Coming May 19th will be the release of the Summer blockbuster movie, "The Da Vinci Code." Reactions from Christians and non-Christians alike have varied from intrigue, surprise, amazement, scandal, offense, anger, as well as ambivalence. But how should we react? How are Catholic Christians to respond to this best selling novel and soon to be released movie?
I've just completed the first in a set of three episodes of my own in an attempt to reflect on the theology offered in the book and movie. Entitled, Jesus, Mary, & Da Vinci, I spend time reflecting on the importance of the lived community as the the foundation for understanding who Jesus is. I try to offer an explanation as to how any "objective" unearthing of the historical Jesus outside of the believing community is seriously flawed and by no means neutral. While many of the TV shows debunking the secular source material (an easy thing to do), I spend time reflecting on the authority and value of the canonical Gospels and offer some reasons why the "Gnostic Gospels" shouldn't be given the same authority.
I hope to put out one episode each week, though my own work schedule will determine how that will happen. Either go to my podcast page or click the link above in order to download and listen to my podcast. Whether or not you go to the movie or read the book (now under $5 at Costco), it is important to do our own research and understand why we believe what we do. This is an opportunity for us all.
On my other web site, Geek is Good, I've offered several reflections. Better yet, the US Bishops have produced a TV special to be aired on the opening weekend of the "Da Vinci Code" movie. They have also created a very nice web site to accompany this special. The program and web site are both called Jesus Decoded. Check out the video trailer by clicking this link. Thank you to all who have given generously to the Catholic Communications Campaign for making their web page and TV special possible.
Archbishop Vlazny just wrote about how we are to respond to the movie in his weekly article in our archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Sentinel. Click here to read his reflection.
In cooperation with the movie producers and hollywoodjesus.com, an series of ecumenical reflections have been posted on a new web site called, The Da Vinci Dialogue. It's definitely worth reading.
In my opinion, we need to understand what we believe and know what teachings are contrary to our belief. 1 Peter 3:15-16 offers another way of putting it: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame."
We must be careful not to be fanatical about this issue, but clear and kind. I don't recommend picketing or making grand protests as such politic have historically backfired. We should all understand what the issues are and be able to respond to them. Reading the book nor going to the movie is necessary. Yet, be aware that the skeptics will likely stop listening to you if you have not made any of these efforts. Unfortunately, this is a common fallacy in logic, but it is sadly our human nature.
The issues presented in the fictional story are many and varied, but the most important is the claim about Jesus' "true" identity. To posit one contrary to the witness of the early Church is not only be an act of unfaithfulness, but intellectual dishonesty. The facts that have been reported even outside of Christian circles verify that Jesus was understood to be the Messiah, God incarnate, and the Lord of all. Any other depiction is simply fiction and ahistorical. So, let us remember that "The Da Vinci Code" is truly fiction, but a powerful fiction that deserves an appropriate response. I hope that those who have read the book or will see the movie will be inspired or encouraged to learn more about the facts of history. I highly recommend the book, "The Da Vinci Hoax" by Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel. Cardinal Archbishop George of Chicago calls it "the definitive debunking."
In the coming weeks, I will be releasing the first of a series of podcasts reflecting on the issues presented in the book. It is my hope that this book and movie will be an occasion for people to seek out the truth and understand the fictional nature of the details offered in "The Da Vinci Code."
Fr. William Holtzinger