Tuesday, May 09, 2006 

In defense of ‘The Da Vinci Code’

DAN Brown’s hugely successful and controversial novel, “The Da Vinci Code” (40 million copies sold), has received a lot of flak lately, mainly from the conservative Catholic church and her apologists.
They believe (falsely, of course) that the book undermines Christianity and may lead astray the faithful.

According to one critic, a historian named James Hitchcock (as quoted in the book “The Da Vinci Hoax,” by Olson and Miesel):

“‘The Da Vinci Code’ can be viewed as an ephemeral artifact of popular culture, but its immense sales ensure that it will have influence on people who never read serious books. Brown has found a formula for becoming rich: sex, sensationalism, feminism, anti-Catholicism and the occult. But it is also obvious that he sincerely hates Christianity and sees himself as engaged in an anti-crusade. The culture is ripe for such a debased book, so that even professing Christians are being seduced by it.”

What is obvious to me in the above quotation

is not that Brown “sincerely hates Christianity” but that Hitchcock is biased in his opinions, which is not expected of a historian.

What really irks blind followers of Christianity and its Medieval-thinking defenders about the novel is clearly stated in “The Da Vinci Hoax”:

“‘The Da Vinci Code’ challenges beliefs that are central to Christianity: the celibacy and divinity of Jesus, the place of the apostles and the purpose of the Church. The novel insists that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children, that Mary Magdalene—not Peter—was the head apostle, that Catholic Church has kept these ‘facts’ hidden through force and terror, and that Jesus was not truly divine but merely a good man ‘deified’ by Emperor Constantine in AD 325.”


The fact is Brown’s book is fiction. He himself says so. The only things Brown claims to be factual in his book, as he himself states before the story begins, are the following:

“The Priory of Sion, a European secret society founded in 1099

“The Opus Dei, a deeply devout Catholic sect that has just completed construction of a US$47 million national headquarters at 243 Lexington Ave., New York

“All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals”

Not one of the reviews critical of the book published in the local press ever mentioned what Brown himself said about his intentions and his work. So, for a change, let’s hear from the author himself.

In an interview that appeared in Evolve Magazine (Vol. 3, No. 1) published by Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Los Angeles, Brown answers the following questions:

Q and A

What made you decide to tackle a controversial subject?

“Strangely, I don’t think I ever actively ‘decided’ to tackle a controversial topic. I chose this topic for personal reasons—primarily as an exploration of my own faith and my own ideas about religion. I believe that one of the reasons the book has become controversial is that religion is a very hard thing to discuss in quantitative terms. I consider myself a student of many religions. The more I learn, the more questions I have. Deciding to write about this topic was simply part of my own personal quest for understanding.”

How did you get all the inside information for this book?

“Most of the information is not ‘inside’ as it seems. The secret described in the novel has been chronicled for centuries, so there are thousands of sources to draw from. In addition, I was surprised how eager historians were to share their expertise with me. One academic told me her enthusiasm for ‘The Da Vinci Code’ was based in part on her hope that this ancient mystery would be unveiled to a wider audience.”

Has anyone in organized religion come out in support of your novel?

“Yes, many people in organized religion have come out in support of this novel and, of course, many have come out in opposition as well.

“The opposition generally comes from the strictest Christian thinkers who feel the idea of married Jesus serves to undermine his divinity. While I don’t agree with this interpretation, this is immaterial because the dialogue itself is a deeply empowering and positive force for everyone involved.

“Suddenly, enormous numbers of people are passionately debating important philosophical topics and, regardless of the personal conclusions that each of us draws, the debate can only help to strengthen our understanding of our own faith.

“Much of the positive response I get from within organized religion comes from nuns (who write to thank me for pointing out that they have sacrificed their entire lives to the Church and are still considered ‘unfit’ to serve behind the altar).

“I have also heard from hundreds of enthusiastic priests. While many of them disagree with some of the ideas in the novel, they are thrilled that their parishioners are eager to discuss religion.

“Fr. John Sewell of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Memphis stated it particularly eloquently in the press, saying: ‘This [novel] is not a threat. This is an opportunity. We are called to creatively engage the culture and this is what I want to do. I think Dan Brown has done me a favor. He’s letting me talk about things that matter.”

