I thought that pop-culture was sure to revisit the very same historical myths that are so very popular with conspiracy theorists and those lacking in the knowledge of History 101.
Thus, we will be taking a respite from our current series of posts to make room for some posts about the gospel of Judas and the posts with which we will begin; on The Da Vinci Code.
This segment will serve as the Thank God for "The Da Vinci Code" !!!
This essay will be parsed into the following segments:
Part 1: Thank God for "The Da Vinci Code" !!!
Part 2: Satanic Verses Versus Satanic Actions
Part 3: Cat’s Got Your Tongue? No, But He Wishes He Did
Part 4: Richard Dawkins’ Delusions
Dan Brown should: at least for the freedom he has to besmirch Christianity, at least because Christianity is the only religion that is still politically correct to attack, at least for the forgiving nature of Christianity.
Christians should: at least for the opportunity it gives to Christians to respond with much more convincing evidence than a fictitious novel.
We should immediately point out Dan Brown’s answer to the question, “Are you a Christian?” Dan Brown responds:
“Yes. Interestingly, if you ask three people what it means to be Christian, you will get three different answers. Some feel being baptized is sufficient. Others feel you must accept the Bible as absolute historical fact. Still others require a belief that all those who do not accept Christ as their personal savior are doomed to hell. Faith is a continuum…we’re each following our own paths of enlightenment.”[i]
What of Dan Brown’s real life theology? Here is a taste:
“We now turn to God for only a handful of questions that science has not yet been able to understand. We still have religion based on ‘proof from incredulity’ (it must be so because there is no other explanation). We still believe in a God of the gaps…We are unable to conceive of our hopes, dreams, memories, and spirits evaporating into thin air when we die, so therefore we say there must be an afterlife. We can’t imagine it another way…The biggest challenge to our spiritual being is our brains are evolving…How do we become solidly minded scientifically, without losing our religion?”[ii]
As Dan Brown’s theology sinks in please consider a comparison:
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, and Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code:
1-Rushdie wrote a fictional novel about Islam. Dan Brown wrote a fictional novel about Christianity.
2-Rushdie was rewarded by being condemned to death. Dan Brown was rewarded by becoming a millionaire.
3-Rushdie was forced to run for his life, go into hiding, and live a secluded life. Dan Brown became an instant celebrity with millions of adoring fans.
4-Rushdie’s novel is actually based on a subject matter that the Qur'an itself refers to as fact— Muhammad’s proclamation and later revocation of certain verses that were explained away by the claim that he had been influenced by satan in moments of weakness. The verses that Muhammad dictated during these moments are known as the satanic verses and were known as such long before Rushdie wrote of them in his novel. Dan Brown’s novel is based on old and utterly discredited paranoid conspiracy theories.
Islam, including the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam), placed a price on Rushdie’s head. See the end of this article for elucidation on the Rushdie and Stevens/Islam controversy. Christianity has responded by dealing with the claims made in Dan Brown’s novel by providing scholarship that counters Dan Brown’s allegedly accurate depiction of works of art and historical sources.
Indeed, Dan Brown should be very thankful that he targeted his attack upon Christianity, the only religion that, according to pop-culture’s concept of political correctness, is still eligible for constant besmirching.
But haven’t many people already been deceived and lost their faith due to Dan Brown’s deceptions?
“A survey of British readers of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ shows that reading the book causes people to believe its claims over those of the Bible. Those having read the book are twice as likely to believe Jesus Christ fathered children and four times as likely to think the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei is a murderous sect, Reuters reported…The poll of 1,000 adults showed 60 percent believed Jesus had children by Mary Magdalene – a claim presented in the book – compared with just 30 percent of those who had not read the book, reported Reuters.”[iii]
However, seekers of the truth will find it, or return to it. Moreover, the response is not suppression but viable responses utilizing annoying little things that Dan Brown did not allow himself to be hindered by—little things such as facts, evidence, historical records, etc., etc.
