Leaven – The Christian Response (May-Jun 2006)

By Matt Dabbs

by Jackie Halstead
May – June, 2006

The DaVinci Code is creating a stir in the Christian community. The book initiated the discussion, but the movie is certainly bringing it to a climax. What is the Christian response? Or is it even necessary?

Engagement
Responding to The DaVinci Code with engagement rather than detachment is an example of what Jesus meant when he told the parable of leaven in a loaf of bread. When the leaven is included in the dough, the bread is changed. It permeates the entire loaf as it expands and grows from within. Jesus demonstrated this response. He engaged with those in the culture. Although at times he went into the hills to pray, for the most part he was with the people. He talked with teachers of the law. He ate with tax collectors and sinners. He healed the sick. He spent much of his short time on earth with the multitudes, not separate with his disciples.

This is the response of some in the Christian community to the conversation surrounding The DaVinci Code. Rather than a threat, they see it as an opportunity to bring glory to God. It has opened up a conversation in which we can participate. Some church leaders praise it as having rejuvenated an interest in faith and church history. Christians are using it as a starting place to initiate discussions pertaining to God. However, not all agree with this response.

In my growing up years, I was taught that Christians were not to observe holy days. The rationale was that scripture did not give us specific dates so we were not to hold any day above another. Although I recognize the intent was to take a stand for the truth, even as a child this was confusing to me. The whole world was talking about Jesus and yet we were to remain silent. It seemed that the silence kept us from joining with others to focus attention on God.

I decided at that time, and still believe that it is best to enter into the conversation. I want to be leaven. I want to be God’s instrument in this culture. A friend of mine recently commented on this as it pertains to the medium of television. He stated that Christians need to offer good moral programming of excellent quality. We need to enter more fully into the industry rather than quit watching TV. As it is obvious that this medium is influencing the culture, we need to use it for God’s glory. He used the music industry as an example of how Christian musicians have entered the field and offer alternatives for every genre of music.

Other friends who are artists also hold this line of thinking. They plan to open a center for art produced by Christians. They will highlight pieces from Christian artists around the world. Rather than quietly staying in the background, they are entering the conversation and offering alternative work to impact the profession.

Another example of response is found in my professional life as a department chair. We are accredited by a national organization that at times wants to take a political stand that is in direct opposition to our beliefs as followers of Christ. Some of the faith-based institutions have withdrawn their accreditation for the abovementioned purpose of taking a stand. They believe if they stay, they are condoning the desired political perspective. In contrast, those of us remaining in the organization have banded together and lobbied for a neutral political stand. That stand has become the direction the organization has taken. We were able to influence the decision in a kingdom direction. Another role that I serve within the profession is on the state board for marriage and family therapy. As a Christian I am certainly in the minority. I know God is not dependent on me, but by being in the position, I can be a voice both for Christians who are therapists and to further a perspective based on God’s truths regarding relationships. My friends on the board have grown to trust me and have gained a new perspective of the Christian community. In order to be used in this manner, I had to be willing to engage.

Shortly after the book The DaVinci Code came out, I was getting a haircut from a self-proclaimed agnostic. The woman asked me if Christianity was in danger because of the documented evidence portrayed in the book. This question led to a wonderful discussion of God’s revelation and the role Jesus plays in this age. I am not a biblical scholar, but I do know Jesus and the impact he has had on my life. Perhaps this discussion would have happened sooner or later, but the book was certainly an entrée into a conversation regarding my relationship with the Lord.

Henry Nouwen speaks of a progression from solitude to community to ministry. There is a place for solitude as we seek the Lord and gain strength and refreshment from him. At times, we must pull away and be separate. We can then move to our faith community in order to find encouragement and motivate each other to love and good works. But the ultimate goal is ministry. We utilize solitude and community to equip ourselves to go out and minister to hurting people. We share our story individual by individual or if need be at the larger cultural level through popular media. The point is that we stay in the conversation and speak God’s truth.

There is no doubt that a conversation is taking place. How will we respond? My vote is to engage. In order to be God’s leaven, we must enter the bread and bring it new life. That bread will be the sustenance that this hungry culture is seeking.New Wineskins

Jackie HalsteadDr. Jackie L. Halstead is Chair of the department of Marriage and Family Therapy of Abilene Christian University. Her growing interest in spiritual direction, silent retreats and contemplative prayer have been a blessing in her teaching, speaking, counseling, parenting two daughters, and partnering with her husband, Randy. She above all enjoys spending time outside enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. Jackie can be reached at [halstead@acu.edu].

If you enjoyed this article, you might also want to read her thoughts on the spiritual disciplines ofExamen .

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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