Has The Da Vinci Code actually changed anybody's religious beliefs? Yes, says a new Barna survey, but not in the way that Christians might expect. In short, the book tends to confirm rather than change readers' theological views:
"Before reading The Da Vinci Code people had a full complement of beliefs already in place, some firmly held and others loosely held,” explained George Barna, the author of numerous books about faith and culture. “Upon reading the book, many people encountered information that confirmed what they already believed. Many readers found information that served to connect some of their beliefs in new ways. But few people changed their pre-existing beliefs because of what they read in the novel. And even fewer people approached the book with a truly open mind regarding the controversial matters in question, and emerged with a new theological perspective. The book generates controversy and discussions, but it has not revolutionized the way that Americans think about Jesus, the Church or the Bible."
Read the full article for more interesting tidbits.
I'll confess that, as Christian "Da Vinci Code debunking" websites and books have propogated over the last year, I have often wondered if the "debunking" response is actually the most effective use of our time and energy. Certainly the book deserves debunking, given its claim to be more than simple fiction; and I think it's important to respond to historical inaccuracies about Christianity, especially when they make their way into mainstream consciousness.
But if people have already made their minds up before reading the book, then winning the "debunking" argument doesn't do a lot in itself to bring that person any closer to a relationship with God. I'll step out onto a more controversial tree limb here and suggest that Christians have a tendency to focus on winning debates--about creation/evolution, about politics, about many other things--without realizing that the debate is often just a sideshow, unlikely to change anybody's core beliefs.
I wonder if Christians aren't giving The Da Vinci Code a bit too much credit, treating it as a serious threat to Christianity rather than as a symptom of a spiritually-desperate culture. Disproving The Da Vinci Code's specific claims should be only the first step in talking to our culture of skepticism; far more important that we identify what the book's popularity reveals about our culture's spiritual needs.