Monday, May 08, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown's novel of Catholic Church intrique and Christian mystery has been turned into a major hollywood production starring Tom Hanks among others set for release this month.

While the plot of the story, that the catholic church covered up the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene and is attempting to prevent the discovery of this fact through the use of nefarious Opus Dei albino monks, is entertaining, it is not, as commonly alleged, anti-Christian at all. The whole premise, that Mary could have traveled to France and that anyone would have cared a wit at the time plays right into the Christian myth that Jesus was anything other than an insignificant Jewish peasant who, like many others during that period, claimed to be the much heralded messiah of the Jews. Also, the book does not portray the whole notion of Christ's bloodline having legitimate monarchical rights or any descendents of that line (Sofia) being some sort of mystical descendents of a demi-god as ridiculous or evil, instead the Catholic church is the villain for usurping the legitimate claimant to the power of Christ.

Added to this is the ridiculous notion that the "Priori of Scion" an organization of which relatively little is known but which claims as members Da Vinci and Isaac Newton, was responsible for protecting the Jesus-Mary bloodline. On top of that duty the Priori engages in sexual rites to commemorate the consummation of the Jesus-Mary relationship. Now while it is not hard to imagine the libertine Da Vinci engaged in such activity, the idea of Newton playing the role of Jesus in a primitive sexual rite is absurdist in the extreme. The historical pitfalls aside, the fact remains that the book, and movie, challenge nothing about Christianity at all. The underlying premise acknowledges that he was, indeed, the messiah (since the messiah is supposed to be descended from David, and thus the King of the Jews) and therefore was not a wackjob carpenter.

So while Catholics will no doubt be distraught over the notion that their church usurped from the children of Jesus the official mantle of Christendom, they should relax. The book is an affirmation of everything of any import to Christianity. It does not question Christian ethics, divinity, origins, death, etc., etc., etc. Also, goofy organizations like Opus Dei deserve ridicule even if they don't send out psychotic albinos to perpetuate elaborate coverups. Certainly this is not a moment for Atheists and friends of reason to rejoice, not for this book and movie.

At some level, even if Brown's theories within the novel, which have been published in other books of non-fiction, were true it's irrelevant. Religious people are not at their core concerned with evidence. People who buy into religions believe (depending on the variety) that dead people can come back to life, that the dead will be reborn (perhaps as a different species), that one man can carry an unmovable boulder a hundred miles, that a person can leave their body if they empty their heads for long enough, that they are eating human flesh and drinking human blood but not cannibals, that forgiving those who injure them makes them superior, that mutilating male genitalia is a sign of a compact with an invisible menace in the sky, that worshipping dead relatives will have an impact on the present, that every object has a spirit, that one can effect reality through wishes and hopes alone, etc. etc. The point here is that if evidence and reason actually meant anything fundamental to those who belong to religions there would not be any religions to plague mankind's existence.

The Da Vinci Code is an entertaining book more for its puzzles and plot twists than the dopey back story and pulp history. At it's core it is unoffensive to religion while carrying the guise of being a challenge to religion, a perfect formula for a bestseller among the faithful anf the skeptical.


Anonymous said...

Your 2nd to the last paragraph is one of the funniest (and most true) riffs I have seen on religion in a long time. Thank you and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

i concur with your observations. i only enjoyed the book because i love mystery thrillers in the first place even if it doesnt make any sense, hell i even loved james bond books. as far as being a christian and a catholic even, i don't think the book has much to discredit anyway. the church itself can do that unaided. so thanks to dan brown after all.

Alexander said...

James Bond novels are very enjoyable action stories that make Dan Brown look like pulp fiction. Ian Fleming knew how to tell a damn good story.