Evangelical Childlike Hysteria & The Da Vinci Code

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All the panicky hullabaloo about “The Da Vinci Code” in the evangelical Christian sub-culture is about to drive me nuts.

The piece that nearly put me over the edge is actually a rather clever conversational one in Christianity Today Online and it is specifically the editor’s note at the end of that piece that had me metaphorically driving off the road into a ditch.

Mark Moring’s commentary interacts with a “tongue in cheek” idea of boycotting the Da Vinci Code and includes interventions from George Barna (“66 percent of adults say that in a typical week they dialogue with friends and work associates about the content of movies and TV shows they have recently seen”), Josh McDowell (“I look at the book and the movie as a platform for evangelism. A little controversy can be a marvelous tool”) and Fuller Seminary’s always thoughtful Robert Johnston (“belligerence seldom works. It is more for the speaker than the listener”).

I guess I’m stunned that evangelicals, who set out in the 50’s to “engage the culture,” are still dialoguing about whether or not to go to movies and I’m disheartened that “evangelism” is still advanced by many (like McDowell) as the most compelling reason to do so.

The editor’s footnote is indicative of deeper problems. “Editor’s note: We are not suggesting that Christians necessarily should watch The Da Vinci Code when it comes to theaters; skipping it is certainly a viable option. We are only suggesting that the Christian community be willing to take part in the overall cultural discussion about the film and the book, rather than take a reactionary approach with noisy protests and organized boycotts just as we would hope secular culture would take part in the discussion of “our” movies, like Narnia and The Passion of The Christ.”

The footnote’s very tone reveals the “nanny state” mindset of evangelicals. Can you imagine the New Yorker reminding readers that, “skipping a movie is a viable option?” These kind of comments make evangelicals seem like babies strapped into a high chair waiting for Dr. Dobson to tell them what to do next.

If it is true that evangelicals require somebody to tell them they should take part in the cultural conversation than evangelicals are nothing but a docile version of fundamentalism, withdrawn from culture but not feisty about it. An alternative view would say evangelicals are hopelessly conformed to culture, consuming it, marching like lemmings off the cliff, incapable of thinking independently, revealing the truth of Mark Noll’s comment “the scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is so LITTLE of the evangelical mind.” If either of these views is true, evangelicals may sell a lot of books and CD’s and cast a lot of votes in culture, but will not ultimately “influence” culture intellectually, spiritually or artistically.

To make matters worse the editor sets the advisory comments in an “us versus them” (“Narnia and Passion of the Christ” are “our films?”) context lapsing into the “Christian film” categorization that C.S. Lewis abhorred. Remember Lewis advised we don’t need more Christian writers we need more Christians who can write.

Hans Rookmaaker once said, “Jesus did not come to make us Christian, he came to make us fully human.” Whatever else it means, to be fully human would include the ability to reason, to participate in creating culture and to be conversant with other humans about our common condition and cultural environment.

Based on sheer numbers evangelicals appear to have made a lot of Christians, but based on the current elemental level of dialogue about the Da Vinci Code, for whatever reason, evangelicalism does not appear to be producing many fully actualized, thoughtful human beings.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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