Sunday, June 04, 2006

beating a dead horse?

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 to love and to give and to serve...within and around the world.

Dear Church,

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.



jackaway said...

hey Mandy,
i gotta say, coming from a church currently pulling the davinci code card for a sermon series, i was a little stung by your comments ; ). ya know, i was thinking the other day along the lines of what you are writing. It seemed like every church i passed was doing the series, but i just wondered why it was three years later, or two, whichever it is. however, the reason that in the end i really think it is necessary is because before this it was a best selling fiction novel, but not necessarily high-profile or pop culture status yet. now, with the release of the movie, considered by many to be the most anticipated film in 20 years and grossing the second highest amount for an opening weekend movie on a worldwide level, that yeah, we do need to talk about this.

case in point. my chiropracter watched the film. didnt read the book. could care less about the book. she saw a ron howard film. so then she asks me about a million questions about the movie, to find out if they are true. had i not been to Bible college and read some stuff before hand i would have had nothing to say. i think most people in churches are in this latter boat. they know nothing about history and the church so they get cornered and dont know how to respond. the hope is that by doing a series like this you enable the audience to interact with a world with questions.

just some thoughts of mine...and im wrong most of the time, so feel free to disagree.

so when you gonna come check out oak brook mall and ruehl?

Mandy said...

Hey friend!

I completely understand your viewpoint. I realize my comments could seem harsh and slightly bitter, but mostly I just think this topic has been so exhausted. I think it works some places, but in others maybe not. Honestly, a lot of it is coming from my perspective from Eastview's approach, so each church could be tackling it in a different way.

Instead of hypothetically writing to all churches, maybe I should've just hypothetically written to Eastview! I know that our services have seemed very redundant, and the attendance has actually gone down each week during the series.

So anyway, I agree with you on the fact that had we not gone through Bible College, I'd not have answers for people either!

I don't think you're wrong and I certainly don't think I'm right. Most of the time it's just my opinion flying out of my mouth or fingers. I probably just need to communicate it more effectively.

;-) Well, no matter what, God is using these sermon series' whether I like or not I'm sure. Hopefully sometime soon I'll make it up to Oakbrook again...hope all is well!

Lucas said...

On the contrary, I think the letter is very well writen. The point is what you asked, Why not preach on Left Behind or other fictional books? I just think sometimes we make ourselves look rediculous. When National Treasure came out you didn't see history buffs picketing theatres and writing 20 books about how there really isn't a map on the back of the Declaration of Independence. It's fiction.

And Jackaway, if we preach this because people watch the movie and don't read the book, I don't think we have much to worry about. The movie was mediocre at best. I actually understood the history behind it and found myself feeling as if the dialouge was confusing and rushed. And they WAY toned down the contriversy. Everything Tom Hanks said ended or began with "Some say" or "Legend has it". The book would be far more dangerous.

But in the end isn't that the way of it? We react to culture because we are afraid. "Oh no, the Da Vinci Code is coming! People will be swept away by it's story!" Then Christians run around in a panic and try everything they can to denounce it not realizing that it makes the Christian community look rediculous that we are spending large resources to disprove a fictional book. This not only makes us look rediculous, but it adds validity to the book's claims. "Obviously, it must be important to get the Christians all in an uproar."

I just think many times Christians get in a huff about pop-culture and fads, it makes us look weak. Christianity withstood persicution across the globe, I'm sure the Da Vinci Code will pass. If anything this just points to the places in our teach we should have been teaching in the first place.

Mandy said...

"We react to culture because we are afraid. "Oh no, the Da Vinci Code is coming! People will be swept away by it's story!" Then Christians run around in a panic and try everything they can to denounce it not realizing that it makes the Christian community look rediculous that we are spending large resources to disprove a fictional book. This not only makes us look rediculous, but it adds validity to the book's claims. "Obviously, it must be important to get the Christians all in an uproar."

Very well said, Lucas. The above quote--exactly my point.