Cruxnews.com By Michael S. Rose
The real draw for Dan Brown’s runaway bestseller is his polemical premise: Christianity is a sham, no more than an age-old instrument of oppression.
What makes for a best-selling novel these days? Not just any run-of-the-mill bestseller, but a book that claims the number one spot on the New York Times charts week after week, a novel that tops every other major bestseller list for months?
Try this formula: In wind-up toy fashion, repeat all the prejudices of the ruling cultural elite. Echo pet theories that trash the foundations of Western civilization. Wrap it all in a compelling story line with a sensitive Harvard professor protagonist and a pious Opus Dei assassin. Add a dash of superficial rumination on concepts like cryptology and iconography. Above all, claim that the lump sum is based on historical reality that’s been painstakingly researched by the author.
You’ve got yourself The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, who has proved to us all that straight, white men with uninspiring Anglo-Saxon names are still capable of delivering the right stuff. Brown has begotten a mystery thriller that has captivated one million readers so far this year—no small achievement!
When asked on NBC’s Today show how he accounts for his runaway success, the author replied: “I think it’s because the book deals with themes that really cut across a huge portion of the population.”
I beg to differ.
Brown’s themes hardly cut across a huge portion of the population. They simply rip right through the fundamental moral and religious tenets of Christianity. In these times when just about everything is regulated by political correctness, The Da Vinci Code reminds us that it remains a legitimate endeavor to skewer Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church and Christian believers. One character succinctly summarizes the main theme of Brown’s work when he says, “What I mean is that almost everything our fathers taught about Christ is false.” In other words, the greatest story ever told turns out to be the greatest story ever sold, and the Church has been lying and killing for decades to protect its false story of a divine Savior called Jesus Christ.
Brown’s runaway success, however, is not primarily a product of his literary talent. He is undoubtedly capable of producing a compelling story. But, let’s face it, his writing isn’t all that interesting. Most of his characters are little more than stick figures, and the plot is more or less a rehash of Grail quest books of yesteryear. (In fact, according to Newsweek, Brown is allegedly being sued for plagiarism by author Lewis Perdue, who claims that The Da Vinci Code is too eerily similar to his 1999 novel Daughter of God to be coincidence).
The real draw for Brown’s hot novel is how his highly polemical premise—that Christianity is a sham, little more than an age-old instrument of oppression—has been publicly lauded by America’s cultural elite. The keystone of the novel’s success is the skillful (and shameless) marketing technique of its promoters. The Da Vinci Code, although a work of fiction, has been presented by marketeers and influential reviewers as being grounded in “erudite” scholarship. When asked how much of his novel is based on reality in terms of things that actually occurred, Brown himself told Today’s Matt Lauer: “Absolutely all of it…. All of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact.” That presumably includes Brown’s nuggets of religious history which are, in nearly every instance, distortions and fabrications used to advance his premise.
Reviewers in the most influential venues such as The New York Times, USA Today and National Public Radio have uncritically repeated the marketeers’ fantastic claims that Brown has written a learned piece of historical fiction. No doubt the author did plenty of research, but he researched far-fetched Gnostic conspiracy theories involving secret societies. Despite the fact that he wrote a piece of fiction, these conspiracy theories are oddly presented by reviewers and promoters as bona fide history.
It’s not Brown’s superficial mention of The Vitruvian Man or the Fibonacci sequence that interests book promoters. After all, any C-student eighth grader, drawing on the results of a single Google search, could do the same. The fruit of Brown’s research that is so popular with reviewers: Mary Magdalene was Jesus Christ’s lover (“Christ loved her more than all the disciples and used to kiss her often on her mouth”); the Magdalene was pregnant with Christ’s child at Golgotha; the sexist Apostles were jealous of her, and thus the early Church launched a smear campaign against the Magdalene in order to cover up her role as the “sacred feminine” and “goddess.” In other words, although Christ was definitely not divine, for some reason that remains unexplained in The DaVinci Code, Mary Magdalene was. Oh yes, and historical personalities such as Leonardo DaVinci, Sandro Boticelli, Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Walt Disney and Jean Cocteau worshipped the Magdalene as the “Sacred Feminine,” protecting this big secret from an unsympathetic world.
Brown’s readers are gullible to believe that just because these conspiracy theories are found on the Internet, then they must be legitimate, that just because he reports something from some obscure website it can be considered research. Nonetheless, with the help of friends like The New York Times, which trumpeted The Da Vinci Code as “gleefully erudite,” the reading public is led to believe that Brown boldly reveals the truth (at last!) about the Vatican’s longstanding Dirty War against the true feminine deity that has constantly posed a threat to the predominately sexist Church.
Reader reviews on websites such as Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com confirm this. One reader writes: “This book literally made me stop and rethink all I have been taught my whole life.” Another: “It changes everything I have ever been taught about the Catholic Church.” The Da Vinci Code is repeatedly referred to as “eye-opening,” and reader reviewers commonly cluck that they are grateful for being taught important pieces of history that have been suppressed by the Catholic Church, for example: that the Bible was not inspired by the Holy Spirit, but is merely a man-made chronicle that twisted history in order to suit the purposes of early Church misogynists; that Original Sin was a concept invented by men in order to oppress women; that the divinity of Jesus was invented centuries after the crucifixion in order to shore up support for the male-dominated Church.
According to Da Vinci Code scholarship, the Catholic Church, in its “tradition of misinformation,” systematically subjugated women, banished the goddess, burned nonbelievers, and forbade the pagan reverence for the sacred feminine. That about sums up what readers are finding enlightening despite the fact that Brown is simply regurgitating the most provocative of anti-Christian conspiracy theories floating aimlessly through cyberspace.
Brown admits that it was his art historian wife who gave him the apple about Leonardo Da Vinci’s involvement in a secret society whose raison d’ętre is to protect the secret of the Holy Grail, that the true Grail is Mary Magdalene, and that she ought to be worshipped according to secret yin-yang sex rituals as the goddess of choice. “I approached [the theory] with some skepticism,” he admitted to Matt Lauer, “and became a believer.” One can almost picture Brown kneeling weepy-eyed in adoration at the tomb of Mary Magdalene as does his Harvard protagonist in the final pages of the book.
As much as Brown is a “believer,” his novel is a book about unbelief. In this respect, Dan Brown has accomplished more in six months than a boatload of progressive theologians could dream of accomplishing in a lifetime. Through the ingenious approach taken by The Da Vinci Code promoters, Brown has formidably challenged long-held truths about faith and morals through a work of popular fiction. At the same time he has replaced those long-held beliefs with a politically correct form of goddess worship that demands little in the way of accountability when it comes to personal morality. In fact, for Da Vinci Code protagonists, a public sex act is the most expressive form of worship. No wonder the book is such a thriller.
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