Consider another comparison:
Michael Moore, author and movie maker recently famous (or infamous) for Fahrenheit 911, and Dan Brown who has become the Michael Moore of religious scholarship.
1-Both weave a tangled web of fiction and alleged fact.
2-Both claim to base their works on fact but have been discredited by actual fact finders.
3-Both have become millionaire celebrities by engaging in bersmirchment.
4-Both have, to a very large extend, flatly refused to respond to rebuttals of their works.
5-Both have, apparently, become successful because they are stating what some people want to hear with their itching ears, “But the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables (2nd Timothy 4:3-4).
But why is The Da Vinci Code successful? There are, perhaps, quite a few reasons:
1-People who have no interest in such discussion of facts with regards to these issues find the novel to be an interesting and exiting story.
2-Others go beyond reason “1” and believe that they have now educated themselves by reading these novels.
3-Others go beyond reasons “1” and “2” and go on to demand that Christians answer the allegations made in the novel.
4-Others go beyond reasons “1,” “2” and “3” and solidify their denial of the truth of the Christian faith.
5-People who do practice some form of “Christian religion” but do not know what they believe, nor why they believe it, consider the novel a great challenge to their faith and they spend more time reading it than the Bible (or various Christian scholarly works, including those that respond to the novel). Suddenly, the novel, and the corresponding movie, video game, etc., become more important.
6-Perhaps the biggest reason for the novel’s popularity is to be explained in the context of presupposition apologetics. Since Christianity is true it is under constant attack in thought, deed and word. Even though light has come into the world—men love darkness because their deeds are evil. Dan Brown has provided a ready made excuse to reject Jesus as He presents Himself through the people who knew Him personally and from the personal testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Moreover, some people will not bother to read the vast amount of material available in the form of refutation of that which Dan Brown claims as fact (if they are even aware that such information exists).
7-It’s just a good book (which is debatable).
I for one would encourage Dan Brown to continue his literary pursuits. Perhaps he will next write a novel that besmirches Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism or others. Pop-culture and its ethics wing, the politically correct movement, would never allow such well balanced besmirchment. Actually his next book will be about the same main character unlocking the mysteries of Freemasonry.
Although, actually the back of the title page states, “All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental” (Doubleday hardcover ed.) or “This is a work of fiction, that characters, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or they are used entirely fictitiously” (Corgi Books paperback ed.). Thus, is the novel claimed as truth? Yes, no, maybe so. It is, of course, a concoction of old, and thoroughly discredited, conspiracy theories based upon the anything but the facts ma’am concept.
One can only wonder (since he is no longer accepting interviews) if he has read the various rebuttals to his novel or if he, in the first place, read anything that was contrary to his conspiracies (such as, oh, the Bible, for instance).
The responsibility for the confusion and controversy over The Da Vinci Code is, of course, to be placed at the feet of Dan Brown himself. This is not only because he is the author but because of the notorious concoction of what has been referred to as fact and fiction but what is, in reality, actual fiction and alleged facts (which are also fiction).The fictitious nature of the work is established by the publisher’s disclaimer. Yet, the novel begins with the word, “FACT.” Is the word fact to be considered part of the fiction, in other words, are the facts only facts within the context of a fictitious story or is the author establishing actual facts that will then be woven into the body of the fiction?
Dan Brown has stated, “How historically accurate is history itself?”[iv] While there is some legitimacy to this statement it is also a tool by which to deny any possibility of objectivism while likewise allowing one to deal creatively with historical facts. Let us not make the claim of pure subjectivism in history a self-fulfilling prophecy by dealing loosely with the facts—on purpose. If history is not historically accurate, how can Dan Brown claim to base his novel of historical fact? This is a substandard double standard.
