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The Da Vinci Code

Reactions to the movie, primarily from Christian groups

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Sponsored link.

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Dan Brown, "The Da Vinci Code," Doubleday, (2003)

Read reviews or order this book in hardcover safely from Amazon.com online book store. It is also available in paperback and other formats

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Reactions to the movie, by Christians and Muslims and albinos:

Generally speaking:

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Roman Catholic groups were deeply offended by the strong themes in the movie which ran counter to Catholic beliefs:
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The accusations that the Church was involved in an almost two millennia century cover-up and suppression

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The suggestions that Jesus did not die on the cross

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The depiction of Jesus as sexually active with Mary Magdalene and that they had children together

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Inaccurate and vicious portrayal of Opus Dei.

Throughout the world, they have urged their members to not see the film, and have urged governments and censor boards to ban the movie.

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Protestant groups were also concerned about the above deviations from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). However, this was coupled with a recognition that the movie provides an opportunity to "evangelize the lost" -- to "bring the unsaved to a knowledge of Jesus."

For example, the National Council of Churches commented:

"This is an opportunity to teach about and bear witness to true biblical teachings—many of which have been distorted in Hollywood as well as in our daily lives...."

"In the midst of the media frenzy, let us not forget that The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction that does not accurately depict the life and ministry of Jesus or the traditions of the Church. We pray that those who see this movie will want to know more about Jesus Christ. And, we call on our Christian brothers and sisters to uncover distortions of biblical truths not only in entertainment but in policies and actions perpetuated in our society every day. Neither The Da Vinci Code, nor any other work of fiction, will alter the beliefs, mission or work of individual churches or the National Council of Churches. We will not be diverted from the gospel imperative to care for creation, do justice and work for peace regardless of what the distractions of current culture may offer." 1

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Many Muslim groups were not distressed at the book's suggestion that Jesus survived the crucifixion. This is precisely what Islam teaches. However, they protested the book and movie because it suggests that Jesus married his follower Mary Magdalene and had children with her. They also protested because Islam forbids depicting biblical prophets including Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, because such portrayals might lead to idolatry. Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary of the All-India Sunni Jamiyat-ul-Ulema, told Reuters: "The Holy Koran recognizes Jesus as a prophet. What the book says is an insult to both Christians and Muslims. Muslims in India will help their Christian brothers protest this attack on our common religious belief." 13

bullet The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentationare [NOAH] has protested the movie. Their concern centers around the "hulking albino" character Silas, who is portrayed by Paul Bettany as an Opus Dei monk. Bettany's hair was bleached and his eyes colored red for the movie. (Actually, Opus Dei does not have monks in their organization.) A California teacher who is albino wrote to Brown in 2003 mentioning the 'hateful' stereotypes assigned to albinos in literature and film. Brown responded: "You might be interested to know that Silas ... is a far more sympathetic character than anyone else in the novel." 18

According to Catherine Elsworth of Telegraph.co.uk:

"Critics say Bettany's character is the latest in a long list of evil albinos, including the dreadlocked twins in The Matrix Reloaded, the white-haired hitman in Foul Play, starring Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn, the sadistic killer in Cold Mountain and even the wicked executioner in the comedy, The Princess Bride."

"Michael McGowan, an albino who heads the National Organisation for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, said The Da Vinci Code was the 68th film since 1960 to feature an evil albino."

" 'The problem is that there has been no balance,' he said. 'There are no realistic, sympathetic or heroic characters with albinism that you can find in movies or popular culture'." 19

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Specific incidents

bullet2006-FEB-16: Prominent Roman Catholic priests urges film boycott: Father John Trigilio is president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. He contributes to the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) and has written four books. He urges fellow catholics to boycott the Da Vinci film. He wrote:

I am asking my parishioners and Catholics everywhere to boycott the film and any of its advertising sponsors. I am asking them to protest by sending e-mail, snail mail, phone calls, and faxes to those who made this film. The Da Vinci Code is offensive, sacrilegious, blasphemous and historically inaccurate, as well as incredulous.

