On May 19 The Da Vinci Code movie will premiere in the U.S. The movie is, of course, an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Dan Brown. It is directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks. The combination of a story loved by millions who purchased the book, and an Academy Award winning director and actor suggests that this film will be a blockbuster.
Evangelicals have been responding to concerns ab0ut the Da Vinci Code since the book was first published. With the film ready to debut, evangelicals are cranking up their responses to the movie as well. Some of the responses by evangelicals have been well done, providing a reasoned consideration of the church's traditional understandings of the Bible, the life of Jesus, and the history of the church. Of course, the church does have a responsibility to respond to the historical and theological inaccuracies within Brown's fictionalized novel. Nevertheless, thus far Christian groups seem largely (or solely) focused on defensive reactions to issues of theology and history, while ignoring equally significant cultural aspects of Brown's novel.
For examples of the types of evangelical responses, Tyndale House Publishers is organizing a "Da Vinci didn't convince me" marketing campaign for churches, while the Josh McDowell Ministry has included "Da Vinci packs" in their Beyond Belief campaign. Again, the church does need to understand its history and theology in light of the counter-claims of Da Vinci Code, but in the process we're assuming the church will be heard outside of its walls when we engage the culture, and we're ignoring another imporant angle for cultural engagement. In light of America's post-Christendom and post-modern culture, the church must engage culture in different ways and address the specfic concerns of that culture. Christendom culture approaches will not work in a post-Christendom environment. In addition, not only should we be thinking about what the church will say to the culture, but what is the culture's interest in Da Vinci Code saying back to the church? The Da Vinci Code raises several interesting isues for the church's critical self-reflection:
Concepts of the Divine (masculine and feminine imagery, particularly with concerns over patriarchy).The church in the West must discover ways in which to move beyond mere confrontation in order to embrace missional engagement with the culture that is self-critical, positive, proactive, and holisitic, addressing not only theology and history but contemporary culture as well. If we continue to merely respond defensively, outside the church as well as within, we will perpetuate our continuing marginalization and isolation. Can we move beyond confrontational approaches to popular culture and our propensity to preach to the choir to seize the opportunity presented by this new movie? I'm afraid I'm not very optimistic.
Christ (emphasizing his humanity as well as his deity, where the church may overemphasize one at the expense of the other).
Gnosticism (the church's denunciation of "New Age" in the 1980s and beyond did little to address the West's continuing fascination with various forms of Gnosticism and neo-Gnosticism).
Women (gender roles in church and society).
Sexuality and the body (moving beyond Puritanical concepts).
Conspiracy theories (why they continue to grip our imagination).
Church (as authority structure, and its relationship to popular culture).