Unless you’ve been living in a persistent vegetative state, you’ve noticed that there’s something of an uproar surrounding the release of The Da Vinci Code in cinemas around the country this weekend. At the heart of the brouhaha is an issue we all can relate to, regardless of religious affiliation: There are simply some people we never want to imagine having sex. For some of us it’s our parents, for others our teenage daughters — and for a whole lot of people it seems to be Jesus Christ. The notion that the Son of God indulged in the pleasures of the flesh is considered the worst sort of sacrilege by Christians the world over. Suggest further that the mother was Mary Magdalene — a prostitute, no less — and that in addition to being Jesus’ baby momma she was also an apostle? Stand back and watch the sparks fly.

Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code, now a film from director Ron Howard starring Tom Hanks, purports all of this to be true — or at least as true as an acknowledged work of fiction can be.

In response to all the conjecture in the book about the nature of the origins of the Christian faith, as well as Jesus’ disputably mortal tendencies, many churches in the Charleston area are planning workshops and lectures in an effort to address some of the discrepancies between official church doctrine and ideas perpetuated by The Da Vinci Code.

The Catholic Church, which takes the hardest hit in Brown’s book, is understandably the most defensive. Amy Welborn, author of Decoding the Da Vinci Code, gave two lectures in April to Charleston parishioners on the “inaccuracies” presented in the book. In an official statement prepared by the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, Stephen Gajdosik, director of media relations for the diocese, said, “Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, has repeatedly reminded us that it is a work of fiction. Nevertheless, simply claiming a work to be a piece of fiction does not give the author unlimited poetic license to distort and misrepresent historical figures beyond recognition.” Gajdosik recommends that to learn how the portrayals in the book and movie differ from what the Catholic Church considers “actual history,” interested parties should visit the church-sponsored website, www.jesusdecoded.com.

While the book is chiefly concerned with the Catholic Church and the real, shadowy, affiliated organization known as Opus Dei, members of other Christian denominations also take issue with claims made in the story.

Seacoast is a growing area church brand that’s developed a large local following. Their mission is to “approach the Christian truth in a decidedly contemporary, unconventional way.” While the vehicle for delivery of the church’s message is certainly modern — podcasts, blogs, and sermons packaged with TV titles like 24 — the content of their message is anything but unconventional. The church takes “a Biblical stance on abortion and homosexuality,” a literal and very traditional approach that Seacoast applies to every facet of its faith and instruction.

Seacoast has a slew of counter-Code materials available to parishioners. The church’s website contains reading recommendations and MP3 audio downloads on how to poke holes in Brown’s story. One podcast, titled “I Have a Friend Who…”, provides instruction on how to re-educate any acquaintances who believe in the theories espoused by the The Da Vinci Code.

In a prepared statement, communications pastor Shawn Wood wrote, “Dan Brown’s Book and its upcoming cinematic release have brought many questions about what we should believe about Jesus. Brown’s account, based loosely on the Gnostic gospels and conspiracy theory, though a well-woven novel, pits truth against deception. Seacoast Church encourages these questions and believes that the truth of the Bible, which has stood the test of time, can also stand up against the deception of a 21st-century novelist.” Wood goes on to suggest that believers “make this a conversation-starter about our faith.”

Many other local churches, including Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street and Citadel Square Baptist Church at Calhoun and Meeting streets, have hosted lectures to assist their parishioners in reconciling church doctrine and the questions raised by The Da Vinci Code but have no further efforts planned.

Local Unitarians are decidedly more nonchalant about the controversy.

“We don’t consider ourselves Christians, so we don’t really care,” one nonplussed parishioner said last week.

Whether or not you believe that Jesus was a playa and Mary Magdalene was the brains behind the entire apostle operation, it’s hard not to be fascinated by the story — which is exactly what Hollywood predicted when they optioned the book. The scriptural controversy will likely never be resolved; the only sure thing in this code is big bucks at the box office.

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