La Shawn BarberDuring the week of March 13 through March 17, La Shawn Barber is Beliefnet's guest blogger. Barber is the creator of La Shawn Barber's Corner, where she blogs about faith and politics.

Dealing With 'The Da Vinci Code'
"All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."
That statement appears under a section called "Fact" at the front of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s bestselling book.
Although the book is a work of fiction, Brown blurred the line with that statement.

The Da Vinci Code movie premieres in May, and I predict it will be a hit. Brown plays fast and loose with facts and casts doubt on the reliability of Scripture. He misrepresents certain events in church history and ignores others. Christians must always be ready to defend the faith, even if attacks arise from so-called fiction.

According to the book, the Roman Catholic Church has been hiding an earth-shattering secret for 2,000 years. Jesus was not the Son of God; he was the husband of Mary Magdalene and the father of her child. After he was killed, Mary fled to Gaul (France), where she raised her child in secret. For centuries, a group called the Priory of Sion has been protecting the secret—her bloodline.
The Holy Grail, as it turns out, isn’t a chalice, as everyone suspects. It is Mary Magdalene herself because her womb was chalice, so to speak, of the royal blood of Jesus. Leonardo da Vinci, a member of the Priory of Sion, planted clues in The Last Supper, hence the title of the book.
Basically, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, according to the book, was neither lord nor savior. The church created Christ’s deity by committee centuries after his death. Jesus was only a man—a sinner—and certainly no Son of God.
In the end we learn that the path to righteous is not through repentance, salvation, redemption, grace, or divine mercy, but through a pagan sexual ritual.
Who else but fallen man would come up with a religion like that?
The book’s convoluted plot is just window dressing. It all leads back to man’s unbridled urge to create his own "salvation plan," a path to God that he can dictate for himself with no regard for or reverence to a Creator who demands things of him, like holiness and obedience.
The book is a good read, I must confess. It’s fast-moving and plot-driven, and every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. Even as I shook my head in amazement at the unbelievably trite dialogue and whoppers masquerading as truth, I read the book from cover to cover.
There are dozens of websites and hundreds of articles Christians can turn to help them set the historical record straight and defend the reliability of Scripture. While perusing Beliefnet the other day, I found a link to The Da Vinci Dialogue, a great site I highly recommend.  A couple of years ago, I reviewed a book called Breaking the Da Vinci Code, which I also recommend.
If you google "Da Vinci Code," you’ll find plenty of information. Examples:
Double-Parking Churchgoers
A controversy has been simmering in my neck of the woods for years.
Normal traffic regulations, such as metered parking, are suspended on Sundays. Double-parking, however, is supposed to be enforced at all times. For years, local police in the nation’s capital have basically ignored double-parked cars near churches and surrounding neighborhoods on Sunday mornings, but that’s about to change.
From the Washington Post:
The District plans to issue tickets to illegally parked cars outside a cluster of downtown churches beginning in May as it undertakes a citywide review of a long-standing practice that police and traffic officials have largely ignored…
Bill Rice, an agency spokesman, acknowledged that the statement should have specified that enforcement would begin in Logan Circle, where residents have protested congregants’ parking. He also said police would ticket in the neighborhood around Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, where the agency has created extra parking for baseball crowds…Rice said the District government may step up enforcement elsewhere if residents from other neighborhoods or officials complain about the illegal parking.
As is the case in any large city, parking spaces are difficult to find in D.C., but residents are taking up a righteous cause with their complaints. I sympathize with churchgoers faced with scarce space, but they have no more right than anyone else to block in residents.
Some churchgoers believe they should be exceptions to the rules because the inconvenience is only once a week. Not so in my neighborhood. I live directly across from the largest black Roman Catholic church in D.C., and there’s something going on practically every day: weddings, funerals, graduations, religious events, etc. If I want to drive my car at my convenience, I have to avoid parking on certain streets because the car may get blocked in.
You’re quite an opinionated group of commenters, and I can’t wait to read your feedback on this post. This is my final guest blogging day at Beliefnet. Whether you agree with my views or not, I encourage you to visit La Shawn Barber’s Corner. You don’t have to agree with me to join the discussions in my active comment section, but you do have to be respectful. I look forward to seeing you there.
Have a good weekend!

