Saturday, March 26, 2005

Debunking the Da Vinci Code

Wow.

The Vatican has a new official to debunk the Da Vinci Code.

Over Thanksgiving various family members urged me to read The Da Vinci Code.

As a thriller, it wasn't bad--but I can't say it gripped me in any way. The problem?--this is one of these thrillers that depends on the author convincing the reader that he is in total command of all the details. Tom Clancy's The Hunt for Red October works because the author convinces you that he understands what it is like to be inside a modern submarine. Michael Crichton command of medical and technological detail plays the same role in many of his novels.

As for Dan Brown? Well, suppose you read a baseball novel where the author was convinced that Michael Jordan was a hall-of-fame baseball player. Or suppose you picked up a political novel where Bill Clinton was thought to be a former governor of California.

Same problem with Dan Brown. I can't speak for his understanding of art history, but as a biblical studies professional I would say that he knows less about Christianity and the Bible than the average American 13 year-old boy knows about the NFL.

The debunkings of Da Vinci are now so numerous that one scarcely knows where to begin.

For a debunking by a religious studies professional with no pro-Christian bias, see Bart Ehrman's book: Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code..

The evangelical magazine Christianity Today gives a critical review.

Opus Dei, the Catholic group that functions as the axis of evil in the novel, offers a rebuttal.

May I here close with a personal take?--I have been telling friends for some time that The Da Vinci Code is great advertising for Opus Dei. My guess is that at the end of the day, the novel will be shown to have resulted in a substantial boost in Opus Dei recruiting.

For evidence that I might be right, consider this snippet from First Things:

• Opus Dei plays a prominent part in the conspiracy theories propounded in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Learning that a company is running Da Vinci tours, Opus Dei decided to make lemonade out of lemons and invited the company to bring its clients to Opus Dei houses where they received a PowerPoint lecture on the truth about Opus Dei. Apparently the arrangement is working out to everyone’s satisfaction, although possibly not to Dan Brown’s. The Tablet reports that some Catholics are deeply troubled by the book. “We understand that members of one parish book club who read it were so troubled they sought an explanation from a priest.” They sought an explanation from a priest! You can hardly get more troubled than that.

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