Da Vinci Code

My curiosity got the better of me and I went to see the Da Vinci Code last night. I hadn’t planned to go because the critics have been near universal in saying how horrible they thought it was. I’m glad I didn’t listen to them. It was a fantastic movie. Sure it was standard Hollywood fare — go see Brick if you’re looking for an outstanding indie — but the screenplay improved on the book’s tortured prose, the acting was excellent, very good editing and use of flashbacks, good pacing, overall just a fun movie.

I think I can say that objectively and not because of some hidden atheist agenda. And as an amateur biblical student I was intrigued by the story’s gnostic and conspiratorial themes. I know that there is more truth to some of the so-called wild claims in the film than the Catholic Church would have you believe. If you believe that Jesus’ offspring became kings of France then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. However, the pagan feminine element that the Church co-opted and subsequently supressed is a direct challenge to the men who rule. That’s not a conspiracy, that’s good old-fashioned politics.

If there’s any conspiracy going on it’s a cabal among those urging everyone else not to see the film. The impressions I had of the film before seeing it were so different from the film itself than in hindsight they look overblown and hysterical. I’m sure quite a few of those folks don’t really think it was a bad movie, they just don’t want people to see it because it challenged their faith and they want to protect others from the same fate. Even if you’re like me and you know the subject pretty well it still has a way of luring you in and putting you under its spell. I heard more than a few comments on the way out to the lobby that told me the average movie-goer is starting to ask some tough questions about ancient Christianity, uncomfortable questions that religious leaders would just as soon lay people not ask.

Don’t listen to the religious warriors who find it necessary to defend their precious metanarratives. It’s just a movie. Go see it and have a great time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05917263957356181206 PK

    I agree. I didn’t read the book, but I saw the movie despite having read some negative reviews and having noted that at rottentomatoes.com the huge majority of reviewers panned the movie. I like the movie and think that some of the criticisms are plain wrong. For example, there’s been talk of slander against Opus Dei, because of the killer monk in the movie. But the Tom Hanks character says explicitly at one point (while sitting in a truck, I think) that the enemy isn’t the Catholic Church or even Opus Dei, but rather a shadow group with some members scattered in Opus Dei and in many other organizations.

    On the other hand, I doubt that the majority of movie critics are Christians who are offended by the revisionist history of the Da Vinci Code. Instead, I think the reviewers got annoyed when they lost the opportunity to affect opening weekend sales, because the movie wasn’t screened for them well enough in advance. Usually, the studios hold back on the advance screening when they suspect they have a turkey on their hands. In this case, maybe the critics just felt shunned and they wanted to send a signal to the studios. But I do still find the critics’ negative consensus puzzling.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17378939547816646201 Adam Lee

    I also saw and enjoyed the movie. It’s hardly a profound philosophical statement, but it was exciting and fast-paced and kept up an atmosphere of big secrets hiding just around the corner, and most of its puzzles seemed genuinely clever – definitely good summer popcorn fare. I suspect that the critics not being given advance screenings are part of the reason for the bad reviews. It could also be because most of the critics have already read the book before seeing the movie (which I hadn’t) and were bored because they always knew what was coming next.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03356868704970210318 bmk md

    It’s just a story, and an exciting one, which leaves you wondering how they got from here to there, and who the characters are, but what the hell, it’s a summer movie. It looked good, the music was nice, the scenery was nice, the book was fairly well attended to. I and my wife who had read the book liked the movie, my daughter who hadn’t liked the movie.

    It’s just amazing how that Rotten Tomatoes score sheet found only 15% of the reveiwers liking the movie.

    An as for religion, why should religious ideas be any more safe from questioning and alternatives than any other area of human discourse? The movie and the bible are both just stories aren’t they?

    Well, okay. The movie wasn’t as violent and hostile towards herasy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13403201012681262598 Edward T. Babinski

    Dan Brown’s novel proves that FICTION can be highly engrossing, and obtain a wide readership– especially if the fiction begins with a fictional promise of unveiling truth (*smile*), and especially if the market is ripe
    for it. The same might also be said of the Gospels and why they became “bestsellers.”

