Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Code and The Church

Just last night, we and the kids went to the movies: to see Mission Impossible. It was truly remarkable what the protagonist and his little band of agents could accomplish: such as plan and execute sophisticated operations within incredibly short periods of time. My goodness: in no time flat, they were able to cross time zones and a ocean, devise a plan to surreptitiously obtain a secret somethingorother from one of the most secure sites in the world, fly through the air with the greatest of ease, and escape all of the intelligence agents in China.


It almost revolutionized my view of the world. Super humans exist, and god does look like Tom Cruise.


You must think me terribly silly. "My goodness AC, get ahold of yourself boy; it's just a movie. It's make-believe — by definition! Don't you see?"


Well, yes, as a matter of fact I do see. That's what we've always known movies to be: make-believe, escapism, fantasy — not truth, although it might be argued that there is a genre that causes us to examine reality in some way. But not Mission Impossible! Not Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not Back to the Future. Not ... well, I'm sure that you take my point.


So why, I wonder, the angst and vexation over The Da Vinci Code?


Does The Church seriously believe that all us sheep (or are we goats rather? :) will be gullibly led off the straight and narrow so very easily? Really now: do they credulously posit that a lifetime of belief could be so easily undone: in a theater while watching an adventure thriller of approximately two hours duration?


I read the book (opinion succinctly expressed here) and didn't find it to be nearly as wonderful as the proclamations. Frankly, I expect even less of the film. In point of fact, I expect it to be almost as atrocious as Mission Impossible. But I will go and see it and hope for the best.


Whatever my state of faith, I expect it to be unaltered by The Da Vinci Code. I'm not sure why The Church and the faithful have so little faith in their convictions and beliefs. My goodness, they seem to be ready to launch the next crusade to defend the Rock of Ages, whom I expect will remain stalwart and uncrumbling when the credits roll on this silly, little flick.


The omniscient They say, "Pick your battles. Make sure that the hill is worth defending." I ask whether this a hill worth dying on? I think not. Surely there are more important battles to be fought, more significant hills that might be worth dying upon.


I have posted these highly intelligent thoughts (hey! it's the best I can do!) just in case you have been waiting with bated breath to know what the AC might think. Thank you very much.


 

26 comments:

Darius said...

I didn't see this one, but remember "The Last Temptation of Christ?" That got a lot of believers riled up too, stirring up tremendous interest in the movie.

I really don't get it. I mean, they're against the movie - but they get everyone to go see it.

But I think the reason pretty much any movie about Jesus bothers a lot of believers is because just to make a movie or write a story about him, you know it's going to have stuff that's not in the New Testament. We already know that story, and it's too short on details.

What was he doing in the desert those forty days? How did he get to be this precocious 12 year old surprising the elders in the temple? Why the heck did he get so mad at that poor fig tree?

We have pretty much zero historical knowledge of Jesus, but we know he was a human. So it raises lots of questions. Most of them surround his humanity. And since the church has always said he's fully man and fully God but has really emphasized just the God part, a lot of believers are uncomfortable even referring to the human aspect by way of fiction.

megz_mum said...

I am looking forward to seeing the movie, and will take it for what it is - an enjoyable escape. As for the religious side of it, I don't feel qualified to comment. I enjoyed the mystery and "treasure hunt" aspects of the book. The concept was novel to me, so a good read. I do enjoy the "Mission Impossible" movies, also "Daredevil", "Spiderman", "James Bond"..... the list goes on!

Lynn said...

Great post.

I have not read the book nor seen the movie, but I have followed the phenomenon from the book and movie reviews, TV shows, and the trial in England that accused Brown of ripping off other writers. I think I get the gist of what it is all about.

My preference is to read books written by serious Biblical scholars who try to discover what the early church was like and how it came to be in our times.

I had the good fortune to watch a Catholic priest discuss the movie on CNN tonight. His opinion was that the movie was boring. I found that refreshing. He also remarked that believer's faith would not be shaken by the book or the movie, and that those on the margin might actually be led to pursue things farther. He also said that the idea that the church could keep a secret for 2,000 years seemed improbable. That seemed an imminently relaxed and pragmatic attitude towards the whole Da Vinci Code phenonmenon.

The literary critics have trashed the book. The movie critics have trashed the movie. Folks I have talked to who have seen the movie have not had much to say that recommends it.

I will have to admit that the furor over the book and movie which has been advertised, up front, as fiction mystifies me.

oshee said...

Wow, what thoughtful and intelligent commenters you have. I hope my few sentences sound as well written.

I have not read the book; although I might if I ever find time to read again. I don't know if I will see the movie. A lot of hype has been put into the ideas of the book. Suggesting that the ideas are more truthful and less fantasical. I would like to hope that we are all a bit smarter than to accept a work of fiction as pure truth.

