbound," as the Rev. Daniel Lewis, my pastor at Troy (Mich.) Christian Chapel, puts it.

Christians are used to the idea of both dishing it out and taking it. The Gospel is a watershed manifesto. Its assertions inevitably divide people. The cross, ultimately, will either offend you? or beckon you.

It's fine if The Da Vinci Code wants to give everyone an alternative view. But Christians don't have to bankroll it.

Dale Buss is a journalist and author in Rochester Hills, Mich. A paperback version of his book, Family Man: The Biography of Dr. James Dobson, will be published this fall.

1 comment:

rover said...

Interesting thoughts. I didn't go see the movie, but I'm not much of a theater goer anyway. My Dad's a pastor and he went to see it. He also preached a sermon on the vast historical inaccuracies throughout, so I guess he considered it research. Anyway, I might catch it on Netflix, but I just don't know. . .