While those who proclaim 'it is only fiction' forget that any and all written words have an impact on the reader; and erroneous conclusions based on imaginary premises can and often do lure many readers to accept and believe as true what their normal common sense and ordinary human reason tell them is utter nonsense. 2

bullet2006-FEB-24: TFP opens new web site to help people protest the movie: The America Needs Fatima  campaign of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) -- a Roman Catholic group -- has placed their Protest Central web site online. They hope to encourage tens of thousands of activists to protest against the movie in front of their local theatres. 3 They recommend that their supporters do four things to stop the book and movie:
  1. They urge webmasters to Download a mini-review of the book, modify it as needed, and post it on their web site. The review is actually a sales pitch for their book: "Rejecting the Da Vinci code: How a blasphemous novel brutally attacks our Lord and the Catholic Church." 4
  2. Order protest flyers addressed to Columbia Pictures asking them not to release the movie.
  3. Become an organizer for a theater protest. TFP will give you step-by-step instructions on how to organize a protest in your community.
  4. Pray for the TFP effort to stop this movie.

They have placed their book and a protest manual online. 5,6 The author of the manual states that The Da Vinci Code book:

"...mentions that 'Jesus' and 'Mary Magdalene' had sexual relations, and that the Catholic Church is the biggest fraud in history for covering it up. Many other aspects of our Catholic Faith are mocked as well. The Da Vinci Code attacks the divinity of Christ, the hierarchical nature of the Church, and the Pope. It promotes Gnosis...But the real question here is if freedom of expression gives people the right to defame others. Or blaspheme. It doesn't. I don't think freedom of expression includes the right to blaspheme Our Lord or the Catholic Church." 6

bullet2006-MAR-22: Conservative Christian truth squads mobilized against movie: In the past, a common reaction by conservative Christians against religious movies an plays with an unorthodox theme has been boycotts and protests. Consider The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Montreal, Corpus Christi, etc. But, according to the Christian Science Journal:

"Rather than organize protests or boycotts -- steps taken in the past against controversial films -- Evangelicals and Catholics instead are mobilizing 'truth squads.' They're producing books, websites, TV documentaries, DVDs, and study guides. Some hope to use the film as a 'teachable moment' that could turn the occasion to their advantage."

Rev. James Garlow, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, CA said: "Our task is to be the missionary to the unbelievers." 7

bullet2006-MAR-30: TFP collects over 60,000 signatures on a petition: According to Catholic PRWire:

"The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) and its America Needs Fatima campaign have collected 60,057 signatures against the upcoming The Da Vinci Code movie. The organization is confident it will gather at least 100,000 protest letters and e-mails before MAY-19, when the blasphemous film is scheduled to hit theaters across the country."

Of course, nobody at the TFP have seen the move; they appear to have based their concern solely on the book.

