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Preparations for this Friday’s opening of “The Da Vinci Code” are reaching fever pitch–from eager moviegoers as well as Christians who are angry about the story and its pervasiveness in pop culture. So this begs the question–how should those opposed to “Da Vinci” protest or demonstrate their views?

This New York Times article explains how Christians disagree on which tactics are best. Some argue for boycott, others for protesting in front of theaters. Still others are organizing groups to go see another movie on “Da Vinci’s” opening day.

The debate over tactics is even more complicated by the recent riots over Danish cartoons that caricatured the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Some Christian leaders, while certainly not calling for “Da Vinci” riots, are upset that there hasn’t been more outrage at what they perceive as the story’s insult to Jesus and early Christianity.

Archbishop Angelo Amato, a high-ranking official in the Vatican’s doctrinal office, said in late April, “If such lies and errors had been directed at the Koran or the Holocaust they would have justly provoked a world uprising. Instead, if they are directed against the Church and Christians, they remain unpunished.”

In this video lesson, Christian author Lee Strobel offers suggestions for how Christians can respond, armed with their faith–as he points out, 70 percent of American churches have said they plan to get involved in the debate.

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Celebrity gossip site Perezhilton.com reports that Britney Spears has put the kibosh on her study of Kabbalah. Introduced to the belief system by Madonna, it seems that motherhood is trumping mysticism, as Spears explained in the “Love B: Stream of consciousness” section of britneyspears.com, “I no longer study Kabbalah, my baby is my religion.”

While many are surely hoping that she’ll soon be dropping another “K” from her life — that would be K-Fed, her husband and children’s father–it seems that the Kabbalah Centre can drop Britney’s name off a possible list of young celebs to help tout their services.

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The West Wing” will go down in television history as one of the most wonderfully relevant shows and enduring DVD buys, even if its series finale was, dang it, such a bore.

I enjoyed reading Michael Kress’s blog piece about the series, and appreciated the reminder that the finale was coming up. What a shame that it had to be such an anti-climax, but it really had no chance to rank up there with significant series finales such as “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “Cheers,” and going even further back, “M*A*S*H*” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” At least when those shows ended, the “Friends” were still friends, most of the “Cheers” characters were still around the bar, and Hawkeye was still Hawkeye. Yes, those shows had transitions as well, but the new characters had become family by the time the show ended. Not so with Alan Alda’s Arnold Vinick and Jimmy Smits’s Matt Santos. They were likeable, but they hadn’t become beloved.

And what of the beloved ones? Well, the recent plotline for “West Wing” was true to the nature of the show, but it didn’t make for a great ending. The difference between the first show (aired immediately prior to the finale) and the last was noticeable, if not dramatic. The eclectic group of young politicos and youthful career wonks that initially surrounded President Bartlett had gone their different directions. Leo passed away. Toby was muted. Sam ran for Congress and ended up at a cushy law firm. Josh lost much of his charm when he went on the road. Will was less interesting when he lost Toby and Sam to banter with. C.J., Charlie, and the Bartletts endured to the end, as did Donna in her new role, but of that group, only C.J. was part of the original group of stars. (Martin Sheen’s Bartlett was barely more than a cameo until the series picked up steam).

The enduring thing about “The West Wing” will be the nature of its themes and topics, and the dialogue which focused on intelligent issues of government, such as laws, policies, departments, little known facts, and current events (especially in its early years). It examined presidential decision-making and policies in almost every show, notably “A Proportional Response,” “The Short List” and “The Lame Duck Congress.” It looked at governmental procedures (“The Stackhouse Filibuster,” “Ways and Means”) and examined the relationship between faith and leadership (“Shibboleth,” “Two Cathedrals”). It took a hard look at some of our more ridiculous but enduring traditions (“The Leadership Breakfast,” “The U.S. Poet Laureate”) and inserted the occasional and artful dose of Latin (“Eppur Si Muove,” “Posse Comitatus,” “Post Hoc, Ergo, Propter Hoc).

I also appreciated President Bartlett’s memorization of scripture and his reciting of it in the midst of policy discussions. Such leadership is not–and has never been–a violation of church and state, and was part of the finale, via his discussion with his successor, Pres. Santos, about the tradition of including a Bible quote in the Inaugural speech.

At the end, President Bartlett was looking out the window of the former Air Force One when asked by Mrs. Bartlett what he was thinking about. “Tomorrow,” he said. I wish it would have been, “What’s Next?”

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Is the mega-bestseller “The Da Vinci Code,” a work of fiction, actually influencing the religious beliefs of its readers? Yes, says a new survey released today by pollster George Barna–but not in the way many traditional Christians fear.

The poll found that instead of changing readers’ religious beliefs, the book served to confirm the beliefs readers held before they read it. In fact, only 5 percent of the 45 million American adults who have read the novel reported that their religious beliefs changed because of the book’s contents. That is a small number, but as Barna points out, “Any book that alters one or more theological views among two million people is not to be dismissed lightly.”

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