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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Church and The Da Vinci Code

A book about a mystery, code-breaking, art, history, and the Church normally sounds like a great read to me but The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown crosses the line of what I believe to be quality literature. If I use Philippians 4:8 ( Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.) as a guide, then it seems The Da Vinci Code is not a book I think I should be reading.

However, I think other Christians must be reading it - or at least buying it. In two years, 25 million copies have been sold. I doubt that none of those 25 million people were Christians; maybe I'm wrong. What each Christian reads, though, is between him or her and God and has nothing to do with me. What does concern me is that The Da Vinci Code (directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks) is coming soon to a theater near you and the Church is assisting with the filming.

The movie is filming at Lincoln Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral, and Rosslyn Chapel (near Edinburgh, Scotland). Lincoln Cathedral is standing in for the more famous Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Abbey, the 1,000-year-old London edifice where British monarchs are crowned and buried — and whose Chapter House features in one of the book's climactic scenes — turned down an approach from producers earlier this year, saying it would be "inappropriate" to allow filming.

"Although it is a fine page-turner, we cannot commend or endorse the contentious and wayward religious and historic suggestions made in the book — nor its views of Christianity and the New Testament," the Abbey said in a statement.

I'm going to assume this was the decision of the Very Reverend Dr. Wesley Carr, Dean of Westminster Abbey. If that is so, then let me say, I whole-heartedly agree with him. Not every cathedral dean has the same opinion, though. The Very Reverend Alec Knight has agreed to permit filming at Lincoln Cathedral...in exchange for a "sizable donation." Us regular folk generally call that a bribe.

Lincoln's dean, or head of the cathedral, the Very Rev. Alec Knight [phone #: 01522 523608 or email], conceded that the novel was "far-fetched and heretical" but defended the decision to allow filming. The cathedral in central England accepted a reported $180,000 to double as Westminster Abbey in the Ron Howard-directed film.

"It has clearly touched the public imagination, and the church needs to open up a debate about it rather than throw one's hands up and walk away from it," Knight said.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I believe the Very Rev. Knight thinks opening up debate is the same as opening up the cathedral's coffers. However, let's be realistic: $180,000 is a lot of money and such large donations to old churches just aren't that common nowadays. All that money can go a long way to preserving a historic treasure. See, I can play devil's advocate.

Poor little Rosslyn Chapel, however, has no dean to guide it. Apparently, it is run by trustees led by Director Stuart Beattie.

The 40-by-90 foot medieval chapel has attracted tens of thousands of tourists, many of them American, since Brown popularized its links to the once-powerful Knights Templar, a medieval military order. Director Stuart Beattie said the 15th-century chapel expected 100,000 visitors this year, almost triple the number of two years ago.

Beattie said the chapel's trustees had agreed to allow filming over four days next month. "We didn't have any dissenting voices," he said."There's nothing Rosslyn is concerned about," he added. "Perhaps the church needs to grow a thicker skin."

As far as I can tell, Director Beattie is not a man of the cloth so I guess we can't really expect him to know any better than to "commend or endorse the contentious and wayward religious and historic suggestions made in the book" but I would expect the deans of Lincoln and Winchester Cathedrals to look to scripture as a guide for their actions. Perhaps I expect too much.

Contact the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral:
The Very Reverend Alec Knight
Telephone: 01522 523608

Contact the Dean of Winchester Cathedral:
The Very Reverend Michael Till
Telephone: 01962 857205

Contact the Director of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust:
Director Stuart Beattie

All quotes are from "Churches Divided Over 'Da Vinci' Filming" at FoxNews.