The Da Vinci Code: to promote or not to promote?

Andy Rau

The Washington Post pusblished a story this last weekend about varied Christian reactions to the upcoming Da Vinci Code movie. Some evangelicals, rather than responding to the movie with condemnation and protests, are encouraging people to read the book (and see the movie) and discuss its claims:

[Josh] McDowell and Campus Crusade, a worldwide ministry with more than 20,000 staff members and volunteers, seem to have accepted this truth: The movie, starring Tom Hanks and set to open May 19, almost certainly will be a blockbuster. So instead of fighting the wave of popular culture or urging a boycott, Campus Crusade is pushing McDowell's book, which is aimed at young moviegoers and tries to spin their interest in an evangelical direction.

The idea, if I understand it correctly, seems to be that the truth will always triumph over falsehood, and so there's no harm in exposing people to false ideas if you're also presenting them with the truthful alternative to those falsehoods. This approach aims to win over hearts and minds by challenging people to weigh Dan Brown's claims against those of the Bible, rather than rejecting one or the other without first taking the time to understand it. I'd image another motive is undoubtedly a sense of frustration with the traditional evangelical responses to offensive films (i.e. boycotts and protests)--those don't accomplish much in the way of evangelism, so why not try a different approach?

But it gets more interesting yet: Sony, the company producing The Da Vinci Code, is itself spinning the film at evangelical critics, some of whom are being "courted, consulted, cajoled and encouraged to voice their criticism in ways that could blunt their opposition" to the movie.

Not all evangelical groups are pursuing this particular evangelism strategy, of course, and the article notes that many Roman Catholics also stand opposed to any positive spin on the film because of its highly negative portrayal of the Catholic church.

What should we make of all this? Are evangelicals being cleverly manipulated by the entertainment industry to promote a film that actively preaches against their beliefs? Or have McDowell and company found a clever, non-confrontational way to undercut the false teachings of the movie with the truth of the Gospel? Are you alarmed that evangelism and movie marketing strategies are walking hand in hand, or are you excited that evangelicals are reacting creatively to the challenge of the Da Vinci Code movie?

Blogger Amy Welborn, quoted in the article, nicely sums up the question at the heart of this all: "It's a hard place for all of us to be in. When do you cross the line from using it as a teachable moment to promoting the film?"

[as an aside: you'll note that the WP article title contains the word "defusing," the misuse of which is a pet peeve of TC contributor Kim. Kim, care to comment on the use/misuse of the word here?]

Topics: Movies