5-24 DaVinci Code
By JAY MILLER
SANTA FE -- Although the French didn't like the DaVinci Code at Cannes, the impact in the United States and around the world already has been major.
Catholic Church groups have organized demonstrations and boycotts. Leaders of Christians who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible are turning out professional videos designed to show the perils of blurring fact and fiction.
These evangelical churches are not asking their members to stay away from the movie. As one pastor said, when you have a tsunami coming, it doesn't help to build a wall.
Instead, evangelicals say, they welcome the debate because their congregations are more interested than ever in knowing what the Bible has to say. So why not take advantage of it? The debate is sure to increase church attendance.
Understandably, the Catholics have been more reactionary because they are the main target of the movie, whose premise is that the church covered up the marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the daughter who was born to them.
Besides protests, some Catholic officials have suggested going to court. In the Philippines and Greece, courts have banned the movie. The possibility of a suit for damages also has been considered.
It is a bit ironic that the book's author, Dan Brown, just finished successfully defending himself against a suit by two historians claiming he had stolen their idea.
Brown's defense to the charges by both the church and the historians is that the book and movie are fiction and not meant to be the gospel truth or historically accurate.
Bob Parks, who writes a physics newsletter, says scientists understand how both the church and historians feel. "Science fiction writers have been stealing our themes for years and portraying us as Dr. Strangeloves," he says. And, he added, they also get the physics wrong.
That's the thing about fiction. It's make-believe, not belief or fact. I still remember my grandfather's words, when he took me to see Bambi in Las Cruces over 60 years ago. As I stood in front of my seat, crying my eyes out, he kept whispering, "It's just a movie. It's just a movie."
The DaVinci Code has been called heresy by those who don't understand the word "fiction." They should be going after the historians who sued Brown for stealing their writings. They were the ones who claimed them as fact.
They could be accused of heresy. Fortunately heresy no longer is punishable by death as it was in the early days of this country and much of the rest of the world.
Heresy still is punishable by death in some parts of the Muslim world. Just ask Salman Rushdie who still is on the run from a fatwa issued by Iran for his book Satanic Verses.
A Catholic archbishop in England noted the Muslim treatment of heretics and lamented that the Catholic Church is now viewed as a "soft touch." We can assume he wasn't suggesting a death edict but merely was longing for the days when the Catholic Church had the power to keep such movies off the screen.
The Catholic Church still had that power in the United States well into the 1960s with its Legion of Decency that vetted film scripts since the early days of talkies.
But that was replaced by the present day ratings system, which doesn't always work. But getting too upset likely just plays into the hands of the film's promoters. It appears that the strategy of most groups opposed to the movie is going to be to proclaim it exceedingly dull, not worth seeing and so far-fetched that no one will believe it.
To become too concerned that the movie will destroy people's faith insults the intelligence of parishioners. A better idea is to adopt the evangelicals' approach of using the film as a teaching and organizing tool.
The Santa Fe Masons took a similar approach soon after the book came out. Seeing that their order was not treated kindly by the book, they held a large public forum at their lodge hall to explain their purpose and answer all questions.
JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail) email@example.com