My Da Vinci Code Apathy and Our Ignorance of History
I've been laboring for a while over whether or not to write a response to The Da Vinci Code. I read the book last year and took quite a few notes in preparation to answer some of the more outrageous and slanderous claims that Dan Brown makes in it. But in light of the avalanche of books, articles, websites, and blog posts increasingly in play it seemed pointless to repeat what had already been said so well and so many times elsewhere. It also seemed hardly worth dignifying with a response given how laughable its assertions and historical research turn out to be.
The Da Vinci Code is filled with so much low hanging fruit and so many howlers that it's hard to resist picking on it, especially given that Brown and many of his fans take it so seriously. Of course, many respond, "Relax, it's just fiction." But I'll let Brown speak for himself on that matter.
In his NBC Today Show interview, Matt Lauer asks him, "How much of this is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred?" to which Brown responds, "Absolutely all of it." And on his own website's FAQ section he says, "[I]t is my belief that some of the theories discussed by these characters may have merit" and "The secret described in the novel has been chronicled for centuries, so there are thousands of sources to draw from."
As to whether or not his readers are taking him seriously, let me just offer this one Amazon review as an example of the atmosphere surrounding the book:
The Da Vinci Code is so much more than a gripping suspense thriller. Dan Brown takes us beyond the main plot and leads us on a quest for the Holy Grail - a Grail totally unlike anything we have been taught to believe. With his impeccable research, Mr. Brown introduces us to aspects and interpretations of Western history and Christianity that I, for one, had never known existed...or even thought about. I found myself, unwillingly, leaving the novel, and time and time again, going online to research Brown's research - only to find a new world of historic possibilities opening up for me.The sad thing is that the general public is so historically illiterate that they have no immunity to the kind of provocative conspiracy that Brown's book weaves. For this reason he can make claims like, Jesus' deity (vs. His being merely human) was first proposed and voted upon at the Council of Nicea, and the average Christian, much less non-Christian, would be lucky if they had ever even heard of this or any other council.
For these reasons, some response to the claims of Brown's novel is important. But it is hard for me to feel the urgency to do so in light of the fact that even the usual critics of classical Christianity find the historical content of his novel to be sloppy and eccentric. It would be a different matter if he had some liberal scholars in his camp, but so far as I know, the count stands at zero. And when secular sources like CNN and US News & World Reports are publishing critical reviews of the book that sound as though they are authored by Christian apologists, then I have to wonder what work is left for someone like me.
As for Christians who ask me if they should read this novel, I would say go ahead, knock yourself out. While not edifying (but perhaps entertaining), it's at least a good conversation starter with non-Christian friends who have most likely already read it. But if reading this novel leads to distress over the veracity of one's faith, I would say that now's as good a time as any to grow up and take what you claim to believe seriously enough to think that its origin and history are actually important and interesting areas of study. God is to be found just as much in the contents of your Bible as He was in the process of publishing it and bringing it down the corridors of history into your hands.