NEW YORK A worldwide audience and a live crowd of 600 people saw a global debate on The Da Vinci Code go out of order during much of the two-hour verbal battle Monday night.
The battle was between an Orthodox Rabbi, a Messianic Jew, and an Evangelical Christian three of the world's leading biblical and cultural experts. Printed flyers publicized "The Da Vinci Code Debate" but the hundreds that flocked to the Hilton New York Hotel found a deeper spiritual issue that Dan Brown's novel had tapped into.
"I knew when we got these three together it would depart from the book," said Philip Murray, 51, who attends Manhattan Christian Church, "and that's the part I was hoping really to hear more."
The global debate, broadcasted live worldwide on the Internet, opened with summarized arguments on The Da Vinci Code which touched on the sacred feminine along with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish elements presented in the novel. It wasn't long before the debate went askew to broader issues of religion and the conflicting beliefs of the Jewish and Christian people.
Briefly mentioning the main topic of discussion to launch off to a deeper religious issue, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of Judaism for Everyone and London Times Preacher of the Year, drew attention to the popularity of Brown's novel, arguing that many are disillusioned with religion, its masculine aspects, and the hypocrisy seen in the believers.
For that matter, Dr. Darrell Bock, author of Breaking the Da Vinci Code, agreed saying that Brown tapped into the disenchantment people have with religion.
The dominant topic of argument that took much of the debate awry, however, was Jesus.
"I think that the real issue has to do with who Jesus is," commented Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, one of the event organizers. "People would talk about the movie, they would talk about whether Jesus was married, whether or not Jesus could have had children, but the real issue was what should we believe about Jesus, what should we believe as Christians, what should we believe about Jewish people."
"I think that this is a burning issue, probably more burning in people's hearts than The Da Vinci Code," Glaser added.
While some in the audience desired to hear more on the subject of The Da Vinci Code, others joined the heated debate asking questions on a broader note of Christian and Jewish beliefs.
"It (the debate) sometimes strayed from The Da Vinci Code, but the long and the short of it is, people are curious. People want to know and have come here to get some advice on how to look at things," said Scott Buckler, 44.
"The book to me is really a launching pad for discussion about bigger things Christianity, the Truth of the Bible," said Murray. "I think primarily people have a skepticism about the Church at large. They feel like there're some elite power things going on, that people are hiding things, that there's some secret history that's been hidden and now finally revealed. And they feel like they've found it in The Da Vinci Code."
A new poll commissioned by the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei and conducted by Opinion Research Business indicated that people are now twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children and four times as likely to think Opus Dei is a murderous sect after reading the book. Among those who read the novel, 60 percent believed Jesus had children by Mary Magdalene compared to 30 percent of those who had not read it.
As concerns over many people taking Brown's alleged facts seriously continue to rise, Ron Howard's film adaptation of the New York Times bestseller makes its global release this Friday. As Reuters reported, it is one of the most eagerly anticipated movies in years, and will open the world's largest international film festival - the 59th Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.
While Jesus is the main talk of the world, Christians say the core message of Christianity is left out, which is Jesus as the way of restoration for one's relationship with God.
When the debaters were asked what they would say to Dan Brown if he were present, Dr. Michael Brown, author of Answering Jewish Objections and founder and president of ICN Ministries, simply stated, "Don't misrepresent facts."
Bock responded, "It does not help people in this world to disrespect people of faith."