A short while ago, I wrote a short post about the Dangers of the Da Vinci Code in which I noted that in both France and Canada, the number of people who believed the book is based on history exceeds 25% of the population in each country. Now, the Telegraph in Britain has published the results of a poll conducted by Opinion Research Business, and the results are chilling:
Two thirds of Britons who have read Dan Brown's thriller believe that Jesus fathered a child with Mary Magdalene, a claim rejected as baseless by historians and Bible scholars.
Those who have read it are also four times as likely to think that the conservative Roman Catholic organisation Opus Dei, whose members include the Cabinet minister Ruth Kelly, is a murderous sect.
Seventeen per cent of readers are convinced that the lay group, whose founder was canonised by the late Pope John Paul II, has ordered or carried out a murder, compared with four per cent of those who have not read the book.
The poll has shocked Church leaders who have mounted a massive campaign to debunk The Da Vinci Code in advance of the release of the Hollywood film version this week. The findings suggest that the book has significantly shifted attitudes towards traditional Christianity and will fuel fears that people increasingly prefer to believe in conspiracy theories that taint the Church rather than historical evidence.
Two-thirds of Britons believe that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were father and mother to a child?!? Opus Dei is a murderous sect?!
Ladies and gentlemen, I find this to be incredibly sad. Unfortunately, I know it to be true from my own experiences. My brother-in-law and I were talking and said he can't wait to see the movie, and when I said something to effect of "as long as you remember it's fiction" he said "but it's based on fact." Based on fact? Only to the same extent that Little Red Robin Hood is based in fact in that there are such things as grandmothers, wolves, woodcutters and picnic baskets. Beyond that the story is entirely fictional. In the case of The Da Vinci Code, there was a Jesus and Mary Magdalene, there is a Catholic Church and Knights Templar and Opus Dei, and Leonardo da Vinci did paint the Last Supper with a rather womanly-looking disciple in the painting. But beyond that, The Da Vinci Code is almost exclusively fiction because the people described in the book didn't do the things that are needed to make the film work. Jesus and Mary Magdalene weren't the parents of a kid, the Knights Templar did not find documents with which to blackmail the Roman Catholic Church, Opus Dei didn't kill anyone to protect the "holy bloodline of Jesus", and Leonard Da Vinci didn't join any Priory of Sion because no such group existed prior to the 20th Century and there were only two members at that time!
It is my opinion that every Christian should become sufficiently familiar with the facts to be able to respond to movie and its fictitious historical background which people are believing in droves. If two-thirds of Britains are already buying this pretentious nonsense before they have even seen the forthcoming "blockbuster" movie, imagine the number of people who will buy into this conspiracy nonsense in the coming weeks. It really saddens me.
Addendum (5/17/06) -- Newsbusters has a link to a conversation with the cast of the Da Vinci Code from the Today show in which Ian McKellen says that he thinks the Bible should have a disclaimer saying that it is fiction. Hey, Ian! You're a good actor who has had an incredible string of luck by ending up in several very profitable movies -- The Lord of the Rings and the X-Men series -- which I enjoyed very much. Please, please, please, stick to acting because you have demonstrated in very few words that you are a much better actor than historian or theologian.
Second Addendum (same date) -- Gregory Koukl of Stand to Reason, one of the best apologetics resources on the net for the novice apologist, has written an excellent, excellent review of The Da Vinci Code entitled "The Da Vinci Code Cracks". It is another in a series of excellent tools that all Christians should read in preparing to respond to this movie.