Saturday, May 06, 2006 

Da Vinci Code shows 'spiritual thirst'

THE head of the Scottish Episcopal Church believes the popularity of Dan Brown's bestselling book The Da Vinci Code is a symptom of a "spiritual thirst" among the public.

Speaking to The Scotsman in his last week as Primus, the Most Rev Bruce Cameron said the Church had to embrace that "thirst" in order to draw people back in to Christianity.

He said that the book offered a "real opportunity" to bring people into the church. "All this discussion about The Da Vinci Code shows that there is a thirst to learn more about Jesus, and this seems to offer a real opportunity for the Church to respond," he said.

Mr Cameron's words go against the stance of most other churches, which have attacked the book as damaging to Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is to send a DVD to schools, portraying the novel as "monumentally inexcusable nonsense".

But Mr Cameron, who has served as Primus for five years and Bishop of Aberdeen for 14 years, said the Episcopal Church's shape and methods would have to change if it was to survive.

"I would be as bold as to say that the Church at the end of the century will look radically different from how it looks at the beginning.

"Today's Church can sow the seeds of this, make the connections with the people who have given up on the Church but who are still religious."

He added that the Church had to get across to people that, even with their doubts about religion, there is a place for them in it. "We have our doctrines and beliefs, but people can come to the Church, with all their doubts and uncertainties, and join us on this journey. It's not about having to believe in ten impossible things before breakfast."

Addressing the controversial subject of the ordination of homosexual bishops in the Anglican Communion, Mr Cameron said it was a "difficult and painful" issue that had to be addressed.

He also voiced concerns that Scotland was in danger of unintentionally falling into independence. "I think there is an ongoing tension between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster.

"The more there is a tension, the more we move towards an independent Scotland - and it could happen suddenly."


Creationism dismissed as 'a kind of paganism' by Vatican's astronomer

BELIEVING that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday.

Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.

He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a "kind of paganism" because it harked back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events.

Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods. "Knowledge is dangerous, but so is ignorance. That's why science and religion need to talk to each other," he said.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do."

Brother Consolmagno, who was due to give a speech at the Glasgow Science Centre last night, entitled "Why the Pope has an Astronomer", said the idea of papal infallibility had been a "PR disaster". What it actually meant was that, on matters of faith, followers should accept "somebody has got to be the boss, the final authority".

"It's not like he has a magic power, that God whispers the truth in his ear," he said.

Friday, May 05, 2006 

Othercott The Da Vinci Code?

Barbara Nicolsi, a writer for Christianity Today, suggests a different strategy for the release of The Da Vinci Code (2 weeks away at the time of this post). Nicolsi says don't boycott the movie, don't use it as a means for evangelism, instead ... othercott it.

Go to another movie on the heavily scrutinized opening weekend. Cast your vote at the ticket box. That is what Hollywood pays attention to anyway.

She's got a point, I must admit. Maybe it would be a good time to go see United 93 if you haven't already.

Nicolsi makes an interesting argument. She says don't debate the devil. Don't start out on his ground. Nicolsi compiles what she thinks will be a typical dialog about DVC.
Here's a typical DVC-inspired dialogue. See if you can find a search for truth in it.

It usually starts with something like this: "Everybody knows that the Church Fathers were liars. Can you prove the compilation of the Bible wasn't pure politics?"

And just when you start saying, "Well, I don't agree that the Church Fathers were--", the questioner moves on with eyes flashing unnaturally, "Why is the Church so afraid of women, huh? Why has it suppressed them since the beginning? Answer THAT!"

You clear your throat and say, "Well, I wouldn't say that the Church is afr--"

But they've moved on: "The fact is, there is no evidence for the Resurrection. Have you ever read the Gospel of Mary Magdalene?"

"Well, no, but--"

"See you people are all brain-washed." [Exhalation of disgust.] "How so many people could be so stupid is amazing to me."

When you debate with Satan, there is no opportunity for anything but people digging their heels into the sludge of chaos and confusion.

Nicolsi's other concern is that some sheep will be led away by this tripe. The church is vulnerable to heresy due to a climate of biblical illiteracy and anti-intellectualism that infects the modern evangelical church. Maybe. But is running away the best strategy?

Now, juxtapose Nicolsi's strategy with a comment I received yesterday on my blog.

