Visions of another Magdalene bestseller

The appearance of Christ to MM by IvanovYou just knew that this story was coming, didn’t you?

You just knew, in the wake of Dan and Blythe Brown cranking out The Da Vinci Code, that lots of people were going to wade into the same neo-gnostic territory. And you just knew that, sooner or later, someone was going to sit down at a keyboard and write a book in which she said, in effect, that she is the blood heir to the family line of Jesus of Nazareth and his bride, St. Mary Magdalene.

Now we get to see if many mainstream media outlets follow the lead of USA Today and, essentially, let the author promote her claims and her book on the basis of a spiritual vision and little else. As I read the story by Carol Memmott, I kept thinking, “OK, any paragraph now this newspaper is going to let this woman try to explain, in basic English, why she believes what she believes.”

Instead, here is what we get from journalist-turned-novelist Kathleen McGowan of Hollywood, author of The Expected One, which is due out July 25. The USA Today website, by the way, offers readers a one-click doorway into 4,500 words of chapter one. How’s that for a publicity home run for what was, not that long ago, a tiny, self-published book? Here goes nothing:

McGowan’s novel, like The Da Vinci Code, is replete with conspiracies, hidden documents and a Vatican hierarchy that keeps close watch on individuals searching for secrets hidden for 2,000 years.

But that’s where the similarities end. The Expected One is the story of Maureen Paschal, a woman who begins to have visions of Mary Magdalene, discovers she is a descendant of Mary and Jesus and undergoes a dramatic search for a gospel written by Mary that is hidden in southwestern France. In a parallel plot, McGowan tells what she says is the actual story of the marriage and children of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. …

McGowan calls this a novel but says it mirrors her own life. Maureen’s visions, she says, are “verbatim” accounts of her own visions of Mary Magdalene. “Maureen is a fictional character,” she says, “but there is a lot of me in Maureen. I know it will be hard for people to accept this, but it’s true.”

You might say that.

So why didn’t the newspaper ask McGowan to explain herself, to make a case for her beliefs? Actually, it appears that Memmott did precisely that, but didn’t get much in the way of an answer. Of course, we have to dig way, way down in the feature story to find that out.

In other words, this is a story about a book. Period. Is there anything in the book and the claims of its author worth reporting about? Who is to judge? As someone in the Bible once said, “What is truth?”

McGowan says she cannot quote anyone by name to back up the claims of her blood ties to Jesus and the Magdalene. Her anonymous family members want to maintain their privacy. Her agent, Larry Kirshbaum, thinks she is the real deal — which is a big surprise.

Kirshbaum believes McGowan when she says she is a descendant of Mary Magdalene. “I feel she’s entirely credible,” says Kirshbaum, who read The Expected One after McGowan self-published it last year. “She spent 20 years of her life researching this subject. You have to give her any benefit of the doubt because she’s totally rational. I believe her absolutely. She had total credibility with me from the very beginning.”

Like I said, you knew that this story was coming.

What I didn’t expect was for a national newspaper to cover this story and let the subject of the story get away without telling us the details of her story. Did that make any sense?

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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.

  • Andy

    Just for argument’s sake, let’s accept the author’s claims about Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She says she’s a direct descendant. So what? If she’s right, who ISN’T a direct descendant?

    Fifty generations back, each of us has roughly 2,251,799,814,000,000 ancestors. Of course, there have never been 2.2 pentillion people on earth, so there’s a lot of duplication. What it means, though, is that if you pick a person at random who lived in roughly the right hemisphere 2,000 years ago, you can almost certainly claim that person as an ancestor. I’ve read that 95 percent of people of European descent have Nero for a great-great-etc. grandfather.

    I’m not sure a “so what?” question would have saved a fluff piece like this, but it’s where I would start with an oddball interviewee.

  • haeresis

    McGowan is a newage pretender who has reinvented herself numerous times- as a channel, as a “hereditary witch,” as the best pal of Linda Goodman’s ghost, and now as Jesus’ great grandkid.

    That a million plus new age twits were going to start channeling Mary Magdalene is hardly surprising, but that they took her seriously is- a bit. Maybe they knew and decided the controversy just meant more money, who knows.

    As for the genetic angle, it wouldn’t make her special if it were true. iremeber researching my own and getting all excited to find some famous royalo whatsit…and then in my husband’s, and his best friend, and then every person I looked up with any European in them at all…if she’s descended from jesus, then nearly all of us are as well. Big whoop- like the poster at USA today said- can she turn water into gasoline?

  • http://www.yahoo.com mark

    That story reads like it was intended to be a sidebar, and it became a section-cover centerpiece when something else fell through and there were photos of McGowan available. Really poorly handled.


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