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May 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

That's it, I have to speak my piece!

What prompted me to do so was this WSJ Opinion Journal Op-Ed by deputy editor/ columnist Daniel Henninger, not because I take umbrage with the man's point of view, in fact I think I know where he's coming from --

"The Da Vinci Code" would not be the subject of this column had it not sold 60.5 million copies, according to its publisher Doubleday. Of course this does not make it the best-selling book of all time. That title, as irony would have it, goes to the Bible, half of which one of Dan Brown's characters dismisses as "false."

-- but because all this hoopla, much of it mind-bogglingly senseless, over the novel... I say again, novel, is becoming something of an irritant and Mr. Henninger's column on the subject was merely the proverbial straw that broke the equally proverbial camel's back(I've never completely understood that saying, given the weight of straw -- I didn't think they manufactured camels big enough to reasonably balance enough weight in straw to break them, certainly not so much that one more of those ultralight, skinny suckers could do so).

I regularly receive emails from a number of conservative individuals and organizations, in large part Christian political action groups and their members or supporters, and from the latter quarter I've gotten a lot of action condemning Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code because the story is predicated on Mary Magdelene not only having become the wife of and borne Jesus a child, but also, as the story unfolds, his chief disciple. It doesn't help Brown's cause at all that the person on Jesus' right in Da Vinci's Last Supper isn't a man, but Mary Magdalene herself, nor that the Catholic Church, also according to the novel, knew this but chose to cover it up to the point that even today, assassins from Opus Dei seek Mary's concealed remains and scrolls accompanying them that could repudiate the Vatican's "male only" priest policy(exposing, instead, the concept of "the sacred feminine")... Anyway, I've said too much as it is, there may be someone out there who hasn't yet read it, despite all the controversy.

Needless to say, the Vatican's up in arms, all sorts of clergy spokespersons have spoken in outrage, cults have been established that fanatically support Dan Brown's "theories" and people have been running around in all directions making mammoth hay about the novel.

Mr. Henninger says,

Here's my theory of "The Da Vinci Code." Dan Brown was sitting one night at the monthly meeting of his local secret society, listening to a lecture on the 65th gospel, and he got to thinking: "I wonder if there's any limit to what people are willing to believe these days about a conspiracy theory. Let's say I wrote a book that said Jesus was married. To Mary Magdalene. Who was pregnant at the Crucifixion. And she is the Holy Grail. Jesus wanted her to run the church as a global sex society called Heiros Gamos, but Peter elbowed her out of the job. Her daughter was the beginning of the Merovingian dynasty of France. Jesus' family is still alive. There were 80 gospels, not four. Leonardo DiCaprio, I mean da Vinci, knew all this. The 'Mona Lisa' is Leonardo's painting of himself in drag. Da Vinci's secret was kept alive by future members of 'the brotherhood,' including Isaac Newton, Claude Debussy and Victor Hugo. The Catholic Church is covering all this up." Then Dan Brown said softly, "Would anyone buy into a plot so preposterous and fantastic?" Then he started writing.

By George, he might be right, and I commend the man for sharing this.

They say the film did not perform well at the box office when it opened, but being a reader first and a movie-goer third(I really don't like being packed into a row of movie theatre seats to watch a brand new flick and being denied the luxuries I can enjoy while watching a six month old movie on the 62" TV in my den), I could care less -- that's Opie's, I mean Richie's Ron Howard's lookout, not mine.

But I read the novel back in late 2004 or early 2005, and enjoyed it immensely. The book was well written and held my interest from cover-to-cover, the "theories" advanced intriguing, if not accurate by the standards of conventional faith, the story delivered in conjunction with what Mr. Henninger rightly refers to as a "conspiracy theory" at a pace that kept me interested enough to read the entire novel in one sitting, in the end wishing there were a few more chapters. It was fascinating, Dan Brown is one very creative novelist.

I did not take the novel as anything more than that: A novel. Period. A fiction story, which the author no doubt intended it to be, else he would have left out the story and written the theory behind the book as non-fiction rather than a novel. This is entertainment, nothing more.

