NEW YORK - "You think that religious leaders would know by now that when you say 'don't see that film', it just makes everyone want to," said Alfred Molina, who plays Bishop Aringarosa in the upcoming film The Da Vinci Code, according to BBC News.
Christians agree. Emanuel Silvia, 46, from Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan, was one of the many believers told not to watch the movie that has stirred controversy among the religious circles. But these bidding words sparked his curiosity and impelled him to look into the most-talked-about novel that he has yet to read.
The Baptist congregant attended a six-hour conference Saturday that drew over 500 people to decipher The Da Vinci Code.
Dr. Michael Brown, founder and president of ICN Ministries, mentioned at an earlier conference the reverse effect of dissuading Christians and nonbelievers alike from watching the film, which makes its premiere Wednesday. By telling people not to see the movie and denying that there is any hidden historical information related to the church, people would say, "You are hiding something" and be compelled to view the novel on the big screen.
Shepherd Project Ministries, Chosen People Ministries and Campus Crusade for Christ produced Saturday's conference to present biblical answers to what Dan Brown called "fact" in his novel where he used Christian history as its backdrop. World-renowned biblical scholars Dr. Darrell Bock, author of Breaking The Da Vinci Code, and Dr. Michael Wilkins, professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Talbot School of Theology, gave the crowd of believers answers to many of the questions that have been raised on early church Christology and the New Testament.
Elizabeth Ayala, 49, heard about the local event through a friend. She is not one of the millions of people around the world who has read the fictional thriller, but with Bock's book in hand and a number of discussions formed ahead of the movie release, she's equipping herself to "defend my Jesus," as she stated.
Unusually, the New York event drew a predominantly older crowd, with the average age being between 40 and 50. This was the second national conference of its kind and Craig Smith, founder and president of Shepherd Project Ministries, had encountered a younger audience at his first stop in Denver just last weekend.
Discussions on The Da Vinci Code would typically draw students and young adults who have largely read the novel as was the case in Denver. The conference at Calvary Baptist Church, however, not only saw an audience that was older, but also a bunch that had not read the book. According to Smith, only one-third of the crowd that attended read Brown's novel.
Wilkins guesses it's a sociological reason. In California, he normally drew discussions with a class where more than 95 percent had read the book.
Then again, it was a Saturday and a morning when the conference began, noted Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates PR.
In any case, attendants of The Da Vinci Code discussions show definite interest in the topic and curiosity to delve into the history of their own faith, even on a Saturday morning.
"As an evangelical, I'm interested on a personal and religious level," said Robert Walter, 60, who did not read the book but mentioned reading three other books about The Da Vinci Code. He said he's more prepared now to give answers to seekers after having attended the conference.
"I want to know how to give people answers, to give them the truth," said Anita Hill, 26, who attends a church in Jamaica Queens. Hill also did not read the novel. Still, she said the conference "gave [her] a lot of answers and feedback on the untruth."
"Know the Truth," Smith told the hundreds of attendants who used the Bible as their only reference throughout the conference. "If you know the Truth, when you read The Da Vinci Code, you're not going to be swept off the path of righteousness."
The third and last national conference – Deciphering The Da Vinci Code - will be held at First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, Calif. a day after the film releases worldwide May 19.