The dogma of subjectivism has so taken hold of our culture (perhaps a universal pop-culture) that people believe that they can read a fictional novel and learn truth, truth with which to overthrow actual and well established fact. This confusion is also furthered by people who are supposed to be serious scholars as may be seen in an interesting prediction by “James M. Robinson, America’s leading expert on such ancient religious texts from Egypt” and “an emeritus professor at Claremont (Calif.) Graduate University, chief editor of religious documents found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and an international leader among scholars of Coptic manuscripts…speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of The Da Vinci Code”[v]
The confusion presented by The Da Vinci Code is not solely due to the indifferent, the skeptics and the yea of little faith, as it were, but confusion is fueled by the presentation of the work and the words of those involved in both book and movie.
Dan Brown has made the answer to this riddle very clear, he claims that it is fact with fiction and fiction with fact:
“I really began writing this book as a skeptic. I expected to disprove a lot of what’s in the book, and the more research I did, the more I began to believe it and realized, Wow, this makes an awful lot of sense…It’s important to remember this is a work of fiction. All of the references in the book — whether it’s the documents or secret societies — all of that information is drawn from fact. But anyone who turns to popular fiction as some sort of historical textbook — I don’t think anybody is doing that.”[vi]
“The Da Vinci Code is a novel and therefore a work of fiction. While the book’s characters and their actions are obviously not real, the artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals depicted in this novel all exist…it is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit…the secret behind The Da Vinci Code was too well documented and significant for me to dismiss.”[vii]
“Brown told National Public Radio’s ‘Weekend Edition’ during a 2003 publicity tour — he declines interviews now — that his characters and action are fictional but ‘the ancient history, the secret documents, the rituals, all of this is factual.’ Around the same time, on CNN he said that ‘the background is all true.’”[viii]
An interview with Weekend Edition’s Linda Wertheimer,
“I assume that, among other things, you would hear from the world if you’ve got anything wrong. Mr. BROWN: Certainly…WERTHEIMER: You’re trying not to get too fictional with the facts here? Mr. BROWN: Absolutely. The only thing fictional in ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is the characters and the action that takes place. All of the locations, the paintings, the ancient history, the secret documents, the rituals, all of this is factual.”[ix]
On The Today Show (6-9-03) Matt Lauer asked Mr. Brown:
“How much of this is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred?”
To which Dan Brown responded:
“Absolutely all of it. Obviously, there are - Robert Langdon is fictional, but all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact.”
On Good Morning America (11-3-03) Dan Brown was asked:
“if you were writing it as a nonfiction book, how would it have been different?”
“I don’t think it would have. I began the research for The Da Vinci Code as a skeptic. I entirely expected, as I researched the book, to disprove this theory, and after numerous trips to Europe and two years of research, I really became a believer.”
Dan Brown told The Chronicle’s Mary Richardson:
“I wanted to write a book that while it entertained at the same time, you close that last page and go ‘Wow, do you know how much I just learned? That’s fascinating.’ That is really what I set out to do…When I started researching Da Vinci Code, I really was skeptical and I expected on some level to disprove all this history that is unearthed in the book and after three trips to Paris and a lot of interviews, I became a believer.”
TIME magazine described the novel as a “historical thriller purporting to expose a centuries-old Vatican conspiracy to conceal the marriage and offspring of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene.”[x]
Dan Brown made the following statements at a lecture to the New Hampshire Writers Project:
“We were born into a culture. We worship the gods of our fathers. I humbly submit that if all of us in this room had been born in Tibet, probably a lot of us would be Buddhists. I think the chances are pretty good and I also think that we would hold on to all that Buddhist philosophy with all the passion that some of us might hold on to our Christian ideals…Again, we worship the gods of our fathers. It is truly that simple….The world is a big place and now more than ever, there is enormous danger in believing we are infallible. That our version of the truth is absolute.”
