CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Before Dan Brown's book, The Da Vinci Code (as if you didn't know which book), I had never heard of Opus Dei. The idea that it is somehow a murderous society, however, struck me as patently absurd. But then, most of the material in Mr. Brown's book is patently absurd and yet according to Fact of Fiction in the Star On-line, almost half of the people in Britain believe that the background facts are likely to be true. Thus, if people really think that because Mr. Brown wrote a fiction book that says Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a love child where absolutely no evidence exists for such a belief, then why wouldn't they also believe that Opus Dei is a murderous Roman Catholic organization?

The response by some in the Christian community has been to call for boycotts of the film. However, I thought (and continue to think) that such a boycott is a mistake. Boycotts (especially by religious organizations) encourages some people who value free speech above everything else to find out what the religious organizations are wanting to "censor", and it immediately makes them believe that there is some element of truth behind the movie/book/magazine/whatever. Thus, I have said that the best way to handle The Da Vinci Code and movies/books/magazines/whatever like it is to face them head-on! We should tell people that they are free to go see it, but make sure that we are ready to respond to the obvious flaws by any and every means imaginable.

Apparently, a member of Opus Dei agrees with this approach. According to Opus Dei's happy day by Paul Fortunato for The New York Times, Mr. Fortunato is a member of Opus Dei who is happy that Mr. Brown's book has been made into a movie because it gives him a chance to tell people about an organization of which he is a member -- Opus Dei. According to Mr. Fortunato's article:

As a member of Opus Dei, I would like to thank Dan Brown and Ron Howard for "The Da Vinci Code." Why am I not outraged like so many other devout Roman Catholics? Because I think we could not have wished for a better result: Critics attack the film (and, retrospectively, the book) as boring and annoying and cartoonish; and because everyone is seeing it anyway, many people who would otherwise have no interest in Opus Dei are curious, allowing us to explain what we are really about.

For the record, I do wear a spiked metal band on my leg for a couple of hours a day, just like the movie's murderous Opus Dei numerary, Silas (that's always the first question). But I do not wear a robe, except at graduation ceremonies. I'm an English professor at a state university and am finishing a book titled "Modernist Aesthetics and Consumer Culture in the Writings of Oscar Wilde." So much for stereotypes.

I joined Opus Dei as a numerary, a member who has committed to celibacy and lives in an Opus Dei center, when I turned 18. My father is a supernumerary (one of the married members, who account for around 80 percent of us). He never encouraged me to join, though he and my mother taught me to pray and to love the ideas of St. Josemaría Escrivá, the order's founder, on turning work into prayer.

I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a deep communion with God, since that's what allows me to be truly happy. And I wanted to enjoy all the richness of the secular world. (All right, all except sex, which undoubtedly is one of the richest parts of living in the world.) This is where the adventure begins. Can one be totally focused on God, praying meditatively for hours a day, and also be totally focused on the world - making money, competing or collaborating with colleagues, going out with drinking buddies? The answer, for me, is yes.

Good for Mr. Fortunato! He is taking the offensive to answer criticisms of Opus Dei in the book by telling everyone the truth. Christianity as a whole should take the same approach.

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