Next week at this time we’ll be seeing headlines proclaiming “The Da Vinci Code” has set new records for weekend movie attendance. That article will be accompanied by more articles in which the Catholic Church calls the book and movie heresy while Protestants talk about opportunity for dialogue and the flaws of the story.
I’m a little more than halfway through the book at the moment and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s rife with errors and just stupid mistakes that no writer should make. I mean, c’mon, bar soap in the Louvre restrooms? A cell phone that records digits pressed after the call has connected? Oh yeah, and the way Dan Brown mixes Gnosticism and paganism and builds on discredited research. I was really disgusted with the way he filled in the blanks in “The Gospel of Phillip,” the part about Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene. The fragment does not say where he kissed her. We don’t know. There’s absolutely no way of deducing the meaning of that passage. I read a lot of the Nag Hammadi library for my own research, and used some of those ideas in Amara’s Prayer.
All that aside, however, The Da Vinci Code is a real page-turner and I wish I could simply sit down and finish it uninterrupted. Yes, you can see him setting up the hooks at the end of his chapters way before you get there. Yeah, the sentences are often clumsy and Robert Langdon alternates between genius and naive idiot with the ease of a politician going from china plate fundraisers to blue plate pancake suppers, but dammit, the story really is pretty good.
And what about that heresy charge? There is no heresy in the marketplace of ideas. The Catholic Church says that there is a huge amount of ignorance about Bible scholarship and that Brown’s novel and the movie will confuse people and shake their faith. I agree. Too many people don’t know Bible history. Too many people take the Bible completely out of its historical context and act like there was nothing else going on in the world to influence the authors of the canonized books.
Ronnie James Dio, as singer for Black Sabbath, told us to “Mix a little truth with many lies” and that’s what Brown has done, spawning a cottage industry of people publishing books and producing documentaries to support or debunk him. It’s amazing. And it can only be a good thing for those people willing to open their minds and really explore history, theology, and maybe even art history.
Brown gets so many things wrong, such as Constantine’s involvement in setting the canon, but he mixes it with truths, such as the Christianization of pagan holidays, and that will confuse people who know only a little. But it isn’t a bad thing to be confused if it inspires you to learn something.
But there are people who deny that pagan holidays were assimilated into Christianity, who deny that Christ’s message of love and peace was spread through Europe (and the Americas) on the tip of a sword, who refuse to read or rationally discuss Brown’s book, and who arrogantly condemn those who do. Yes, this happened to me yesterday.
I’ve read that Dan Brown claimed all the secret documents he quotes are real and that the Priory of Sion is really centuries old, this is true, that is factual, etc. Obviously, that’s where he crossed the line. Anyone who can type www.google.com can find out a lot of the stuff he said is true simply is not true. I don’t hold it against him that he made stuff up, that he made the Catholic Church and Opus Dei villians … that’s what novelists do. I think he should have admitted he based his book on long-standing ideas as if those theories were fact, but hey … he’s sold 46 million copies of his book and I haven’t even scored a contract with a major publisher yet.
My real interest at this point is in seeing if my own Amara’s Prayer can somehow ride the coattails of this interest in Gnosticism and alternate ideas about Christianity. (Remember, I’m just now reading Brown’s book; I began writing Amara’s Prayer in 2001.) My novel is very much about the feminine divine, offers gnostic ideas about creation, Eden and the ability of man to achieve god-like status. I sure wouldn’t complain if some of those dollars that can’t fit into Dan Brown’s pockets fell into mine because people wanted a similiar book with more sex.
In Amara’s Prayer, the thematic question asks: Is faith real if it is never tested? If you grow up going to Sunday school, memorizing Bible verses and reciting prayers, is that real faith? My answer is no. Faith is not real until it’s tested. If The Da Vinci Code tests people’s faith, that’s a good thing. If their faith is so weak that it crumbles because of a work of fiction, well … they never had faith in anything that matters, anyway.
Read everything. Think for yourself!