A novelist's "job" is to write stories that people will want to read. His/ her income, based on book sales, depends upon it. Offhand, I'd say that selling over 60,000,000 copies in several languages is quite a measure of success in anyone's book, please pardon the double entendre (why is French so hard on the palate? Using their words is like gargling on doo doo, but I suppose that when you're French...).

What aggravates me about the aggressive defensive attacks on the novel by the so-called "religious right", who are as much on the starboard side of the aisle as I am, is the intolerance they demonstrate where a work of pure fiction is concerned.

We are constantly (and rightly) accusing the self proclaimed "tolerant" liberals (you know, those folks who will sue you for saying Merry Christmas or kick your kid out of school for praying) of intolerance, yet here folks on our side of the political frontier wage war and spend big bucks deploying their condemnation of a novel.

For G-d's sake, people, let's get things in perspective here! Let's not exercise the same pro-censorship policies that they do on the left side of the aisle, the American political kollective from whence have come all members of the American Communist Party. Repeat after me: BE TOLERANT... BE TOLERANT... BE TOLERANT...

We are, after all, talking about a damn novel...

Posted by Seth at May 20, 2006 03:06 AM


I think tolerance is one thing. But catholics and christians of other denominations should defend their faith from this wrongful potrayal. More importantly I think people should just keep open minds, calling for a ban is the wrong way of handling the 'problem' . The better solution is a peaceful and intellectual discussion and forum on the matter. Dan Brown isn't the first to come up with the story, he probably won't be the last. However, his version is the most famous and people seem to have been taken aback by a story that's pretty old.

The reality is that this is an opputurnity, because for once a lot of non-christians are going to GO to christians and look for answers. These book sparks interest and anyone with an interest and 5 minutes on google, would know that the book is just a collection of half-truths and deceptive plots meant to entertain rather than educate. We should be tolerant, everyone has the right to express his feelings and everyone has the right to tell a story fictional or otherwise.

Posted by: Keith Rozario at May 20, 2006 09:02 PM

Keith --

Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

I agree with you completely, though my point here is that too much combative energy is being expended on attacking this book, because it is merely fiction.

The Christians who are expending that energy(and money) are hurting their cause more than helping it -- attacking it as blaspheme is doing little more than promoting the book. Scandal sells. Ignoring it as though it was beneath comment would have been more wise. When the Vatican itself condemns the book, it undoubtedly whips all the major conspiracy nuts into a frenzy, suspecting immediately that they're covering something up.

A book like that will always attract some sort of cult following, but these are relatively small collections of people from the same pool as those who believe Elvis is still with us and those who move to New Orleans to be near Anne Rice and have their teeth sharpened into fangs.

Posted by: Seth at May 20, 2006 09:34 PM

What do you think would happen if I wrote a book that sold 60 million copies that told the life of Mohammed -- and he was a thief and a pedophile who raped and murdered dozens of young boys?

It would be nice if this were a work of fiction -- but it's not being presented that way. It's being presented as semi-fact: and people are believing it. Just look how many people say, "Well gee, what if this were true?"

It IS an attempt to break down and wear away Biblical truths, hidden behind the word "fiction."

Posted by: Ogre at May 21, 2006 03:40 AM

Ogre, if you wrote a book like that, you would win an award for being the world's #1 fatwa generator, LOL, and probably set in motion the demise of several embassies, thousands of cars, etc, pictures at eleven. And the animals who wrought all the carnage would blame you for writing the book, rather than themselves for practicing their Islam on other people and other people's property.

Which is one of the things that makes us infinitely more civilized than "Allah's faithful". Although many have taken umbrage with the novel, we haven't seen Catholics rampaging, attacking people and destroying property.

On topic:

Whatever the author was thinking, whatever anyone may believe Brown's intent to be, a novel is still a novel and should be treated as the fiction it is. To attack it as anti-Christian propaganda is to elevate it above its fiction status and in some ways give it creedence as a legitimate element of theological debate, which, despite the howling of the conspiracy wingnuts who've formed cults around the book, it very definitely is not.

Posted by: Seth at May 21, 2006 12:47 PM