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Don't Ask the State to Protect the Faith
Suing Dan Brown over The Da Vinci Code is a mistake. Christians have weapons of spiritual warfare.

Francis Cardinal Arinze is Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Roman Catholic Church's board of overseers, if you will.

Francis Cardinal Arinze

It is his duty to ensure Catholic liturgy and sacraments "are accurately observed, and that abuses are avoided and eliminated where they are found to exist."

He's the head heretic hunter.

Arinze, a black Nigerian, was also considered one of the frontrunners to replace Pope John Paul II. And when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger became Benedict XVI, Arinze replaced him in the titular, yet prestigious position of Cardinal-Bishop of Vallentri-Segni.

Depending on how long Benedict's papacy lasts, the 73-year-old African might still become pope.

In other words, when Arinze speaks, he does so with much of the authority of the Church of Rome behind him. He is not just some regional prelate talking off the top of his head.

And Arinze thinks Christians, particularly Catholics, should sue over the defamation to their religion that is rife in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the popular novel that will be released this week as a movie starring Tom Hanks.

Other Christian leaders have called for the movie to be banned. The Greek Orthodox Church last week deemed the story a heresy for suggesting Christ married Mary Magdalene and fathered a child by her and ever since secret societies have been murderously covering up this truth to preserve Christianity's central tenets and the control those tenets give Church leaders over ordinary believers.

All of these responses to Brown are preferable, of course—more civil—than issuing fatwas or calling on the faithful to smash KFC outlets, kill infidels and commit terrorist attacks against Western targets.

Nevertheless, they are largely secular responses to what are primarily religious matters, and as such they are wrongheaded.

Christians who are upset by the The Da Vinci Code's assault on their beliefs should put no faith in secular institutions such as the courts and legislatures to preserve their religion. They already possess more powerful spiritual weapons than the law and politics. They should pray rather than prohibit; proselytize rather than prosecute.

"Render therefore unto Caesar that which is Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

By seeking to have the Code banned or to financially cripple its author, publisher and producers through lawsuits, Christians would be playing right into the hands of two modern trends: the cult of victimology and the notion that government is the appropriate arbiter of all disputes—that all justice and wisdom emanate from the state.

Christians who feel threatened by The Da Vinci Code must act. But how?

Do Catholics and other Christians really want to become players in the whine wars? "Oh, they're being unfair to us. Make them stop. We have the right not to be offended."

Do they really want to become just another in the long line of victim groups who queue up before the courts or human rights commissions every time they feel slighted? Do they truly want to make Caesar the defender of the faith?

Doing nothing in the face of such a popular challenge to the faith is not an option. Christians who feel threatened by The Da Vinci Code must act. But how?

They could do as Opus Dei has.

The low-key but influential conservative Catholic organization is the object of particular scorn and misinformation in Brown's book. Despite claiming that all the depictions in his novel are accurate, Brown portrays Opus Dei as a bunch of super-secret, self-flagellating fanatics who enslave women and are willing to kill for the Vatican, none of which is true.

Yet, when Opus Dei began noticing more interest in their activities (onlookers even began milling about outside Opus Dei houses in London, Paris and elsewhere), rather than sue Brown they invited the curious inside to explain what their organization truly stands for. The Da Vinci Code has become a major recruiting instrument for Opus Dei.

Yes, by all means, boycott the book and the movie, too. Popular culture reacts first and foremost to financial stimuli, or the lack thereof.

But as a matter of faith, Christians should use the Da Vinci phenomenon to evangelize and explain the truth about their beliefs.

Lorne Gunter is a columnist/ editorial writer for the National Post and a columnist for the Edmonton Journal.

Originally published in the National Post, May 15, 2006.




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