Monday, May 29, 2006

Da Vinci Code Boosts Opus Dei Numbers

From The Scotsman:
THE controversial religious organisation lambasted in the blockbuster movie and book The Da Vinci Code has revealed that membership inquiries have soared in the past year.

The film and book portray Opus Dei as a murderous and secretive cult within the Roman Catholic church. Despite this negative view, membership applications have increased tenfold.

The film, based on the book by Dan Brown and starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, centres on the controversial theory that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and that the two had a child.

Opus Dei is portrayed as a ruthless suppressor of the truth, using any method - including murder - to protect the church. But Opus Dei’s website insists their primary aim is to encourage spirituality in every area of members’ lives.

Jack Valera, Opus Dei’s UK spokesman, said: “We’re getting 10 times more enquiries than we would normally get. Over the last two months, as the hype for the film has built up, we have had about 50 inquiries a month about membership. We would normally get about three or four a month.

“Some have mentioned the book or the film in their e-mails. It’s quite surprising, and I believe it’s down to the publicity surrounding the run-up to the film.”
This suggests the wisdom of Christians who have greeted the film as creating a “teachable moment,” during which people will be willing to listen to a serious discussion of church history, and the ways The Da Vinci Code distorts it.

At our church, the sermon yesterday was exactly that.

Then there is the fact that, in spite of much apparent evidence to the contrary, people aren’t terminally stupid.

Rather than simply accepting the sinister picture of Opus Dei presented by the movie, they leave the moving asking “Just what is Opus Dei? Could it really be as bad as the movie makes out?”

Those that bother to investigate find out that it isn’t.

Just what is Opus Dei about? The Scotsman explains:
Opus Dei, whose name means Work of God in Latin, was founded in 1928 by a Spanish priest named Josemaria Escriva.

He wanted to extend the spiritual boost people receive from Sunday worship through the rest of the week. Although his ideas were initially frowned on by the church hierarchy, Catholic leaders later embraced the organisation and Escriva was made a saint in 2002.

A member of Opus Dei would be expected to go to Mass every day, and also read a portion of Scripture and of an uplifting religious book each day.

In addition, a member should attend an evening meeting during the week for prayer and reflection and have a one-to-one spiritual chat with a more senior member of the organisation.
None of this changes our assessment that the book and film are a deplorable exercise in anti-Christian bigotry.

But bigotry can backfire.


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