Friday, May 19, 2006

Lutheran Da Vinci Code Part II

Everybody seems to have something to say about The Da Vinci Code , for obvious reasons. I imagine this weekend we'll see even more, with tons of reviews, opinions, clarifications, rebuttals, very few retractions, posing, etc. I may as well weigh in on the topoi, with a Lutheran confessional approach to the book (I hope).

Brad Kierkegaard at the Journal of Lutheran Ethics has an excellent article on the book from a Lutheran perspective. I recommend that anyone who has questions about the book and their Lutheranism read this article. Brad is the editor of early church history at the journal, and so is an appropriate resource to write about the historical comments in Dan Brown's book.

As a pastor and blogger, I've been trying to figure out whether I agree with the adage "there's no bad press." Some public Christian commentators seem to argue that anything that gets people talking about religion and Christianity is a good thing. I don't think our Christian tradition, including the biblical witness, would agree. Paul wrote more than one letter to a group of Christians because they had been talking about the Christian faith with preachers who preached "another gospel", and he suggested they listen to him (Paul) rather than these other preachers of a false Christ. There is bad press, and that press can confuse us, and draw us away from the one true God revealed in Jesus Christ.

So let's be clear, Dan Brown is preaching (if he is preaching) a false Christ, a gnostic myth. He turns Christianity into something having to do with secret knowledge, when that is expressly and exactly NOT what Christianity is. Other religions may have secrets you have to buy your way into. The Christian faith is, literally, an open book, first through the Incarnate Word, Jesus, and now through the Scriptures and Christian tradition. And Christ's death and resurrection, not his supposed marriage or secret sayings, is central to that tradition, for through his death and resurrection we all are brought by way of baptism into communion with him in the Trinity.

Although I take umbrage with the argument that there is no bad press, I do still wish to defend a free and open press. So I won't be boycotting the movie, and I've read the book. Dan Brown has the freedom to write such a book. I just wish he wouldn't have exercised that freedom. But then, I can wish a lot of things without having to force my wishes on others. I have also found some of the rhetoric against the movie and book from Christians to be patently unChristian. At the heart of the Christian faith is charity, and much of the judgment and venom against Brown is uncharitable, and hence unchristian.

This simply proves that getting the gospel right is always hard work. Truth and charity are called to walk hand in hand, and we know how difficult that is in practice.

So, we can hope that through all this media hoopla, that the real Jesus would stand up and stand out, so that we all, all of us drowning in the media blitz, would encounter the true Jesus, through the Scripture and tradition of the church, and in that living encounter, be called to the way of Jesus Christ, a way that is less about movies and media than it is about prophetic justice, love, and the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God through God's Son, Jesus Christ, and all of this in the freedom of the Spirit. You might see one kind of Jesus if you go to the movie- you'll see the real sacramental presence of Jesus if you attend worship and receive communion with fellow believers on Sunday. Movies are great, but they aren't church.


  1. Great stuff ... I won't be seeing this one for various reasons, so I've been living vicariously through people's responses to it .. Movies are not church, indeed!

  2. I appreciate your timely comments. Being a seminarian, I've already received multiple questions about matters (historical & theological) related to the book.

    These questions provoked me to start right in on the book as I spent the weekend at my in-laws' house. Though there's certainly a reason for grave concern regarding Brown's (mis)reading of history, it seems easy enough to correct with reference to the facts. Thus, the press surrounding the book & movie have opened up opportunities for questions and fruitful discussion-- despite initial frustration over Brown's errors.

    More troubling to me is Brown's virulent anti-Catholicism. Boy, we all know Opus Dei is extreme, but I hardly realized how much he hates them!

    I am seeing the movie this afternoon, reluctantly. I'm sure I'll write more about it afterwards.