Brian McLaren on The DaVinci Code

While large sections of the church are getting all het up over a popular work of fiction, we can always rely on the ever-wonderful Brian McLaren to talk sense. He’s interviewed in the latest Sojourners SoJoMail newsletter, and it’s great stuff. Here’s the first couple of Q and As –
What do you think the popularity of The Da Vinci Code reveals about pop culture attitudes toward Christianity and the church?

Brian McLaren: I think a lot of people have read the book, not just as a popular page-turner but also as an experience in shared frustration with status-quo, male-dominated, power-oriented, cover-up-prone organized Christian religion. We need to ask ourselves why the vision of Jesus hinted at in Dan Brown’s book is more interesting, attractive, and intriguing to these people than the standard vision of Jesus they hear about in church. Why would so many people be disappointed to find that Brown’s version of Jesus has been largely discredited as fanciful and inaccurate, leaving only the church’s conventional version? Is it possible that, even though Brown’s fictional version misleads in many ways, it at least serves to open up the possibility that the church’s conventional version of Jesus may not do him justice?

So you think The Da Vinci Code taps into dissatisfaction with Jesus as we know him?

McLaren: For all the flaws of Brown’s book, I think what he’s doing is suggesting that the dominant religious institutions have created their own caricature of Jesus. And I think people have a sense that that’s true. It’s my honest feeling that anyone trying to share their faith in America today has to realize that the Religious Right has polluted the air. The name “Jesus” and the word “Christianity” are associated with something judgmental, hostile, hypocritical, angry, negative, defensive, anti-homosexual, etc. Many of our churches, even though they feel they represent the truth, actually are upholding something that’s distorted and false.

I also think that the whole issue of male domination is huge and that Brown’s suggestion that the real Jesus was not as misogynist or anti-woman as the Christian religion often has been is very attractive. Brown’s book is about exposing hypocrisy and cover-up in organized religion, and it is exposing organized religion’s grasping for power. Again, there’s something in that that people resonate with in the age of pedophilia scandals, televangelists, and religious political alliances. As a follower of Jesus I resonate with their concerns as well.

Top stuff, and heartening to read in the midst of mad people trying to sue Dan Brown and The film-makers for blasphemy or some such nonsense. I still can’t be bothered to read the book – I none-too-bothered by messianic conspiracy theories, especially as he’s rehashing all that ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ stuff from a few years back.

2 Replies to “Brian McLaren on The DaVinci Code”

  1. Hey Steve

    Interesting interview – thx for the link.

    At the end, he says…
    “Ultimately, The Da Vinci Code is telling us important things about the image of Jesus that is being portrayed by the dominant Christian voices.”

    Is it really telling us that? It would be nice if it was, but I expect all it really says is that people like a good conspiracy theory… 😉

    Hollywood has often been accused of rewriting history to appeal to its audience. Dan Brown did the same thing to great effect. Is that ok?
    “How far can a dramatic movie go in imposing its own reality before it distorts the public’s understanding of the event?”
    I dunno, but it makes me uncomfortable…

  2. I think Brian’s key point – that the fictitious version of events in the book is no worse than the fictitious version of events peddled by Tim Lahaye etc al – is a really really important one. The so-called “christian right” in america present a wholly skewed version of both the Bible and some half baked sci-fi nonsense about the end of the world. I’m far more concerned about the number of people inside the church who believe the Left Behind bullshit than I am those outside the church who think Jesus might have had babies.

    Either way, Dan Brown’s research is pretty terribly flawed, but the point about the focus on the humanity of Jesus is, i think, well made by Brian.

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