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"The Da Vinci Code"

For the churchgoing Christian, thereís plenty to like about "The Da Vinci Code":

The whole time, people are talking about the faith.  The important places are locales like museums, libraries, and sanctuaries.  Knowledge of ancient languages, (Western) history, culture, and art is essential.  And itís oh, so literary, even to the point of playing with words, so that the keys to the puzzles lie with being able to figure out the clues within the words.  Just delicious.

Ah, but for the churchgoing Christian, thereís plenty not to like, as well.  First, there are murders in the name of preserving Ďrightí religion, and the Church is portrayed as some dark Byzantine labyrinth of literally warring secret factions.  Oh, and donít forget to throw in the Crusades for our greatest public relations nightmare.  (And we complain about the Ďholy warí of other religions.)  The most fervent disciple appears to be a madman, intent on self-flagellation as an approximation to Christís suffering.  So the clear inference is that religious fervor and lunacy are closely related.  So the opposite would be true, as well:  the heroine (Audrey Tautou) is completely devoid of faith, and the hero (Tom Hanks) can only stammer about a boyhood experience where he prayed when he fell down a well.  As if mature, intellectually sound, adult faith is a commodity not even envisioned, much less assumed.  And hereís the scandalous part:  "The Da Vinci Code" is based on the assumption that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were lovers, that she was pregnant when he was crucified, and that she fled to France afterwards to have their baby, and so somewhere, somehow, their descendant (s) must be alive.  Itís a gossip as old as the Gospels themselves.  And, like all salacious rumor, itís utterly unprovable.  But just delicious.

Whatís great fun is to engage in all the cryptology, the mind games, the guess-what-Iím-thinking aspects of the plot.  So Leonardoís "Last Supper" painting contains a clue, as does the "Mona Lisa," and then we throw in Sir Isaac Newton, and donít forget the Holy Grail, and just for good measure why donít we add to the stew a little spice of paganism, of feminine mystique, of fertility cult?  The Knights Templar and Opus Dei?

Characters that must chase clues while the police are chasing them, and of course betrayal on top of sophistry?

Yes, there are some who would be scandalized by the very inference that Jesus would be portrayed to be, letís say, more human than divine.  (But you canít help but enjoy the vignette of Constantineís conversion and his calling of the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. to insure religious conformity within the Roman Empire.)  And yes, there are some who will be scandalized by the notion that there could be actual descendants of Jesus and Mary Magdalene alive today, who might be so irreverent as to joke about turning water into wine. (But did not Jesus himself say, "You are all children of the Most High"?, Luke 6:35)

But when all the dust of controversy has settled (an uproar which surely must be the best publicity money canít buy), both the well-hyped movie and the book upon which it is based are fiction.  And the ideas are enough re-circulated that the author had to go on trial for plagiarism (he was acquitted, but even he freely admitted that he used previous works for Ďresearchí).  The claims of the movie should not be cause for concern that the convictions of the faithful will be irretrievably shaken.  Rather, we in the Church ought to be rejoicing that because of this movie, and the Ďbuzzí it is generating in our culture, everyoneís talking about Jesus.  And examining their own faith.

What could be better? 

Questions For Discussion:

1) Do you think itís possible that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were involved?

2) Do you think that there are secrets about Jesus that the Church has been deliberately hiding for all these centuries?

3) What do you think causes people to kill in the name of Christianity?

4) If there were a descendant of Jesus alive today, what do you think she would be like?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas