Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Brian McLaren on The Da Vinci Code

Sojourners sent out an email this week in which Brian McLaren gives his take on The Da Vinci Code. Rather than jump into the already crowded waters churning around the numerous factual errors in the book, McLaren asks the important question - why? Why do people want to believe that Brown is right about this stuff? Strobel, two weekends ago, speculated that it is an easy out, an excuse not to have to make a decision about Christ's claims. I think that is only one possibility. Here is what McLaren had to say:

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.

If you agree with Barbara Nicolosi's statement that "The debate is all on hell's terms... You don't debate the Devil. You do not give evil the authority to question God" then McLaren's tone might strike you as indulgent. But what McLaren seems to get and Nicolosi has missed is that it isn't the devil asking the questions, it is our neighbors, our co-workers, and our family members.


Anonymous said...

I can't wholeheartedly agree with McLaren, but I also strongly disagree with Barbara Nicolosi. Nicolosi seems to advocate that the church retreat further and further into the cozy, self-contained bubble that we've created for ourselves, rather than to engage in our culture and attempt to change it in the name and for the glory of Jesus. Whether Nicolosi likes to admit it or not, The DaVinci Code is a cultural phenomenon, and to simply pretend like it doesn't exist does a disservice to our Lord and Savior, not to mention the unsaved souls who buy into the book's numerous exaggerations and fabrications.
I think McLaren does bring up a good point. "The name 'Jesus' and the word 'Christianity' are associated with something judgmental, hostile, hypocritical, angry, negative, defensive, anti-homosexual, etc." Why is this? To me, that speaks volumes about our failure as The Body of Christ to live up to His teachings.

Scott said...

I wonder where the line is though between discussing the book and giving it too much attention? I mean I’ve liked what Willow has been doing and I understand McLaren’s points and all, but the Vatican calling for the movie to be boycotted is just silly.

So I guess I don’t wonder where the line is. It’s right there between Willow and McLaren presenting facts and asking questions and the Vatican telling people what to think.

On an unrelated note Kim, I put up a live recording of Sufjan Stevens doing the Star Spangled Banner on my blog and I know you grew rather fond of him last year. It’s complete with a full chorus and an added verse and I would highly recommend checking it out as it’s quite awesome and beautiful.

Kim Traynor said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Hi Scott! I have not been impressed with the Catholic response as I've seen it in the media. There are some really smart, eloquent people in the Catholic church but the news shows don't seem to know how to find them. As for boycotting - I don't think calling for a boycott is necessarily out of line, but I don't think it is wise. The article I linked to talks about the widespread boycotting of The Last Temptation of Christ and why most folks aren't taking that route this time.

(Thanks for the Sufjan song...eerie and pretty...very Sufjan.)

Friar Tuck said...

I tend to think Christians will do much better discussing what they believe through the Da Vinci Code than through say...the Passion..which was more of an insiders movie.

The Da Vinci Code opens a more interesting, non-threatening dialogue on Jesus...but Christians need to be prepared.

In this case I say...GO WILLOW GO