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While reading this novel with high school students, it is important to remind them that when the book was first released, it was steeped in controversy. Christian groups all over the globe called for the book to be banned, stating that it presented inaccurate and blasphemous information about Jesus. The saying “there’s no such thing as bad press" applied to this situation and books sales rose and rose and the book remained on the bestseller list for quite some time. This controversy allows teachers a wonderful opportunity to call students attention both to how people responded to the novel as well as to remind them of other previously banned books that are now read and encouraged to be taught in schools.
The novel raised a great many questions and concerns from religious groups and there is no doubt that when the movie is viewed, it does depict some priests and bishops in a rather sinister light. However, the novel does not so much depict them in a sinister way, as it contradicts ages old church believes. It would be impossible for any teacher to fully and accurately address each concern that was brought to light by one group or another, but there are general concerns that can be focused on.
Use the downloadable power point to discuss the Five Big Questions the novel brings to light and how Christian groups responded to those questions. The answers are direct, straightforward, and not preachy at all; they just provide readers with another point of view. Once you are done reading the novel, show the film if time permits. Ask students how the visual depictions of the priests within the film cause them to think badly of some church officials. Was the church’s reputation harmed by their depiction in the novel? It’s an interesting topic for discussion and they’ll be talking up a storm, for sure.
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