The DaVinci Code controversy: Conservatives miss the boat on one of the year's biggest religious opportunities
Conservative groups have reacted around the world with righteous indignation at the opening of the film adaptation for Dan Brown's dramatically compelling, but poorly-written novel, "The DaVinci Code." Calls for a boycott of Sony Pictures are reminiscent of the knee-jerk response to the 1989 Martin Scorcese film, "The Last Temptation of Christ," when Catholic protests against the film drove up attendance to the great satisfaction of the producers. Catholic conservatives are insuring that more people than ever will see Ron Howard's film this year. So if their intent is to limit the fallout for the already battered reputation of our Church, the effect of their efforts will be exactly the opposite of their intent.
What most fail to realize is that putting up fisticuffs in response to some seeming insult, like a story that uses Jesus as a simple character in a typical Hollywood mystery, plays into their failure to comprehend the central message that Jesus brought to us in the Gospels: love your enemies. The sententious Bill Donohue, who uses the Catholic League to dress up the Heritage Foundation's pro-Republican agenda in Catholic language, blurted out threats to the film's director in a press release in advance of the film's release: "Had he done what other directors have done before him and put in a disclaimer, the risks to his reputation would have been minimal. Now it's show time for Mr. Howard, and not just his movie."
But Christianity is not about threats, or beating up on its adversaries, or intimidating others into believing its message. True Christianity is about living the Gospel, and letting others judge the power of the message for themselves. People of Mr. Donohue's ilk who do not acknowledge the brokenness of their Christianity, when it fails to grapple with things like the Bush Administration's ongoing sponsorship of murder in Iraq and their un-Christian threats against Iran and Syria, can only be stuck tinkering around the edges of evangelization while someone like Ron Howard wins the hearts of Christians with simple fiction. The belligerence of the conservatives, more than anything else, makes that fiction ring vaguely true for the millions who have already read the book.