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 say...is 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.

My first published op-ed in 2002 was about the sometimes silly and usually insulting labels black liberals use to describe us: Uncle Toms (or Tomasinas), house slaves, handkerchief heads, sell-outs, race traitors, etc. It’s all so boring, really, but every now and then I like to be reminded why I jumped the liberal plantation.

Liberalism, especially that kind that convinces some blacks in 2006 that they’re no better off than they were in the 1930s, is a destructive, pathological ideology that has enslaved more people than legal slavery ever could.
Years ago, I voted for Democrats because everyone else in my family voted for Democrats. It wasn’t until I thought about what I believed and didn’t believe that I realized leading a liberal life wasn’t for me. Shortly after becoming an independent conservative, I became a follower of Christ. Coincidence?
Enough about me. Read Mychal’s wonderful column.

Isaac Hayes Ditches ‘South Park’
Isaac Hayes, famous for his title song to the movie “Shaft,” has left the raunchy comedy “South Park” after it mocked his religion, the Church of Scientology, one too many times. Until recently, Hayes provided the voice of the school’s cook. From The Mercury News:
“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” the 63-year-old soul singer said in a statement. “Religious beliefs are sacred to people and at all times should be respected and honored. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”
Scientology is a strange, 55-year-old philosophy first espoused by the late L. Ron Hubbard. He believed that we are spiritual beings--no mind or body—and that the essence of a person is called “Thetan,” which I suppose is analogous to a soul. I'm not familiar with the tenets of this religion, so I will not editorialize too much. Visit the Scientology section at Beliefnet. 
Under this belief system, there is no sacred text, no authoritative and defined deity. We’re all capable of achieving a god-like state through the practice of Hubbard’s philosophy. There is reincarnation or rebirth "until one consciously confronts all pre-birth, current-life, and previous-life traumas and realizes one’s true nature as a 'thetan,' immortal spirit–transcending matter, energy, space, and time."
In contrast to biblical Christianity, there is no such thing as sin, no holy and all-powerful deity to whom we must account, one who requires obedience and repentance from his creatures. Salvation is found not through the sacrifice, mercy, forgiveness, and grace of a deity, but through our own efforts: self-enlightenment and achieving a "greater mental awareness."
As a Bible-believing Christian who believes the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of the living God, I think Hayes's faith in Scientology is misguided. The Bible teaches that there's only one God and that only he has the power to bestow salvation. I'm so glad Hayes left "South Park," and I pray that he finds his way to the one true God.

Will Evolution-Only Science Classes Become Extinct?
I don’t put too much faith in polls, but this one is interesting. According to Zogby, 69 percent of Americans believe taxpayer-supported schools should present a balanced view of the religion known as evolution. That is, more than half want kids to learn about evidence for and against.
I’ll bet this news has evolutionists running around like scared monkeys.
What is intelligent design (ID)? William A. Dembski, an ID advocate and blogger, sums it up quite nicely: “Intelligent Design is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. ”
Patterns which, incidentally, can’t be explained by naturalistic Darwinian arguments. Where we find evidence of specified and complex information, it’s reasonable to presume an intelligent designer. The most powerful example of specified and complex information is deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly known as DNA.
DNA is the stuff of which life is made. It’s a genetic “language” that instructs cells how and what to create: eyes, arms, fingernails, hair--whatever. Highly complex and very precise, DNA stores more information than all the books in all the world’s libraries.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “watchmaker” theory. A theologian named William Paley argued that the same way we detect design in a watch we see lying on the ground, we can detect design in natural objects. Paley’s was an old-school and “unscientific” argument, one that repelled Darwinists. Modern-day design theorists argue from a scientific point of view without reference to the God of the Bible.
Complex, specified, and information-rich structures can’t be explained by naturalistic Darwinism. This is a major weakness of the evolutionary theory, and students should be told about this and other weaknesses. Evolutionists like to claim the “scientific” position, but the extent to which they attempt to ignore research and discoveries and silence arguments that undermine their own is reminiscent of the Dark Ages.
If you have the time and inclination, check out some of these ID sources:

62 Percent Claim to Be “Deeply Spiritual”
Whatever that means. And there’s the rub.
From Barna’s latest research, presented in an article titled Americans Reveal Their Top Priority in Life:
 By far the top priority listed by adults–named by half of the population (51%)–was their family. Some segments were especially likely to list family as their highest commitment: people with children under the age of 18 living in their home (74%), adults in their twenties and thirties (67%), those who are married (61%), Catholics (60%), and Hispanics (60%). Several people groups were much less likely to place family at the top of their list. Those groups included people 60 or older (36%), singles (37%), African-Americans (39%), and Asians (39%).
Faith was the runner-up category, listed by 16% of all adults. This included a wide-ranging set of commitments, such as connecting with God, living consistently with one’s faith principles, having peace with God, being a committed church member, honoring God, and growing in faith.
Being “spiritual” is trendy, but there’s no clear definition of what that means. Is it a belief in God or a god? How is this spirituality practiced? What does it look like? Barna found a disconnect between what people do and what they say. Nothing grounding-breaking there. It’s part of the human condition. A prime example is similar to one cited in the article: I always find it sadly amusing when a trash-mouthed rapper with scantily-clad, rump-shaker background dancers thanks “God” after he wins an award.
“It seems as if God is in, but living for God is not,” George Barna said. More precisely, god is in, but the living God is not. Christians have a term for living and growing in Christ as opposed to paying lip service to “spirituality”: discipleship. A disciple is a follower, one who helps spread the teachings of others. A Christian disciple is one who spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is, by nature, an evangelical.
The Bible teaches that once we’re forgiven and become one of God’s own, he begins to mold and shape us. We begin to live for him, and he lives through us. The goal is to make us “Christ-like,” and in these fallen bodies with our fallen nature, the “pruning” process is sometimes painful, often joyous, and always righteous.

An Abominable and False Equivalence

Homosexuals continue to equate the defense of their lifestyle with black America’s struggle in the 1960s for equal rights. As a black Christian, I find this equivalence highly offensive. But then again, they don’t care about offending me.

An organization called Soulforce has formed a group to go on a 51-day tour of Christian and military colleges that oppose homosexual behavior. Members of the so-called Equality Rides travel to schools to “present a powerful case for GLBT equality.” For you virtual virgins, GLBT stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered. “Transgendered” is a euphemism for a man in a dress.

From WorldNetDaily:

On the first stop of a 51-day “gay-rights” bus tour aimed at bringing media attention to the non-admission policies for gays at 20 Christian colleges and military schools, 24 members of the Soulforce Equality Ride found themselves sitting in the Lynchburg, Virginia, jail, arrested for trespassing at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and facing possible $2,500 fines and a year in jail.…

Equality Ride is modeled after the “freedom rides” of the 1960’s civil rights movement and the group, many wearing buttons reading “Learn from history,” says its cause is the same as ending racial discrimination was a generation ago.

Liberty University is private (thankfully), so Jerry Falwell was within his rights to have the group arrested as trespassers.

Here’s what homosexuals can’t seem to grasp: Christians are opposed to the homosexual lifestyle not because we’re ignorant; we oppose it because God does. Exposure to the homosexual lifestyle or listening to “equality” sermons won’t negate or erase the word of God, no matter how many ways you serve it up.

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