The Da Vinci Code

I just finished reading The Da Vinci code yesterday. I have mixed feelings about the book. On the one hand, it’s a wild ride and has plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end. On the other hand, the hostility toward the Catholic church is troubling to me.

I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but the essential gist of the story is that there is a secret society that is protecting the secret of The Holy Grail (which is presented a not being an actual chalice.) The story states that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and she was pregnant. And upon Christ’s death his wish was to have his church be lead by Mary Magdalene rather than Peter. Finally book asserts, the early Catholic Church in collusion with Emperor Constantine hijacked pagan symbols as a method of converting the Roman masses while bastardizing Christ’s vision for his Church. The book suggests that pagans held women in high regard and that part of the pagan/Christian fusion involved demonizing women and making sex into something forbidden or dirty.

While I am not a Catholic scholar by any means and would consider myself to be agnostic currently, I have real problems with the books characterization of Catholic history. I have no doubt that the early Church adopted pagan symbols to make Christianity more familiar to those they were trying to convert. I have no doubt that sometimes bad things happened in the past with respect to conversion. I don’t even have problems with the idea that Christ and Mary Magdalene may have been married and conceived a child. What bothered me was the idea that the Church throughout it’s history has been complicit in a cover-up regarding the life of Christ via selective inclusion of gospels for the New Testament. And even more is the absurd notion that there is some secret society that has this explosive information but is able to keep it secret. My life experience has taught me that information will find a way to be free. It may take a while, but it always happens. Either that, or it is destroyed and eventually lost forever in which case it loses relevance. Therefore, I think that regardless of the Church’s past, I can only view it as it is today and via the history that is known. And my assessment is such that the Catholic Church has been an will be an overwhelmingly positive force in the world. There are problems as there are in any organization but by and large in my mind, the good due to the Church vastly outweighs the bad. It turns out that this is the eventual conclusion of the book but along the way, the presentation has a very negative slant (especially for Opus Dei.) The “Holy Grail” secret as it is in the story leaves you with the invevitable conclusion that the current incarnation of the Church is based upon an enormous lie. That didn’t sit well with me for reasons that I can’t quite articulate fully.

I realize that this book is a work of fiction but I’ve heard people discuss it as factual and it joins a long list of books to do so. I imagine the upcoming movie will spawn many more such discussions. Speaking of which, the story seems perfectly tailored made for a movie script. I could easily see Tom Hanks as the lead character Robert Langdon (much more so than Russell Crowe who was supposedly the original choice) and Ian McKellen is a brilliant choice as Sir Leigh Teabing. The role of Bezu Fache I imagined was somebody that looked more like a beefier Harvey Keitel rather than Jean Reno. With Ron Howard directing, I suspect the material will be treated fairly and it will be a great film. I’m actually excited about seeing it which doesn’t happen very often with movies these days.

Regardless of my complaints/issues with the book I’m glad I read it. It’s been a phenomenal best seller and as such it’s part of our current pop culture. I’m glad I know what all the fuss is about. And as far as the story goes, it’s mostly fast paced and fun. I’m not sure when the paperback is coming out, so do like I did and borrow a copy and give it a read.


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