    Speaking of a Da Vinci Code related topic, i.e., that wild monk Silas, monks did in a female pagan mathematician, Hypatia, and did lots of other damage as well during the age of Constantine and other Christian Emperors.

    Religious enthusiasms DO drive True Believers to extremes/excesses of both fear and devotion, as even the following Christians admit:

    “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

    -Blaise Pascal, Pensees, (1670)

    ~~~~~~~~~

    “Christianity has committed crimes so monstrous that the sun might sicken at them in heaven.”

    -G. K. Chesterton, writing in the Daily News, as quoted by Robert
    Blatchford, God and My Neighbor http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/6172

    ~~~~~~~~~

    “Even more disturbing as you say, is the ghastly record of Christian
    persecution. It had begun in Our Lord’s time–’Ye know not what spirit ye are of’ (John of all people!). I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very
    much worse… Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil.”

    -C. S. Lewis in a letter to Bede Griffiths, dated Dec. 20, 1961, not long before Lewis’ death, The Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed., W. H. Lewis, (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1966), p. 301.

    ~~~~~~~~~

    “[E]ven the great monastic communities of western Europe, such as Cluny Abbey, founded on renunciation of the world and denial of the flesh, quickly became owners of vast estates and wielders of enormous political
    power. They no longer protested against the world. They were the world, in all its pageantry and power, and they validated the dream of empire, which they consecrated as Crusades to destroy the infidel. That is why people
    should not look to religion for salvation or for a solution to the ills of the world. Failure to see the possibilities for corruption and destruction in religion is a failure of spiritual perception of the first order. Few people fail to see the destructive possibilities of other people’s
    religions, but they can be remarkably blind to their own.”

    -Keith Ward [Christian and defender of religion], The Case for Religion

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    “Love can lead to devotion, but the devotion of the lover is unlike that of the True Believer in that it is not militant. I may be surprised–even shocked–to find that you do not feel as I do about a given book or work of art or even person; I may very well attempt to change your mind; but I
    will finally accept that your tastes, your loves, are your business and not mine. The True Believer knows no such restraints.”

    -Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands

    ~~~~~~~~~

    “We kill in the name of a god or of his counterfeits: the excesses
    provoked by the goddess Reason [during the French Revolution], or by the concepts of “nation,” “class,” or “race,” are akin to those of the
    Inquisition or of the Reformation [and Thirty Years War].

    “The ages of [religious] fervor abound in bloody exploits: a Saint Teresa could only be the contemporary of the auto-da-fe [burning heretics alive], a Luther of the repression of the Peasants’ Revolt [Luther wrote in favor of the princes hacking and slaying the peasants without mercy]. In every mystic outburst, the moans of victims parallel the moans of ecstasy.

    E. M. Cioran, “Genealogy of Fanaticism,” A Short History of Decay

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    And speaking of thd Da Vinci Code’s depiction of multiple Christianities, consider this…

    CHRISTIANITY RUNS THE GAMUT…

    From silent Trappist monks and quiet Quakers–to hell raisers and
    serpent-handlers;

    From those who “hear the Lord” telling them to run for president, seek diamonds and gold (via liaisons with bloody African dictators), or sell “Lake of Galilee” beauty products–to those who have visions of Mary, the saints, or experience bleeding stigmata;

    From those who believe the communion bread and wine remain just that–to those who believe the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into
    “invisible” flesh and blood (and can vouch for it with miraculous tales of communion wafers turning into human flesh and wine curdling into blood cells during Mass);

    From those who argue that they are predestined to argue in favor of
    predestination–to those who argue for free will of their own free will;

    From those who believe everyone may (or will) eventually be saved–to those who believe nearly everyone (except themselves and their church) will be damned;

    From Christian monks and priests who have gained insights into their own faith after dialoging with Buddhist monks and Hindu priests–to Christians who view Eastern religious ideas and practices as “Satanic;”

    From castrati (boys in Catholic choirs who underwent castration to retain their high voices)–to Protestant hymns and Gospel quartets–all the way to “Christian rap;”

