Friday, May 19, 2006

There's packing and moving and all manner of less tangible things to do before I say good bye to this year, so there isn't a lot of time to blog. However, I wanted to drop a quick word about The Da Vinci Code. I haven't read it, and after both my mother and my sister found it unentertaining I have no desire to read it. This means I cannot really speak to any controversy surrounding it with. Normally I don't care much when the part of Christendom that the media feels like covering does something stupid, and I really don't care normally when someone like Dan Brown decides to air his personal problems with religion in public. I mean really, most of the people I know have enough education and enough awareness of the perennial popularity of church conspiracy theories in literature not to take seriously the controversial stuff in any church conspiracy literature. Or so I thought. But Twilight's father (a man who is very dear to me) apparently did take some of it seriously. To me that's like wondering why nobody has cloned dinosaurs after reading Jurassic Park, but hey, I haven't read the book. Oh yeah. And as a Christian, I am either part of the conspiracy or a willing dupe.

Anyway, I found Antilles' thoughts on the subject of The Da Vinci Code and Christendom eminently sensible. His thoughts are a bit long, but they are the best thoughts I have heard on the subject to date, and as they come from Antilles I feel no compunction about linking them. If you are interested in a sensible Christian response to the controversy, I commend his thoughts to you.


antilles said...

why thank you. i just got back from the movie, and i more or less agree with what reviews are out there. a slightly watered-down version of the book, but with enough claws to rile some people up, probably.

oh, and you might want to remove the "#e" from the link you made to my'll put people in half-way down!

Justin said...

I find it interesting that you have no desire to read the book. I, for one, did find it very entertaining - if Brown hadn't started the book off with that page claiming "truth" I wouldn't have any objections to the novel. However, given that it is now a hot topic in America, I'm curious as to why you would avoid reading it. It seems to me that it would be helpful to have one more educated Christian out there who can give an informed viewpoint on the book when it comes up in everyday discussion, as it surely will. What are your thoughts on this? Do you have some duty to educate yourself (if only by reading the novel) to be able to educate friends who may be important to you, and who may be misinformed?

Natalie said...

I suppose it might be uncharitable of me to be so dismissive of the book (not that I object in the slightest to anybody reading it who will find it edifying). If I recall correctly, my mother and sister found it unentertaining in the sense of being unedifying - by which I believe they meant something along the lines of it was not poorly crafted or unexciting, but that the insipidity of the philosophy it propounded overwhelmed whatever good qualities it might have had merely as a book, and they felt that they had wasted their time reading exciting but unimproving drivel (all my words, not theirs). I certainly don't mind it if my books have insipid philosophies in them, or even if their main characters are sometimes insipid or moral cowards (in the right overall literary context I can even enjoy it, as in the case of Javert or the Phantom of the Opera), but I like my mother and sister do find it ever so tiresome to read a book which wholeheartedly believes insipid nonsense, however exciting it may be or however interesting its other ideas. Antilles is not the first person I have heard quote that exchange between Sophie and Langdon as the moral and philosophical heart of the work. If that is what I am in for then I imagine I have better ways to dispose of my leisure time. Do you disagree with this assessment of the book, or is this simply a taste that you don't have?

Of course, I might have some sort of duty to read the book in order to respond to peoples' questions or correct their misconceptions about Christianity. But so far as I know nobody who reads this blog has taken The Da Vinci Code seriously as either history or religion. By all means, if I am mistaken in this belief, or if people are genuinely curious as to my thoughts on the work, I'm willing to pick it up and read it. Just let me know. As for people I know who don't read this blog who have taken TDC as both, well, I don't think that Twilight's father so much took TDC as fact as felt it confirmed certain beliefs about the church and God that he already had, and I don't think that my reading the book will have a material impact on those beliefs.

Justin said...

Hm, I see two points here. The first being how I found the book as I read it, and the second being your responsibility (for lack of a better word) to read the novel.

To the first, I found the book entertaining. Part of this is probably because I simply suspended disbelief as I read the novel, choosing to take it as a pure work of fiction. Like I mentioned before, had Brown not made a claim to truth in his opening pages, I would not have noticed anything particularly interesting about the book. A second reason is that I did realize that certain claims were simply false, flagged them in my mind, and decided to go back and investigate the other ones that struck me as fishy but which I wasn't sure about. To tell the truth, none of this really took away from a fast-paced novel that read at times like a movie script (as Antilles noted). I didn't get a sense of moral indignation - more amusement, followed by "I wonder what's going to happen next!" When the main character is seriously expounding on the mysteries of the Sacred Feminine in all walks of life, even extending it to absurd areas of architecture, etc, how seriously indignant could I get? I think my reaction was mostly because I read the book in a vacuum - the press hullabaloo hadn't really hit yet, there were no Christian boycotts, etc, so I wasn't reading it as a "controversial" work but rather as I would read the newest Crichton novel. If Mike tells me dinosaurs are back, well, sure! Let's see where this goes.

This is not to dismiss or take away from anyone else's reaction to the book - I'm only reflecting on my reaction. And, by the way, I think a good analogy to TDC would be a James Bond movie. Fast-paced, entertaining, but don't think too hard about it, and don't count on it to be "improving." Could some rogue terrorist really provoke WWIII by stealing GPS coordinates? Could Denise Richards really be a nuclear physicist? At least she looks good saving the world in two hours - just as Langdon and Sophie look good exposing thousands of years of Church lies in a few hundred pages. And to take the analogy one step further, I've enjoyed all the Bond movies I've seen, but I'd be hard-pressed to recount any of the plot details a year later. Neither 007 movies nor TDC have enough substance to stay around.

The second point is the one that strikes me as more important. You've largely confined the audience of people whom you might impact to the readers of this blog, whereas I was thinking of the much wider community of believers, non-believers, and seekers who have read this book and are misled by or unsure about its oh-so-juicy claims. Because I think you're one of the most articulate, thoughtful, and impressive people I know, I would argue that hearing the facts from you about TDC would help to educate those whom you may encounter in law school, at your law firm, or walking down the street. (Bonus points to me for melodrama - especially proud of the 'walking down the street' bit.) I'd further argue that your credibility with those who believe in the premises of TDC is damaged when you admit that you haven't read it. Even though your actually reading the book is immaterial to being able to educate about it, I suspect that most people who like conspiracy theories against the church will sieze on that as an excuse to dismiss your position - "this guy hasn't even read the book. He's just mindlessly protecting his church and this Jesus fellow." It's for this reason that I hope you do read TDC, so that your knowledge and wisdom will be well-positioned to make an impact if and when the situation arises.

Just my two cents.

Natalie said...

See, for me books and movies don't make very good analogies. I like plenty of movies that are nothing more than fluff (like the Bond films or Jurassic Park) or are arguably actively unimproving (like Moulin Rouge or Starship Troopers), and similarly with music (like practically everything by the Dixie Chicks). But when it comes to books my tastes run more towards the moral. It's not a question of being indignant at a book propounding some bit of nonsense (e.g., "it doesn't matter if what you believe is true"); it's a question of finding such an insipid morality wearying to the point that the book becomes unenjoyable. It's not an absolute taste, of course, but for me it's much stronger when it comes to books than when it comes to movies.

Your point is well taken, but TDC really doesn't seem to have intruded into my life at all. I might pick it up at some point for the exercise, but nobody I know of seems to actually care about it.