bullet2006-MAY-17: France: Protests at Cannes: Movie premieres at Cannes Film Festival: Sister Mary Michael, a Roman Catholic British nun wearing a brown habit, kneeled in front of a cross beside the red carpet in Cannes. She recited the rosary. She said: "I think this movie will confuse people. The world is a mess and Jesus has the answers." In Paris, two hundred Roman Catholics prayed and sang outside a theatre showing the film. Riot police moved them to the other side of the street. Rev. Xavier Beauvais of the St. Nicholas du Chardonnet church, said: "We are, in fact, being attacked by a not-so-innocent fiction that will provide one more dreadful occasion to unleash hatred for Jesus Christ and his disciples." India has delayed the premiere pending consideration of complaints from Roman Catholic groups that want the film banned. Censors in Thailand initially cut the final ten minutes from the film, but later reversed their decision after Columbia Pictures appealed the ruling. Christians in Australia have run cinema advertisements which challenge the movie's plot. The Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong has organized forums to "clarify the facts." 8
bullet2006-MAY-17: Canada: Movie chain cancels conservative Christian ad: Cineplex Odeon Corporation "....leases or has a joint venture interest in 129 theatres with 1,269 screens and is the largest motion picture exhibitor in Canada." 9 They cancelled an in-theatre advertising campaign by Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC). The CCC had spent $63,000 (in U.S. dollars) to create a ten second ad that referred viewers to its website at http://www.DiscussDaVinci.com. 10 More details
bullet2006-MAY-23: World: Reaction to the Movie: The Da Vinci Code has triggered opposition by many Christian groups:
bulletBahrain: The Christian minority in Bahrain, which is predominately Muslim, have asked the government to ban the movie. They reportedly feel that it defames Jesus.
bulletBulgaria: The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has asked the government to ban the film.
bulletChina: The censor board did not require any cuts to the movie. However, the the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a faith group that is controlled by the government but which is independent of the Vatican, allegedly accused the film's makers of "...violating religious ethics and morals and insulting the feelings of clergy and followers." The Association told its 10 million members to boycott the film.
bulletGreece: Greek Orthodox groups launched a lawsuit aimed at banning the movie because of what they considered its blaspheming content. They lost. A judge determined that the film was not a documentary, and thus should not be offensive.
bulletHong Kong: The local Catholic church is organizing a forum to "disinfect" the film.
bulletIndia: The censor board did not require cuts to the film. However, under pressure from the Catholic Bishops Conference, the board required a "bold and lingering disclaimer" stating that it is a work of fiction. They also restricted attendance to adults. Some Christian groups appealed this decision to India's top court, but lost. The court ruled that no country which has Christianity as a dominant religion has banned the film. However, at least six of India's 28 states have banned it on the basis that it offends some Christians.
bulletLatin America: In a number of predominately Roman Catholic countries, Catholics indicated their displeasure with the film. However they did not launch a major protest allegedly because they felt it might serve to make the film more popular.
bulletPhilippines: The country is 83% Roman Catholic. The Manila City Council banned the movie saying that it "...is undoubtedly offensive and contrary to established religious beliefs which cannot take precedence over the right of the persons involved in the film to freedom of expression."
bulletSouth Korea: Christian leaders unsuccessfully attempted to have the film censored or banned. A small group of protestors picketed theatres with signs reading " 'The Da Vinci Code' is nothing more than fiction."
bulletVenezuela: The country's bishops' conference condemned the movie as "an attack on the fundamental beliefs and values of Christianity and the Catholic Church." However, they did not ask their members to protest or boycott the movie.
bulletOther countries: Christian leaders in Singapore, and Thailand tried to get the film banned or censored.

Yolanda Ventura, a Mexican actress, deviated from the Catholic church's position concerning Jesus' celibacy. She said: "It would be marvelous if he were able to experience it as a man and I wouldn't give him any more or less value for having had sex." 11

Muslim groups were also opposed to the screening of the movie:
bulletAzerbaijan: Gadzhiaga Nuriyev, head of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, said:
"The relevant Azeri authorities must ban showing this film and also end sales of the book....Lack of respect for the feelings of believers, whether they are Muslims, Christians or representatives of other world religions, is inadmissible."

Lala Abbasova, a parliamentary deputy and member of the legislature's committee on science and education, said:

"This film should not appear on state television channels and should be listed as a banned film throughout Azerbaijani territory." 15

bulletCanada: Sayed Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, explained that the novel and the film mock his religion by questioning one of Islam’s most important prophets, Jesus Christ. Soharwardy said: "He’s part of my faith, and deserves to be treated with honor and respect....[A] few secular fanatics cannot undermine the high honors of Jesus Christ....It is time for Muslims to standby (sic) with Christian friends and express solidarity with Prophet Jesus Christ." He does not believe in censorship, but asserts that this movie "...should not have been produced. If we don’t stand up to these movies, they’ll become more frequent." 17

 
bulletIndia: An umbrella organization of Islamic clerics in Mumbai {Bombay]... labelled the film as "blasphemous" because it spreads "lies" about Jesus Christ. 13
bulletPakistan: Conservative Muslim political parties like Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and Jamaat-e-Islami have asked Christian leaders to join in their protest against the release of "The Da Vinci Code" movie. A delegation of Muslim leaders visited churches in Karachi and met clergy to garner support for the move to protest the worldwide release of the film. The delegation said the film was sacrilegious and termed it an attack on faiths by the West and an attempt to fuel a clash of civilizations. 16
bulletSouth Korea: The Muslim organization Jamiyat-ul-Ulema promised to work with Christian groups to "do everything possible to stop the Code." Their secretary-general, Maluana Mansoor, said: "The Holy Koran recognizes Jesus as a prophet. What the book says is an insult to both Christians and Muslims." 14

