As Long As You Believe It
The suspense is great. If there were ever a book worthy of being called a "page-turner" The Da Vinci Code would qualify. And contrary to many of the critical reviews, I really liked the movie. The tension and intrigue kept me glued for the nearly two and one half hours from beginning to end. Of course the story is based on the crazy idea that the Roman Catholic Church has been engaged in a cover-up for over two thousand years: Jesus was married toand they produced an offspring whose heirs are still alive, and only knows the truth, and would unveil it when the right time comes. We are introduced not to the "greatest story ever told," but to the "greatest cover-up" ever perpetrated, to use the lines from the eccentric Teabing. From a murder in the Louvre to stops in France, to London, then the in Scotland and back to the Louvre's Pyramid, we're treated to a great travelogue, interspersed with all the disclosed scandalous material, plenty to fill the long book and long movie. By now, most people know the doctrinal expose: Jesus was merely a man, a good feminist at that, the Council of Nicea voted on Jesus' divinity (the flashback in the film to 325 A.D. shows a chaotic meeting with shouts and waving hands), alternate Gospels were kept out of the New Testament, the "sacred feminine" is the bane of the institutional church, the Merovingians are Jesus' descendants...
OK, this is bad history, even troubling history. Many have lost their faith simply by reading the book. Those without faith are confirmed in their skepticism. Yet, there is something far more pernicious in the story than this. What could that be? The call to return to bland, Western humanism! How is it articulated? First, the obvious. Institutions are bad, people are good (except the bad ones). Religion is a human desire, not a divine visitation. Men are from Mars, women from Venus. All that stuff.
Second, The Da Vinci Code gets even more preachy about the tired claims of humanism. Teabing furiously proclaims that for thousands of years the Church and its believers perpetrated wars, murders, violence. Richard Dawkins must be envious of the persuasive clarity of this message. Religious certainty always lead to war, he argues. In the Da Vinci tale we have it proved before our eyes, through the foil of a conspiracy to hide the truth from most people. At the climax of this extraordinary yarn, Sophie is given the choice to tell all, and thus liberate the entire human race from bondage. All she has to do is choose the right timing. "You have the power to reveal or conceal," she is told. Dear girl, what a responsibility.
Still, there could be a problem. What if the whole thing were not true? Could she perform miracles if the story doesn't add up? With the freedom of the human race in the balance, this could bring a lot of pressure. Here to the rescue, we have the third, necessary ingredient of good, banal humanism. Langdon reassures Sophie that it does not really matter. "As long as you believe it," then it has the power of truth. Examples? She had in fact helped a druggie off his habit, and had healed Robert's claustrophobia. Never mind that it may or may not have been connected to her sacred lineage. In the film, she humorously tries and fails to walk on water. Then she quips, "Maybe I'll do better with the wine." Ho-ho-ho.
What we are left with in the end is the miserable Euro-centric philosophy of self-realization. It does not matter whether such a far-fetched story might be true or false. Nor does it matter for the liberation of the human race. Because the will triumph, as long as the right people believe it.
Uh-oh. I see a problem. Without knowing it, are we not back to "religious" certainty? A secular religious conviction, to be sure. But why is this kind of certainty any different from the dangerous views denounced by Dawkins? As numerous postmodernist scholars have argued, thereâ€™s more violence in that meta-narrative than anyone had imagined. Maybe we should take a second look at the claims of the , with its wonderful open-air message of church and state separation, and the divine Jesus Christ as Lord of them both.