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In the Left Behind books . . . an apocalyptic
mythology about the future has been created based on interpretations
of the Bible, using a unique and recent form of theology called premillennial
dispensationalism. In The Da Vinci Code, a radical feminist mythology
about the past is created via an interpretation of selected Gnostic
writings that relies on esoteric, neo-pagan premises. In the Left
Behind series, humanity is utterly depraved and history spirals
downward into chaos and inevitable collapse; salvation can only come
through a personal act of faith and complete renunciation of "the world."
In The Da Vinci Code, humanity suffers from a lack of the "sacred
feminine" and the world tilts ominously towards a male-dominated future;
freedom from this imbalanced state requires the healing touch of the
It has been said that any publicity is good publicity.
I think that is trueas long as what you are publicizing is worth
publicizing. Last night (Sunday, December 13), I spent a few moments (about
fifty-eight seconds) trying to publicize the truth about The Da Vinci
Code (and, yes, my
book on the same topic) on "At Large with Geraldo Rivera"
on FOX News television. Whatever else it was, it was entertainingif
not for viewers, than at least for me.
My brief appearance to discuss The Da Vinci Code was part of a
larger segment on anti-Christian bigotryor "Christianophobia"
(give or take a vowel)that opened with a breathless report from
the Vatican and some comments by Jerry Falwell. Then Geraldo cut to a
prerecorded segment about Dan Browns novel, in which his voiceover
pointed out that The Da Vinci Code has now sold eighteen million
copies worldwide, including nine million in the United States. There was
mention of priests selling copies of the novel at the site of Leonardo
da Vincis famous masterpiece, The Last Supper. Id not
heard of this sad commercial enterprise, but I do hope that someone at
the Vatican hears of it and takes a drive and makes a surprise inspection.
The segments description of the contents and claims of The Da
Vinci Code was rather curious. The novel, viewers were told, politely
hints that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a relationship and may have "even
married." But in the novel the character Leigh Teabing, an English
historian, actually states, "As I said earlier, the marriage of Jesus
and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record" (p. 245). The
FOX piece went to say that the person of the Apostle John in Leonardos
painting is, according to Browns novel, actually a "disguised
MM." But The Da Vinci Code states that it is a woman:
"It was, without a doubt
female" (p. 243).
Small potatoes, I suppose, and not worth to much fuming. A far more egregious
error was the statement, also made by Geraldo in the voiceover, that the
novel claims "the Holy Grail is actually a collection of documents
that prove this mystery"a reference to the relationship of
Jesus and Mary Magdalene. This is quite incorrect. The novel insists repeatedly
that the Holy Grail is a person: Mary Magdalene. "The Holy
Grail is a woman," thinks Sophie to herself. Teabing helpfully adds,
"It is not I who claim she is the Grail. Christ Himself made
that claim" (p. 242).
After the segment, Geraldo asked me to quickly explain why I think the
novel is a problem. I pointed out that many readers obviously believe
it is an authentic, viable guide to Church history and the "truth"
about Jesus. Cut to commercial. On the other side of the break, Geraldo
turned to Dan Burstein, the head of a venture-capital firm who edited
the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the DaVinci
[sic] Code, a book that is nearly as misleading as Browns
novel (and one that Ive reviewed here).
Which is why Geraldo rightly described it as a "kinder" look
at the The Da Vinci Code; he then asked Burstein why he thinks
the novel has been so popular.
Burstein replied that there is "a huge fascination in the Mary Magdalene
story," especially since she is "possibly one of the founders
of Christianity and possibly the sexual partner of Jesus." That last
bit was a sly, sick touch, probably aimed at the politically correct,
inclusive, progressively minded crowd. "Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci
Code," Burstein continued, "has taken the cover off these
issues that have been at the center of Christianity and much of Western
thought for two thousand years." He went on to note that Brown throws
the entire esoteric kitchen sink at the accommodating wall of popular
culture: Egyptian mystery religions, Greek mystery religions, Jewish mystery
religionsyou get the picture.
Burstein is interesting because he exemplifies, I think, those readerswho
he describes as "average sophisticated, educated readers"enamored
with The Da Vinci Code and really think it offers a wealth of heady,
spiritually rich materials. In his introduction to Secrets of the Code,
he admits that after reading the novel, "I was as intellectually
challenged as I had been by any book I had read in a long time."
Burstein admits that he has "no academic, religious, or artistic
credentials," but it doesnt stop him from sharing his thoughts
on topics he knows little or nothing about. This is readily evident in
his ridiculous and completely unsubstantiated claim that "there was
no prohibition against women being priest in the early years of the church."
He is corrector partially correctwhen he later notes in his
book that "Dan Brown has left mainstream scholarship behind. He has
plunged into the world of the medieval and New Age myths." The problem
(only one of many, of course) is Brown doesnt correctly communicate
those myths, especially the medieval ones. But that is part of the appeal
of Browns work: its about creating your own customized mythology
and not being beholden to facts and evidence.
Anyhow, at that point of the program Geraldo asked me what I thought the
problem was with the novel. I had forty-six seconds to explain that the
novel's claim that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married is baseless and
not accepted by any biblical scholars (even liberal ones), that the claim
that no one believed Jesus was divine until A.D. 325 was completely false,
and that all of Brown's claims about Leonardo da Vinci are taken from
The Templar Revelatioops, times up!
Geraldo then asked Jerry Falwell if The Da Vinci Code was "attacking
the character of Jesus Christ?" Falwells answer was intriguing:
"Well, if it says that Jesus had a relationship with a prostitute,
I think thats a pretty serious attack on Jesus Christ
Except that one of the very few things Brown is correct about is that
Mary Magdalene was probably not a prostitute. Besides, the novel states
they were married. And so, not surprisingly, the more vital issue of Jesus
marriage to the Church and the meaning of celibacy was passed over (I
know, I knowits Geraldo, not Charlie Rose).
Falwell added that he doesnt give the novel "much credence."
"The fact that its sold nine million copies in the United States,"
he said, indicates nothing special since "Tim LaHaye and Jerry B.
Jenkins Left Behind series have sold fifty-five million."
This was, I think, a huge blunder, but one that likely comes from not
being too familiar with the topic and also attempting to plug your best
One problem is that the math is not on Falwells side. The twelve
Left Behind books have sold fifty-five million copies, which is
about 4.6 million copies of each book. But The Da Vinci Code has
sold twice that in the United States alone and four times that in the
worldand in only eighteen months. Besides, if its "just
a novel," as Falwell indicated at one point, then shouldnt
it be said that the Left Behind books are "just novels"?
They are, of course, much more than "just novels." Both Brown
and LaHaye have used fictional narrative to promote and propagate their
religious beliefs. Ironically, although they differ sharply about the
identity and nature of Jesus, they have much in common, as I pointed out
in a National
article earlier this year:
I appreciate the invitation to be on FOX News and
Im glad that I was able to get in my two cents worth. But Im
inclined to agree with a recent amazon.com "reviewer" of The
Da Vinci Hoax who complained, "I would like to see this topic
debated by real supposed experts in an open forum debate...now that would
be entertainment." Indeed. And good publicity as well.
Find out more about The Da Vinci Hoax
Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the co-author
Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author
Catholics Be "Left Behind"? He resides with his family
in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between Portland, Oregon
and Sacramento, California.
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