Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Second Thoughts on How to Respond to the Da Vinci Code Film

A few days ago I passed along an email from screenwriter Brian Godawa, where he included a suggested strategy of going to a different movie than the Da Vinci Code on its opening weekend. After receiving feedback, he's had second thoughts on that approach, and passes along the following note (with permission to post). I reprint it here for your consideration:

"I have had some very helpful responses to the email I forwarded about strategy dealing with the Da Vinci Code release on May 19. In fact, they were so good that they persuaded me to expand my thinking on what to do May 19. I have always affirmed the Acts 17 approach to engaging with pagan culture, and was neglectful in taking that into consideration when I forwarded that email. As I thought about it some more, based on some of your thoughtful challenges, I realized that this is a profound opportunity that we have not had in a long time (since, The Passion) to talk about Jesus so widely. Now, some Christians have different gifts and ministries than others, which mean there are several ways of dealing with this issue, and all of them are legitimate depending on what situation you are in:

1) Educate yourself and go to see another movie on May 19. This was the first suggestion. And it is great for those who would probably not go see the movie anyway, as well as those who feel they don't want to "support" the success of the film. Hollywood does listen to box office on the first couple weekends in terms of what movies they will continue to make. In a sense, our dollars are votes for what kind of movies are going to be made. Buy some books by Christians who have dissected the fallacies and fantasies of The Da Vinci Code so you can actually converse with people and express a measure of intelligence. It is important to note here that Christians have a reputation for not knowing what they are talking about because they "haven't seen the movie." BUT... Remember, you don't have to see the movie to be able to discuss it with those who have, but you DO have to know what the issues are. In fact, the most effective means of witnessing is to LISTEN FIRST. So ask what someone else learned from the movie to see just how it affected them, and then respond to those concerns with the truth.
Too often we start rattling off what we think is wrong with something before we understand what the unbeliever really needs or thinks.

Listening first places you in a humble and disarming position. JUST ASK QUESTIONS AND LISTEN to the unbeliever's viewpoint first. Wow, what a concept!

2) Go see the movie on May 19. The fact is, some unbelievers will not listen to your viewpoint if you haven't seen it. For those of you who are in these circles, you may need to see it in order to interact with more effect. If your friends are going to see it, go with them, so you can give your opinions when they discuss it afterward. If you aren't there when they do, then you've missed a chance to share the Gospel. Go the first couple weeks because it is going to be a hot issue and a lot of people will be talking about it right away, so if we wait for a few weeks, we can miss the most important discussions. The point is that we rarely have an open opportunity to talk about Jesus and here we have the unbelievers bringing it up and willing to talking about it.


1) But doesn't this give money to godless movie companies for their godless films?
Well, Either Paul or Gamaliel, under whom Paul studied, paid money to buy the plays of Menander as well as the writings of pagan poets Aratus and Cleanthes and many others in order to interact with their ideas and apply the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:33; Acts 17:24-29). So there is biblical precedent for paying money for godless works in order to interact with them.

Look at it this way: You are paying 10 bucks to listen to a godless hate theory about Jesus, but this "buys" you the opportunity to share the true Jesus with those who would not listen to you otherwise.

Christians are always griping about how hard it is to get opportunities to talk about Jesus and this is a stark raving opportunity. Who cares if you have to pay for the opportunity? Do you want to share Jesus or not? $10 to be able to share Jesus. That's pretty cheap. Of course, if you are like many Christians and do not really have any unbelievers who are your friends, then you probably don't need to go because who do you have to share Jesus with anyway?

2) But doesn't the first weekend box office support the film's success?

Yes, it does on one level. However, the other side of that coin is that the more of a success it is, the more people talk about it, the more opportunity you have to share the real Jesus with them. If you wait until the second or third week, you will not be prepared to engage in the hottest discussions which are the first couple weeks. Also, realistically, whether you go to the first, second or tenth week, it's still gonna count toward the box office anyway, so why not have a voice for Jesus in the hottest discussions? Would Paul have opted out of speaking to the pagans on Mars Hill because they wouldn't respect him unless he read the Poets? No! He read the Poets and entered the fray!

Because he believed the truth of the Gospel will win out and "greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world!" (1 John 4:4)

Folks, this is an opportunity to talk about Jesus! So the options are: 1) go to a different movie that weekend to cast a vote against Da Vinci Code, 2) Don't go to the opening week of Da Vinci Code and don't have an opportunity to talk about Jesus to those who did and won't listen to you if you did not, or 3) Go the opening week and DO have an opportunity to talk about Jesus to those who did. Again, this has to do with the fact that there are plenty of unbelievers who will not listen to your viewpoint if you haven't seen it. Sure, that's unfair. Welcome to history."