|The Da Vinci Code
||[Apr. 24th, 2006|03:07 am]
|||||Hillsong United - Free||]|
The Da Vinci Code
Alright...it happened...I gave in and read The Da Vinci Code.
If you don't know much about my reading life, this is probably one of only ten real novels I've read in my entire life. When I was in elementary school I remember reading children's versions of classic novels, but somewhere around middle school I stopped reading entirely for about 8 years. Honestly, I don't think I read a single book in high school, save possibly Of Mice and Men and parts of The Martian Chronicles. I barely even read my textbooks when I was at community college. Over the last three or so years, however, I've been really pushing myself to make reading a regular habit. Since I'm a somewhat of a productivity-driven individual, I tend to only read books that I can see a direct benefit to reading. For this reason (and the fact that I'm a slow reader, I was actually certified with a reading disability in grade school) I don't tend to read many novels at all. All this is really just to say that I really have little exposure to good literature and have no really perspective to give a meaningful literary review of ANY book.
When I first started to hear the buzz about The Da Vinci Code, back in 2003 or 04, I didn't really pay much attention. We live in a culture that likes to use shock and controversy as a marketing technique. T.V. shows like South Park like to use "controversial" crude, tasteless humor and the History Channel and U.S. News & World Report like to run "controversial" stories about Jesus and Christianity. So I don't generally like to get worked up over controversial fads.
Beyond that, from the beginning the entire thing seemed a bit silly to me. Anyone with any knowledge of how we got the Bible and history can see straight through the holes in Dan Brown's view of Christian history. Beyond that, it’s just a novel. Novels are supposed to tell larger than life compelling stories. That is why we read them. So it was a little bit beyond me as to why the Christian community would get so worked up for this particular fiction story.
The problem with The Da Vinci Code is that this little fad didn't go away. It kept selling more and more copies. Somewhere along the way, the Christian community started to take notice and get a bit worried. With the new Ron Howard-Tom Hanks film on the verge of coming out, the Christian community is getting to ready for war.
For me, I first started to notice this resurgence back in February. In my evangelism class our professor informed us that Josh McDowell was writing a book in response to The Da Vinci Code. This seemed a bit odd to me, but I didn't think anything of it. Then, over Spring Break I found out that my youth group back in Texas had done an entire series on The Da Vinci Code. The following week, one of the school newspapers ran an article discussing the neo-paganism found throughout the book. A few weeks later, on a prayer day, there was an entire chapel dedicated to discussing the controversy. In response, one of my friends ran out and read the book that night. She informed me that I should do the same. Ironically, I responded with something like, "I'll take that into consideration, but it’s not going to happen" (within 5 days I had read the book).
The fact that our school would have a chapel message dedicated to the book got me seriously thinking about how absurd the whole situation is. But it didn't end there. I went home for Easter weekend to discover that my church in Texas is going to run an entire series on The Da Vinci Code. Not only that but the church I grew up in (which now has roughly 4000 in weekly attendance) STARTED a series on the book on EASTER SUNDAY. Instead of a talk on the resurrection of Christ, they did a talk on this book (I assume to attempt to take advantage of the large number of visitors). Later I learned that a number of other churches ALSO chose to do sermons on the book on Easter Sunday.
The final straw came the Monday before I was suppose to fly back to Columbia. While showering I had my radio turned to the local Christian radio station. During a little news segment they started to discuss the film and the announcer flat out called it "anti-Christian." After I heard those words the thoughts kept bouncing around in my head, "it’s just a fictional book." I absolutely could not figure out why the Christian community would be freaking out over a simple novel and labeling it "anti-Christian." I had to find out what the controversy was all about.
Having now read the book, I must admit, I really liked it. Pretty much as soon as I started reading it I was hooked. In fact, I literally stayed up all night reading this book. I could not put it down. Without having much to compare it to its tough to say what it was about this book that drew me but boy did this book draw me in. As a stated before, I'm a slow reader. So the fact that I read a 489 page book within a 24 hour period of time is really impressive.
Part of the appeal for me is that I love grandiose conspiracy stories. The bigger the conspiracy the better. Back in high school, I went nutty for the movie Conspiracy Theory. Likewise, the global, government, alien cover-up stories of The X-Files were always my favorites. Likewise, I also enjoy history, the Christian faith and the history of how we got the Bible. The Da Vinci Code has all that stuff packed in there. It was only naturally that I would enjoy this novel.
With all that said, I am absolutely baffled by the controversy that has surrounded this novel. Are people really taking this junk seriously? Sure it made for a compelling story that drew me in, but how could any intelligent person take this stuff seriously? Did they start checking the Declaration of Independence for a treasure map after watching National Treasure? It would make just as much sense in my mind. I understand that Dan Brown's research was very extensive, but he also just made up tons of junk. More importantly, even if his scholarship was reliable, it’s all dependent on the story, which isn't true. If the details of the story aren't real then the reliability of the controversy can be thrown out the window. It just has nothing to stand on.
On the flip side, it’s bizarre to me that the Christian community would go absolutely nuts over a mere novel. Sure the ideas found within the fictional novel are against The Church, but it’s still just a novel. Books are supposed to take place in alternative worlds which resemble our world. Many Christians may be against Harry Potter, but I've never heard some call it "anti-Christian." If Christians are going to freak out over popular novels that take place in fantasy worlds which oppose the Christian worldview, we might as well call Harry Potter "anti-Christian" because it contains magic. Now I do understand that because of Dan Brown's research this particular novel does come MUCH closer to reality than Harry Potter or Star Wars, but the principle still applies. The Da Vinci Code doesn't contain outright blasphemous material like "The Last Temptation of Christ." It’s really difficult for me to take the charge that this book is "anti-Christian" seriously. Beyond a quote from a Roman Catholic character, which called Christian morality a product of the 3rd century (p. 448), and a quote from the main character, which called all religious faiths unreasonable (p. 370), I have really hard time calling this book "anti-Christian." If this book is anti-Christian, then every book or movie whose plot-line revolves around a world not founded on the Christian worldview is "anti-Christian." The Da Vinci Code just clearly explains how it sets itself apart from the Christian reality.
I think the reason that the Christian community is responding so strongly to The Da Vinci Code is because it’s something we can be united on. Christians have been fighting certain in-house debates for over 1,500 years. For the past 500 years Christians have been split down the middle forming into Protestants and Roman Catholics (of course, there are all so the Orthodox Churches as well). As Christians, there are only a handful of things we all agree on. With the popularity of The Da Vinci Code, we have one more thing we can agree...this book is NUTS! Whether you're a free will Baptist, a reformed Presbyterian or a Roman Catholic priest, we can all agree that Dan Brown's view of Christian history doesn't correspond with reality or historical records. Therefore, we as Christians can very easily unite in reaction to this book. The Da Vinci Code is an easy target for a people who aren't terribly prone to target anyone thing together.
I simply can't take all the hype and controversy seriously. I heard one person claim that the movie will spark a cultural movement from post-modernism to a period of neo-paganism. Perhaps I'm just a bit naive about how gullible people are, but it is simply beyond me that a work of fiction could have any significant cultural impact. We aren't talking about a deeply philosophical novel or social commentary. We're talking about a by the numbers conspiracy-thriller filled with bogus history and outrageous theories. Are people really buying into this stuff? Are Christians going freaking out over nothing? Is the Christian response giving too much credibility to a mere fictional novel? I have no idea...but the whole thing sure is fascinating.
Word Count: 1,656