SEASIDE - At least one member of the Seaside faith community thinks "The Da Vinci Code" is inappropriate.

"I think it's a shame that people distort the word of God," said Paul Hailey from the Worldwide Church of God.

Others liked the novel as a work of fiction. Laura O'Brien, pastor of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church, said she has no objection to the idea that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child. "The dude died a horrible death. I pray to God he had some happiness in his life," she said.

Dan Brown's book was published in 2003 and has more than 60 million copies in print. Vatican representatives have urged Catholics to boycott the book and movie. However, the movie opened Friday to big crowds nationwide - either despite or because of the controversial elements:

• The Holy Grail is the remains of Magdalene and secret writings;

• The Priory of Sion is a secret, pagan organization that has concealed the Holy Grail for centuries. (Several sources, including CBS, have said this was a hoax created in the 1960s);

• The Catholic Church conducted a smear campaign against the pagan gods and goddesses to make people believe they were evil;

• There are other Gospels as authentic as those used in the Bible that do not portray Christ as the Son of God;

• No one believed Christ was God before A.D. 325, when the Council of Nicaea, gathered to discuss the future of Christianity, voted to recast him as divine. Some gospels were suppressed, while others had material added;

• Magdalene is seated to Christ's right in Leonardo Da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper."

Some of the book's theories are not original. Brown has won two lawsuits alleging plagiarism; one from an author of "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," published in 1982. The book explored the theory that Christ was not crucified, but lived, married and became a father. The other lawsuit was brought by Lewis Perdue, author of "The Da Vinci Legacy" (1983) and "Daughter of God" (2000.) Perdue alleged Brown copied elements of both books, including a quest across Europe in search of suppressed truth and a challenge to the role of women in Christianity.

Aaron Sackett, pastor of North Coast Family Fellowship, said there is consensus among Biblical scholars that elements of Brown's writing actually happened, "but not necessarily how they happened in the book."

The Rev. David Sweeney from Calvary Episcopal said people usually understand when a movie is just a movie. "This seems to have transcended that, and that's a little puzzling," he said.

Sackett said because none of the four Gospels mention the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, they were presumably written before that time. He said other Gospels that have been claimed as equally valid were written in the second or third century and have a distinctly different flavor.

Sackett said the Council of Nicaea did discuss Christ's divinity, but said there is historical evidence it made an effort to find out which Gospels were accurate, and did not suppress any.

Hailey responded to Brown's assertion about "The Last Supper" by saying in a preliminary sketch of the artwork, "above that figure that supposedly is Mary is the name 'John.'"

Hailey said people should see the movie if they want to. "People should be aware of, I'm trying to avoid the word 'heresy,' but I can't," he said. "Christianity's under attack."

Several members of the faith community said people may seek out the church to find out the truth of the issues raised in "The Da Vinci Code," and that discussion can help religious people grow in faith. "Sometimes heresy can be good for the church," Hailey said.

"Anyone that is grounded in their faith shouldn't feel that anything like this is a threat," said Tom Chatterton, an independent community chaplain. He is worried about people who are unsure and could be swayed. "People are fascinated by secrets," he said, adding that this gives power to "The Da Vinci Code," which alleges the early Christian church hid many secrets. He said people could become more stable in their faiths or philosophical viewpoints after questioning them.

Hailey said people have skepticism about Christianity, based on valid issues like the church-related sex abuse scandals and the presence of cults, and said the "The Da Vinci Code" is adding to that.

After seeing the movie, viewer Megan Campassi said it was longer than it needed to be, and not as momentous as she expected. She had anticipated "action meets the Bible."

Chris Crowley, a Southern Baptist, did not like the movie because he felt it was trying to change beliefs into something that was not feasible. He said if the Holy Grail is as Brown said, "then everything we've been told is a lie, so why believe anything at all?"

Sweeney said the church does not need to fear "The Da Vinci Code," and O'Brien agreed. She said people in her congregation with questions about their faith loved the book because it made them question even more. As a female pastor, she supports the book's encouragement to question the patriarchal tradition of Christianity.

"I think God's probably a little more powerful than 'The Da Vinci Code,'" she said.


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