Granny said...

"They" don't think they will be corrupted but they do think everyone else will be.

I haven't read the book and probably won't bother with the film unless it shows up on t.v. eventually or we rent the dvd.

madcapmum said...

My dearly beloved's theory is that the Church has shares in the book and the movie, and that's why they're putting up such a commotion about it. Negative publicity drives up sales!

PBS said...

I loved the latest "Mission Impossible" and think it (the series) was well named ;)

The book is a good read! Not as riveting as "Angels and Demons" or "Digital Fortress" my favorite Dan Brown book to date, but it's an exciting mystery to be enjoyed, it's not about whether you "believe" it or not! When I hear it discussed on a TV show or wherever I just want to say, "It's FICTION, people! Fiction."

Heather said...

Good point! I haven't read the book, and frankly, with all the hype about it, I'm not sure I want to. But I agree with you that if people's faith is shaken by one movie/book, then maybe they didn't have a very solid faith to begin with.

Bonita said...

Ah, myth-making at it's best and worst. Man loves scripture and stories, and will spend centuries looking for new twists on ancient themes. Also, novelty is refreshing, and always brings in a few dollars.

Dale said...

Heather, PBS, Oshee and Lynn. You've all said exactly what I would say. I have nothing more to add other than this:

I read the book. The writing was insipid, and the story, WAY over-hyped. It'll be a frosty Friday in Hell before I waste fifteen bucks on the movie. Bah! How can fiction cause so much friction?

Heather said...

AC - You might be interested in this article on the topic... http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=news.display_article&mode=C&NewsID=5400

-epm said...

I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was: a novel of suspense, mystery, intrigue... and fiction. For my money it's not much different than a Tom Clancy espionage thriller, or a P.D James detective mystery.

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie (hopefully this weekend)... much the same way that I looked forward to seeing Enemy of the State or King Kong. I mean really, a Ron Howard helmed flick with Tom Hank, Ian McKellen and Jean Reno! I plan on being well entertained as I dribble popcorn crumbs down my chest.

Regarding the hype over the film, I find it interesting that without the protests and clerical rebukes there would be no hype, beyond the normal Hollywood marketing blitz that accompanies any big budget, big name feature film.

Whatever my state of faith, I expect it to be unaltered by The Da Vinci Code. I'm not sure why The Church and the faithful have so little faith in their convictions and beliefs.

Any group who's power is derived from the devotion of those committed to a faith (and by it's nature unprovable by temporal, testable means) is always fearful that their devotees will be swayed by a better story. That's why they focus so much on sin and eternal punishment... it helps keep the flock in line, and the powerful in power.

OK. That was a bit cynical. I'm not knocking faith, I'm knocking the institutional, earthly and very human structures unilaterally set up as the faith power-brokers.

Truth is truth and will outlive any celluloid entertainment. And I can think of things far more destructive to a persons faith than a movie... things done by "The Church" itself.

methatiam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
methatiam said...

NOTE: I am re-posting as I had some issues with BLOGGER and I couldn't see my comment.

two million adults – said that they changed any of the beliefs or religious perspectives because of the book’s content - http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdateNarrowPreview&BarnaUpdateID=238

One in four French believe Da Vinci Code based on fact: survey - http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060509/od_afp/sciencereligionfranceoffbeat_060509112129

I too have read the book. It was written in the great tradition of the cheap pulp novel: little words and easy-to-parse sentences. Setting aside theology, the very lack of historical research, the spurious arguments, predictable plot line and a decidedly foolish ending would have ensured this tome’s place on the discount rack had it not offended somebody.

Elizabeth said...

We are getting to the place that if something is popular, we likely want nothing to do with it...usually a huge waste of time and money to buy the books, see the movie, etc. In fact, this applies to the IN THING to read and do in churches today too...usually there is nothing in them that is not already available to us in scripture, so why bother? But I suppose we have kind of always marched to the beat of a different drum in ways...

mreddie said...

Great last paragraph - sounds like something I might say about my own writings. :) ec

kathy said...

I haven't read the book either. I am looking forward to seeing the movie and seeing Mission Impossible.

great comments in here. I don't have much to add here, sorry.

J_G said...

After the last years of scandal with priests and closing down parishes because of low attendance you'd better believe the Roman Church is worried. Pope Paul and Mother Theresa were able to inspire but now, the Da Vinci code has the attention.

I don't think that the faithful (meaning people of faith) will change their beliefs but the non-believers will have something more to poke at making people more withdrawn and less likely to talk about and promote their faith. Like evolution, just a theory with thin evidence to back it up.

