Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code combines several of my favorite things in one movie; history, conspiracy, religion, chase scenes, sex, weird guys with white skin, rich guys with cool cars and planes and more. I like all those things in movies, not so much in real life, unless the rich guy lets me have one of his cars. I wish untwisting all the lost, hidden and destroyed history of the world was as easy as solving a few puzzles.

I’m not saying the movie was all lies, or that it was blasphemous, or anything like. If you want to separate the facts from fiction, one good source is “Truth and Fiction in the The Da Vinci Code” by Bart D. Ehrman. I won’t go in to much detail, but here’s one telling piece of fiction. In the movie, Leigh Teabing, the rich guy, refers to the Gospel of Philip, one of the Gospels that didn’t make it in to New Testament, which of course makes it part of the conspiracy, right? He quotes, “The companion of the Savior is Mary Magdalene.” Of this, Teabing says, “As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion in those days, literally meant spouse”

The trouble with what Teabing says is, the Gospel of Phillip was written in Coptic and the word “companion” is loaned from Greek. An Aramaic scholar wouldn’t do you much good. Either Dan Browne is leaving a huge clue that his book is fiction, or he didn’t do his homework. There are also many misinterpretations of what happened at the Council of Nicea and the role of the Emperor Constantine.

So why did I like the movie and the book? For all the above reasons, and I think it did have an interesting layer of meaning. With any story, I often look for how I can relate to the characters in the story. Not whether or not they have cool cars, but what they are experiencing. In this story, I’m Sophie. Sophie is the innocent one who isn’t aware of the conspiracy. Conspiracy in this case is any truth we are not able or not willing to figure out for ourselves.

Sophie sees her grandfather in a strange ritual and runs away. She cuts herself off from family and doesn’t want to know that truth. There is a consequence to this, she needs to know this truth. She needs to know who her ancestors are. Her parents die before they can let her in on the story of her family. So the movie gets me thinking about what I have cut myself off from. She meets up with someone who knows part of the story, and the two are able to piece together who she is, so it’s a Hollywood ending, but in most real life stories, that doesn’t happen. We are usually stuck with our separateness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not avoiding all the nasty things done in the name of God discussed in the movie. I am not a fan of the Emperor Constantine, or the 4th century Roman Catholic Church. They did a lot to screw up the teachings of the early Christian church. It was a pivotal moment in history, one that needs unraveling. Claiming that the New Testament was practically written by the Council of Nicea however is not helpful. I doubt Constantine had the conversion experience as it was recorded by Christian sources. If he did, I don’t care for his conclusion that if he became Christian, he would win in battle. This type of abuse of scripture and religion has kept us from the lessons of compassion found in all religions.

At the time, I’m sure many Christians were very happy. The government that had killed their savior 300 years ago was now on their side. More timely, the government that allowed persecution and killing of their brethren now prevented it by issuing the Edict of Milan. I side with those who believe that Constantine’s conversion was a political move. He saw the coming of monotheism, and picked Christianity as a good one to go with. I wonder, if there had been bloggers back then, what they would have said about setting the dates of Easter and Christmas, as well as the meaning of the Trinity, and the deals that were made setting up Constantine as enforcer of the doctrine.

There is more to understanding this than just knowing who did what and what motivated them 1,700 years ago. The abuse by government of words from scripture continues to this day. We need to know our scripture well enough to know it’s happening, and to call them on it. When George Bush says, “The ideal of America is the hope of all mankind” and “That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it.” We need to recognize that he has taken from the Gospel of John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” except he put America in the place of God. John 1:3 says, “Through him all things were made”, not just America. (Thanks to Jim Wallis for catching this in his book “Dangerous Religion”)

I don’t care where on the political spectrum you are, if you like Bush you shouldn’t be praising this and if you don’t you shouldn’t be simply dismissing it. We should be saying, “Hey wait a minute, prophets and philosophers have been saying for thousands of years that we are better off if we all work together. No one gets to steal those words and twist them around to say the forces of good are only on one side.”

If you are going to use words like that, then you should also be able to explain which part of “Thou shall not kill” you don’t understand, and where were you when there were 5,000 mouths to feed and there were only a few loaves and fishes to go around.

Well, I didn’t want to get too political in this blog, so I’ll stop now.

No comments:

Post a Comment