What do other notable figures have to say on this issue?:
Ron Howard stated, “It’s not theology. It’s not history…this is a work of fiction.”[xi]
Also, “‘to deny the right to see the film is a fascist act,’ and also ‘to tell someone not to go see the film is an act of militancy and militancy generates hatred and violence.’”[xii]
And, “There’s no question that the film is likely to be upsetting to some people…My advice, since virtually no one has really seen the movie yet, is to not go see the movie if you think you're going to be upset. Wait. Talk to somebody who has seen it. Discuss it. And then arrive at an opinion about the movie itself.”[xiii]
Ron Howard also expressed his view of reviews:
“Of course it’s frustrating that some of the critics have been harsh with it and that’s disappointing, because I’m the type of person that likes to please everyone. I think with this project, that's an impossibility and I’ve kind of known that all along.”[xiv]
And now from the peanut gallery:
“The reaction immediately after the first press screening at the Cannes film festival on Tuesday was mainly negative…Many people in the audience at the screening laughed at the pivotal moment, and the ending was greeted with stony silence.”[xv]
Plus, a bit of merchandising never hurt,
“Howard even had a suggestion on how to boost that number [the projected opening] ‘This sounds a little ‘hucksterish’, but people really respond to the movie better the second time than they do the first time.’”[xvi]
SONY called the novel,
“…a work of fiction, and at its heart, it’s a thriller, not a religious tract.”[xvii]
Tom Hanks stated,
“This is not a documentary, this is not something that is pulled up and said, these are the facts and this is exactly what happened.”[xviii]
When the movie cast was asked if they believed Christ was married Tom Hanks answered,
“Well, I wasn’t around.”[xix]
Tom Hanks has also stated,
“But the story we tell is loaded with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense,” and “If you are going to take any sort of movie at face value, particularly a huge-budget motion picture like this, you’d be making a very big mistake.”[xx]
“John Calley, a co-producer of ‘Da Vinci Code,’ has admitted that the film is anti-Catholic.”[xxi]
Fine, although one wonders what would happen if, for instance, a fictional novel was written about a character named Ron Howard who is described as a former child star and current movie director who is also a depraved maniac. Or, Tom Hanks, a Hollywood actor, lives a double life as a fill in the blank.
In fact, any time that Dan Brown is asked about the controversy stirred by his wild false accusations he responds that at least people are talking and that discussing the issues is always a good thing. But what if we wrote a novel about a novelist named Dan Brown who, although he is married, is an adulterer. Then, upon being sued for defamation of character we could state that at least people are talking about marriage and commitment and that discussion is always good.
Then they may be a bit more cognizant of referring to such convolution as mere fiction. In fact, when Dan Brown was accused of plagiarism he fought the charge in court and did not say, “Well, it’s an interesting topic of discussion.” I’m my wives husband and I love her very, very much but would I ever write a book that besmirches her, that makes all sorts of malicious accusations against her? Never!
As far as Dan Brown’s claims, there are various books, videos and websites that have done a fine job of bringing out the actual truth of the matter. It seems appropriate to refer to Dan Brown’s style of making claims about history by invoking the technical term yrotsih. Basically, we can take whatever he claims to be historical facts, turn them backwards and only then do we get a good assessment of reality. I for one cannot help but point out one inaccuracy.
Dan Brown claims that the Council of Nicea voted Jesus into deity and did so by “a close vote.” This “close vote” was actually 316 to 2. Now, I wonder how Dan Brown would feel if his accountant and money managers engaged in such fuzzy-math, “Well, Mr. Brown we have ensured that your money is well accounted for. We came close to making an accurate assessment, we could have placed 316 million dollars in your account but we got close and placed 2 million instead.”
Thus, not only was the vote the very opposite of “close,” it was not about establishing Jesus’ divinity. In fact, what the early church sought to establish regarding Jesus were two issues: One was Jesus’ humanity, two early unorthodox positions were Modalism and Gnosticism who did not attribute humanity to Jesus. The other was, and in the case of this council, whether he is of the same substance as God the Father.
Rather, there is a more appropriate way to go about engaging discussion of important issues. One would be to publish a non-fiction book that presents the research (like the authors of Holy Blood Holy Grail, who were discredited on their own merrits) another would be for Dan Brown to take up the challenge and agree to debate that which he claims to be factual.
