Dismissing the Code

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.

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