Why should we join in the pre- and post-movie dialogue about "The Da Vinci Code"? As people and as Christians, we are called to leave the window to our mind open so that we can receive wisdom and grace, even if it involves acknowledging the dark and painful or even the intellectual, or thinking areas of our lives and our world. The release of the film is not just another movie venture, but rather a priceless opportunity for meaningful, even profound, dialogue about Christianity, religion, money, power, sexuality, philosophy, and theology. It is also an opportunity to envision,and give voice to, progressive Christian ideas about Christ and the Church.
“The more we can keep conversations open and going the more chances we give the Holy Spirit to work. But too often people want to get into an argument right away. And, you know, Jesus has handled 2,000 years of questions, skepticism, and attacks, and he's gonna come through just fine. So we don't have to be worried.”
–Brain McLaren (from “Culture Watch: Brian McLaren on The Da Vinci Code,” An interview by Lisa Ann Cockrel in “Sojourners: Special Issue: Brian McLaren on The Da Vinci Code,” May 9, 2006, http://www.sojo.net/)
One of my favorite hymns includes, “Open the Window, Let the Dove Fly In," (see the new UU Hymnal Supplement for details.) To me, this means we are responsible for keeping the windows to our minds open to thoughts, ideas, and possibilities; to allow us to grow in wisdom and in faith; not to ignore or disregard things just because they are part of pop culture or may present ideas we find disturbing or concepts we disagree with. In a recent interview regarding The Da Vinci Code, Brian McLaren was quoted as saying:
“I would like to see churches teach their people how to have intelligent dialogue that doesn't degenerate into argument. We have to teach people that the Holy Spirit works in the middle of conversation. We see it time and time again - Jesus enters into dialogue with people; Paul and Peter and the apostles enter into dialogue with people. We tend to think that the Holy Spirit can only work in the middle of a monologue where we are doing the speaking.” (From “Culture Watch: Brian McLaren on The Da Vinci Code,” An interview by Lisa Ann Cockrel in “Sojourners: Special Issue: Brian McLaren on The Da Vinci Code,” May 9, 2006, http://www.sojo.net/)
The Da Vinci Code has exploded into American culture, not once, but at least twice. (If you count the book, the lawsuit regarding the book, and now the upcoming film.) The release of the film is not just another movie venture, but rather a priceless opportunity for meaningful, even profound dialogue about Christianity, religion, money, power, sexuality, philosophy, and theology. It is also an opportunity to give voice to, and envision, a progressive Christian idea(s) about Christ and the Church. The film adaptation of the best selling book is likely to lead to many pre and post-movie-going conversations about the story and the movie. Due to the rich cultural content of the film, it is also possible for moviegoers to have emotional reactions to the film based on their own values and beliefs. Belief systems aside, we can all use some questions and ideas to help us frame and/or reflect on our movie-going experience.
Assuming most of us have already begun the process of pre-judging this film - based on comments and/or documents from friends, family, clergy, or even one of many books or websites providing different perspectives on The Da Vinci Code – I suggest preparing to view The Da Vinci Code by keeping in mind one or two questions or examining one or two ideas of your own.
Preparing for the Film:
Examine your own ideas about organized religion:
What is your vision of the (Christian and/or Catholic) church? What do you see in the church? What would you like to see in the church?
How do you feel about your faith community? What is your vision for your faith community? What would you like to see change in your faith community? (You could substitute “organized religion” for “your faith community”)
During the Movie:
Keep the movie in perspective:
Is this movie true to life?
Who or what do the main characters represent?
Following the Film:
Engage in meaningful dialogue. (Attempt not to end up in an argument where you walk away from the discussion, but to respect the voices of all parties, as suggested in the Sojourners article.)
Regardless of how you do your movie viewing, I do recommend that you join in a group discussion following the movie. (I am including some questions I collected from clergy, laity and some modified questions from www.uua.org curriculum materials, including Film as Theological Text.) In addition to the two questions mentioned above, I recommend you use these discussion questions following the film:
1. What emotions has this film evoked in you? Where do you think these feelings come from?
2. What personal experiences does the film bring to mind?
3. Who had access to power and privilege in the film? Why? How?
4. How would you describe each of the main characters? What do you think each represented?
5. What religious or theological upbringing or traditions motivated the characters to act as they did?
6. What do you think of the characterizations of the people in this story? Do the portrayals seem positive? Respectful? Stereotyped? Realistic?
7 Does this movie build up or break down stereotypes?
8. What does this movie say about us as people? If an alien saw this movie, what would the alien think about us?
9. What do you think this film says about our world today?
10. While you may view some or all of the movie as not factually true, are there any profound truths or concepts which the movie reveals?
The Da Vinci Code, in particular, brings up many religious and theological issues. This is a great opportunity for learning more about the Christian faith and church history as well as examining and re-examining our own beliefs. Whether or not you decide to fully investigate all the claims made in this or any film, I recommend a bit of thoughtful dialogue before you give this or any film the “thumb-up” or “thumb-down”. Perhaps you will find your thumb points you in an entirely new direction! Remember to “Open the window, Let the dove fly in!”
-Kathleen Soboleska, Seminarian at Pacific School of Religion, Unitarian Universalist, and Office Manager for the Santa Clara County Council of Churches