Online Journal
Front Page 
 Special Reports
 News Media
 Elections & Voting
 Social Security
 Editors' Blog
 Reclaiming America
 The Splendid Failure of Occupation
 The Lighter Side
 The Mailbag
 Online Journal Stores
 Official Merchandise
 Progressive Press
 Barnes and Noble
 Join Mailing List

Religion Last Updated: May 23rd, 2006 - 01:45:57

"The Da Vinci Code" sends defenders of the faith into a tizzy
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 23, 2006, 01:29

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

Even before Ron Howard�s film version of Dan Brown�s The Da Vinci Code hit the theaters, the Catholic Church and the Christian Right were disparaging and preparing �to Defend Against the �Code�.� Interesting how those whose dogma forbids independent thought and embraces only unconscious, unquestioning acceptance and obedience are so fearful of a movie that just might make people think.

Philadelphia�s Cardinal Rigali was �not telling anyone they shouldn�t see the movie, but �It would be odd for Christians, without some particular reason, to go and support financially this project, which is enormous.��

Bishop Donald Wuerl, who will replace Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in June, advised Roman Catholics who want to see The Da Vinci Code to read the New Testament gospels first. His reasoning, so they will know �what actually happened.� Wuerl confessed he started but could not finish reading the novel because he found it �so unrelated to the reality of the church.�

Despite Wuerl�s and others� claims to absolute, definitive knowledge (itself a preposterous proposition), no one knows �what actually happened.� And as for the �reality of the church,� does he mean the historical and still clandestine workings and machinations of Opus Dei? Perhaps he means the conspiracy to cover up decades of pedophilia by priests. Or perhaps he means the Vatican�s ongoing refusal to recognize the social realities of life in the twenty-first century.

James Dobson�s Focus on the Family set up a special web site � �Know the truth . . . Share the truth. The site claimed

The Da Vinci Code challenges Jesus� identity and deeds, the content of the Bible, the origin of the church, the motives of early Christian leaders and the relevance of the church today � but it does so without any historical, logical or theological credibility. [italics added]

Actually, it does so with more historical, human logic than any concocted theology or dogma or biblical literalism could possibly muster.

Rev. Mark Creech, a seraphim of biblical literalism, theology and dogma who once claimed �to doubt a literal interpretation of the creation account is to undermine everything taught in the Bible,� was among those grousing about what he called �factual errors� in The Da Vinci Code.

Although much of The Da Vinci Code is based on factual errors, none of its assertions is more egregious than the claim that Emperor Constantine of Rome financed a staff to manipulate existing biblical texts to make Christ divine. The Da Vinci Code advocates that before the Council of Nicea in 325 [c.e.], �Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet . . . a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.�

The same issue was raised by Carl E. Olson and Sandra Miesel in their article for �Know the truth . . . Share the truth�:

The Divinity of Jesus
Much attention has been given to The Da Vinci Code�s claim that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. But an even more audacious claim of the novel is that the divinity of Jesus was first raised and established at the Council of Nicaea in 325 a.d.; and that prior to that time, no one � not even Jesus� followers � believed Jesus was anything more than a �mortal prophet� and great man. . . .

And how did Creech respond? The same way Olson and Miesel did. They used the Bible and self-serving dogma as �proof�:

In his seminal study, Early Christian Doctrines, noted scholar J.N.D. Kelly writes: �The all but universal Christian conviction in the [centuries prior to the Council of Nicaea] had been that Jesus Christ was divine as well as human. The most primitive confession had been �Jesus is Lord� [Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11], and its import had been elaborated and deepened in the apostolic age.�

The Bible was not written by historians with an eye to truth or veracity or accuracy. The texts selected for canonization were written by men whose sole purpose � like that of the men who chose the texts � was to create a belief structure and the dogma to support it. Add to this the fact that the canonized texts were written decades � sometimes centuries � after the �facts� they purport to report, and using the Bible as a source of historical truth becomes even more dubious, if that�s possible.

Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code, made an appropriate comment in responding to Matt Lauer�s question:

Matt Lauer: �There have been calls from some religious groups, they wanted a disclaimer at the beginning of this movie saying it is fiction because one of the themes in the book really knocks Christianity right on its ear, if Christ survived the crucifixion, he did not die for our sins and therefore was not resurrected. What I'm saying is, people wanted this to say �fiction, fiction, fiction.� How would you all have felt if there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie? Would it have been okay with you?�

Ian McKellen: �Well, I�ve often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying, �This is fiction.� . . ."

McKellen also made another poignant comment: �I�m very happy to believe that Jesus was married . . . I know the Catholic Church has problems with gay people and I thought this would be absolute proof that Jesus was not gay.�

Historically speaking, the Bible is a compilation of beliefs and dogma, which is exactly what the Council of Nicea was all about:

When Constantine defeated Emperor Licinius in 323 AD he ended the persecutions against the Christian church. Shortly afterwards Christians faced a trouble from within: the Arian controversy began and threatened to divide the church. The problem began in Alexandria, it started as a debate between the bishop Alexander and the presbyter (pastor, or priest) Arius.