Simply Coll said...

I too have been wondering what all the fuss is about. Seems to me .. all they are doing is providing more publicity than the producers could ever hope for.

Gangadhar said...

Hiee,
first time on your blog..nice blog with beautiful template!!I always love rains..especially love the vision of rain drops on leaves due to surface tension phenomenon..
Well,I haven't yet read the book either..But I'm so much addicted to your presentation skills...

tom said...

Most of your commenters have a brain that allows them to see that the book and movie are indeed fictional....however, as a Catholic, I know that there are many in our land who love to take anything they can get their hands on to put the hammer on the Catholic Church....so from that perspective, the book/movie are potentially harmful. The notion that Jesus had a family can't be supported very well, and the "fact" that Mr. Brown was caught with his pen in someones elses books for his "research" lends even less credibility to the claims he continues to make.
The Catholic Church has proven over the years that it is not without its sinners, but a line from Jesus himself proves to be true, when he says that if they persecute you, remember that they have first persecuted me.
I read the book, to see what the fuss was all about....at first I was angry, then saw that it was a second-rate mystery, with a terribly flat and unsatisfying ending. the movie is being panned across the board....I hear critics laughed at what was supposed to have been the most critically dramatic moment of the film....
Most Catholics are not shaken in their beliefs...that is not why we are against DVC..it is that it gives fuel for the fire of Anti-Catholicism, which is a very real element in the world. By the way,
Brown has a new book coming out about da Vinci's health....it is called "Da da Binshy Cohd"...see what I did there? you know, cohd as in "cold"....groan.

Sarah Elaine said...

The interesting thing about human nature is that the more you forbid people to do something, the more they want it.

If there wasn't so much hype, there wouldn't be so much hype, if you get my drift.

Norma said...

Christians are being encouraged to see this movie, actually. Forbiding it doesn't seem to have had any affect at all, at least not on book purchases. Also, I understand that 1/3 of Canadians believe Dan Brown. They apparently didn't even catch on that it was fiction.

Iona said...

I'd have to agree with you regarding Mission Impossible. I saw clips and interviews and already then I decided that I don't really feel like running to the theatre and get a ticket.

The DaVinci Code on the other hand I would like to see. Already after reading the last page of the book I cried out that when the movie is out, I'll be the first to see it. I'm going this coming saturday...

The book didn't really change my mind about my religion though... However, I've always kept an open mind. And Jesus possibly being married to Mary Magdalena and having childeren, sounded rather plausible. (Just as plausible as some geographic expert hypothesized that the Red Sea was influenced by tides and the low tide made it seem like the water would 'part' and that's likely how Moses and everyone crossed it)

I mean, in my opinion, the Bible is just a book of historical stories. Nothing holy about it, as far as I'm concerned. Although we can learn from it and certainly it wouldn't hurt to use some parts as guidelines in our lives...
Okay, he had these special gifts, but I think Jesus was above all just a man. A Jewish man. And Jewish men got married in those times. So, why not? I ask. You know, open mind.

Anyway, the book didn't turn me into one of those DaVinci Code followers/fanatics. I realize very well it's just a story, based on historical myths and hypotheses. And the whole thing got romanticized a bit.
But it's a damn good story and if there were any real proof of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their possible decendents, hell, that would certainly rock the Christian world! But for now, it's just a story...

Iona said...

By the way... I have yet to meet a Christian that has something 'good/positive' to say about the DaVinci Code. All of the Christians I've spoken to, have completely condemned the book as well as the movie. No one even wants to hear any argument to start with! Which I think is rather sad, as it would certainly make a good and educative conversation!

Christi said...

I remember watching Dateline NBC (I think, it was one of those news shows) a while back, and they examined the truth and fiction behind The Da Vinci Code. At the end, they left it open, not saying either way if it was true or not, just showing the facts found in their research and letting us decided. I remember thinking then, "Why does it matter?" I mean, Jesus was Jesus. Who cares about the details, and if there's a secret group and blah, blah, blah (I didn't read the book, so I'm not 100% on the facts). I know in my heart what Jesus wants us to do, which is live good lives and treat others well, in the long run. I mean, sure there's more to it than that, but sometimes I think people get so caught up in the silly little details, and really, who cares!

I totally agree, though, that if you have a set of beliefs already on the issue, then the movie won't change them. If anything, it may get you more motivated to do your own research on the subject, which I think is a great idea. Those w/o a belief system in place could do well to see the movie. I think society is such anymore that we don't believe anything w/o definitive proof. So, perhaps if nothing else, those who could care less about Jesus, and who see the movie, will at least be thinking about Him now, which is definitely a start!