Sunday, May 28, 2006
Weighing in on Da Vinci Code
I included a link to the book reviews so that we might not forget the source material of the movie. Jon and I heard Dan Brown speak at a local book store (Books and Co.) in Dayton the week DVC went number one on the NYTimes Best seller list. Dan was engaging, humble and entertaining. My husband had read the book (I hadn't yet) and he asked Dan directly: Do you believe this story? In other words, did Dan believe the primary narrative about Mary Magdalene, the priory of Scion and so on?
And it's that that has stuck with me these last several years.
I've read dozens of debunking articles on both sides of the theological and historical aisles. We've got evangelicals and liberals all decrying the inaccuracies of Dan's book. Fair enough.
But what stands out to me instead in both book and movie is the power of the narrative that Dan wove. That narrative captured the imagination of a nation! Dan Brown was credited (at one point) with saving the publishing industry single-handedly (have you ever seen such an explosion of books prompted by one title?).
So why the abiding fascination with "mere story"? What is it that drives people to read not just Dan's book, but articles, other books explaining his book, websites and more? And what is it that makes people hate the film?
Ron Howard has a style that many critics find annoying. I don't. That may be the first reason I liked the film. I always enjoy seeing the visions in my head realized on screen and for me, Ron Howard and cast did so more than adequately.
But secondly, I liked the film because I really liked the book. I don't love Dan's writing style (though he has the one page, two person dialog down to a science!). What I loved was the twisting, turning plot (not unlike Shogun but not so arduously long) that unseated complacent "we hold the truth" gate-keepers of Christian doctrine. Dan Brown suggested, even asserted, that the whole truth wasn't locked up in the Bible or the "unbroken line" of popes. There may be more to this Jesus tradition than we've been led to accept and believe.
My contention is that where religion and conspiracy co-mingle, the non-religious everywhere experience a collective smirk. The attempts to prop up Christian dogma as damningly true just don't sit well with everyone, much to the chagrin of committed believers.
Enter Dan Brown with a book that blew the doors off of fiction and made the whole world talk about faith and science, art and history, conspiracy and hope... And what is the primary response in the "boycott the movie" emails I receive, in the articles I read? Lots of work being done to examine the historicity of the claims and debunk them. Comments like "We shouldn't worry about this book because none of it is true."
Feels like everyone sort of missed the point.
What would be more interesting to examine is the phenomenon of the book. The Christian religion became a topic worth discussing for a little while again. And this time, room was made at the table for a powerful tale that the religious don't like, want to destroy, prove untrue. Perhaps Christians are nervous!
Maybe they feel their market-share is threatened.
I can't help but wonder if the original stories (Gospel narratives) had been written in a time when books were more easily published, what might have happened to them? Might we ask what they excluded, included falsely and whether or not the author had an agenda? Would there be boycotts of John's Gospel in favor of Luke's? How many articles, books and emails would debunk any one of the Gospel's claims as historically inaccurate? Would the writers then miss the message because of an obsession with verifying the events cited?
Jesus is back on the front burner for a little while. I like that.