While driving into town, I heard one typically annoying radio talk show host ask listeners what it was about The Da Vinci Code (TDC) that so frightened them. He kept saying things like "if Jesus had a baby with Mary Magdalene, what difference does it make? Isn't it just that you don't like the idea of Jesus 'doing it' with Mary Magdalene?" (As you may have guessed, this particular host tries to get ratings by saying outrageous things.)
Well, Mr. radio talk-show host, you are missing the point altogether. The problem that people like me have with TDC is that it pretends to be history and therefore leads people away from the truth. You see, while I have theological reasons for doubting that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene (on top of the fact that I have no historical reason to believe that he did), the central claim of TDC is that Jesus did nothing during his life that would have led him to be exalted as the one and only Son of God, but rather that such a mantle was placed on him in the Fourth Century by the Council of Nicea and the Emporer Constantine.
"So what?" you should properly ask. "It is a work of fiction, is it not?" Yes, it is. But here is the problem -- people seem to be having a difficult time in this area acknowledging that it is a work of fiction. For example, according to "The Da Vinci Code Intrigue" by Lisa Ann Cockrel:
in Canada, the National Geographic Channel commissioned a survey in 2005 in anticipation of a full day of programming inspired by The Da Vinci Code. It found that 32% of Canadians who have read the novel believe that the theories outlined in it are true.
In France, the same seems to hold true. According to an article from AFP "[n]early a quarter of French adults believe that the novel The Da Vinci Code is based on facts surrounding the life of Jesus Christ, according to a survey."
Twenty-four percent of respondents in the survey, published Tuesday, said they believed the work was "inspired by real facts" and another seven percent said it was a mixture of inspiration from facts and of "esoteric" literary sources.
I am certain that if polls were taken in other countries, similar results would follow since I have no reason to believe that either the Canadians or the French are more gullible than any other nation.
Over on the very fine blog The Dawn Treader (as well as other places, I am confident) much discussion takes place about how we should respond to TDC. Some suggest (as detailed in an article in Christianity Today -- the link for which I seem to have lost) that it is not a good idea to try to defend the claims of Christianity against this book. Rather, some advise that Christians should ignore the book, movie and furor altogether since it will soon blow over and be forgotten. I think that these polls show that it would be very unwise to simply hope it will blow over. Even before the release of the upcoming "blockbuster" movie, TDC is already influencing the general population's view of historic truth related to Christianity. It is this shift towards false claims about the life of the historic Jesus as faithfully recorded in the Gospels that we must defend. To not do so will leave thousands if not millions with unanswered claims about the truth of Christianity.
Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi.