Theater of Cultural Battle
Fr. Tharp's zealous work to form people in knowledge of the faith, especially as a confrontation of the claims of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, has worn off on me. This weekend I included a two page insert in the bulletin about the code, taken from the resources offered on www.davincihoax.com. My weekly Pastor's Column also focused largely on the opening of the movie version of the book. I also spoke on the matter for about ten minutes at the end of all the Masses. I am going to share with blog readers what I said to my people. These remarks are a bit long, but, I guess if you are interested, it may be worth it.
As you may know the Da Vinci Code movie is set to open this week on May 19th. To my knowledge, the movie theatre in Kingfisher does not have plans to carry it this week, which I think is great. But I know there will be much interest in seeing it. I invite you to read my bulletin column, to read the bulletin insert, and to make use of resources and web sites I have placed in the bulletin to help gain good information about the problems of this book and movie.
All Christians, especially we Catholics, should be concerned about the ramifications of this book: its claims that Jesus was not God, but was later called so to enhance the political power of the Roman Emperor; that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children with her; that the Catholic Church, especially an insecure, power hungry, male hierarchy has hidden this information; and that Christianity is really just warmed over paganism – these claims ought to disturb us and we ought to recognize them for what they are: at their core they are slanders against Jesus, the Son of God, and his Bride the Church which he established.
I don’t say any of these things out of anger or fear. I think the success of the Da Vinci Code and the confusion it stirs up, is actually a great opportunity for us, who are followers of Jesus, to realize the urgent need to know our faith well and to share the authentic faith with others in the world. We need to be able to confront the claims made in the book and movie and therefore, we need to be interested in learning more about our faith. What we learn in preparation for receiving a Sacrament is not enough. In practice, many Catholic people check out of learning their faith after Confirmation, as if they have no more need of learning, or growth in the living faith placed in them. If such an attitude is going to change, it must start with us adults, who lead the way for the younger generations. We need to avail ourselves of opportunities on the parish and diocesan levels to learn more about our faith as Catholic Christians. There are real challenges in the world that need to be confronted by people of faith. But if our own “well” is dry and empty, we won’t have the hope of responding to blasphemous and false claims, such as those made in the Da Vinci Code. [Here I announced some upcoming opportunities to learn more, one of which is a presentation at my parish to be given by Fr. Tharp.]
I just finished a good and reader friendly book entitled the Da Vinci Deception. I would highly recommend it. That book made a point I want to share with you: Think of what would have happened had the book and movie been about Judaism instead of Christianity. What if someone wrote a book about the “real” Moses and the hidden origins of Judaism, claiming that the Jewish faith was based on lies? What if such a book claimed that Moses really believed in many gods, that he did not lead the people out of Egypt, that he did not give the Ten Commandments, performed no miracles and gave no moral rules? Suppose the book claimed that centuries later, power hungry followers of Moses “upgraded” his status, turning him into a prophet who saw and spoke with the one true God, who defeated Pharaoh, who was a divinely appointed moral leader, and who established a covenant with God. What if the book claimed that Moses’ followers gave him this upgrade to secure their own status so that they would be recognized as divinely appointed leaders of the people just like Moses? So, in the end, core Jewish beliefs are really based on lies and people have been duped into believing the “legend of Moses” ever since. Such a book would be widely condemned as being anti-Semitic and a direct attack against Judaism. Why is it that such claims are okay when they are directed against Christianity? When Christians complain, about the Da Vinci Code, we are told, “Oh, it’s just a story.” In my mind, we need to be much more up in arms about the way the media and various segments of our culture view Christianity and our Catholic faith. A response can only begin with each of us taking responsibility to be educated and ready to defend the faith. We cannot wait for someone else to do this for us. Each of us must take personal responsibility to learn, know, and share the truth of our Catholic faith. And I think the present moment is a wonderful opportunity, even a blessing, if we respond in faith.
My suggestion for us all is that we engage in a unique boycott of the movie. Opening weekends are critically important for measuring a movie’s success. So, on this upcoming weekend, go to the movies and simply see a different movie. If you must see the Code, make yourself wait a couple of weeks to see it – it is bound to be around for quite a while. And, if you will spend the time and the money to see the movie, then also commit yourself to spending the time and the money to buy, read, and study a book exposing the errors of the Code.
After one of the Masses, a lady told me: "Father, thank you for waking me up from my apathy as a Catholic. Those words you spoke were directed right at me. I'm going to check into these resources and learn more." I thanked her and went on to assure her that my own words were really directed at me, since I think I have waited too long to do anything about this. But the theater of battle is up and running now. And there will be more to come.