The Da Vinci Code a deceptive tale - Catholic Courier

The Da Vinci Code a deceptive tale

In my house, I have bookcases filled with prayer books, catechisms, liturgical books, and books of theology. On other shelves are historical books and nonfiction. Another bookcase hold comic books, science fiction and fantasy novels, and pulp fiction.

Where should I put my copy of the book, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown? Brown has filled his bestseller with action, suspense, a little romance and a theological bent. It seems ideal for the movies, and that is exactly what award-winning director Ron Howard thought. With award-winning screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, and with the marvelous actors — Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou and Ian McClellan — Howard created a cinematically well-made and well-acted film. However, like the book, it is hard to categorize. Some people would say it is suspense or action or historical drama. I call it deceptive.

I sat in a crowded theater this past weekend with a group of people who seemed very sympathetic to the film and receptive to the story it told. I have to admit that I felt uncharacteristically uneasy in that crowd. I wonder if that is how early Christians felt as they walked among the pagans of ancient Rome – not rioting against them as portrayed in the film, but moving among the Romans with their beliefs burning inside them.

I do appreciate the art of Ron Howard and the cleverness of Dan Brown, but I can’t help thinking that the film reminded me of that often quoted “Big Lie” proclamation of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief. Goebbels said that if you repeated a big lie often enough and left no room for alternatives, then people will come to believe it.

That, unfortunately, is what the Da Vinci Code is in both book and movie format: “a big lie.” This may sound a bit extreme, but in my role as a deacon, I have encountered many people who have taken Dan Brown’s “facts” and premises as “gospel,” if you pardon the expression. It appears to me that we, as a society, seem to accept easily the big lies that come at us from politicians, celebrities and even common people.

A perfect example is the controversy over Pope Pius XII. During and right after the war, he was praised by many people including many Jewish authorities, such as Golda Meir, for his defense of the Jewish people and his opposition to Hitler. It took only one book of questionable research to convince us that Pope Pius XII was a Nazi sympathizer. These big lies deny the truth even when the evidence for the truth is apparent. It comes to the point where one wonders — like Pontius Pilate in John’s Gospel — “What is truth?”

The saddest part of all this is that most Catholics and other Christians, who could easily shrug off these fantasies and accusations, are unable to do so because they do not know enough about their own history or their faith. In the Book of Revelation, God tells the Church in Laodicea, “So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:12). In many ways, we have become lukewarm in our faith. So, when a book or film like The Da Vinci Code comes out, we become confused and wonder, “Could it be true?”

The answer, of course, is that it is not true. It is fiction. Jesus was not a preacher of the sacred feminine. Mary Magdalene is not the Holy Grail. The church is not hiding a 2,000-year-old conspiracy. Of course everyone loves a conspiracy, and modern Western society dislikes the moral absolutes of Christianity. So anything that questions the message of Christ and the church is welcomed by society.

The answer to all of big lies addressed against Christ and his church can be found in a document written in the first century. In the Letter to the Hebrews, the author writes: “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching ‚Ķ ” (Heb 13:7-9).

If you want to see a movie with puzzles and clues and conspiracies, I recommend that you see “National Treasure.” If you want to read a novel with action, suspense, a little romance and a theological bent, read Michael Brown’s excellent book, Father Elijah. In the meantime, I will put my copy of the Da Vinci Code on the shelf between the fantasy books and pulp fiction.

Deacon George Kozak is parish deacon at Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca.

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