Sunday, June 25, 2006

More thoughts on Dan Brown's Book

This title makes me think of the song "John Brown's Baby" for some reason. Ok, anyway.

I think the most interesting part of reading The Da Vinci Code was realizing how insidious Dan Brown's claims are. He mixes truth with half truths and not-truths and throws it all into a huge pot of "might-be-truths". Every few pages I found myself thinking "I need to look that up. It might be real or it might not be." Some of them were true (Opus Dei really exists and the late Pope really did like them) and some of them weren't (there is no actual historical evidence - religious or secular - for Jesus and Mary Magdalene having been married). Some of them were easily verifiable, and for some of them I can't find reliable answers (the existence of the Priory of Sion seems to be hopelessly debated, and I am not a historical scholar! Linds, help!) Some of them were such wild claims that I can't imagine any but conspiracy theorists take seriously...but they were couched in so much half-truth that it just might be possible to believe them. It is sad to me that half the world seems to have just swallowed the entire book...but it is also understandable. I read it with all my Torrey-training in high gear, and could recognize the different layers of fact vs. fiction (or at least, could recognize that the author didn't want me to know the difference!) Most people don't read novels with such care, and evidently most people also don't notice that "novel" actually means "not non-fiction". ;) I guess what I'm saying is that I get why people like the book, and I get why people think the claims are true. I am also pretty firmly convinced that, because of this, the book is dangerous to true Christianity. I think that we would do well to read it and check our facts so that we can defend ourselves if the need arises.


white rose said...

Even simple facts are falsified in some cases...for instance, Leonardo didn't name many of his paintings, so it would have been kindof difficult for him to be using the title of Mona Lisa as an, the Madonna of the Rocks is painted on a wooden panel, not canvas, making it tough for little Sophie to carry out her threat to break it...not to mention carry it around :). Poor Constantine got a bum rap too. My church watched a series of videos on the Code, and a couple of Biola profs (including Kathy McReynolds) took part.

Amber said...

Yes, it really is rather twisted, isn't it. Even the Opus Dei thing is really just a half-truth - yes, it does exist, but it is no where near as sinister or weird as the book makes it out to be. It is largely a lay group that encourages Catholics to pay attention to what the Church teaches (what a novel idea!) - no albinos or self-flagellation required. *grin*

As for the fiction part - I've read in several places that Dan Brown actually believes his version of Christianity is true. If that's the case, then I think this book really is propaganda wrapped up in a fiction package - which perhaps makes it even more of a concern.

Elena said...

If Dan Brown really believes his version of Christianity is true... well it just doesn't make any sense. So much is falsified that would have taken no work at all to get right. Like the gnostic gospels which affirm the full humanity of Christ, and the goodness of the body. And I don't know a whole lot about the real Opus Dei, but from the little research I've done it sounds like their all about fully integrating the Gospel into everyday ordinary vocations... rather the opposite focus from the cloister described in dvc.

He seems to have made a pattern of identifying key points of distinction... but reversing the conclusions.

I can totally understand how a lazy historical novelist could do sloppy research and wind up going off track, thinking he was being accurate all the while.

But over and over, it sure looks like Dan Brown never left the track... he's just barreling 90 mph in the wrong direction, that's all.

I have a hard time attributing that level of wrongness to chance. Especially when it's in a book about an elitist conspiracy to fool all the uneducated gullible dupes. And ESPECIALLY when millions of people are just swallowing this novel-full of absurdity hook, line, and sinker.

I'm quite convinced that it's an enormously clever joke--absolutely perfect on so many levels.

But some pranks would have been better left unplayed...

Linds said...

There is no such thing as the Priory of Sion. It was actually a big hoax that some guy made up in the 1950s and tried to pass off as a major historical discovery. It was debunked sometime in the last decade, and most respected historians never bought it in the first place.

Seriously, the first place to look to know whether or not to believe any of his claims is the title: the Da Vinci Code. Try looking up 'Da Vinci' in any textbook. Find the page it references, and then read the section. If they choose to refer to the artist by one name, it's always Leonardo (like all the rest of his era, the last name generally referred to an occupation, a father's first name, or place of birth). Heck, even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles got it right, but Dan Brown managed to screw it up.

A great source, though horribly written (just about equal to the quality of the book, actually) is Josh McDowell's response to the book. I can't remember the title, but he goes through point by point and gives accurate historical and artistic information. Also, if you check Middlebrow, Sanders has a couple good articles about it.

slowlane said...

And the only things my roommates know about Christianity they learned from Dan Brown.