Saturday, April 29, 2006

Da Vinci Code: Should Christians Embrace or Avoid

With all the attention being paid to Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, (both for his latest paperback release and the upcoming big-budget movie starring Tom Hanks)'s hard to avoid the question being asked in both the Christian and secular media..."as Christians should you avoid this book and/or movie because of its basis in distorted Christian history?"

WHY AVOID IT? As we are all aware there is a vocal minority of "religious Christian leaders" who feels that any book, or movie or graphic novel, (plug, plug, plug), that seeks to question the statis quo, (or for fictional-dramatic purposes)...twist, bend, add-to or distort the Biblical narrative...should be avoided at all costs. The reasoning seems to be, that these blasphemous presentations (despite the fact that they are clearly presented as works of fiction), could lead to un-churched people getting the wrong idea about Christianinty and will therefore continue to keep it at arms length; or worse, that current believers will buy into the fictional basis and decide they no longer believe!

When I see high profile tele-preachers spending screen time on this, or neo-politico-religous organizations setting up websites and boycotts, I ask myself, "Could it be these people really don't understand the nature of the Man that they are basing their lives on?" To me, being a loyal follower of Jesus and censorship in any form or advocating cutting off yourself or your family from our pop-culture, just do not go hand in hand. What our neo- conservative leaning-brothers never seem to understand, (or even consider), is that Jesus was not about being at odds with our culture, but embracing it, understanding it and diving into it. Jesus did not tell his disciples to avoid the sinners, (prostitutes), avoid the corrupt, (tax collectors in league with Rome), avoid the un-believers, (Gentiles). He was right there with them, listening to them, talking with them, eating and drinking with them, sharing God with them, demonstrating unconditional love and compassion to them. They did not join him, (as depicted in the Gospels), because of he demanded it, or told them how evil they were if they didn't...rather because of the spirit of love he demonstrated, made it impossible to ignore. Jesus is about attraction to a life of service to our fellow man in love and compassion, not conformity to a set of laws or rules designed to keep us all a uniform cultural step! Hey....that's what he was fighting with the Pharisees and Saducees 2000+ years ago!

The Apostle Paul, whose high profile life as an anti-Jesus activist, all led up to his rebirth and salvation, took Jesus' examples in this area to the next level. He used his education and familiarity with numerous cultures throughout the Roman Empire, to dive into each region and not try to get them to hear the Word the way he wanted them to hear it, but rather using methods, stories and legends that these cultures were use to and comfortable with, (I.E...using Greek God's as a point of reference in Athens etc...). In a formal sense, this process is know as Contextualization. In basic terms that means, that the Gospel, (though it never changes), should be put into a familiar frame of refernce to the culture in which it is being brought. My thoughts on this are, that both Jesus and Paul modelled for us that we are to use our cultural surrounding to more effectively share this gift we have, not as someting to avoid or boycott. Who are you going to reach, if you don't go out of your social or cultural comfort zone?

In my own chosen form of ministry there is a very applicable example. With some notable exceptions, most of what is produced in the comic industry is pretty empty hero-worshipping tripe, when you really get down to it. But I will admit, I grew up reading, studying and enjoying the heck out of this tripe! Breaking it down to it's most basic components, the whole super-hero genre is all about Idolatry, (which is "excessive devotion to or reverance for some person or thing other than God"...a major no-no in the Bible all the way back to the old testament). If you don't believe this applies, try spending a day or two at the Comic Con Intenational in San Diego, and see the level of devotion that thousands of people have to some of these characters and/or their creators! But my point being, that as a man reborn in Christ and person who has worked within the industry for about 15 years, (retailers, artist, writer, publisher), I could go down one of two paths....

1. I could start an anti-comic-book webpage, that directs children not to read them, because of all their idolistic themes, violence and sexual content, and even better create a boycott against the parent companies of the publishing houses that create these titles, (say Time Warner, who owns DC Comics). Or....

2. I could work within the industry to create comic books and/or graphic novels that are both attractive, entertaining and have Christian and Spiritual themes, in the hope that I will better be able to reach unbelievers, who may not be touched by God's word otherwise.

Which do you think Jesus would advise is the right course to take?

Which do you think would "attract" more young readers to God?

But I digress, (as Peter David is found of saying)....

WHY SHOULD WE EMBRACE THE CODE? Simply put...if you don't read the book or see the movie, how can you possibly discuss it with people and use it as a tool to share the truth from the Gospel, verses what they saw on the big screen? This is a tremendous opportunity to engage millions of people in discussion about Jesus, Christian history, and the true nature of our faith...who are not in your weekly home teams or churches! Why would we want to avoid that?

But you say, what if Christians see this, and decide they are now unsure about the basis for our belief? Guess what, then they were never really in "the Spirit of God" to begin with! Jesus does not lose his true followers, (defined as those who truly have the Holy Spirit of God working in them and through them, see John 6:39, 10:28, 17:12). He only loses those whose profession of faith may be more political or social in other words, not quite sincere.

As someone who loves these kinds of historical challenges I say, go out and do a little studying for yourself. The truth is right there in the Bible, as well in libraries and as close as the internet. So when you do run across a skeptic or unbeliever that says, "Aha....I knew it...the Bible is wrong!" You can discuss with him why that is not correct...or you can just get your feeling hurt and go away angry.

And by the way, your welcome Mr. Brown for this backhanded endorsement!

(my advise for great resource...Lee Strobel's, A CASE FOR FAITH, or A CASE FOR CHRIST. Either one will help shed the light of truth on a lot of the fictional distortions portayed in Dan Browns work).

Copyright Robert James Luedke, 2006
Author/Illustator of the graphic novels... Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth and Acts of the Spirit.

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