The release of the movie The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks, was supposed to be the greatest challenge to Christian faith in America in decades, so say some conservatives. It was nothing of the kind. What the book and movie reveals, notes pollster George Barna, is that people’s religious views are not really being changed at all. They are simply being confirmed, Barna suggests.
I saw the movie about ten days ago. My first response was a non-response. Believe me, it is not a very good movie. The critics are almost unanimous in their dislike and the movie is proving to be a real dud for very good reason. The plot was hard to follow, the story line quite boring and within a half hour you begin to feel like you’re watching a high-priced fairytale that takes itself way too seriously. Hanks looks very old (I guess he is old by now) and turns in a very poor performance. After Forest Gump and Philadelphia I expected much more.
Look, Dan Brown’s book is pure unadulterated fiction. Yes, I know, it is the best-selling fiction book in U. S. history. This only tells me several things. First, American’s like a good story that reads easily and demands little. Second, American’s have tended to associate religion and fiction for several decades so this is no new story. Third, pop culture drives the church into fearful responses regularly. I want to stand up and say to Christians who are so deeply concerned about this phenomenon, “Get over it. People are far more interested in how you live your faith than in how you understand Dan Brown’s book.” Fourth, Gnosticism is alive and well in America. This should be of much greater concern to conservative Christians, many of whom buy into the latent Gnosticism of pop-fiction like the Left Behind series.
Will we ever get beyond this emotional need to respond to pop culture every time someone attacks the Christian faith? These silly Gnostic stories about a feminized divinity are not new. The early church had to contend with them as well but they did a far better job in doing so precisely because they understood that outliving their neighbors was a far better apologetic than producing tit-for-tat popular responses. Furthermore, the gospel is a far more compelling story than The Da Vinci Code if, and this is a huge if, it is told well. Maybe that is our problem. We do such a poor job telling the story that writer’s like Dan Brown can steal our thunder, at least for a season. I promise you, long after Dan Brown is forgotten the gospel will still be a better story.