Arius proposed that if the Father begat the Son, the latter must have had a beginning, that there was a time when he was not, and that his substance was from nothing like the rest of creation. The Council of Nicea, a gathering similar to the one described in Acts 15:4-22, condemned the beliefs of Arius and wrote the first version of the now famous creed proclaiming that the Son was �one in being with the Father� by use of the Greek word �homoousius.�

To resolve the problem of two �Gods� � Father and Son � the inventive bishops at the Council of Nicea instituted the dogmatic concoction known as �the Trinity�:

in 325, the Council of Nicea set out to officially define the relationship of the Son to the Father, in response to the controversial teachings of Arius. Led by bishop Athanasius, the council established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy and condemned Arius� teaching that Christ was the first creation of God. The creed adopted by the council described Christ as �God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios) with the Father.� 4 . . .

Most post-Nicene theological discussion of the Trinity consisted of attempts to understand and explain such a unique concept. Gregory of Nyssa, in his treatise, That There are Not Three Gods, compared the divinity shared by the three persons of the Trinity to the common �humanness,� or human nature, that is shared by individual human beings. (Ironically, this initially promising explanation has been seen by some to yield a conclusion quite opposite than the title of his work.)

It would have been better to leave Yeshua as what he was: an enlightened man, a teacher, a messianic �prophet� instead of making him into a god, a mistake all other Western and Eastern religions avoided.

A character in a previous �sacrilegious� film, Kevin Smith�s 1999 Dogma, made the point. �Rufus,� the thirteenth apostle left out of the Bible because he was black, was explaining things to Bethany, the �last Zion� and genetic relative of Jesus:

Rufus: His [Jesus�] only real beef with mankind is the shit that gets carried out in His name � wars, bigotry, televangelism. The big one though is the factioning of all the religions. He said mankind got it all wrong by taking a good idea and building a belief structure on it.

Bethany: Having beliefs is a bad thing?

Rufus: I just think it's better to have ideas. I mean, you can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. People die for it. People kill for it. . . .

And people get all bent out of shape over a movie that challenges their �belief structure� which has no basis other than its own dogma.

According to Olson and Miesel, �one of the more laughable claims of Brown�s novel is that the early Christians �literally� stole Jesus and shrouded his �human message . . . in an impenetrable cloak of divinity, and us[ed] it to expand their own power.��

Without question, throughout history Christian churches in all their factional incarnations have used their dogma to expand their own social and political power. They overtly continue to do so to this day. Witness the dogma-based battle against civil equality and equal rights for gays and lesbians: �Pope Declares War On Italy's Government Over Gay Unions� despite the fact thatmore than 71 percent of Italians are favorable to gay civil unions such as those allowed in the U.K., Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium, according to a January report by research group Eurispes.�

The Catholic Church, like their brethren in the Protestant Christian Right, will defend their dogmatic belief structure until the end, but people are beginning to think for themselves and question discredited religious �authorities.� And that may be exactly why the Catholic Church and the Christian Right are raising such a fuss about The Da Vinci Code.

One dogmatic defender took note of a Barna Group poll: �among adults who are aligned with a Christian church, 59 percent do not believe that Satan exists, 42 percent contend that Jesus Christ committed sins during his earthly tenure, and just 11 percent believe that the Bible is the source of absolute moral truth. Thirty-nine percent flatly state that the Bible cannot be trusted.�

A poll conducted in Britain also worried the dogmatists:

The Opinion Research Business (ORB) found that when people read Dan Brown's fictional bestseller The Da Vinci Code, their beliefs about the Roman Catholic Church and about the life of Jesus Christ are likely to be altered, Reuters reported.

ORB interviewed more than 1,000 people in Britain and found that, of those who had read the book, 60 percent believed that Jesus had fathered children with Mary Magdalene . . .

The book also portrays the Catholic group Opus Dei as a murderous organization responsible for killing people to cover up church secrets. And, according to the ORB poll, people who read the book were four times more likely to think that to be true than those who had not.

Was Jesus the consubstantial �Son of God?� That�s a question of faith.

Were Jesus and Mary Magdalene married?

The Gospel of John (20:1) states that she was the first person who, alone, visited the cave where Jesus� body was laid. That would have typically been the role of a wife in that society.

John (20:2-10) describes how other followers came to the tomb and left to return home. But Mary stayed. Again this would have been the behavior of a wife. [links added]

If Jesus and Mary were married or sexually intimate, did they produce children?

We may never know the answers to those historical questions. But after stripping away the shrouding dogma, they are certainly distinct possibilities.

Does the Vatican know the truth? Are they concealing it? Perhaps. If the Holy See wanted to help put an end to the controversy, they could open � without purging them first � the Vatican�s inaccessible libraries and confidential archives to international researchers and scholars. What are the odds of that happening?

So you do have to wonder . . .

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Theo-political prostitution: Bush and the Christian Right
Ban Ki-moon: Is he or isn't he a Moonie?
The conversion factor
The bully pulpit, sanctimonious Santorum, and the meaning of �zero�
A new low, even for the Traditional Values Coalition
For God's sake
Pious right-wing Republicans smear the name of Jesus and ravage the image of Christianity
Tolerating intolerance
The Panzer Pope pontificates on Muslim violence
Et tu, Benedicte?
Neocon pope
The role of religion in political affairs
The curse of radical Islam as a political religion
Schwarzenegger caves to bigots and bullies in vetoing Bias Free Curriculum Act
Theocrats or theofascists? The Religious Right�s true colors
November 2006: The GOP and Christian Right, inbreeding and infighting
Scapegoats and bloodlust
�Subornation of false muster�: The case against �Dr. Dino� and Young Earth Creationism
A �New Vision� prompts a new low
Christian right steps up pro-Israel lobbying