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Holy Spirit Interactive: The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas and Other Nonsense

The Da Vinci Code, The Gospel of Judas and Other Nonsense

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Myth for our Times?

John Ruffle is a college lecturer, writer, minister and chaplain. A third-generation Christian, John surrendered to the overwhelming call of Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit in July 1972 during the remarkable 'Jesus Movement' revival. He lived for several years in Christian community in northern California, and is passionate about promoting love and understanding between all who love Christ. This is what he has to say about The Da Vinci Code.

This weekend, cinema-goers in no less than sixty-eight countries will be eagerly filling first-run movie theatre seats to view the heralded "Da Vinci Code". I've read the best selling novel, but have yet to see the movie: few people have. No one yet knows how the film will fare at the box office, but I am more concerned with the sociological issues at stake in this present writing.

A "wicked distortion"?

The film has created enormous interest and not a little controversy. For instance, in an interview published this week, a Catholic Archbishop described "the whole book (as) a wicked distortion of the truth". Whatever one thinks of Dan Brown's novel however, the story has caught the spirit of the age, full as it is of conspiracy theory and mystery; fuelled, of course, by the quest for the 'holy grail': on the very surface at least, roughly comparable to a 21st century "Indiana Jones" (1981, '84, '89).

Potentially, the film could beat James Cameron's "Titanic" (1997) at the box-office, and almost certainly show crucial record-breaking first-weekend receipts (after all, how many other films have opened simultaneously in 68 nations?) While hardly a modern epic, "The Da Vinci Code" does share several similarities with the 1997 blockbuster: "Titanic" is a fictional love-story intricately woven into a true historical backdrop, and at the time of release, interest in the wreck of the actual Titanic was phenomenal. James Cameron accurately read and targeted the pop-culture climate of the times. "The Da Vinci Code" shares a similar formula, in that Dan Brown's fictional thriller plot is woven against a supposedly historical backdrop. The difficulty is that, unlike "Titanic", the background is not at all historical, but rather, is a figment of imagination -a fact that Dan Brown submerges in his book.

"Entertainment, not theology..."

As the movie hits the big screen, a question Christians of all stripes are asking is: 'Should we see the film and dialogue with others; or cast it out as anathema?' Angela Doland, reporting from the Cannes Film Festival, quotes director Ron Howard saying in defence "...This is supposed to be entertainment, it's not theology". Be that as it may, it by-passes the fact that today's entertainment industry is the primary means that many in our consumer-driven western world are informed. Millions form their world-views from entertainment, and the industry knows this very well.

Christians in western nations are, indeed, mostly suggesting that they dialogue with the issues the film raises. Reactions in other nations have been quite different however. The AP news-feed quoted above catalogues the pre-release backlash being experienced in mostly non-Christian countries such as South Korea, Thailand and India. The Indian government, AP reports, has "...delayed the premiere, putting it on a temporary hold while it weighs complaints by Catholic groups that want the film banned." Likewise, film censors in Thailand, responding to Christian claims of blasphemy initially cut ten minutes from the film, prior to a successful appeal by Columbia Pictures.

Post-Modernism and Faith:

If "The Da Vinci Code" was a 'one-off', then Christians could be advised to either ignore it or protest against it. However, by marginalizing the film, Christians run the risk of turning their backs on an entire culture, and returning to a religious ghetto that refuses to engage the stark realities of today's society.

At the risk of being over simplistic, I suggest that interest in the film is an indication of the extent post-modernism is becoming the predominant influence of our western culture. Post modernism rejects the idea of absolutes. Our viewpoint on life and reality is processed within a matrix of what is relative. In this subjective minefield, what is truth for me may not be truth for you. Certainly, I am permitted to search for truth, provided I do not arrive at any conclusions leading to a universal truth or law. That would be a violation of the post-modern paradigm, and may explain why historic Christian faith has generally become so hated in western societies. Such thinking can result in a not-so-subtle form of moral anarchy. 'Do what is right in your own eyes - just don't hurt anyone else'.

From this mindset, it becomes easy to justify abortion and euthanasia, because we may freely redefine our concepts of reality and the value of human life within such an amoral society: absolutes have been washed away. In its essence, it reveals a rebellion against the historic and redemptive centre of Christianity, revolving as it does around the Christ event. To deny the existence of Jesus Christ is implausible: far better to insinuate a diabolical cover-up. And this is exactly what Dan Brown and Ron Howard have done.

"The Da Vinci Code" could mark the beginning of a cycle of mainstream productions that may delve more deeply into ways that post-modernism seeks to de-construct and mythologicalise the Christian faith. The film may also help fuel a hunger for truth that can be met through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. For these reasons, I suggest that Christians engage the film, dialoguing with those around them.

As for a natural bloodline from Jesus: I think not. Indeed, God has something far superior in store for those who love Him and obey Jesus Christ, our risen Saviour. As a Christian sage once said: "Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. (for) ...flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever... So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless."


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