Thursday, February 09, 2006

Josh McDowell Confronting the 'Code'

Confronting the 'Code' - Entertainment: "As a conservative evangelical leader, Josh McDowell is one of the last people you'd expect to urge young Christians to see The Da Vinci Code, the upcoming movie based on the phenomenally best-selling novel. After all, the book argues that Jesus sired a line of royalty before he died on the cross, because Mary Magdalene was pregnant with his child -- and that all of it was covered up by religious leaders through the centuries.

But McDowell, author of The Da Vinci Code -- A Quest for Truth, not only urges a trip to the theater, but also advises everybody to read the novel.

Then, he says, read his book.

"I don't attack [Da Vinci Code author] Dan Brown. I don't attack the book," says McDowell, who is on the staff of Orlando-based Campus Crusade for Christ. "Let's see where fact leaves off and imagination begins. It's a marvelous opportunity to be positive. The main purpose of my book is to reinforce their belief and placate their skepticism. If you look carefully, truth will always stand."

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.

McDowell says he wrote the book after distraught parents told him their children had read the novel and, as a result, walked away from their faith.

The evangelist's rejoinder is a short paperback written in the form of a series of dialogues between a college graduate student and several of his friends. They meet for coffee on a weekly basis to discuss the book after seeing the movie together. The tone is neutral regarding Brown and his motives, and complimentary to his storytelling, but the grad student systematically refutes the way biblical and church history are portrayed in the story.

"It's about engaging with people on their spiritual journey," says Mark Gauthier, Crusade's national director for U.S. campus ministry. "A picture such as The Da Vinci Code and the book raises questions about spirituality. This obviously presents a great opportunity to engage with people as they explore the very spiritual issues that [surface] in the book and movie.

"We see our role in this is not to encourage or discourage people from seeing the movie," Gauthier says. "Our goal is not to promote or to dissuade people from going. This is the world we live in. This is what people are thinking about. There's a real desire of people to grapple with serious spiritual issues, not to point fingers."

Quest for Truth's publisher, Green Key Books, is considering a first printing of 100,000 copies. Crusade is also planning to print 500,000 copies of a mini-magazine version of the McDowell book, complete with stills from the movie. Like other evangelical groups, Crusade is preparing Web-based study guides to the film."

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