    From Christians who reject any behavior that even mimics “what homosexuals do” (including a rejection of fellatio and cunnilingus between a husband
    and wife)–to Christians who accept committed, loving, homosexual relationships (including gay evangelical Church groups like the nationwide
    Metropolitan Baptist Church);

    From Catholic nuns and Amish women who dress to cover their bodies–to
    Christian nudists, and even born-again strippers;

    From those who believe that a husband and wife can have sex for
    pleasure–to those who believe that sex should be primarily for
    procreation–to those who believe celibacy is superior to marriage (i.e., Catholic priests, monks, nuns, and some Protestant groups like the Shakers)–all the way to those who cut off their genitals for the kingdom of God (the Skoptze, a Russian Christian sect);

    From those who believe sending out missionaries to persuade others to
    become Christians is essential–to the Anti-Mission Baptists who believe that sending out missionaries and trying to persuade others constitutes a lack of faith and the sin of pride, and that the founding of “extra-congregational missionary organizations” is not Biblical;

    From those who believe that the King James Bible is the only inspired translation–to those who believe that no translation is totally inspired, only the original “autographs” were perfect–to those who believe that “perfection” only lay in the “spirit” that inspired the writing of the Bible’s books, not in the “letter” of the books themselves;

    From those who believe Easter should be celebrated on one date (Roman Catholics)–to those who believe Easter should be celebrated on another date (Eastern Orthodox). And, from those who believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Roman Catholics)–to those who believe it proceeds from the Father alone (Eastern Orthodox view as taught by the early Church Fathers). Those disagreements, as well as others, sparked the greatest schism of church history (the Schism of 1054) when
    the uncompromising patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and the envoys of the uncompromising Pope Leo IX, excommunicated each other;

    From those who worship God on Sunday–to those who worship God on Saturday (Saturday being the Hebrew “sabbath” that God said to “keep holy” according to one of the Ten Commandments)–all the way to those who believe their daily walk with God and love of their fellow man is more important than church attendance;

    From those who stress “God’s commands”–to those who stress “God’s love;”

    From those who believe that you need only accept Jesus as your “personal savior” to be saved–to those who believe you must accept Jesus as both savior and “Lord” of your life in order to be saved. (Two major Evangelical Christian seminaries debated this question in the 1970s, and still disagree);

    From those who teach that being “baptized with water as an adult believer” is an essential sign of salvation–to those who deny it is;

    From those who believe that unbaptized infants who die go straight to hell–to those who deny the (once popular) church doctrine known as “infant damnation.”

    From those who teach that “baptism in the Holy Spirit” along with
    “speaking in tongues” are important signs of salvation–to those who deny they are (some of whom see mental and Satanic delusions in modern day “Spirit baptism” and “tongue-speaking”);

    From those who believe that avoiding alcohol, smoking, gambling, dancing, contemporary Christian music, movies, television, long hair (on men), etc., are all important signs of being saved–to those who believe you need only trust in Jesus as your personal savior to be saved;

    From Christians who disagree whether the age of the cosmos should be measured in billions or only thousands of year–whether God pops new creatures into existence or subtly alters old ones–even some who disagree whether the earth goes round the sun or vice versa;

    From pro-slavery Christians (there are some today who still remind us that the Bible never said slavery was a “sin”)–to anti-slavery Christians;

    From Christians who defend the Biblical idea of having a king (and who oppose democracy as “the meanest and worst of all forms of government” to quote John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with
    whom some Popes agreed, as well as some of today’s Protestant Reconstructionist Christians)–to Christians who oppose kingships and
    support democracies;

    From Christians who wave their Bibles above their white hoods–to
    Christians “in the hood” who march for equal rights for people of all
    colors;

    From “social Gospel” Christians–to “uncompromised Gospel” Christians;

    From Christians who do not believe in sticking their noses in politics–to coup d’etat Christians;

    From “stop the bomb” Christians–to “drop the bomb” Christians;

    From Christians who strongly suspect that the world will end tomorrow–to those who are equally certain it won’t.

    All in all, Christianity gives Hinduism with its infinite variety of sects and practices a run for its money, Da Vinci Code or not.


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