Da Vinci: Cross with the code?
By Sandhya Jain
Online Journal Guest Writer

May 29, 2006, 01:09

It must have come as a surprise to Information & Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmushi that India�s supposedly small Roman Catholic community can field 200 organizations to protest the screening of the Hollywood blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code, based on Dan Brown�s best-selling novel by the same name. Certainly it would have mattered to him that not only are these the UPA chairperson�s co-religionists, but belong to the same majority Christian sect, headquartered in Vatican City.

Little wonder then, that while the Christian world will view the film with no cuts or disclaimers, India�s I&B minister feels the Catholic Churches' Association of India (CCAI), rather than the Censor Board, should have the final say in the matter. After all, this is a secular country, and secularism, as I have argued elsewhere, is the twin god of Christianity, the face it turns towards the world when it wants to conceal the designs of the cross.

In fairness, however, the Vatican and the Indian evangelical industry are right to be wary of the film. The Da Vinci Code is no ordinary fiction. It represents the latest in a long history of dissent in the Catholic Church regarding the true nature of the mission of the Christian church that suddenly emerged in Rome in the early centuries AD. Was Christianity ever intended to be anything more than a political movement, or did it have religio-political goals, and why did Jesus and his Apostles break with the Jewish community and opt for aggressive evangelism among non-Jews? These are not questions that will go away until the Vatican opens its archives and furnishes some credible answers.

Indeed, the core issue is how and when the early Christian Church conceived its plan for world dominion, and the driving force behind this ambition. Anyone who is concerned with fundamentalist Islam�s jihadi face and its plans for world conquest, must be interested in the early Christian Church, as this is where a blueprint for such dominion was first conceived and implemented. It would be a mistake to believe that the quest has been consigned to the dustbin of history -- all rich Western nations have a huge budget for evangelical activities oversees, and conversion is a major foreign policy agenda. Indeed, the Christian nations do not spare even fellow monotheistic traditions like Islam, and Christian missionaries are very active in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, not to mention other parts of the globe.

This central mission of an unknown group striving for control of the whole world and its economic resources and thought processes, is what The Da Vinci Code exposes in the form of a novel. It is bound to make the thinking public ponder the supposedly spiritual content of this faith, which is unable to win adherents without resorting to special tactics, and does not even have a credible theology around its key figures. Forget that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child or children, or even the stories that he was not the first-born child of his own mother, Mary. These are side issues for Indians.

What is important, however, is why there is so much suspense about key components of the Christian story, when it is a religion that supposedly began with one man and his band of followers. It would be safe to say that Jesus was born in a Jewish family and initially aspired for leadership of his own community. On being shunned, he turned towards the Gentiles, the non-Jews of Jerusalem, who were in search of a religion.

But what was the religion he preached? Was the heavenly father he spoke of the same as the Jewish Yahweh, or someone else? Who or what is the Holy Ghost, the third element of the Christian Trinity? To the best of my knowledge, there is absolutely no credible information about the role and purpose of this divinity in the spiritual evolution of Christians. Ultimately, we are asked to believe what the Vatican says, and it says very little beyond the fact that belief in Jesus is imperative for human salvation. Yet Christians are prone to deride Muslims for similar adherence to the Prophethood of Mohammad.

This makes the criticism of the film by some Indian Muslim organizations highly suspect, and the UPA Government would do well to take adequate precautions that vested elements do not create trouble on the pretext of protests against the film. The protests are an act of muscle-flexing by the Christian church that is determined to plant itself the cross in India. And typically, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, a Roman by birth and a Catholic by faith, has refused to reveal her mind over the agitation, though anyone who has observed the disproportionate rise of Christians to top jobs in the Congress Party and its state governments will know how avidly she promotes her community�s interests.

Sandhya Jain is a political commentator and author.

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