Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Da Vinci Code movie a war on Christianity?

I have to admit, I can sympathize with the fundies on this one, at least on the basis of appearances. If The Da Vinci Code were purported by the author to be a work of pure fiction, then all this would be a bit silly. I distinctly remember, however, the preface of the book talking about how the descriptions of the art and historical documents and whatnot are accurate, the implication being that Brown really is arguing that Jesus was a completely mundane nobleman type who ran off with some sweet piece o' social status named Mary Magdalene and they travelled the world together and had lots of nobleman type babies. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but that's how I interpreted the preface.

So, if the book is attacking the divinity of Christ, and thus the Incarnation, the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the truth of Scripture (in any sense, literal or otherwise), and the legitimacy of the Church (Catholic or otherwise), and if Christian churches define the basis of their religion as a trinity of Christ, Church, and Bible, then isn't the book by definition an attack on Christianity? Furthermore, are Christians wrong in noting that there is a relative dearth of material from secular types attacking other religions, and thus are they wrong to feel singled out in the prevailing cultural atmosphere?

Even if you disagree, you have to admit that Hollywood coming off of its liberal onslaught in 2005 and making a movie about this book its big summer showcase looks bad.

All this is not to say I'm joining the fundie crusade against Hollywood or secularism or whatever-- I don't think an omnipotent God needs me to defend God-- I'm just saying that their feelings of being attacked are, at least prima facie, justified.


Philip Booth said...

I went to the advance screening last night.

I was underwhelmed, and several critics (including me) chuckled out loud at the biggest "revelations."

Really, it was kind of dull and occasionally quite silly.

I posted my review on my site, Scribe Life.

Matt Crosier said...

So I have to admit a bit of a viceral reaction to the "prima facae" case analysis. Maybe it's cause I am finishing finals and anything legalesque piques my pituitary gland right now, or maybe it's just cause the idea of El Ranchero siding with the fundies sounds a wee bit off. Anyhoo, just going off that reaction...
First off, it seems most likley that hollywood is just turning another blockbuster book into a movie in the hope for similar profits of said book. That is a prima facae case of hollywood dumbing down america by evicerating what was already probably not the best prose ever and trying to use Tom Hanks to fill in the holes. I find it a stretch to say that Hollywood is making a political statement with this one. They are just going where the money is. If you haven't seen all the hype over this damn book, let me tell you, it was a little scary to ride the subway in Boston two years ago when everyone got the "Davinci Code" bug. I would get on a train and everyone else on the train was reading the book. Reminded me a bit of that bad horror flick: "In the mouth of madness." At any rate, if the Church or any part of Christianity do have a problem with the movie, they might ought to wonder why so many people found the book interesting and intriguing and perhaps why dan brown (or whoever actually thought up the book for those of you still arguing the matter) personally felt compelled to write it. That should I think be their delima, not whether the book is attacking a tennant of their faith. As Big D rightly points out, I don't think the all powerful needs defense against the movie. I know there is a point where writing does actually attack the fundamentals of a religion. This isn't it though. This isn't the Satanic Verses, and even that, I would argue, isn't a prma facae case of attack on a religion. Now a note on the door in Wittenburg might pass muster... but then again, that was politics too, not religion... I hope.
I am writing though, b/c despite all of these arguments, from both myself and Big D, I can't really pin down when I think words constitute a declaration of war on a religion. I am tempted to say that words can never be a prima facae case of an attack on a religion. First of course, I think that calling the book a declaration of war is a little over the top. Like the reformation, the war doesn't start at the verbal argument, but when someone takes it a step further and threatens life. I know we use the term war of words often in our society, but in this particular context, we should do so carefully b/c too often such thinking has led to a real war. My problem with the very idea of words constituting a war on religion is that it is the proverbial slippery slope. Why should anyone care if someone argues that the trinity doesn't exist? Religion is internal! Course, I guess there is some fanciful argument that a war of words about national interest and nuclear weapons is all cerbral as well, but give me some lee-way, eh?
The rub of course is that the world is supposed to be God made manifest, or plays a significant role in how we or others around us attempt to live religious lives. This element of the world in religion is made all the more important in a religious community, not just in the case of an individual. How do you make a community religious and what constitutes an attack on said community? Is there a difference between a movie attacking religious beliefs and another religion doing so prima facae? That is to say, judaiism and christianity seem to me to attack one another on their face, so far as the insular communities of each are concerned. There is a step between saying that a movie full of revisionist history undermines your religion, and saying that having others with different beliefs living around you undermines your religion, but aside from the slippery slope, I am having difficulty putting my finger on it.
Suffice it to say, I think the argument that the book or movie is a per se attack on core christian beliefs is a little silly. I don't think using the terms is bad or dangerous to the public, but I think it might be a little disengenuous as it doesn't properly analyze the source of the issues involved. Big D, you are much more of a religious scholar than I could ever be, so I would love your feedback.
My light reading during finals is The Source, and after reading Mitchner's pseudo-history I am feeling a little testy on religious issues for the first time in a while. It would figure that it would come from Mitchner instead of Maimonides, but hey, where the spirit moves you, I guess.