It’s funny how Christians on both sides of the political aisle like to claim Jesus as their own when we know that all believers are his, and through him we're all reconciled to God. We love labels, so we try to pigeonhole everyone and everything into small, neat packages.
I want to share with you a post I wrote on my blog back in 2004. It was a response to a column by Jesse Jackson titled, “There’s no shame in being a liberal.” Jackson was trying to make the point, I suppose, that in his brief mission, Jesus did and said some “liberal” things.
Although I argued that he also did and said “conservative” things, I tried to take the focus away from political labels and put it back where it belongs when talking about Christ: the Bible.
The post is closed, but I look forward to reading your responses here at Beliefnet. An excerpt:
While I believe non-political conservative values, such as promoting traditional families, self-restraint, self-reliance (physical, not spiritual), to name a few, are biblical attributes, I don’t dispute that some liberals mean well when they contend that feeding the hungry just because they’re hungry is what Jesus would do. It is true, but not the way they think.
As Jackson knows, liberal, conservative, libertarian, constitutionalist, etc., are labels we fallen humans came up with to describe our political ideology. Labels are just a quick way to describe where we are on an imaginary political line.
In that regard, I’ll dispense with political labels and use spiritual ones: believers, unbelievers, saved and unsaved. According to the Bible, which I believe is inerrant, infallible and God-breathed, we are dead in our sins. That is, we are incapable of recognizing the need for salvation. From the first disobedience in the Garden of Eden, every person born is a sinner. We are rebels through and through.

I Divorce You, I Divorce You, I Divorce You
The prevalence of divorce is sad. Once-intact families are split up, the father leaves the home (typically), and the children’s lives are shattered. Despite statistics showing that divorce has a greater impact on children than previously thought, people continue to leave marriages and enter into new ones with little regard for how their selfish actions may affect children.
Divorce will always be with us, unfortunately, even among the religious. For years Christians have debated whether divorce is unacceptable for any reason or whether Christians are permitted to divorce for adultery, abandonment, abuse, etc.
A story that appeared in last month’s Washington Post touched on the hairy topic of divorce among the religious and whether “ancient" divorce laws should be applicable today. To be divorced in the eyes of the community, Orthodox Jews, for example, must seek a religious divorce and not just a civil one. Under Jewish law, women can’t obtain a religious divorce without their husband’s consent, but if the husband refuses to consent, the wife may argue her case in religious court.
From the Post:
Sarah Rosenbloom is stuck in a marital netherworld. She and her husband divorced seven years ago in Maryland civil court. But she remains married under Jewish law because he has refused to give her a religious divorce document known in Hebrew as a get… Women in Rosenbloom’s situation are called agunah in Hebrew, which means “chained woman.”
Worse than being “chained” to a marriage is an annulment, in my lay opinion. As you know, divorce is forbidden in the Roman Catholic Church, but people can unchain themselves through an annulment. Perhaps Catholic readers/commenters out there can clear up a few things for me:
1) What effect does an annulment have on the legitimacy of one’s children?
2) If a couple has been married for...75 years, let's it really possible for one spouse to have the entire marriage declared null and void in the eyes of the church?

Free Thinkers of the World, Unite!
Friend and fellow conservative Mychal Massie waxes eloquently in his latest column, Reviled but free. He writes about the scorn heaped upon black conservatives by black liberals and highlights differences between us and them:
Being black for us is not a cause celebre to plumb the deepest depths of filth, debauchery and victimhood. Most liberal blacks resent us–not because they have it so bad as such, but because they perceive us to have it so much better than they do. Prisoners recognize freedom when they encounter it, even those suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
Blacks have been inculcated with a welfare mentality, even to the point that even many successful blacks expect and demand handouts. They are unable to see their success outside of the context of this inbred mentality of failure and second-class citizenship. And they hate us for not investing in same.
Sadly true.