Here is a letter I'd like to write to some churches nationwide right now:
Disclaimer: As you consider my words, Church, please don't think that I harbor anger or bitterness against you, as many sometimes do, because I dearly love you. I love the Body of Christ and how each part is different yet plays a crucial role in a greater purpose. I love the variation and the beauty of uniqueness within God's creation. I love how each of us reflects the Father's image in a different way. I love that it is a place where all are welcomed and all are loved, and I love that the Church is made up of imperfect people who are simply set free...free to love and to give and to serve...within and around the world.
I'm writing you out of concern that we might be missing the point on a few things. After a considerable number of congregations have begun to debunk The Da Vinci Code through 4-week or even 5-week sets of sermons, I have begun to question this as a necessity. Dan Brown's fictional piece has been out for 3 years now, and only the fame of the film's recent release has brought on this phenomenon of Christian defense. If the book alone contains the falsehoods we're now decoding, why has it taken us so long to do so?
It is claimed that 45 million American adults have read this book and that, out of that number, a large percentage have probably believed statements that are unbiblical and nonsensical. False teachings are everywhere in Brown's writing. Are they not everywhere in fictional work? Are they not everywhere in the world? Dan Brown's bright ideas may appear to be different, but in reality they are nothing new. Why didn't we argue the Left Behind series in a similar way? Why have we left alone the millions of other false teachings that permeate our culture? The Barna Research group, in fact, concluded that "The Da Vinci Code confirms rather than changes people's religious beliefs." If it is already confirming rather than changing beliefs, then why are we taking so much time out of our Sundays to argue Brown's fictitious story when we could be preaching a 5-week series straight from scripture--perhaps 1 Timothy 1:3-11--about false teaching?
I realize that I, having completed Bible College (though I still feel like I know very little), may be more grounded in my beliefs than some believers. If I were to read Brown's book (which I have not yet done, simply because I just haven't) I would probably recognize and be able to separate truth from fiction quite easily. There are some who may not be able to, and that is probably why we're taking such a strong stand against The Da Vinci Code--to help those brothers and sister decipher what is true. However, I think we're misplacing the blame--it isn't necessarily the fault of Dan Brown that some may be led astray by fictional truth.
Might it be the Church's fault? Can I even make mention of such an idea? Is it possible that the Church is at fault for failing to teach basic foundational truths about Jesus? Perhaps a stronger emphasis on solid Christian beliefs, a better foundation on truth, or further discipleship and follow-through with young believers might be the answer. When that begins, the Christian worldview can be formed and nurtured, and then a believer can look through the eyes of Scripture and into things like The Da Vinci Code, the latest Kanye West album, American Idol, the AIDS crisis in Africa, or Brad Pitt and Angelina's relationship. Having a Christian worldview is the starting point.
One of the best things about the Church is that it's a place where believers and seekers can be taught the truths about Jesus and the Bible in a corporate setting. The reason for this is so that conversation and action happens; truths are not only taught, but they are talked about and, in turn, lived out. Wouldn't it be a shame if, right now, a seeker came to one of these Da Vinci Code-Decoding services and saw how argumentative and defensive we seem to be? That is my fear in all of this--that we might lose many on account of prideful defense (or in this case offense). Just this morning I could sense an argumentative nature that should probably have taken place between the preacher and Dan Brown rather than between the pulpit and the pews.
I appreciate and am thankful for the decoding of fiction that is happening for those who may not have been able to discern what was true and even for my own knowledge. However, I simply feel it has been drawn out too long and we are missing the point. We are beginning with culture and going back to Scripture to find a strong defense. Shouldn't we begin with Scripture and simply learn and study and understand so that then we can view culture?
These are just questions I've pondered throughout this series and as I've discovered the growing number of churches covering this fashionable topic for varying numbers of weeks. I am not a leader in a Church, I realize, so my words may mean very little. But I am, however, one of the many who sit in the pews on Sunday morning and crave spiritual food that will help me to understand my God and His Kingdom and His creation more. I would love it if we began with His word.
Thank you, and I look forward very much to the next series to come, whatever it may be.