Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The DaVinci Code

If you haven't seen it already, check the current issues of Sojo Mail to read their interview with Brian McLaren about The DaVinci Code. You can read it online here:

(free registration required)

McLaren has a refreshing take on the DVC. Rather than seeing it as an attack on Christianity or as an opportunity for evangelism, McLaren addresses it primarily as an opportunity for the Church to reflect on how we are presenting Jesus to the culture and, as such, an opportunity for self-critique. Here's a sample:
I think a lot of people have read the book, not just as a popular page-turner but also as an experience in shared frustration with status-quo, male-dominated, power-oriented, cover-up-prone organized Christian religion. We need to ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brown's book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church.

For a while now there's been something that vaguely bugged me about the parade of books, videos and Sunday school classes "decoding" The DaVinci Code, and I think I know now what it is. In part, I just don't like anything that comes from the conservative evangelical camp (a personal bias that I realize is unfair). But it was harder to see what the problem was in this case, because I was in agreement with them that the "history" in the DVC was attrocious, and I agreed that it was worthwhile setting the record straight. So I thought my irritation was just that I didn't like the people who were writing these books.

But after reading McLaren's thoughts on the matter (as well as recent remarks from the LutherPunk), it seems to me that the public reaction of Christianity has been (surprise, surpise) self-righteous arrogance. Yes, Brown's (or more precisely, the fictional Teabing's) version of early Christian history is wildly inaccurate, but we're not going to win many friends by saying "we're right, as always, and we'll prove it."

A "just-the-facts" proof-from-history isn't what people are interested in, not least because postmodern people (rightly) don't believe that "just-the-facts" versions of history exist. I remember once when I was explaining to some non-Christian friends how the early Church determined which books should be in the Bible. When I got to the part about the rule of faith, my friends literally laughed out loud. "You mean they only picked the books that they agreed with?!" they asked. "Of course," I answered. It seemed like the most obvious thing in the world to me, but I saw why this would seem ridiculous to them, and I think it is largely because Christianity has promoted the Bible as a sort of magic book that is the standard for what's true and what isn't rather than presenting it as a book of faith. I don't think the Lee Stroebel/Hank Hanegraaff school of apologetics prepares people to really talk (and think!) about things like this. Instead, it just assures us that we are right.

In other DVC culture, did you see this week's Saturday Night Live? Tom Hanks was hosting and the intro segment was hilarious. "Audience members" including a priest and the Pope were questioning him about the DVC movie, finally culminating in a cast member dressed as Jesus who stood up for this exchange (slightly paraphrased):
Jesus: I've seen your movie and I forgive you.
Hanks: You forgive me for making The DaVinci Code?
Jesus: No, I haven't seen The DaVinci Code. I'm talking about The Terminal. I forgive you for making The Terminal.

I was ROFL, as they say.


cranmer said...

Well said!

Christopher said...

I wish I had seen that SNL skit. Sounds good.

LutherPunk said...

Oh man, I wish I had seen that skit. Too bad Jesus didn't address "You've Got Mail"! What a horrid film.

I am glad you are lending your voice to a small but growing number of folks who don't see DVC as a nefarious threat, but rather as an opportunity for reflection. Christianity has survived and even thrived in the midst of actual heresies. If the monatists, donatists and all those others could end Christianity, do we really think a work of pop-fiction will?

D.W. Congdon said...

Great post, as usual. Your thoughts on the Religious Right are mine exactly. Every time a Pat Robertson gets on the air to speak, I feel less and less inclined to identity myself as a Christian. What a sad world.

Patrik said...

There is no way anyone can forgive a film like you got mail...

LutheranChik said...

The problem with Christian apologetics these days is that it's still mired in a 19th century rationalist paradigm -- you've got fundies essentially buying into the same way of seeing the world as the secularlists they love to hate, each trying to empirically "prove" the other side wrong. (Like the recent neener-neener-neener smackdowns over the efficacy of prayer.) I really think it's the traditional Christian mystics, not the apologists, who can speak to this generation in a resonant way.