Duh! Vinci Code


Next week at this time we’ll be seeing headlines proclaiming “The Da Vinci Code” has set new records for weekend movie attendance. That article will be accompanied by more articles in which the Catholic Church calls the book and movie heresy while Protestants talk about opportunity for dialogue and the flaws of the story.

I’m a little more than halfway through the book at the moment and I have mixed feelings about it. It’s rife with errors and just stupid mistakes that no writer should make. I mean, c’mon, bar soap in the Louvre restrooms? A cell phone that records digits pressed after the call has connected? Oh yeah, and the way Dan Brown mixes Gnosticism and paganism and builds on discredited research. I was really disgusted with the way he filled in the blanks in “The Gospel of Phillip,” the part about Jesus kissing Mary Magdalene. The fragment does not say where he kissed her. We don’t know. There’s absolutely no way of deducing the meaning of that passage. I read a lot of the Nag Hammadi library for my own research, and used some of those ideas in Amara’s Prayer.

All that aside, however, The Da Vinci Code is a real page-turner and I wish I could simply sit down and finish it uninterrupted. Yes, you can see him setting up the hooks at the end of his chapters way before you get there. Yeah, the sentences are often clumsy and Robert Langdon alternates between genius and naive idiot with the ease of a politician going from china plate fundraisers to blue plate pancake suppers, but dammit, the story really is pretty good.

And what about that heresy charge? There is no heresy in the marketplace of ideas. The Catholic Church says that there is a huge amount of ignorance about Bible scholarship and that Brown’s novel and the movie will confuse people and shake their faith. I agree. Too many people don’t know Bible history. Too many people take the Bible completely out of its historical context and act like there was nothing else going on in the world to influence the authors of the canonized books.

Ronnie James Dio, as singer for Black Sabbath, told us to “Mix a little truth with many lies” and that’s what Brown has done, spawning a cottage industry of people publishing books and producing documentaries to support or debunk him. It’s amazing. And it can only be a good thing for those people willing to open their minds and really explore history, theology, and maybe even art history.

Brown gets so many things wrong, such as Constantine’s involvement in setting the canon, but he mixes it with truths, such as the Christianization of pagan holidays, and that will confuse people who know only a little. But it isn’t a bad thing to be confused if it inspires you to learn something.

But there are people who deny that pagan holidays were assimilated into Christianity, who deny that Christ’s message of love and peace was spread through Europe (and the Americas) on the tip of a sword, who refuse to read or rationally discuss Brown’s book, and who arrogantly condemn those who do. Yes, this happened to me yesterday.

I’ve read that Dan Brown claimed all the secret documents he quotes are real and that the Priory of Sion is really centuries old, this is true, that is factual, etc. Obviously, that’s where he crossed the line. Anyone who can type www.google.com can find out a lot of the stuff he said is true simply is not true. I don’t hold it against him that he made stuff up, that he made the Catholic Church and Opus Dei villians … that’s what novelists do. I think he should have admitted he based his book on long-standing ideas as if those theories were fact, but hey … he’s sold 46 million copies of his book and I haven’t even scored a contract with a major publisher yet.

My real interest at this point is in seeing if my own Amara’s Prayer can somehow ride the coattails of this interest in Gnosticism and alternate ideas about Christianity. (Remember, I’m just now reading Brown’s book; I began writing Amara’s Prayer in 2001.) My novel is very much about the feminine divine, offers gnostic ideas about creation, Eden and the ability of man to achieve god-like status. I sure wouldn’t complain if some of those dollars that can’t fit into Dan Brown’s pockets fell into mine because people wanted a similiar book with more sex.

In Amara’s Prayer, the thematic question asks: Is faith real if it is never tested? If you grow up going to Sunday school, memorizing Bible verses and reciting prayers, is that real faith? My answer is no. Faith is not real until it’s tested. If The Da Vinci Code tests people’s faith, that’s a good thing. If their faith is so weak that it crumbles because of a work of fiction, well … they never had faith in anything that matters, anyway.

Read everything. Think for yourself!

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12 thoughts on “Duh! Vinci Code

  1. Yeah, great post, dude!
    And you’ve really made me want to read Amara’s Prayer.
    I too am halfway through the Da Vinci Code, but I’ve put it down to read some other things. Brown is good, but not great. As a matter of fact, I’ve not even made it out of the museum yet in my reading. Just can’t find the time to read that damn book!
    I’ve also been reading up a bit on gnostic beliefs about creation because of an article I recently wrote about Neil Gaiman and John Milton — who claimed to be Christian but who had a lot of psuedo-gnostic / neo-Platonic ideas.
    Really good post, man. Makes one think…

    • I’d love to read that paper. Is it published yet?
      Milton … ask most people about Lucifer and they paraphrase Milton and think it’s Scripture. That’s why I named the main character in AMARA’S PRAYER Milton Agnew.