A commenter named Sonia writes :
"The book and the movie have created an incredible opportunity for Christians to discuss history, church history, art and scriptures with the average Joe on the streets. I can't tell you how many times I've had conversations with co-workers or other folks I rub shoulders with that normally wouldn't touch conversations of the "religious" type with a ten-foot pole.

I have to admit, while I was more prepared than some to handle the questions, I could not have done it without the extra preparation provided by our Sunday School teacher at church - an engineer who holds a degree in Christian Thought. We held debates and even had homework. We've dug through the Council of Nicaea, Constantine, historicity of scriptures (in comparison with other historical documents) as well as having had to read several Gnostic Gospels.

Let's use this to our advantage!"
Right on! This Sunday School teacher / engineer is to be commended. Instead of running from heresy, he chose to equip to engage. Debates in a Sunday School -- I love it! That'll wake up the sleepy heads, right?

So what to do?

Nicolsi is right that DVC enthusiasts are not exactly on a search for truth. They are on a hunt for vindication. Trying to winsomely engage such types borders on throwing pearls before the swine.

For example, I had someone challenge me recently on evidence for the resurrection. I responded and then got some snarky comments thrown back in my face. I then asked, how would it change his life if he got a video tape of the resurrection and knew for a fact that it really happened. He answered honestly. It wouldn't change a thing. And then he proceeded to tell me why he thought God was unfair and unjust. Bingo. The real issue surfaced. Evidence was not the real issue and never was. Now we can make some progress. What spawned this discussion? A post on the Da Vinci Code ;)

So Nicolsi is right ... and we definitely do NOT need to spend hours throwing pearls before the swine. Let's go watch another movie on May 19th (she suggests a Dreamworks flick for the kids called Over The Hedge). I am okay with that. But let's follow the example of Sonia's Sunday School teacher and equip folks with good answers ... and prepare them for how to deal with hostile people. Perhaps a list of good questions to ask would be in order.

Like ... "How about if you got a DVD from God, which was authentic, and it showed that the resurrection of Christ really happened, how would it change your life?"


There is a difference!

From the website of Beyond Belief Media's War on Easter:

Is religion truly dangerous?

Yes. Throughout history, religions in conflict have generally inflicted the maximum possible violence on their perceived enemies. Religions gain power the more they insulate themselves from criticism. In the United States, Christianity has achieved a degree of insulation that is unwarranted — it has power, it makes claims, but our politically correct culture forbids vigorous examination of that power or those claims.

But isn’t Christianity the least dangerous religion?

This past Palm Sunday, the Bible phrase heard most often in many church services was "obedient unto death." A popular sung phrase was, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" Mass movements emphasizing vengeance and lockstep obedience have historically been less than benign.

But, at the moment, isn’t Islam more dangerous?

Yes. But Christianity is equally devoid of reason, and it is the most likely source of mindless antagonism of Islam. In a world where nuclear weapons become easier to acquire year by year, we need to neutralize religious fanaticism before it neutralizes us. And we need to start at home.

Now compare this letter written as an opinion to ABS-CBN Interactive by GERONIMO L. SY:

It is most surprising that after selling 40 million copies of his The Da Vinci Code that attacks the core beliefs of Christianity, no one in the Christian world has called for the head of Dan Brown, to demand his death for his blasphemous writing.

Distinguish this with the fatwah against the British author Salman Rushdie for his Satanic Verses and the recent violent deaths over the Danish cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad. A movie version is even coming out this May.

* * *

On the eve of our crisis in Christianity, the following of Dan Brown is but a species of the long and arduous struggle to remain loyal and steadfast to the Triune God, a turning of the tide against curiosity and pride in favor of obedience and humility. In the end, it is not at all surprising that Christians do not call for the death of Dan Brown. Someone said sometime ago, "Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

I think that this illustrates the type of broad brushing that Beyond Belief Media does. Yes, both Islam and Christianity are religions, but the difference is in the details -- a point conveniently ignored.

About me

  • I'm Adrian
  • From Manila, Philippines
  • We cannot change the world and turn it to our own accord. Our own will does not always prevail. I may not know how to manipulate the world, but I know how to destroy it; Unless I am returned to life, nothing left but just a trace of my existence.
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