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‘The Da Vinci Code’ courts controversy

“The Da Vinci Code” struck a chord as a runaway best-selling book, but the film, which denies that Jesus is divine and portrays the Catholic Church as evil, has many conservative Christians storming the ramparts.

“This isn’t just a little misguided theology, but a dagger in the heart of the Christian faith,” says Robert Knight, the director of the Culture and Family Institute. “I don’t think Christians ought to put down money for something that blasphemes the Lord.”

So, later this week Knight and others will urge a nationwide boycott.

The strategy of former nun Barbara Nicolosi, who coaches Christian screenwriters in Los Angeles, is that moviegoers see a different film: what she calls an “Othercott.”

“Don’t get angry and scream and boycott,” Nicolosi says. “Othercott. Let’s go to ‘Over the Hedge’ and send a signal to the industry this is the kind of thing we want from you.”

The Catholic Church is fighting fire with fire — image for image. The U.S. Conference of Bishops is starting a Web site and preparing a docu-drama, “Jesus Decoded,” that says Jesus was not married — there’s no evidence of it.

Knowing controversy could peak interest — and boost ticket sales — Hollywood is trying to stay above the fray and is even using humor. On NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” an actor dressed like a cardinal addresses “Da Vinci Code” star Tom Hanks, saying, “Mr. Hanks, I was wondering... in all that creative process, did you ever wonder what it would feel like to burn for eternity in hellfire?”

But for many congregations, it is no laughing matter.

Still, pastor Jim Garlow preaches the film is a vehicle for church-goers to reach out and touch the un-churched.

“Even though the Da Vinci Code, book and movie, are disastrous historically,” Garlow says, “The fact is if the church seizes this moment, which I think the church should, it opens all kinds of doors for us.”

So as a blockbuster looms, the Christian community is divided as to whether this is a golden opportunity or sacrilegious sham.