Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I didn't read the book, but I've seen the movie. To quote Anthony Lane of the New Yorker:
As far as I am qualified to judge, the film remains unswervingly loyal to the book, displaying an obedience that Silas [the albino Spanish monk devoted to Opus Dei-inspired self-flagellism] could not hope to match. I welcome this fidelity, because it allows us to propose a syllogism. The movie is baloney; the movie is an accurate representation of the book; therefore, the book is also baloney, although it takes even longer to consume.
What interests me far more than the literary merits of "The Da Vinci Code" is the response of church officials to the bouts of self-doubt and confusion that the book and movie have inspired. After seeing the movie with my wife and mother-in-law over the weekend, our conversation quickly turned to the 500-lb elephant in the room: is the Church afraid that the movie will infuse confusion into its followers' faith, leading them toward unorthodox theology; or that the movie will cause them to think critically about the means by which the gospel narrative was constructed?

In my view, arguments over whether the "dark con of man" portrayed in "The Da Vinci Code" deserves attention are beside the point. At issue is the historical foundations of the Church "orthodoxy." In my experience, the apologists for orthodoxy (and I'm talking about the general sort of "orthodoxy" practiced by church leaders as diverse as Pope Benedict XVI and Rick Warren) have been unsuccessful in convincing skeptics that the Bible constructed by the church fathers is anything more than Whig history. That's the problem: believing the Bible to be a text written by divine inspiration requires an a priori position in faith, doesn't it?

This circularity -- so plain to those outside Christianity -- is obscured by belief and faith to those within. My guess is that the Church is less concerned about a wave of "Grail cults" than it is of parishioners wondering if the account of the Grail as depicted in "The Da Vinci Code" is no less absurd than the biblical account itself. The movie (and I suppose the book) helps people to break the "circularity". If "The Da Vinci Code" depicts fictional events surrounding the life of Jesus, who's to say that the Gospels don't, either. Most people I know are unable to make the necessary distinctions.

They resort to authority.

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