Book Review

 

Author: Dan Brown
Publisher: Doubleday
Page Count: 454

By Rev. Dee Dee Azhikakath

(UMCom) -- I’ve given in. I’ve joined the masses. I’ve finally read The Da Vinci Code. Since hearing about it from friends after the book was released last spring, I have diplomatically skirted the escalating debate on the Gnostic Gospels, conspiracy theories and heirs to Jesus. That is, until recently. As I sat down to read this book I reluctantly put on my "theological expert" hat and prepared myself to answer all the questions my congregation seemed to be raising. After finishing the book, I concluded that instead of reading it to find answers to conspiracy theories, it is best to read the book for what it is: an intriguingly written and entertaining fictional book.

The Da Vinci Code is written by the seasoned writer Dan Brown. Similar to his book Angels and Demons, we are experiencing the adventures of central character Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist. Yet unlike Langdon’s first adventures in Rome, Da Vinci is based in Paris and London. It is in Paris that Langdon finds himself summoned by police to a crime scene - the murder of Jacques Saunière, the Louvre’s most revered curator - and Langdon is the No. 1 suspect. Caught between innocence and entrapment, Langdon finds a fugitive’s rescue in Sophie, Saunière’s granddaughter who ironically is a member of the force. The two then spend the rest of the book running from Capt. Bezu Fache, trying to make sense of the message Saunière left before he died, all while attempting to uncover the true killer.

Brown takes enormous liberties with Biblical truth and historical actions by the Roman Catholic Church by using a drop of truth to make an ocean of assumptions.
Like myself, any avid traveler will enjoy the backdrop of the two landmark cities. The details outlined in the setting will whisk you right to the spots of past vacations as you reminisce about Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. On the other hand, if history is your passion, you will be left cringing at the inaccuracies and misrepresentations of the particulars. Brown takes enormous liberties with Biblical truth and historical actions by the Roman Catholic Church by using a drop of truth to make an ocean of assumptions. Da Vinci is quick to accuse and allude to malicious conspiracies by the early church without objectivity. While I, too, share in the frustration of women’s absence from recorded history and from the pulpit of still many denominations, Brown’s theories stretch further than even modern day factual information can support.

However, regardless of the debate over fact and fiction, Da Vinci offers challenging and introspective questions about faith.

Around every corner, Langdon and Sophie’s belief system is crumbling. Everything they believe to be true is slowly being revealed as a lie. Sophie trusted her grandfather, and yet many of the stories he told her about their family turn out to be false. Even the very incident that caused their estrangement was due to a secret - a truth kept hidden. Likewise, Langdon shows up on the doorstep of a colleague, Sir Leigh Teabing, hoping for assistance with their quest and refuge, only to find his allegiances unpredictable and their trust in him broken. Simultaneously and more importantly, as Sophie and Langdon confront the trustworthiness of those close to them, so do readers of their own understandings of truth.

If you are more interested in fact finding and Gnostic Gospels, check out works by Elaine Pagel. But if you are interested in an enjoyable weekend read out on the deck this spring, Dan Brown’s your man.
Essentially, as your expedition with Da Vinci continues, the question of "What is faith based on?" becomes more persistent. Can it crumble if an historical assumption is proven different? Does Mary Magdalene’s role as a prostitute or a disciple change the foundation of your faith? Or is her prostitution fundamental despite modern Biblical scholars’ dismissal of the assumption and the pope’s retraction of the accusation?

Da Vinci’s Sir Leigh Teabing states, "Every faith in the world is based on fabrication." I guess that would be true if your faith was based on Brown’s imagination. However, I’d suggest your theology follow a real character instead, like Thomas Aquinas. Faith is not fiction, but the perfecting element of reason.

If you are more interested in fact finding and Gnostic Gospels, check out works by Elaine Pagels. But if you are interested in an enjoyable weekend read out on the deck this spring, Dan Brown’s your man. So, go ahead and indulge your creativity and imagination by picking up The Da Vinci Code.

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The Rev. Dee Dee Azhikakath is both a young adult and an associate minister at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Tucson, Ariz.

Please be aware that when you purchase a copy of this book through UMC.org, you are directly supporting this ministry.



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