My younger brother and I stayed up late the other night, discussing a range of topics, and the subject of The Da Vinci Code came up. It was a very earnest dialogue, and I was finally able to give voice to my thoughts on the matter which I have long struggled to put into words.
It is baffling to me how much ink the Catholic press has seen fit to spill in the lead-up to the film adaptation of this book, and continue to spill in the aftermath. It is simply not worth it. This is a silly book that has been read by millions of people. As a bookseller, I read the book immediately upon its much-touted release. I found it moderately entertaining. It is exemplary of its genre (the doggedly-written page-turner); the writing is unremarkable, even tiresome. The premise is awkward, but readers of the genre (see above) as a rule enjoy plots involving dark secrets — real or imagined — of powerful world organisations. The Catholic Church is a very fertile ground for this type of writing. This particular example is just the latest in a long, long, line, and I am sure it will not be the last.
This particular book, however, was extremely well marketed, and millions of people bought and read it. And so, being persuasively written as such fictions are, a lot of those readers wondered what truth there was, and so it goes. Now, what do I think of it all? I have a hard time putting this in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a) an idiot or b) a naïf, but after much foot-dragging I am going to just hang it out there.
My thought on the claims of The Da Vinci Code is that, even if they were historically factual, they would not alter my faith. As I see it, I do not believe the things I believe about the life of Christ because they are historical facts. I believe them because I have received them as revealed truths, and have chosen to believe them. There may or may not be a factual historical basis for my beliefs; I think there probably is, but this historicity is not essential for my choice to believe. I base my faith not on facts but on truths. I don’t know how else to put it.
I have in mind the long evening of conversation that took place on 19 September 1931 between J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Hugo Dyson, a conversation that was pivotal in Lewis’s re-embracing of Christianity. As recounted in Humphrey Carpenter’s 1977 biography of the first-mentioned author, the conversation hinged on the assertion that not all myths are lies; that the Paschal mystery is “a true myth … a myth that really happened. That, I suppose, is at the core of my nonchalance toward the theories presented in Dan Brown’s fiction, or in other so-called Gnostic gospels, or the like: these various myths may or may not be factual, but they are not true. The True Myth I have already embraced.
Call me a fool. Call me irrational (or even anti-rational). But you can never call me unbelieving.