bullet2006-MAY-23: Comments by John S. Spong, a liberal Christian:
bulletThe Right Reverend Dr. John S. Spong is a retired bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA. In his weekly subscription mailing, "A New Christianity for a New World," he had a number of criticisms of the movie:
bulletHe writes: "Biblical scholarship no more supports the assumptions of 'The Da Vinci Code' than it did either 'The Passion of the Christ' or Cecil B. DeMille's, 'The Ten Commandments'."
bulletThe extraordinary attempts to preserve Jesus' blood line doesn't make sense. Presumably the hypothetical daughter of Jesus would be half divine. But each generation would further reduce the divinity content of his descendents. By today, some 60 generations later, the "divine blood" would be diluted by a factor of over 66 million. They would be fully human.
bulletThe failed attempt by the descendent of Jesus to walk on water, and her hope to be able to convert water into wine make no sense. Both refer to Jesus' "miracles" as real events, whereas most scholars regard the stories as myths.
bulletThe canon of the New Testament was essentially chosen before 150 CE, and was not decided at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, as Brown asserts.
bulletThe books that were rejected at the Council did not emphasize the humanity of Jesus; they promoted his godlike nature.

Some Roman Catholic women who were picketing the movie, explained that the film insulted Jesus because it said that he was married and had a child. He responds:

"I found in those words the negative definition of women that is the legacy of the patriarchal sexism practiced by the Christian Church through the centuries. Is there something evil about marriage and childbirth?...I do not believe that women are the corrupters of 'holy men.' Yet that idea lingers on in a church that installed mandatory celibacy and unnatural virginity as pathways to holiness. What those 'ideals' produced, however, has been little more than distorted sexuality and massive amounts of debilitating guilt." 20,21

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "NCC says 'The Da Vinci Code' is 'an opportunity to teach'," National Council of Churches, 2006-MAY-18, at: http://www.ncccusa.org/
  2. Matt C. Abbott, "Prominent priest: Boycott Da Vinci Code film," Renew America, 2006-FEB-16, at: http://www.renewamerica.us
  3. "Everything you need to know about protesting against The Da Vinci Code," TFP, 2006-MAR-24, at: http://www.tfp.org/
  4. "Rejecting the Da Vinci Code: Setting the record straight," TFP, at:http://www.tfp.org/
  5. Text of the "Rejecting the Da Vinci Code," book is at: http://www.tfp.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from: 
  6. "Da Vinci Code - Protest Organizer's Kit," TFP http://www.tfp.org/
  7. Jane Lampman, "Christians ready to refute 'Da Vinci Code' movie," Christian Science Journal, 2005-MAR-22, at: http://www.csmonitor.com/.
  8. "Film premiere sparks protests," Associated Press, 2006-MAY-17.
  9. Corporate Information, Cineplex Entertainment, at: http://www.cineplex.com/.
  10. "Cineplex won't show Christian group's ads," The Toronto Star, 2006-MAY-18.
  11. "Manila Bans, India Clears 'Da Vinci Code'," Associated Press, 2006-MAY-18, at: http://news.yahoo.com/.
  12. Rick Westhead, "Evangelicals hope to break the Code. Evangelicals hone media savvy to counter Da Vinci 'heresy'," The Toronto Star, 2006-MAR-16, at: http://www.thestar.com/.
  13. "Muslims join Da Vinci criticism," BBC News, 2006-MAY-16, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk.
  14. "Ongoing Christian and Muslim protests against 'Da Vinci Code'," AsiaNews.it, 2006-MAY-17, at: http://www.asianews.it/.
  15. "Muslims in Azerbaijan protest 'Da Vinci Code'," Baku Today, 2006-MAY-16, at: http://www.bakutoday.net/.
  16. "Muslim parties ask Christians to protest 'Da Vinci Code'," New Kerala, 2006-MAY-20, at: http://www.newkerala.com/.
  17. "Calgary Muslim Leader to Protest Da Vinci Code Movie," Judeoscope, 2006-MAY-12, at: http://www.judeoscope.ca/.
  18. "Albino group to protest 'Da Vinci' film," Monsters and Critics, 2006-MAY-20, at: http://movies.monstersandcritics.com/
  19. Catherine Elsworth, "Stop making us out as mystical freaks and unconscionable assassins, albinos complain," Telegraph.co.uk, 2006-MAY-18, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk
  20. J.S. Spong, "On viewing 'The Da Vinci Code'," 2006-MAY-24.
  21. You can subscribe to future weekly essays by J.S. Spong inexpensively at: "A New Christianity for a New World"

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-MAY-18
Latest update: 2006-JUN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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