Who?s afraid of Dan Brown?
The film, The Da Vinci Code, is a vehicle of unsubstantiated allegations that a gullible public could lap up as Gospel truth.india Updated: May 18, 2006 02:39 IST
I am an Indian Christian and believe in the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus Christ. This is not because I was born into a Christian family, but because I have experienced the love and power of Jesus in my life. At the same time, I have been actively involved in promoting inter-religious dialogue in my hometown, Kanpur. I have constantly challenged any form of religious bigotry, clerical hegemony or injustice in my own community. I say this by way of introduction when I call Dan Brown a cunning and clever insinuator.
Brown is a master of double entendre and insinuation. He knows only too well that if he makes an objective averment, he can be hauled up for fomenting religious hatred or deliberately denigrating a particular religion. We need to distinguish between faith and practice, including distortions of faith. The notoriety of the Inquisition and the Crusades cannot be attributed to Christianity as a whole; the same way we can’t blame Hinduism per se for the perpetuation of caste, or Islam for terrorist movements.
Brown uses fictitious characters in his novel The Da Vinci Code to mouth unsubstantiated allegations that a gullible public could lap us as Gospel truth. If Brown had written a thesis, with references of research, his sources could have been cross-checked and countered by scholars. A fictional work can have no ‘counter-point’.
Brown gives the impression of having done much research. Unfortunately, his scholarship of Christian Biblical texts, exegesis and canonicity (what constitutes divine revelation in the Bible) is woefully lacking. The Bible is the most researched and documented compendium in the world. Biblical scholars over centuries have not hesitated in picking it apart. Brown has arrived 2,000 years too late.
He alleges that the Catholic Church has ‘doctored’ the Bible, suppressing sexuality in the text. He couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Bible is replete with the sexual escapades of characters like Abraham, Gideon, Solomon and David. The book, ‘Song of Songs’ in the Old Testament has passionate words peppered throughout it. By Brown’s convoluted logic, all these ‘offensive’ texts should have been expunged from the Bible.
Brown’s obsession with the Divine Feminine accuses Christianity of suppressing womanhood. Again he’s wide of the mark. In the second chapter of Genesis, God says that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. In nature, which Brown so admires, the male has always been dominant. If Christianity were accused of suppressing women for centuries, Islam and Hinduism would be even greater defaulters. Ironically British (Christian?) colonisers were the first ‘liberators’ of Hindu widows.)
This brings us to Brown’s central theme, Da Vinci’s ‘cryptic messages’ hidden in his painting, The Last Supper. Brown would have us believe that Da Vinci had access to secret sources, via the Masons, the Knights Templar and the Priory of Sion. He, therefore, gives a cryptic message that the disciple sitting next to Jesus is actually a woman, his wife, Mary Magdalene, who bore his child. This is stretching a point to absurd limits. Stray references from ‘secret’ sources are deployed to destroy the basis of Christianity — the divinity of Jesus Christ.
As a believing Christian I have no problem if people don’t accept the divinity of Jesus. In fact, Christ always referred to himself as Son of Man. I would also not be unduly alarmed if it were conclusively proved that Jesus was married. After all, marriage is God’s gift to humanity, and there is nothing to be upset about it. Eleven of the apostles were married. Had Jesus also been married, the apostles would have had no difficulty in portraying him as a married man.
But Brown would have us believe that the secret of Jesus would destroy Christianity if it were revealed. Many Christian organisations are incensed at the blasphemous nature of Brown’s insinuations. He knows that modern day Christians are not going to launch inquisitions and crusades against him. But it does not absolve Brown of his culpability in distorting truth and fomenting communal tension. Recall the recent turmoil over the Danish cartoonist’s impression of Prophet Mohammed.
Christians have a right to peaceful protest against Brown’s code of lies. More importantly, they should study the Bible and find the answers for themselves. If movie-goers in India want to see the film, no one should stop them. However, if they are prepared to buy the storyline of what is admittedly fiction, then they need to first read the Bible before forming any opinion. There is nothing to fear from Brown or The Da Vinci Code. What one should be afraid of is one’s own ignorance.
The writer is the former National President of the All India Catholic Union