My only Da Vinci Code posting

A former parishioner loaned me his copy of The Da Vinci Code about three years ago; I got about thirty pages into it was bored yet irritated with it and returned it. This is disclose I never finished the book and don’t intend to see the film. It will pass soon enough. (Anyone still talking, preaching about The Passion of the Christ?)

There must have been something in the water with 70s era school librarians because I got my fill of esoterica and conspiracy theory pretty early. Or didn’t every school library have books on Nasca lines, ancient astronauts, the tarot and candle magic? (And survivalism. I was a huge buff for the technology of survivalism. But my prepubescent skills of making a Geiger counter out of a coffee can and aluminum foil morphed into a keen interest in alternative energy sources, which continues today.) That and my unchurched upbringing means that I ran across all kinds of unorthodox ideas of Jesus’ origins pretty early.

So Jesus and Mary were married and had kids: big deal. How is that radical, except given the persons involved? People have been doing that frequently and for quite some time. People have long wanted to make Jesus Christ in their own image, a lesson well taught in Prescott Wintersteen’s Christology in American Unitarianism, still available I think from the UUCF and for a long time an option on the Ministerial Fellowship Committee reading list. So Jesus is a “family man” — gimme a freakin’ break. Or that suggesting that he couldn’t help being otherwise would make him less human. I think there are a lot of us out there who would take grave exception to that.
I know the historic Creeds are hard for some to swallow, but one of the reasons I appreciate them and grew to accept them is precisely that they put Jesus Christ is a “neutral” and mutually remote position from the common lot of humanity, giving us

the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light, true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end. (Nicene Creed, ICEL version)
Funny thing about the that: his sex is not essential. And not a royal few are heirs by blood, but all by faith.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I have to admit that I havent read the DeVinci Code either – for half of the same reason: I got tired of conspriacy theories in the 1970s too… I also got this book confused with the Bible Code – and for some of the same reason: this is a book where the author is smarter than we are, but lucky us, will gladly share the hidden wisdom of the ages for the price of a hardcover.
    and of course, with the added benefit of 21st century cynicism conspiracy….

    i had read a book about Jesus being married back in the 1960s (the one sentance reason was: Rabbis were expected to be married). Biblicaly there’s no evidence one way or the other. I cant say that I ever gave much thought about Jesus having children, but I would think if he actually did, that might merit mention if it was a son- next to the mention of the other male relatives. Nor have there been anything in the early church history that I’ve seen mention of . No prentenders to the throne, etc. So if any, died in the uprising is possible. but yeah, his marital state wasnt important then, and not important now….
    I certainly cant see why those who would say he was both “fully human and fully devine” would be bothered at all…

    so why are people (millions apparently) reading it?

  2. I remember more than a year ago, some of us in the UK (at a meeting about the future of Unitarian Christianity) talked optimistically about it raising awareness of alternative takes on the life, role and status of Jesus – and that it may even encourage interest in Unitarianism for those who seek hard enough. I’m not sure if it has done this, and personally no longer have that optimism.

    I read the Da Vinci Code as a result of that initial discussion, and read Dan Brown’s other book Angels and Demons. To be honest, they both were “can’t put down” sort of reads but also at the same time they annoyed and irritated me.

    I think I felt like this because…

    1. the author blends fiction with historical scholarship

    2. the author seems to have actively remained ambiguous (in follow up interviews) on the subject of what he counts as legitimate scholarship and what is pure fiction

    3. the author has painted a pretty awful picture of the Catholic church and although little has been said, of people with Albinism

    But I think what annoys me most is the conspiracy theory element. I don’t know about the US, but in the UK conspiracy theories are all the rage. The latest is that a plane didn’t hit the Pentagon, or the WTC. It startles me how many ordinary people will entertain these theories – but what is most concerning is that when you scratch the surface, these theories are often born out of an underlying prejudice.

    In Dan Brown’s case it is clearly something anti-Catholic but also includes other stereotypes / prejudice (the portrayal of an Arab Muslim assassin in Angels and Demons as a woman hater should be noted). In the case of the WTC, these theories eventualy point to anti-Americanism then Mossad and then the old classic “its them Jews wot did it”.

    On the subject of Jesus, I just don’t know who he was – all I am certain of is that the core values he represented are ones we can try to embody now – love, compassion, justice, human unity etc. I continue to read a range of books on Jesus from CS Lewis to Marcus Borg and the more I read the more I keep changing annd developing my viewpoint.

    Dan Brown has had no impact on this. And after the media storm ends, Liberal / Progressive / Unitarian / UU Christians will continue to investigate / re-evaluate their faith through reference to real scholarship and debate (such as that pioneered by the Westar Institute), the more Evangelical / Conservative element within Christianity will not suddenly have a conversion to more open minded thinking – they will simply find something else to denounce, the conspiracy nuts will consume the rash of related novels with relish, movie goers will simply move onto the next blockbuster (X-Men 3 looks good!) and perhaps a few people just might end up buying the odd book by Geza Vermes or Marcus Borg – some reading it and some getting bored…

  3. I could not bring myself to read it though I believe that it is best understood as a work of fiction. The only aspect of the story that amused me was the part that connected suggested that Christ’s descendents included the Merovingian dynasty in France. It struck me that if that were so then something like half the population of Europe, including myself, would be descended from Christ. It turns Christianity from a form of theism to something more akin to Shinto ancestor-worship.

    Frorm the comments that congregants have made or questions that they have asked, it seems that the Da Vinci Code uses very poor scholarship and middle ages dynastic propaghanda. On the other hand, fiction is about taking an idea and playing with it. Peter Benchley read one day about a great white shark and thought “What if one of them decided to stay around?” It was the speculative question that created the book “Jaws.”

    As for the Roman Catholic Church, the only thing conceivably worse than Dan Brown’s depiction of that institution today would be the historical record. The Protestant Reformation happened for very good reasons that had less to do with theology than might be imagined.

    I’m more interested in seeing XMen 3 this week (with my groomsmen.)

  4. In defence of the Roman Catholic church today, it like many other faith groups has a poor historical record – the Protestant Reformation wasn’t all good either. And whilst we should acknowledge past error and the wrongdoings of our ancestors, and where necessary seek to put things right, we should not be judged by them.

    My criticism of Dan Brown is that he presents a very one-dimensional, stereotypical image of not just the Roman Catholic church (and Opus Dei) but also of Muslim Arab males (in Angels and Demons) and of people with Albinism (he takes someone who looks different and turns them into a demonic monk – how original!)…

    I think X-Men, and the underlying themes, will be far more entertaining and thought provoking than the Da Vinci Code…

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