Perhaps Dan Brown will write a novel about a Caliph, whom he could name 'Uthman. The story could stated that this Caliph attempted to concoct an authorized text of the Qur'an due to variant readings in the numerous manuscripts. He could state that after concocting his own authorized version 'Uthman burnt all the manuscripts that disagree with his new one. Wait a minute! Sorry! This actually happened! (Please see On the Qur'an’s Composition).
Others are using the novel to actually propone the same old conspiracy theories, as Dan Brown retells,
“One academic told me her enthusiasm for The Da Vinci Code was based in part on her hope that ‘this ancient mystery would be unveiled to a wider audience.’”[xxii]
Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince are the co-authors of The Templar Revelation from which Dan Brown drew some inspiration:
“…assured the audience that they had no hidden agenda when writing their book. ‘We were following a trail. If people don't agree with us, that’s fine. They can check our sources and come to their own conclusions.”[xxiii]
Picknett further stated,
“I would say to the Catholic Church – get a grip. You’ve been dishing it out for years – but now you’ve proved you can’t take it.”[xxiv]
“ABC News reporter Elizabeth Vargas, raised Roman Catholic, said ABC had no proof Jesus had a wife but could not discount the theory either. ‘For me, it’s made religion more real and, ironically, much more interesting – which is what we’re hoping to do for our viewers.’”[xxv]
How could we fail to mention the comment made within the context of a call for the movie to display a disclaimer that would identify it as a work of fiction:
“…famed British actor Ian McKellen [Gandalf of Lord of the Rings], piped up: ‘Well, I’ve often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction. I mean, walking on water, it takes an act of faith. And I have faith in this movie. Not that it’s true, not that it’s factual, but that it’s a jolly good story. And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing after they’ve seen it.”[xxvi]
Certainly, it was Dan Brown’s claims of facts behind the descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals that have caused much of the responses to the novel. There is not much argument about whether the novel is well written. Rather, the responses come into play when a person claims that certain things are facts and other people can ascertain the accuracy of that statement by doing their own research. This is an area from which Dan Brown wishes to stay away. Dan Brown has retired from the spotlight, and from those pesky calls for explanations of his vast inaccuracies, while he works on his follow up novel about the Masons:
“…people always want me to speak about The Da Vinci Code. And this is information that I researched a couple of years ago, it’s no longer on the tip of my tongue.”[xxvii]
“Though he’s been hit with lawsuits and rebuffed by the Vatican, author Dan Brown said Sunday it’s not his responsibility to address controversies stirred up by his book…‘Let the biblical scholars and historians battle it out.’”[xxviii]
Even some of the old time (you know, way back in the 1980’s) conspiracy theorists are still playing the fact/fiction/fiction/fact game:
“What has attracted readers to ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is its central theme, which Dan Brown claims is not fiction but fact — that a mysterious European society, known as the Priory of Sion, has for centuries guarded a momentous secret. That secret, which is the theory at the heart of the novel, is that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and today their descendants are living in France.”[xxix]
Henry Lincoln, scriptwriter who produced three documentaries for the BBC and is the co-author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail concocted a theory that:
“Mary Magdalene had married Jesus and the Holy Grail that she allegedly brought to France was not the cup from the Last Supper but the child that she and Jesus had together…does Lincoln still believe in that story today? ‘I can’t say that it’s a fact because it isn’t. It’s an idea. But it fits the facts that we have, very few though they be,’ Lincoln says.”[xxx]
Dan Brown’s fiction is a success but his “facts” are a dismal failure as evidenced by the vast amounts of literature that have arisen to present the actual facts behind the fictional facts. Dan Brown should most certainly thank God for his freedom, his success, and his ability to excuse himself from the fray.
