Recently a reader wrote into the Chicagoist asking about an ominous billboard she came across during a commute: “The billboard just east of the Clybourn metra stop,” writes Nancy, “says, ‘6+6+06 the signs are all around you” on a black billboard in white font. No links to any websites or companies or anything… can you guys get to the bottom of this?”
As it turns out, the crack team at the Chicagoist was able to get the the bottom of the mystery.
It’s not just your typical pre/post-millennialist propoganda, but movie marketing magic. You see June 6, 2006, is the release date for the remake of the classic horror film “The Omen,” starring Gregory Peck. The anti-Christ, Damien, is switched with the murdered son of American diplomats and wreaks havoc on those around him.
But, is this marketing campaign as misguided as the recent “Mission Impossible: III” campaign wherein faux bombs were placed in newspaper dispensers? As the Chicagoist points out “We’re not completely sure if marketing campaigns without the actual name of the product are ever too effective, but we suppose it got us writing about it, so maybe they rely on people who are intrigued enough to want to solve the mystery.”
Getting dizzy trying to navigate the myriad Christian websites that make the case against “The Da Vinci Code?” Fear not, I’m here to guide you.
Some websites are simple and straightforward Q&As with Bible scholars and experts, like Amy Welborn’s online pamphlet, “The Da Vinci Code: The Facts Behind the Fiction.”
Other sites are full-throated arguments from a number of different Christian perspectives. The Christian magazine Planet Envoy has a long and lively de-bunking, plus an online discussion forum so you can get into the fray. Westminster Theological Seminary sponsors this website, which is replete with resources, study guides, and discussions.
The conservative evangelical group Focus on the Family has its own rebuttal site. Also, the Mission America Coalition offers online Da Vinci Code audio conferences, where pastors can consult with evangelical theologians on how to respond to the movie in their own communities.
And of course, closer to home in the story itself, the Catholic group Opus Dei has published its official response to the movie. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has its own Da Vinci rebuttal site, JesusDecoded.com.
Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to explore Beliefnet’s own extensive coverage of all things Da Vinci, including the full spectrum of opinions.
The story for last night’s “Sopranos” episode, “The Ride” (number eight in a season of only twelve–the countdown until the end begins already) was set against the backdrop of the Feast of St. Elzear–which any New Yorker would recognize as an adapted version of the Festival of San Gennaro, where I’m guessing they filmed the episode. The annual festival of San Gennaro on Mulberry Street, in the heart of New York City’s Little Italy, is held each year in September over a span of 11 days– including September 19th, when a religious procession led by the statue of this Patron Saint of Naples (the statue itself is removed from the Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry Street, the National Shrine of San Gennaro). Last night’s “Sopranos” included the familiar red, white, and green lit archways over the street and various street vendors for all things edible-Italian, as well as other famous marks of the popular celebration, such as a cannoli-eating contest.
Most interesting of all about last night’s storyline for the Festival of St. Elzear was that it related to Paulie–the only character apart from Tony who is prone to religious visions and superstitions. The festival is Paulie’s responsibility as far as mob business is concerned. After a dispute with the parish priest about a golden hat that the statue is supposed to wear on its head during the festival, Paulie allows the saint procession to go forward without the traditional accoutrement. This causes great dismay among the crowds and a good deal of superstition about potential–and some realized–bad luck, which hangs over this year’s festival and Paulie’s sense of guilt and responsibility.
Is God punishing Paulie? This seems to be what Paulie is wondering. After the festival begins and he winds his way through the street vendors and rides, he learns he might have cancer; a ride breaks and children are hurt (and he gets called for the blame); and the aunt who raised him is left in tears after heartless comments by the little mobster with the grey-haired wings.
The show ends with a mysterious and brief vision of the Virgin Mary by Paulie in, of all places, The Bing. Paulie, haunted and guilt-ridden, retreats to his aunt’s home, for some forgiveness–at least on a human level. Divine forgiveness for this mobster seems to be another issue altogether, and whether he gets it remains to be seen.
One of Beliefnet’s news stories this weekened was about Emily Saliers, a lesbian who is one-half of the singing group The Indigo Girls. She was invited to be a speaker at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly this past weekend in Anaheim, Calif.
I think the most important issue isn’t about homosexuality, celebrity, culture, religion, or Methodists. I think it’s about how many of us strongly believe in something like “love the sinner, hate the sin,” as our expression of Christian love. As a phrase, it summarizes the kind of love Jesus expressed and modeled as well as what many of us long to humbly and non-judgmentally live out in our own lives. The problem is that we also must form associations, contracts, commitments, governances, companies, and other entities that must draw real boundaries and stand for real convictions.
There are a significant number of women in the United Methodist Church who were glad she was on the speaking program because they believe the church should be more open and inclusive regarding the homosexual lifestyle. There are also many in the denomination who believe homosexuality should not be condoned in any way by the church and wanted her disinvited. There are still others who don’t have a strong opinion either way as much as they don’t think this kind of controversy is what the annual renewal conference is supposed to be about. Still others love the media attention it has drawn to the event because this is obviously a current and debated issue in the church.
The question of homosexuality and the church’s treatment of both the issue and the people struggling with it is certainly a significant one. Inclusiveness is a value, as is church interpretation of doctrinal purity, which on this issue says the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The church also stands strong in its commitment to “social witness against the coercion and marginalization of former homosexuals.”
I think it’s easier said than done, as is most anything that is truly spiritual.