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Decoding Da Vinci

What does it mean that something as idiotic as the Da Vinci Code has had a strong effect on how people answer pollsters’ questions about Christianity and Catholicism? (No, I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, and yes, I feel entitled to dismiss them as idiotic anyway.)

Some possibilities:

  • Polls mean nothing. When people answer them they say the first thing that pops into their heads and that’s generally the last thing they happened to look at.
  • For lots of people today religion is the same as supermarket tabloids: a source of oddities they use ad libitum to add an offbeat background to daily life.
  • Religion is basically a chick thing now, and sex is the new transcendence, so feminist religious stories with sex in them don’t have to be very good to catch on.
  • People like scandal and conspiracy theories. Also, a lot of people don’t like the Catholic Church because it claims authority and truth and they don’t like either.

Any other thoughts?

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Comments

I agree with your speculations, but I add one more: Unmasking.

The thesis behind unmasking is that our Western tradition is a facade erected by the “pale patriarchy” to secure their power, their privilege, and their illusions. The narrative constructed by the Church over the centuries is just part of this process.

The official stories told by the Church—through the canon and tradition—were not motivated by faith, devotion, or truth, but rather were motivated by self-interest, and more particularly the self-interest of the patriarchs who controlled the church. In other words, their will to power determined the shape of the faith, while damning the faithful to a slave morality of weakness and self-hatred (especially women).

So what lies behind the facade of temporal power? Those stories and realities that threatened the power of the patriarchy, such as: Jesus’ humanity, the centrality of sex in human realization, and the power and influence of the sacred feminine in the early Church.

The Dan Brown theology goes like this: We are good people, with an advanced consciousness, on a spiritual quest, seeking the truth. Over the centuries, bad people have concealed and distorted the truth: the Patriarchs, through a debased will to power. They have wreaked havoc on the Western tradition and by extension upon our souls. We must recover the true tradition and expose the bad people, and resurrect and return to the Garden of Eden corrupted by the patriarch’s self-interested will to power. We will be led on our quest by a power equal to the distorted powers that control the Church: the sacred feminine, embodied in Magdelene and her blood line, traceable to Christ himself. The spirit of Christ is delivered unto us through Magdelene, via the power of the sacred feminine. Once we have recovered the true spirit of Christ, we shall have recovered the original innocence and possess salvation, and the walls of the Church’s deception will come tumbling down.

It has all the elements of a good fairy tale, sort of like Lord of the Rings. There are good guys and bad guys, there’s a quest, there is a puzzle (the “code”) to be solved, there are dangers and adventure, there’s a battle between spiritual powers, and there is salvation by purification and return.

On the sacred feminine and pagan sociology: [http://blog.lewrockwell.com/lewrw/archives/010768.html#more]

According to this account, early Christianity offered to women what is today called “liberation,” and that is one reason early Christianity attracted so many women into the church. It seems the sacred feminine of paganism wasn’t so attractive to women who actually lived within its orbit.

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

The Da Vinci Code is simply part of our culture of gossip. Gossip permeates every media outlet such as supermarket tabloids, the Today Show, Oprah, People Magazine, every television news network, etc. It permeates social conversation so as to be a fundamental part of social conversation.

Yea, the Catholic Church is or might be evil! Oh really? How intriguing. What have you heard? There is a murderous Catholic albino member of the clandestine Catholic cult Opus Dei. (But see http://www.opusdei.org/.) Opus Dei is the opposite of clandestine: open. But facts do not matter when gossip is involved. The idea is too delicious.

Christians have been critical of the book and movie, and that is encouraging. It is important that Christians write the Director, the Stars, and the Studio and tell them you have no intention of voluntarily paying to see what they produce unless they apologize for their blasphemy and lies.

Paul Henri

Mr. Kalb…

Your last two observations seem to be most helpful in explaining the popularity of the Da Vinci Code, especially considering its appeal to educated middle class Americans. Feminism is, and has been for some time, the spirit of the age. And nothing has had such far reaching effects on how we organize our lives. It’s no surprise that such a book has found a believing audience.

Over the years, I’ve noticed something interesting about people who are hostile towards the Catholic Church. In many cases, their complaints center on the Church’s teachings on sexuality, in particular on contraception (and by connection abortion). It’s not enough that they just ignore the teachings, but they find it necessary to be aggressively hostile towards them. Surely these people must realize that nobody follows the teachings anymore, so why all the anger. Perhaps this is a result of a guilty conscience. Or maybe they realize, on one level or another, that the success of feminism is due, in a very large part, to the widespread rejection of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. So no wonder that a book challenging the Church’s authority from a feminist perspective has been well received.

…Travis Zeik

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

Mr. Kalb is justified in not reading the Da Vinci Code before criticizing it. First, it would numb the senses to read this long book filled with lies, not well-accepted fantasy, which one can approach with curiosity and an honest willingness to suspend disbelief for joy. Second, must everyone view every game played by every college football team to conclude which is better? Of course not. Nor must every student read every book written on philosophy to conclude which philosophy is better. The fan or the student relies on descriptions and opinions from credible sources and his knowledge of football or philosophy.

Unlike a football team, the Da Vinci Code can never rise above itself and win the game, the argument; after its heralded entry into the stadium or the library, it must go and sit on a bench and forever passively endure offense.

Paul Henri