[i] Dan Brown from the faqs section of danbrown.com
[ii] Father Jonathan Morris for FOX Fan Central, Dan Brown Responds – ‘The Da Vinci Code’ — Part II
[iii] WorldNetDaily.com, ‘Da Vinci’ readers really believe Christ had kids 60% of adults who read ‘Code’ think there’s truth in suggestion Jesus was dad [5-16-06]
[iv] Dan Brown quoted in Father Jonathan Morris for FOX Fan Central, Dan Brown Responds – ‘The Da Vinci Code’ — Part II
[v] The Associated Press’ Richard N. Ostling, Expert Doubts ‘Gospel of Judas’ Revelation, 3-2-06 usatoday.com
[vi] Gregory Kirschling – ew.com, ‘Da’ Last Big Interview
[vii] Dan Brown from the faqs section of danbrown.com
[viii] CNN.com, The battle of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ With movie release imminent, debate heightens [5-1-06]
[ix] Amywelborn.typepad.com, In the interest of shutting everyone up [May 2006] from a Weekend Edition interview dated 4-26-03 between Dan Brown and Linda Wertheimer (available at Lexis-Nexis).
[x] Michelle Orecklin, “The Novel That Ate the World,” TIME
[xi] Gina Serpe – eonline.com, Howard Shelves “Da Vinci” Disclaimer [5-9-06]
[xii] Zenit.org, Opus Dei Response to Director Ron Howard – “Catholics Are Victims of an Offense” [5-15-06]
[xiii] Breitbart.com – Angela Doland (AP), Ron Howard Answers ‘Da Vinci’ Critics [5-17-06]
[xiv] News.scotsman.com, Mike Collett-White (Cannes, France [Reuters]), Howard says Da Vinci reviews “frustrating”
[xv] News.scotsman.com, Mike Collett-White (Cannes, France [Reuters]), Howard says Da Vinci reviews “frustrating”
[xvi] News.scotsman.com, Mike Collett-White (Cannes, France [Reuters]), Howard says Da Vinci reviews “frustrating”
[xvii] Gina Serpe – eonline.com, Howard Shelves “Da Vinci” Disclaimer [5-9-06]
[xviii] Brooke Anderson CNN – news8austin.com, Fact vs. fiction in the ‘Da Vinci Code’ [5-19-06]
[xix] Breitbart.com – Angela Doland (AP), Ron Howard Answers ‘Da Vinci’ Critics [5-17-06]
[xx] CBS/AP, Hanks: Don’t Take ‘Code’ Too Seriously: Actor Urges Critics To Relax, Says ‘The Da Vinci Code’ Filled With ‘Hooey’ [5-13-06] WENN, Hanks Slams ‘Da Vinci’ Code Critics [5-12-06]
United Press International, Inc., Tom Hanks Answers ‘Da Vinci’ Critics
[xxi] Catholicleague.org, It’s Show Time for Ron Howard [5-12-06]
[xxii] Dan Brown from the faqs section of danbrown.com
[xxiii] Dan Wooding - Assist News Service - WorldNetDaily.com, ‘Da Vinci’ inspiration tells church: ‘Get a grip’ ‘You’ve been dishing it out for years – but now you've proved you can’t take it’ [5-13-06]
[xxiv] Wooding [5-13-06]
[xxv] WorldNetDaily.com, Behind tonight’s ABC Jesus special News team bases report on virulently anti-Christian novel [11-3-03]
[xxvi] Mark Finkelstein – newsbusters.org,‘Da Vinci Code’ Actor: Bible Should Have ‘Fiction’ Disclaimer [5-17-06]
[xxvii] Gregory Kirschling – ew.com, ‘Da’ Last Big Interview
[xxviii] CBSnews.com, ‘Da Vinci’ Author Ducks Controversy - Dan Brown Says He'll Let Experts Sort Out Issues Raised By His Book [4-24-06]
[xxix] CBSnews.com, The Priory Of Sion - Is The “Secret Organization” Fact Or Fiction?
[xxx] CBSnews.com, The Priory Of Sion - Is The “Secret Organization” Fact Or Fiction?