Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Da Vinci Debate: Let's Be Fair, Part II.

Some point to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code's cover, which says, "A Novel." But, that's not the end of the story.

Others point to the text at the beginning which advises: "FACT: The Priory of Sion-- a European secret society founded in 1099--is a real organization. In 1975 Paris's Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known a Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

"The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as 'corporal mortification.' Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million National Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York.

"All depictions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate." (p. 2.)

But, that's not the whole story.

Inside, Teabing, a purported Holy Grail expert, lectures protagonists Robert Langdon and Sophie with some unconventional theories, for example: "The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagean Roman emporer Constantine the Great." (p. 231.) Teabing asserts: "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea.'" (p. 233.) Teabing continues in this vein: "Christ as Messiah was critical to the functioning of the Church and state. Many scholars claim that the Church literally stole Jesus from His original followers, hijacking his human message, shrouding it in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and using it to expand their own power." (p. 233.)

However, that's not the complete analysis.

The ineluctable fact is that The Da Vinci Code is a novel. The words spoken about Jesus' purported marriage, the canonization process, and Church history come from an unsavory character, who is actually the book's villain. Teabig's hardly a credible source, even within the microcosm of the Brown's story. It's doubtful that a quasi-erudite reader would take such opinions as gospel (sorry). That there are secret societies, real art, and a $47 million edifice erected by a modern Catholic organization do not remotely support Teabig's pontifications (sorry, again).

Let the marketplace of ideas decide whether Teabig's ravings are worthy of acceptance. I don't think any one with a modicum of critical-thinking ability would be persuaded to adopt them because a lunatic character in a novel has opined them. If more than a few are, we are doomed for other reasons.