Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, for June 7, 06
The Da Vinci Snooze
Since I had read a variety of the same books Dan Brown used as the basis for his best selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, I didn’t bother reading the book since I already knew all about “the greatest secret in modern history” that if revealed “would devastate the very foundations of Christianity.” Alas, for fans of shaken foundations, the hypothetical beans had already been spilled years ago in the book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail and Christianity remained as un-devastated as ever.
But I was curious to see the film to figure out how they’d make a thriller out of a “secret” that required so much endless ‘splainin.’ Although I kept dozing off, the structure was: (1) blah, blah, blah --detailed, endless “explanations” of theoretical hokum and muddled facts [Hint to film makers: the audience doesn’t need to know how or why The Hulk turns green. Just mutter something vague about an “overdose of radiation” then get on to the leaping and jumping and smashing], then ( 2) every 20 minutes, an armed, Mad Albino Monk leaps out of the shrubbery bent on homicide, which causes a few minutes of (3) comic Fire Drill racing around and then (4) everyone rushes off to some photogenic European local, say . . . Zurich! (5) Repeat the cycle, only next time, go to . . . France!
The real Da Vinci puzzle to me was why on earth some “religious” folks were taking all this harum-scarum as if it were real. Sure, it’s the summer silly season and the media and various pandering groups use each other during that downtime to brew up faux controversies to sell more papers. And, O.K, author Brown did make the conservative Catholic organization, Opus Dei, the locus of our Mad Murderous Leaping Albino Monk, and, yes, part of the discipline the members engage in does involve mortifying the flesh with small whips and thigh chains, but, that’s hardly new. Flesh mortification has been part and parcel of “Christianity” for a long time. In addition, official “monks” – mad, leaping or otherwise -- are not a part of the Opus Dei organization.
No, what was interesting to me was that all the harrumphing by certain “religious” folks, made me wonder just how many Christians are actually familiar with their own history? Are they aware that there were many gospels, some of which undoubtedly still lie buried in the desert sands, hidden there by various early Christian sects, waiting to be discovered just like the Dead Sea Scrolls.? That the wide variety of gospels known and used during the early years were eventually selected and edited and deliberately shaped by human hands and minds into the canon we are familiar with today? (A canon that has undergone myriad translations, retranslations, and mistranslations through the centuries?) That in the early centuries after Jesus’ death, there were a wide variety of “Official Christian” belief systems known and practiced, systems that were winnowed out in a long, sometimes bloody historical/political/cultural transformation that resulted in the product we know today? And that that this shaping and reshaping process continues even now?
Only people ignorant of the long historical journey their belief system has traveled (including the missing pieces, lost, stolen, buried, deliberately destroyed) could get worked up over the claims and suppositions that author Brown had such fun playing with – Knights Templars, grand inquisitions, missing scrolls, the bogus Priory of Scion, hidden secrets, the whiff of sex and scandal. This was supposed to be the heady brew that contained the blasphemous “secret” that would shake the foundations of Christianity?
As if? Haven’t we learned long ago that faith and fact have never been dependent upon one another? Still aren’t. Never will be, world without end, amen.
If anyone has failed to understand that crucial lesson, may I suggest they hum a few bars from Porgy and Bess’s “It ain’t necessarily so . . .”, then go rent Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Underneath all the Python’s outrageous tomfoolery, lies a serious message: Proceed cautiously when it comes to blind faith – things may not be what they seem. And in an imperfect world, it’s easy to get things muddled.
And, if it’s a swell thriller you want, go rent The Bourne Identity, I & II. It doesn’t have leaping albino monks, but it’s a great chase movie involving lots of photogenic European locales. And no theological blah, blah, blah to slow things down.