Movie, like book, may actually help strengthen faith

I can't pass by a "Wet Paint" sign without touching it to see if it is wet. I know it's a serious character flaw, but I just can't. I've always been a little bit that way.

When folks tell me I can't or shouldn't do something - unless I can see the logic for not doing it - I have a tendency to want to do it that much more. I bet there are a lot of folks like me out there.

I remember a while back when Judy Blume came out with a controversial book about adolescence. To be honest, I had never heard of Judy Blume and had certainly never read any of her work. But when all those talking heads and crusaders began to insist that people shouldn't read her - well, let's just say that she got her 15 percent from my purchase. And the book, by the way, turned out to be much ado about nothing in my humble opinion.

A couple of years ago I began to hear folks talking about a certain book by Dan Brown. It was called "The Da Vinci Code," and according to the talk I was hearing was full of blasphemous remarks about Jesus and his mama-and-them. I wasn't about to read trash like that.

And then about a year ago some young people, who knew me as a Bible-studying, churchgoing Christian, heard me putting down Dan Brown's book and asked me which parts of it were so offensive. My immediate response was, "I haven't read that trash."

They didn't have to say it. I already knew what they were thinking. How, indeed, could I criticize something I hadn't even read?

Well, I read Dan Brown's novel and - I hope I won't go to hell or be excommunicated from my church for this - I thought it was a great read. I zipped through it in about three days.

I would have finished it quicker but I kept having to stop to look up the art and architecture that Brown described in his writing. I also spent a lot of time investigating the statements regarding Christ, Mary Magdalene and the history of the early church.

I saw some pictures of pretty paintings and pretty buildings and got the itch to go to Europe and see them in person. And I found out that just about 100 percent of Brown's statements about the church and Christ were unadulterated hogwash.

But the book was a win-win for me. I got to read a spellbinding novel and learned more than I already knew about the history of my faith - and the whole time I was reading the book I was wondering when the movie was coming out.

And now the movie is out and for months priests and preachers and other religious leaders have been railing against the movie, with the implied message being that no self-respecting Christian should spend money to see it.

I'm not sure that's the wisest thing, for a few reasons. For one, all of the negativity has generated millions of dollars worth of free publicity for the movie. Lots and lots of people will go and see it just because it has been suggested that they don't. See the Judy Blume reference above.

Secondly, I don't think a true Christian's faith will be shaken by the plotline from a 2004 novel. If the truth of Jesus Christ has prevailed for 2,000 years, a two-hour movie won't deter it. In fact, many people, like me, might actually research the events presented as fact in the movie and have their faith strengthened.

And millions and millions of people will be watching a film about Jesus - and some of them might be led to actually seek the truth about the movie's claims, and those who seek the truth will find it.

And if they seek the truth by asking known Christians about events in the movie, "I haven't seen that trash" won't offer much discernment.

Now, I'm not advocating that everybody rush out and see the movie. Actually, I feel a lot like Opie Cunningham, aka Ron Howard, the director of the flick. He said, basically, that if you think the movie is going to make you mad, don't go see it. Hard to argue with that logic.

In 1995, when I wrote my first novel, "Need Two," I asked Georgia legend Erk Russell to endorse it. He had me send him a copy of the manuscript and indicated that if he liked it, he would endorse it and if he didn't he wouldn't.

After about a week he called up and said, "Huck, I loved your book, but there was one mistake." He then proceeded to tell me that he and Vince Dooley had come to Georgia in 1964, not 1965 as I had indicated.

But then he said, "But heck, your book is a novel, so I guess you could have said we came in 1812 if you had wanted to. If it's a novel it doesn't have to be true."

Erk Russell is a smart man.

It's a fictional movie, y'all. Enjoy it for what it is. Or stay home. Either way, it's just fiction.

And if you want to know about the truth that is Jesus Christ, let me know. I'll be happy to share.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and high school history teacher who lives in Rockdale County. Visit his Web site at www.darrellhuckaby.net. His column appears on Saturday.