  2. Good insights, Steve. I haven’t read the Da Vinci Code yet, mainly because I hate everything that the masses embrace, but I suppose I need to give it a try and see what the hell happened for this Brown guy that lit everybody on fire. Every where I turn, there’s somebody talking about it, and every B&N has a small mountain of books dedicated to it.

    • Amen to that. I swear the more hype something gets (in ANYTHING) the less it appeals to me. Things rarely live up to their hype…
      Every writer on this list excepted, of course – we ALL live up to OUR hype. 😎

  3. I’d never heard of anyone denying that the Catholic Church routinely acquired pagan holidays, and I’m wondering – how/why? Isn’t that a bit like denying that people once sailed the seas in wooden ships? I mean, the Catholic Church sure doesn’t deny it, and Pope Gregory III made it a stated doctrine. In fact, is there a single major Christian holiday that’s NOT based on a pagan celebration?
    AMARA’S PRAYER sounds fantastic, and I hope to be reading it from a nice hardback one day.

    • Come to Oklahoma. I once saw a church sign that proclaimed the King James Bible was good enough for Jesus. I’ve talked to people who don’t realize there are two creation stories in Genesis or that there were cultures in the world not mentioned in the Bible. One history teacher actually told us that Europe embraced Christianity simply because of the promise of a better life after death.
      I can put you in touch with people who will tell you that Satan knew Dec. 25 was going to be Christ’s birthday and so he conspired to make it a pagan holiday first. Seriously.
      It’s amazing, really. You can’t piss outside without hitting a church here, and yet so many of the people inside are oblivious to the history of Christianity. I can’t imagine being part of something and not knowing the truth about it. But many, many people, like my sister, simply accept the word of their pastors as absolute truth.
      Also, a huge number of Protestants here think Catholics are going to hell for worshipping the pope. (Lots of German/Lutheran influence could be blamed for that.)
      I hope you get to read AMARA’S PRAYER in a nice hardcover sometime soon, too. A good agent has submitted it to a major publisher for me, along with a blurb from an author already with that house. So … hopefully!

  4. I have very vocally said that I wish I had Dan Brown’s money, and that I would really like to beat him to death with his own book.
    As a practicing Christian, I didn’t have a problem with the flawed research. It was an interesting theory, didn’t shake my faith base or anything. I’ve routinely read Knights Templar stuff and alternate theories. THAT didn’t bother me, too much. It was a nice piece of fiction.
    It was those mistakes no writer should make WHILE MAKING THAT KIND OF MONEY that has me on a soap box EVERY TIME this stupid idiotic book comes up in discussion.
    My biggest complaint is that – while yes, fast paced and page turning – he set up some could’ve been BRILLIANT espionage and arcs only to cop out and resolve them in the quickest STUPIDEST manners possible. That book could’ve been BRILLIANT. Instead it lacked.
    And don’t even get me started on the info dumps. Dear God, I swear he sat at his computer saying, “I did all this reasearch and BY GOD, I’m going to make sure everyone else has to sit through it too!”
    If Dan Brown ever gets beaten to death with one of his own books, someone come bail me out of jail because I’ll be a prime suspect.
    Rant over…

  5. True story: I’m sitting in the Hibdon’s waiting on a brake job to get done, and I read the book from cover to cover, with frequent pauses to retrieve it after I’d thrown it across the waiting area. Oh, it’s a terrible book. I only stuck with it because it was either that or reread the tire brochures for the umpteenth time. The brochures were superior as character studies. And far, far less insulting to one’s intelligence and literary taste.
    What really got me, what made me just about go ape, was when the major villain of the novel apparently recovers his amnesia and remembers he’s supposed to be the baddie. This, after numerous sequences from this guy’s POV. It’s the sort of thing one smacks a beginning writer for.
    You know what I wish? I wish that Dan Brown’s money would go to a Howard Waldrop or a Tim Powers or a Dan Simmons, any of whom would have turned the admittedly fun ideas in this novel into something actually readable.
    Pheh! Got a bad taste in my mouth now.
    Steve, I join the chorus in hoping to read AMARA’S PRAYER sometime real soon now, and I hope the unwarranted success of Brown’s unappetizing mess nudges the door open for your novel, which, sight unseen, I am sure is the better work.

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