Turns out that Sony, the studio who is producing The Da Vinci Code movie, has worked with Grace Hill Media, "a consulting firm that has worked with religious communities and motion picture studios on more than 80 films", and created a site, www.davincichallenge.com, for Christian critics of the novel and movie. The FAQ page states:
TheDaVinciChallenge.com is a website offering informative essays by a broad array of leading Christian scholars, pastors and educators addressing many of the historical and theological issues touched on in The Da Vinci Code. The essay writers represent an eclectic group of experts from Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. The site was launched on February 9th, 2006.
Well, if "broad array" means having one Catholic, four Eastern Orthodox, and numerous Evangelicals, then broad array it is. As far as I know, Ignatius Press was never contacted about taking part; I certainly wasn't. So, is the lone Catholic "expert" someone who has written a book about the Coded Craziness, or is a biblical scholar, or is a theologian? Naw:
Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, is the founding Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, CA She has a M.A. in Education in Media Studies from the Institute of Education, University of London, and a Diploma in Catechetics, as well as a Certificate in Pastoral Communications, from the University of Dayton in OH. Pacatte is the film/TV columnist for St. Anthony Messenger and a contributor to The Tidings. She also co-authored the award-winning book series, Lights, Camera...Faith! A Movie Lectionary.
I don't know much about Sister Rose Pacatte, except that, well, she writes for St. Anthony Messenger and she thought that Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was a "horror" flick:
Sister Rose Pacatte, a Daughter of St. Paul and co-author of the "Lights, Camera, Faith: A Movie Lover’s Guide to Scripture" book series, had problems with the "personification of evil in the form of a woman." "I would have wished this film could have moved away from this overused stereotype of evil," Sister Pacatte said, adding that judging from some of the opening scenes she felt "this film actually belongs to the horror genre."
Amy Welborn makes several good points about the website and those involved:
A website of this nature, with experts (we hope) telling the "truth) about the Da Vinci Code could have been dreamed up and promoted without taking a dime from Sony. Could have. Because frankly, you're now in bed with them. Hope it's good for you.
My other question, aside from money, is whether any of these people, from Grace Hill to Hollywood Jesus to the experts, have a)read the script or b)seen any kind of cut of the film. I'm assuming that Grace Hill has - that they know exactly what they're encouraging people to see. Any information on this question would be welcome, either on the comments board or in an email to me. ...
And here's the snarkiest, rudest question of all: Could it be possible that this mainly Protestant-driven enterprise is perfectly happy to point people towards The Da Vinci Code because, in fact, it is the "Catholic Church" that is constantly besmirched, by name? In encouraging (or at least not discouraging) people to see the film, they are reinforcing bad vibes around the word "Catholic," then are happy to "correct" the film by directing them to their own resources, produced by their own denominations?
I left a couple of comments on Amy's blog, including this:
My initial reaction is that this is all rather surreal. I'm all for using the Coded Craziness for good — when and if possible — but I think Amy is correct in saying "you're now in bed with them." Indeed. And she is definitely correct to ask this question:
If a biopic were produced that dramatized ill-founded, negative "alternative" histories of Billy Graham, John Wesley or Martin Luther, would Grace Hill agree to push the film to Christian audiences, thereby making more money for the film's producers, all for that "teachable moment?
Of course not. For some (certainly not all) Evangelicals, this probably appears to be a win/win situation: get a few licks in on the Catholic Church and promote your responses to the Code — responses that will focus almost exclusively on defending Scripture, not on telling the full story of who wrote the Bible (Catholics), who preserved the Bible (Catholics), and who defined the canon of the NT, aided by the Holy Spirit (Catholics).
One of the dangers of apologetics is taking a utilitarian, pragmatic approach that can distort the Big Picture even while getting many of the details right. My experience as an Evangelical (I entered the Catholic Church in 1997) was that such an approach often took place when dealing with matters of history. Yes, Catholic apologists do the same thing and there is plenty of mediocre apologetics and dubious historical "research" in the Catholic world (I'm thinking here of popular level works, not academic works). But, when it comes to Church history, many Evangelical apologists will (understandably) focus on defending the Bible while providing only what is absolutely necessary about the larger context, which is thoroughly Catholic.
I applaud and respect the efforts of Evangelicals such as Dr. Bock in responding to the Coded Craziness. But I don't think I would want to be involved in The Da Vinci Challenge site because I don't want to be part of the Sony Publicity Machine; this is a project (publicity stunt?) that has a certain smell of condescension to it. I have no interest in exhorting people not to see the movie (after all, I will see it), but I'm certainly not going to tell people they should see it, as though they need to view it in order for them to be told the truth about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Bible, Emperor Constantine, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Perhaps Amy and I are just full of sour grapes? I'm sure some will think so. Frankly, it's irritating that the vast majority of news articles and television documentaries/infomercials about the Coded Craziness contain hardly any content from Catholics who 1) actually know something about the Da Vinci Code, 2) who directly address the salient issues (that is, don't just talk incessantly about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, which is only part of the problem), and 3) who aren't embarrassed by Church teachings. But, it's a rather moot point in this case, since I don't think I'd want to be eating from the hand that is slapping me and making money off of me. As I also wrote on Amy's blog about Sister Rose Pacatte's favorite horror movie:
I think that all Christians would do well to remember how Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" was repeatedly denounced by Hollywood and the MSM as 1) anti-Semitic, 2) historically inaccurate, and 3) bizarrely violent/bloody. Now we have a movie that, if it adheres to the novel (which it apparently does), is clearly anti-Catholic, historically inaccurate to a degree that is stupifying, and quite bizarre in its crazy brew of New Age-isms, radical feminist blarney, and neo-gnostic pseudo-scholarship. And Christians are going to be involved in a website sponsored by the studio that is producing it? Again, it just doesn't add up to me...
Finally, check out the comments (PDF file) of Evangelical apologist Josh McDowell:
.... McDowell, author of The Da Vinci Code -- A Quest for Truth, not only urges a trip to the theater, but also advises everybody to read the novel. Then, he says, read his book. “I don’t attack [The Da Vinci Code author] Dan Brown. I don’t attack the book,” says McDowell, who is on the staff of Orlando-based Campus Crusade for Christ. “Let’s see where fact leaves off and imagination begins. It’s a marvelous opportunity to be positive. The main purpose of my book is to reinforce their belief and placate their skepticism. If you look carefully, truth will always stand.” ...
The marriage of convenience -- if that is what it is -- between evangelicals and the film’s producers “doesn’t seem so startling to me,” says Teresa Berger, professor of ecumenical theology at Duke University Divinity School. “That’s how consumer capitalism functions in relationship to religious traditions.” For his part, McDowell can’t wait for May 19. “I look at the book and the movie as a platform for evangelism,” he says. “A little controversy can be a marvelous tool.”
True, it can be. But is being involved in a website produced by the one attacking your beliefs really the the way to address controversy? Analogously, if Playboy magazine asked you to write an article explaining why pornography is bad, would you write the article and then encourage people to look through the entire issue before reading your article? Don't get me wrong — I don't think that boycotting the movie or telling people they shouldn't see it is going to evangelize. But warning people about spiritual and intellectual dangers doesn't have to be solely motivated by the desire to evangelize; rather, it should be motivated by the desire to spare them from intellectual pornography that they might not be able to adequately handle. Giving people living water is one thing. But telling them that they need to wallow in dirt before you show them how to shower is quite another...