AT ST. PETER’S SQUARE: A tourist bus covered with an advertisement for “The Da Vinci Code” movie is parked at the Vatican, where a debate is raging over the blockbuster novel. (Alberto Pizzoli AFP/Getty Images) Via LA Times
"We're not a secular society, we're a credulous one," according to Frederick Forsyth, author of best-selling thrillers including The Day of the Jackal, when discussing Dan Brown's book on BBC radio.
It seems to me that Forsyth has more accurately described the atmospherics around the novel and the new movie than any number of fulminating preachers who denounce it.
The entirely skeptical Adam Gopnik also did quite a job on this phenomenon in a New Yorker review:
We live in a culture at once hungry for belief and very unsatisfied by what's on offer.
Most of the discussion of the film simply exemplifies our lack of practice at thinking about our culture's conventional faith stories. Tracy Wilkinson, in a generally thoughtful effort to discuss the film's impact on the Roman Catholic hierarchy, claims that Dan Brown's premise that "Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a child [is] an idea that challenges the divinity of Christ...." Huh? The guy was a Jewish peasant carpenter. That he should have been married and fathered a child seems completely plausible; it might not have seemed worth mentioning to his contemporaries. The "orthodox," wildly implausible idea that Jesus was both God and man is both less and more believable than the suggestion he had a family life.
We, the citizens of this vastly rich, unthinkably powerful, early 21st century empire, don't much like the stories of our own lives. Living in a shallow commercial culture surrounded by lies, we want new and better stories. The ancient content of Christian faith -- that God mysteriously became a human being, died, and appeared alive again -- is both unbelievable and too familiar to be interesting. We want this year's story, a shining new one. Curiously, our standards of proof are no higher for the new one than for the old one: neither seems plausible in the light of contemporary notions of material reality -- but novelty automatically improves on antiquity for many people. So here comes The Da Vinci Code. None of this is any reason to forego a good yarn. And none of it has much to do with the lived experience of looking for God in the Christian story.