Christians and The Code; Why Worry?
I have some difficulty completely comprehending the controversy in the Christian community over Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code.
Aside from the fact that the book is a work of fiction and as such has no more claim to being read as “the gospel truth” than Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I simply don’t believe that the sensational parts of the book challenge traditional Christianity in the least. Let me be even more specific: even if absolutely true, I don’t believe anything in The DaVinci Code would serve to undermine Christianity.
I say this as a person of faith. I am an Episcopalian; once, I was a Roman Catholic. Also, I love the discipline required to create icons and to practice the Orthodox faith. In short, I am no stranger to what is called “traditional Christianity,” Christianity with the strongest roots going back to the earliest centuries.
Certainly I am no saint – my presence in Heaven would be entirely a matter of God’s mercy and an example of His limitless sense of humor. But one need not be a saint or a sage to understand the basics of Christian doctrine, history, or controversies. And of the fact that, in every age, the Church wrestles with new ideas or the return of old ones and, painfully, slowly, assimilates these or rejects them in part or whole.
What is our “new idea” here? As anyone who has read the book, seen the movie, or watched television knows, it involves the belief Jesus wed Mary Magdalene and fathered children. Which, for most faithful, is an impossible thesis to swallow. Why? There’s no report of it in the orthodox Gospels, no mention of it in the Pauline or other letters. It isn’t part of Church tradition – the apostles and bishops never taught this. Some Gnostic documents may have some hints that the Magdalene was His “beloved disciple” and that she was privy to certain secrets – but these are Gnostic documents, not orthodox, and, in any case, their primary value doubtless isn’t to be found in a literal interpretation. These things alone, for most Christians, are enough; there is no reason to believe Jesus was married and had children.
But many Christians somehow feel threatened by the idea. It is as if, had the Christ actually taken a wife when He was here, everything about their faith would disintegrate. Worse, if He fathered children, there may be a line of “royalty” related to the Son of God running around – and what could that mean? They’d, for Christians, become the most important people on the face of the earth. Right?
That is exactly my point. What if Jesus the Christ, Son of God, for His own reasons, took a wife and had children while here? Does this change the essential message of Christianity one iota? Does this change humanity’s relationship with God by a hair’s breadth?
First, should I mention Jesus’ has living Jewish cousins? There are people walking among us right now who are “blood kin” with the Christ. Secondly, all of us non-Jewish people doubtless share at least one molecule with Jesus since he shed skin cells, exhaled, bled, sweated and cried when here – the molecules went into nature to be recycled into our own bodies. In more ways than one, Jesus has united Himself to everyone and everything, participating in all equally. Deeper kinship with Jesus requires living up to the call to be decent people, loving God and neighbor, not passively acquired pedigrees.
Thirdly, since when did “Thou shalt avoid marriage at all costs” become a core teaching of Christianity? The faith involves cultivation of a level of detachment from this world, but the age when it was believed there was little reason to be involved in “earthly affairs” has passed for all except the monk or nun. So, the idea anyone might marry ought not strike contemporary Christians as odd.
Jesus was a man who showed signs of weariness, a man who made sarcastic comments about His own family and tribe not accepting Him as a prophet: How often have you gone home on vacation and found yourself saying perfectly sane things to your relatives while they stare at
you as if you’re five and jabbering senselessly? That one episode in the scriptures says worlds to me about Jesus being a real human living in the real world.
I see Jesus beaming, preaching the Beatitudes; I see Jesus feeding the poor, healing the sick and teaching His disciples to do the same. I see Jesus in the depths of sorrow at Lazarus’ tomb. I see Jesus kneeling in Gethsemene in fear and doubt, begging for a different fate. I see Jesus suffering miserably and then dead – like anyone else. But then I see Jesus alive again, the Jesus of The Impossible Hope.
I see a man who truly lived as a human being, and yet this human being is also, for me, in some mysterious way, God. By being here, He reconciled the opposites and guaranteed for all what every religion has hoped for from the beginning. What of it if He took a wife? It would be another sign He was a human as well as God, someone who decided to wrestle with one more set of responsibilities the rest of us often take on.
My faith, such as it is, would remain.
Richard Van Ingram
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