Monday, June 19, 2006

A green light for blasphemy

Interesting ... from today's USA Today Dale Buss let's us in on his internal debate for whether or not a Christian should go see the Da Vinci Code ...

A green light for blasphemy


When The Da Vinci Code hit theaters last month, like other Christians around the world I faced a dilemma: to go and see it, or not. At first I considered arguments in favor? mostly so that I could be in the loop culturally, and because the story and settings are so intriguing. But then I started thinking more seriously about what my small vote, my "yea" or "nay" to The Da Vinci Code, would say.

... and ...

In the end, my reasoning was much more visceral: I just didn't want to be a party -- especially a paying party -- to what I consider blasphemy. I didn't want to give money, time or any other homage to a film that is not merely heretical but also attacks my faith at its foundational levels and seems fully intent on reshaping how the world views Christ.

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Blasphemy is something that no one talks about anymore because it's now considered a backward concern in our relentlessly secularizing Western culture. Basically, blasphemy is demeaning the sacred or the supernatural through speech or action. It was considered such a serious sin that, according to the Book of Jude, the archangel Michael refused to badmouth even the devil. Nor did the ancient Greeks and Romans take it lightly when someone defamed their pantheon.

Nowadays, however, blasphemy is a cottage industry in American entertainment and letters. Whether it's the Code's professor Sir Leigh Teabing, or Madonna in her blood-red shirt pinned to a huge crucifix to kick off her latest concert tour, or even Hollywood's cynical attempts to cash in on The Passion of the Christ with tasteless TV dramas such as The Book of Daniel, Christianity has become a permissible whipping boy. Rather than some kind of new pinnacle of cultural enlightenment and progress, this trend is only another troubling indicator of the disregard for the Judeo-Christian underpinnings of Western society.

... and ...

Or if a major motion picture were based on the premise that the iconic emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, secretly was a slave-owning megalomaniac, would you eagerly line up to see it because you owe the other side a look at its interpretation of our 16th president?

That's basically what the Code does. It's "a flaming contradiction to what the Gospels say about Jesus, undermining his deity and his ministry, relegating his significance to the earthbound," as the Rev. Daniel Lewis, my pastor at Troy (Mich.) Christian Chapel, puts it.

Christians are used to the idea of both dishing it out and taking it. The Gospel is a watershed manifesto. Its assertions inevitably divide people. The cross, ultimately, will either offend you? or beckon you.

It's fine if The Da Vinci Code wants to give everyone an alternative view. But Christians don't have to bankroll it.

Dale Buss is a journalist and author in Rochester Hills, Mich. A paperback version of his book, Family Man: The Biography of Dr. James Dobson, will be published this fall.

I'm not sure why, but almost everything in life reminds me of a quote from a great (or sometimes not-so-great) movie. This one reminds me of a quote from "Lawrence of Arabia" (a great one).

Col. Lawrence has led his band of Muslim fighters toward Aqaba, to fight the Turks during WWI. They have crossed what they thought was a impassable desert. At the edge of it, they realize one of their brethren -- Gasim -- has fallen off his camel and now is certainly lying helpless, dying on the desert sand. Lawrence states he is going back for him, ensuring his own death as well. Sherif, his second in command is livid, leading to the following exchange:

Sherif: In God’s name, understand: we cannot go back.

Lawrence: I can…

Sherif: If you go back, you’ll kill us all. Gasim you have killed already.

Lawrence: Get out of my way.

Another Arab: Gasim’s time is come, Lawrence. It is written!

Lawrence: Nothing is written.

Sherif (riding back with Lawrence): Go back, then. What did you bring us here for with your blasphemous conceit? Eh ... English blasphemer!?! Aqaba? What is Aqaba? You will not be at Aqaba, English. Go back, blasphemer! But you will not be at Aqaba!

In writing, it loses something. Sherif was furious, beside himself with anger. Lawrence, he thought, had led them on a suicide mission. You sensed that, at that moment, he searched his mind for the most egregious insult he could find. Blasphemer!

Whenever I watch that movie today (and it is one of my favorites) I relish that scene, and I think of it often in our blasphemy-obsessed society.

All that said, I think I still must differ with Mr. Buss, though I greatly respect his opinion. As Christians, we should attack back when the glory of Christ is questioned and take apart the worldly doctrines whenever we can. To do so, we must know what nonsense they are preaching.

Update: Coincidentally(?) Just found this quote from good old Calvin ...

A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.