Someone, somewhere, deeply involved in the institutional promotion of "The Da Vinci Code," has suggested I lead a boycott against the movie. They proposed to me both dates and method. I declined. I can’t say a whole lot more.
What I will say is, the only boycott I will support is the boycotting of all other boycotts. I know from experience, and inside information, that Sony is interested in creating controversy as a catalyst for box office success.
Their strategy is a good one, founded on solid data of Hollywood-past. How can we forget the swirling controversy over Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ!" Because I worked on the film and witnessed the phenomenon first hand, I know Jewish lobby groups — the Anti Defamation League in particular — were responsible in part for 'The Passion" becoming the all-time box office winner for R-rated productions. Neither Gibson nor his opponents planned it that way, but the results are indisputable, and in the opinion of at least one Hollywood studio, that same spontaneous drama is worthy of a staged imitation.
You may wonder if my entry into the foray of "Da Vinci" hype plays into the hands of Sony’s controversy promoters. Perhaps. But I’m willing to take the risk in order to shift the debate away from Dan Brown to the Christian community — Protestant and Catholic alike.
Dan Brown is capable of passing fiction for fact because Christians don’t know their faith — what and why they believe. That’s not Mr. Brown’s fault.
Admittedly, the bait they take is a good one. Brown writes his truth claim after the title page: "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals are accurate." Art and archaeology historians have taken it upon themselves to call him to task for the inaccurate and unprofessional nature of such a claim. Following good advice from his agent and publisher, he has refused to recant, preferring marketing savvy to academic integrity.
In this ambiance of pseudo-historic accuracy, Brown uses his fictional characters to call into question fundamental elements of the Christian faith: 1) the divinity of Christ 2) the validity of the four Gospels 3) the beliefs of the early Christian community.
He does this by claiming the Gospels are part of a conspiracy theory by the apostles to create a male-dominated, patriarchal Church that would stamp out the "sacred feminine." Brown says Jesus’ true intentions were to leave the Church under the charge of Mary Magdalene, with whom he maintained a romantic relationship. In Brown’s pseudo-religious historical novel, the emperor Constantine seconds the Apostles’ selfish quest for power by outlawing competing gospels to avoid revealing the true story of who Jesus was and what he taught. None of this is true. Let me show you why.
If the Apostles’ intention in writing the Gospels was to produce propaganda pieces to wrest power away from women and take it for themselves, you would expect them to show themselves in the best possible light, reinforce the reader’s bias regarding male superiority, and belittle Mary Magdalene, or keep her out of the story altogether. In fact, the Gospels do just the opposite. They depict the Apostles as men slow to understand, unwilling to suffer, and incapable of loyalty. They do all this while presenting women as their noble antithesis.
Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, stand out for their moral courage as they accompany Christ to his crucifixion (the apostles had scattered). The Gospel of John highlights Jesus’ "irreverence" to social structures that looked down on public contact with women. The Gospels refer to women as disciples who share in Jesus’ mission. And just in case there were doubts, the writers point out that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene before any of the apostles.
If we are to believe Dan Brown’s fundamental claim that the authors of the Gospels wrote to conspire against Mary Magdalene and women in general, we also must believe they did a very poor job.
Jesus, who claimed to be the divine Son of God, was pro-woman like nobody else in his day, or ours. And that is the story the Gospels tell. Brown’s attempt at reinvigorating radical feminist sentiment by constructing a false male-female conflict is retro and old. Jesus knew a woman’s worth doesn’t come from being better than men, but from who she is on her own two feet — a daughter of God. Her spiritual sensitivity, intuition, nurturing character, and motherhood are beautifully unique.
If the millions of readers and viewers of "The Da Vinci Code" knew the Christian faith, Dan Brown would be unable to muddle fact and fiction in the irresponsible way he has.
Some Christians like me will stay away from the theaters, deciding our money is better spent elsewhere and not wishing to collaborate in fiction presented as fact about a topic as serious as history and faith. Others will go to the big screens out of curiosity or for simple entertainment. Whether we buy tickets or not, our response will be a peaceful one. Nobody will burn embassies or assassinate nonbelievers, and in our peace we will shine.
For Christianity, I predict the net result will be a positive one, despite all the bad intentions of its author. In the hype, Christians will ask themselves what and why we believe. And for this we must not forget to say, “Thank you, Mr. Brown."
God bless, Father Jonathan
P.S. In a future blog we could do a more thorough critique of the book’s claims. Nevertheless, I’m almost reaching "The Da Vinci Code" saturation point. Are you? Let me know, and we’ll go from there.
Write to Father Jonathan at email@example.com.