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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rewarding Injustice

When I think about friends of mine gushing about what "a great movie" the Da Vinci Code was, there's this one stark reaction deep within me: it hurts. Some enterprising people have just made money through fiction that explores, in the public arena, whether or not my family, from generation to generation, has been deceptive and murderous.

My friends have basically rewarded Dan Brown and Ron Howard for their efforts. Never mind what their objectives were -- for example, people like Tom Hanks have claimed such noble aims as "to get people talking" about their faith. However, the end does not justify the means. To make a movie that villifies an entire community of believers, in this and generations before it, is a very grave venture. To do so using lies and embellishments, even assuming noble ends, cannot be justified. The means used by Brown and Howard are gravely wrong: slander, insult, deception. To insinuate that a non-fictional group of people are guilty of murder is usually considered an offense. Except when the victim is the Catholic Church, of course.

It dawned on me yesterday that the DVC phenomenon is not exclusively an attack on the initiates to the faith, whom the book might deceive into relinquishing their explorations. The attack is particularly subtle against self-professed "open-minded" Christians themselves who laud the book and the movie. They are being desensitized to attacks against Christians and Christ. Without knowing it, these Christians who support the movie are giving up their sense of justice and truth. Instead of being concerned about the insults and deception, they are more concerned about being seen as over-reacting. They do not realize that, by supporting Brown and Howard, they are encouraging similar pursuits in the future. They do so without saying "you should make more such movies." It is enough that they are saying "we don't mind that you make such movies -- we'll watch them." Without realizing it, the people who say so are eschewing valid forms of dialogue for other forms that set a tone hostile to the Gospel. This CE article relates that, according to "interviews given by the screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and the producer Brian Grazer, “no outside research” was conducted in production of the movie; “the ‘truth’ in books was never of any interest” to the makers of the film (L.A. Times 5-16-2006)." Read that again: “the ‘truth’ in books was never of any interest”. Where is the intelligence in that?

The Church has faced attacks before, and the attacks will never stop until the Lord comes again. The casualty in these attacks is never the Church, for she will never fall because Christ himself sustains her. I'm pointing out that the casualties include those in the Church who, rather than dennounce the attacks, watch them unfold as spectators. As it so happens, the recent attack was through a movie, therefore making the spectators not simply silent witnesses but the satisfied patrons of an entertaining bloodsport. As the author of same CE article relates, a friend who is a movie critic, "who sees an average of 300 films a year, looking back over his repertoire of film history, confirmed that Stigmata, Priest, and Dogma were child’s play compared to this film."

To those who believe themselves "above the pettiness" of the furor over DVC the movie, I have to ask: by considering the DVC as a valid venue for dialogue with our Christian faith, does one not justify dialogue without any basis of truth? How can you dialogue with someone who does not care enough to bring true research into the discussions?

Finally, I wonder if the makers of the movie are basically saying this:

 "Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance." (Wisdom 2:17-19; suggested commentary by Mark Shea)

Perhaps they say this of the Church. It is noteworthy that, while this something that prophets expected of those who reject Christ, it is perplexing that such an attitude can come from Christians themselves. Sure, this passage refers to Christ himself, but Christians, of all people, should know that to persecute the body of Christ is to persecute Christ himself. So I ask in all sincerity: what are Christians doing, approving the persecution of Christ and his Church?

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