Ah come on: Somebody make it 12 anti-Da Vinci Code books

Leonardo_Da_Vinci_The_Last_Supper_1Will the release of a paperback edition of “The Da Vinci Code” be a sign of the End Times? Will everyone who refuses to read Dan Brown’s anti-Bible masterwork be automatically raptured?

Sorry, just trying to get into the swing of things for this summer’s gathering of the Christian Booksellers Association. As the New York Times pointed out earlier this week, a wave of anti-Da Vinci Code books is hitting the shelves. So far, 10 seems to be the total, but someone really needs to get that up to the biblical 12. That’s a lock to happen, once the movie hits. For a handy Beliefnet.com guide to these books, click here.

What’s really interesting about this to me is that all kinds of conservative Christians are writing these books, even though Brown’s pulp pageturner is clearly meant as an anti-Catholic manifesto.

As Catholic cyber-apologist Amy Welborn wrote at Beliefnet.com:

In a way, Roman Catholics reading The Da Vinci Code should be flattered. After all, according to Dan Brown’s vision of past and present, the only embodiment of Christianity the world has seen is the Roman Catholic Church.

This is true. The book doesn’t even break stride long enough to throw mud at the most obvious of evangelical and fundamentalist targets. And folks, it’s hard to write about the early Church Fathers and the roots of Christianity without running into Eastern Orthodoxy, but Brown pulls it off. The man has a serious, serious case of Romeaphobia

Despite this, the always informative Laurie Goodstein of the Times notes that all kinds of Christians are trying to take Brown on — from Dallas-based premill Baptists to mainstream Lutherans. Her story is packed with statements such as:

“Because this book is such a direct attack against the foundation of the Christian faith, it’s important that we speak out,” said the Rev. Erwin W. Lutzer, author of “The Da Vinci Deception” and senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, an influential evangelical pulpit. …

The critics and their publishers are also hoping to surf the wave of success of “The Da Vinci Code,” which has been on The New York Times hardcover fiction best seller list for 56 weeks. There are 7.2 million copies of the book, published by Doubleday, now in print. Of the 10 new Da Vinci-related books, eight are by Christian publishers. One evangelical Christian publisher, Tyndale House, which hit gold with the “Left Behind” books, is about to issue not one but two titles rebutting “The Da Vinci Code.”

But note: Almost all of these anti-Da Vinci books will be sold in Christian bookstores, rather than in the mainstream stores that are selling truckloads of Brown’s work. In other words, the odds are stacked against anyone reading these books unless they are already members of the choir of traditional believers who shop in such holy locations.

Online sales may help in this debate. But this is a classic example of how traditional religious books are marketed by believers to other believers, while the edgy books that shape the rest of the culture are stacked on the hot tables in the front of coffee-bar bookstore chains from coast to coast. It’s not a fair fight. Is this a news story? Meanwhile, as Goodstein writes:

There is evidence that Mr. Brown’s novel may be shaping the beliefs of a generation that is famously biblically illiterate. Michael S. Martin, a high school French teacher in Burlington, Vt., said he decided to read the novel when he noticed that his students were reading it in Harry Potter proportions.

“We like conspiracy theories, so whether it’s J.F.K. or Jesus, people want to think there’s something more than what they are telling us — the they in this case being the church,” Mr. Martin said.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.realityblogs.com Steve K.

    You don’t think Barnes & Noble will want to create a special endcap display for all the anti-DaVinci Code books — capped off (pun intended) with the piece d’resistance (OK another pun), “The DaVinci Code” itself? You’d think they’d just be guaranteed to sell more books. “Buy a copy of ‘Breaking the DaVinci Code’ and we’ll throw in a copy of ‘The DaVinci Code’ for half price!” I think they’ll be flying off the mainstream bookstore shelves. It’s all about paranoia, man. Paranoia sells. ;-)

  • Andy Crouch

    I don’t know any reason to think that the breaking-the-code books won’t sell in the coffee-bar bookstore chains. I was recently told by someone in the industry that Barnes & Noble has more shelf space for evangelical Christian books (not just religious books) than Christian bookstores do. Most of the houses that are publishing these books are making increasingly aggressive efforts to sell into the B&N/Borders channel.

  • amy

    Well, Barnes and Noble did order 6000 copies of my book three weeks ago, wiping out the first printing. We’ll see what happens from here….

  • Mark W.

    I wish we as Christians would put as much energy into writing good books that reflect our world view as we do on striking back at those who we perceive are attacking us. Second, I read Brown’s book and enjoyed it because I recognized it as fiction, as I expect most readers to do. We don’t seem to feel a need to correct history when a Ludlum novel proclaims some outlandish plot from inside the Third Reich or a Clancy best seller gives an unrealistic twist from a former Soviet Republic.

  • http://www.amywelborn.com/davincicode.html amy

    Mark:

    I can’t speak for the other writers, but only for myself.

    As I say in my book and as I say when I speak on this, I didn’t write my book just because DVC exists. I wrote because, after months of watching it climb the charts, I was being inundated with questions. “Is this true?” A good proportion of DVC readers, uneducated in Christian origins and taken in by the phrasing that Brown uses (“scholars say,” etc..) *do*, indeed have problems and questions. Confronted with these questions, what am I supposed to do – ignore them?

    I’m a firm believer in a writer’s right to write what he wants and a readers right to read what he wants, and to take it any way he wants. I don’t get particularly anxious about things like that – except, of course, when readers are asking *me* (as a person with some expertise in history) questions, seeking answers.

    Ignoring them would be uncharitable, and writing a handbook of sorts that puts everything in perspective is an easy way to answer those questions.

  • http://www.realityblogs.com Steve K.

    “I recognized it as fiction, as I expect most readers to do”

    Yeah, that’s a big assumption. A friend of mine was overwhelmed at how many women in her military wives’ group actually *believed* everything in “The DaVinci Code” was true. Hello?! It’s on the *fiction* bestsellers lists for a reason, people! What can you say? People are strange.

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