It’s that time of year again, when everyone is all a-twitter with either tearing down the basic tenets of Christianity mightily or propping them up heroically. It is a bit reminiscent of Christmas time, when everyone is busy with their pseudo-religious and politically-correct squabbling over “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!,” a la Miller-lite. Excuse the seeming impiety, but I have gotten to that point where I look more forward to getting around these high holy days and back to a more ordinary pilgrimage.
I recall a few years ago about this time when The Da Vinci Code had just been released. It was spring break. The family had descended on my parents in south Florida. One of my three evangelical sisters-in-law was raving about her church’s efforts at “exposing the lies of Dan Brown,” or something like that. The world was out to topple the Church and Tom Hanks was to blame. It was all hands-on-deck and rush to the nearest mega-church before your first born would be eaten alive by Hollywood. I finished my Corona (shut up, you beer snobs) and quietly slipped through the slider for another with the Lapsed Episcopalian.
I have found it interesting that the same evangelicals and Romanists who lapped up Passion of the Christ were also the same ones who would come to rail against The Da Vinci Code (and then at a duller roar The Golden Compass). Just th eother night I can’t be sure, but I think I saw a preview for a DVC sequel. Oy vey. There seems to be a common thread that runs through both phenomena: cultural expression really matters when it comes to true faith. The Liberals had a phrase for it once: “The world sets the church’s agenda.” It makes perfect sense that those who take the cues of the world get as giddy about one cultural expression as they get agitated by another. It seems there are various ways to be led around by the nose. Where the Liberals were led by a more, as Machen put it, “sophisticated, book-club” culture, their evangelical heirs seem always led around by the goings-on of popular culture.
But if the stuff of wider culture is not appropriate or even able to nurture true faith, I seriously wonder about how the same can really militate against it. Thus I avoided DVC, but once again, for different reasons—bad reviews. (When it was broadcast on TNT one weekend recently I turned to my wife and suggested we try it since nothing else was on. After about fifteen minutes we both found some chores to do.) Like the cultural religion that fuels the Christmastime feuds, which really are about who gets to dominate culture under the guise of religion, most Christian responses to ostensibly anti-Christian claims are more forms of a Constantinian fear than genuine Christian apologetics. I realize we are all supposed to think it is the other way around, even as none other than the White Horse Inn allowed Paul Maier to snark and snap his way through an entire May 14, 2006 broadcast dedicated to addressing the DVC. If nothing else helps show how deeply seated the fear is that uncomfortable broadcast might be a good start. I suggest a poncho to keep the spittle off.
Nevertheless, I don’t get to razzed one way or another over celebrating the church calendar. And I know that these things which attend them come in short, sharp and shocked cycles, fizzling out as quickly as they burst on the scene. It does take a measure of patience, though, to see them out the back door once again. As the holy days between Christmas and Easter come to a close in post-Christian and early twenty-first century America, I must admit that I will be relieved to see the top of the church bulletin once again read “The Season of Ordinary Time.”