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High Schoolers Take on the Culture

  • Penna Dexter Baptist Press
  • Updated Jun 30, 2006
High Schoolers Take on the Culture

An intramural debate was discussed recently in certain Christian publications and websites over this question: Should Christians see "The Da Vinci Code?" There was no doubt in the minds of eight high school students at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas. They would see the film on opening day.

In fact, by the time "The Da Vinci Code" was released these kids had spent two months researching and studying the historical revisionism in Dan Brown’s story. They read the novel and at least a couple of books from a list of eight critiquing the story. Since the book raises questions about history and doctrine, these young people sought the answers. Each student chose a different aspect of "The Da Vinci Code" for deeper study. One looked into the influence of the Gnostic gospels. Another prepared arguments against the book’s attacks on the deity of Christ. One team member developed talking points on the influence of the media in spreading the false doctrine presented in the story. And another compared Brown’s portrayal of Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus to what we know to be the truth about her. Armed with this information, the students were ready to help others separate truth from fiction.

They organized a chapel service where they presented their information to fellow students and answered questions. They took their show "on the road" for a couple of other presentations. Then, three days before the nationwide release of the movie, the school sent a press release to local media outlets announcing the students would be available for interviews at the local "Tinseltown" after the morning showing on opening day. They had some takers whose questions were fairly superficial. But the kids really got to demonstrate their knowledge in interviews for Christian radio.

This project was a demonstration of what Prestonwood Christian Academy Worldview Director Dan Panetti says should be the mission statement of every Christian school: Prepare students to engage the culture, and then let them do it. The eight students who delved into "The Da Vinci Code" are part of Dan’s 30-member politics team affectionately called C3 -- Christians Confronting the Culture. This is one of several teams formed within the school’s student leadership institute.

I sat down for my own interview with three of these young people who quickly dispelled any notion that their participation in this program was motivated by the opportunity to get out of class to go to the movies. The project involved hours of extra reading and prep time. We began our conversation as they were just finishing a telephone interview for a feature on Moody Broadcasting Network’s national radio program, "Prime Time America."

Connie Kleinert, a politically interested and involved sophomore, told me she’s an avid reader and read "The Da Vinci Code" multiple times. The story, she said, is believable if you don’t know the truth. She’s disturbed by the results of George Barna’s survey of American readers of the book in which 53 percent of those questioned said it’s been helpful in their "personal spiritual growth." Since the first page of the book claims that "all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals" in the book are real, she is concerned that unbelievers and Christians who are not strong in their knowledge of the faith could be misled.

Luke Taylor is an athlete -- somewhat reserved, but articulate. The spirituality in the movie, he said, is "pure wickedness" and "blasphemous." Luke has lots of answers for those who might see this film and question the deity of Christ and the truthfulness of the Bible. He’s concerned about the influence of the book because he says it appears "more as fact" than the movie. That could only be good, he said, if it led someone to Scripture to get the truth.

When I asked whether Christian kids should see "The Da Vinci Code," all three said, "Yes" -- but that Christians should be prepared. Cheerleader Jennifer Jeffcoat views the movie and the book as an attack on the Christian faith. She’s headed off to college next year and plans to repeat the model used in this project -- studying outside sources to prepare herself to tackle other challenges to Christian faith and American culture. Believers, she said, should not see a movie like "The Da Vinci Code" simply for entertainment, but to help others understand spiritual truth. She encourages Christians to know what they believe and not to be "intellectual slackers."

"Christians are smart," she said.

And so are the decision-makers at PCA who are nurturing the next generation of leaders.

What’s next for the PCA culture warriors? Dan Panetti is looking for new projects for next year. Got any ideas?

Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the new syndicated radio program "Life on the Line" (information available at She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a producer for "Washington Watch Weekly," a broadcast of the Family Research Council. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux's "Point of View" syndicated radio program.

© 2006 Baptist Press. Used with permission. All rights reserved.