We were in the newspaper this week. Our local twice-a-month paper ran a front page story about mountain churches trying to “crack” the DaVinci Code. I remember asking one of their reporters whether any other churches were dealing with the book or movie and she turned this into a news story. Apparently there was enough interest to write about it. There was a picture of me in there with several of our members to boot. I haven’t had any requests for autographs, though. The reporter also dealt with the subject in an editorial, referring to her experience in one of our sessions. You never know how the media is going to relate church to the public, so you hope for the best.

It’s interesting to hear how other churches are handling (or not handling) the book. Of the four churches mentioned in the paper, ours and a Presbyterian church did some type of study on it while the Church of Christ and Episcopal church passed on the opportunity. The two that were doing nothing said things like they were too busy sharing the love of Christ or didn’t want to give the Devil any attention other than rebuking him. To each his own, and it’s not a test of fellowship to do a study of Dan Brown’s book. But, our church is dealing with it to capitalize on a golden opportunity to discuss our beliefs and learn how others view the church.

If I had announced that we were having a doctrinal series on “the person and work of Christ'” or “The authority and inspiration of Scripture” there would not have been the response that I have had since starting the discussion on the DaVinci Code. I regret admitting that, but suspect that this would be true in a large majority of Baptist churches. Talking doctrine with many church members would be a yawner for sure, especially without a catered meal. Many Christians (at least Baptists) accept with the deity and humanity of Christ for the most part and don’t need convincing about it. They could use a fresher course to have some ammo to discuss their beliefs with some degree of intelligence (After hearing some Baptist preachers and denominational leaders, you’d think having a little brain power is a bad thing. Besides, you can always say that those who disagree with you “just don’t believe the Bible”–I digress). Anyway, Baptists are also “people of the book” and are passionate in their discussion about it. Unfortunately, too many take God’s Word for granted because they’ve “heard all the stories.” So, utilizing the DaVinci Code makes sense to demonstrate how faith intersects with real life. There are too many misconceptions about God, Jesus, and the Bible for the church not to respond in a positive way. As one of my theology professors said, “Wrong ideas about God are idolatrous.” Bad doctrine messes people up.

We are in the middle of this study and will be finishing up in a few weeks. We’ve talked about issues raised by the Brown novel with a cup of coffee in one hand and the Bible in the other. The newspaper reporter seemed to suggest we were “focusing” on the DaVinci Code, but in reality we are talking about theological issues that surface in its reading. I have been encouraging by the lively discussion, most recently from our look at “Jesus, Mary Magdelene, and women.” Going through the preparation and presentation each week has had an unexpected result, however. I have lamented the fact that many are reading this novel and saying “Yes, that’s what I thought about the church all along!” The book deals with the Roman Catholic Church in particular, but the impact is felt along other denominational lines as well. I have also been reminded that apathy toward basic Christian doctrines is causing spiritual decay in our ranks. This has been going on for a long time and we are going to pay a price for it.

This is the 21st century. There have been many assaults on Christianity and the church, so the DaVinci Code isn’t the first time. I’m not convinced that the book is “anti-church” or if that was the author’s purpose. Some preachers have called it “heresy” or an “epistle from hell” and other less complementary descriptions (By the way, the church hasn’t had a great report card throughout certain periods in history). I told our bunch I wasn’t endorsing the book or movie version. What we’re dealing with is the theological underpinnings of Brown’s work, and if that makes us think more seriously about who we are, what we believe, and WHY, the effort will be worth it.