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Christians ready to refute 'Da Vinci Code' movie

Rather than organize protests or boycotts, Evangelicals and Catholics are mobilizing 'truth squads.'

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In a world accepting of docudramas and reality TV shows that aren't real, how does one counter a blockbuster movie whose theme challenges the orthodox religious history of the Western world?

That's the task facing Christians already distressed by Dan Brown's wildly popular novel, "The Da Vinci Code," and his claim that the thriller is based on historical facts.

With sales of more than 40 million, the book has become a cultural phenomenon. Unless the copyright-infringement trial in London (which now awaits the judge's decision) brings an injunction against use of the material, the May release of the film starring Tom Hanks will surely magnify its global impact.

Rather than organize protests or boycotts - steps taken in the past against controversial films - Evangelicals and Catholics instead are mobilizing "truth squads." They're producing books, websites, TV documentaries, DVDs, and study guides. Some hope to use the film as a "teachable moment" that could turn the occasion to their advantage.

"Our task is to be the missionary to the unbelievers," says the Rev. James Garlow, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, Calif. He's developed a four-phase strategy for churches leading up to the film's release.

Yet others suggest there's more involved than a question of historical accuracy. They say part of the book's appeal is that it raises deeper issues about the nature of Christianity that many people, including devout Christians, want to talk about.

Eric Plumer, a theology professor at the University of Scranton, a Catholic institution in Pennsylvania, has been surprised by the intense interest he's encountered when giving talks about "The Da Vinci Code" in public libraries, colleges, and senior-citizen centers.

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