Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Da Vinci Code

I'm re-reading The Da Vinci Code. Partly because the movie's release, scheduled for May, has piqued my interest again. And partly because when I read it the first time, I read it mostly for the story, not paying real strict attention to the religious details. Although the religious angle was obviously central to the book's intrigue, and is a high interest of mine, I didn't take the book's various allegations all that seriously. I was just along for the ride.

My initial feeling about it was that while the book did include a lot of what devout Christians, or at least conservative Catholics would consider to be blasphemous references, the end of the book seemed to blur that effect somewhat. So to me the book really didn't come down all that hard on orthodox Christianity, despite the claims of the book's and the author's detractors. It seemed to me that the author's portrayal of the Catholic church in general, and of the secretive organization, Opus Dei in particular, was more sensitive than many popular accounts of the book make it seem. In any event, critiques of the church's origins, the nature of Christ, and so forth, fictional or otherwise, aren't all that unusual, given how little we really know of ancient times without printing presses and Internet connections, and given the Catholic church's sordid history along many other lines, such as the inquisition, the various scandals surrounding many of the popes, it's many false claims that modernity has exposed (such as those surrounding Galileo and the earth as the center of the universe), and so on.

So why the big deal about this book?

Maybe the church thinks people are more attentive to religious detail in non-sanctioned works than they really are. Maybe the fact that the allegations of church fraud and cover-up are so recent has caused it to respond more vigorously to this book than would seem warranted. And of course, that a gazillion copies of the book, hard-cover no less, have been sold has been a critical factor in the church's response (by both Roman Catholic and Protestant it should be mentioned).

Aware that a call for a boycott would undoubtedly stir up greater interest in the movie, the church has been somewhat cautious in its criticisms of the upcoming release, preferring to instead try to counter the book's arguments through its own media outlets and institutions, hoping to ensure that the faithful are kept in line, or at least are given adequate tools to respond so as to make sure their faith is not unsettled. Preaching to the choir, so to speak, rather than taking their complaints mainstream.

In any event, I'm re-reading it hoping to clarify some of the book's religious claims, which the author says are factual.

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