Having not read The Da Vinci Code, as has some sixty million readers worldwide, I felt professionally obliged to see the movie. It did not shock me, but I’m used to these ideas. (I favor the more radical possibility that Jesus not only loved Mary Magdeline and fathered a child with her, but survived his crucifixion (with her and his mother’s help) and lived on to be a father of children in northern India, where he is buried.) In the Da Vinci Code, she left the scene pregnant and headed to France, where his descendents still live. Jesus is admitted to be a great man, but still a mortal, an inconvenient probability resented by the church.
Saint Paul wrote, “If he did not rise, our faith is in vain.” Well, perhaps he didn’t and it is. Daring to think this is familiar in the Unitarian tradition. Theodore Parker, in the 19th century, claimed the truths of Christianity rest on themselves, not fantastic miracle stories. Orthodox Christianity has insisted Jesus was of God in a way we are not. To think that he had the love and sex of a woman and finally died undermines their faith. To the rest of us, if he was human, maybe we could be too, as true to our Creator as he was to his. Sex and death are not our enemies, the origin and results of our sins, but our human companions, our cause and conclusion.
Christianity is utterly de-sexed, even anti-sex. Neither God, mother Mary, nor Jesus were seen to have anything to do with it, and Christians were mostly against it, to the point of celibacy and self-castration. Sexual women were shamed, tortured, and murdered by the thousands. That Jesus was close to Mary Magdeline (probably a prostitute) is hinted at in the New Testament and confirmed in the Gnostic Gospels. Such would be the greatest love story ever, a gem shining in the shadows cast by the New Testament! If they did have their love and even offspring, it has been secreted away from our knowing, just as women and sex have been shamed out of divine holiness and human wholeness.
Sadly, these ideas only peek out of the movie’s story, obscured by a spooky plunge into tension and murder, typical Hollywood bang-bang, distancing us from the formidable reality of pain-loving dogmatists out to enforce blind belief. The Opus Dei albino monk Silas, a character representing white, zealatrous men, tries to keep the church’s secret secret, and kill the living heir of Jesus, a woman. He practices corporal-mortification, clinching a barbed cilice to his bloody thigh and whipping himself with a discipline (a knotted rope). It seems cartoonish, except Mother Teresa herself used to do the same things! We laugh off Opus Dei, avoiding the disturbing fact that it has 80,000 members world wide, four times larger than the Jesuits, and has been called by liberal Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame, “…as close to a fascist organization [that there is] in the Catholic Church.” (See Peter Boyer’s review “Hollywood Heresy” in the May 22, 2006 New Yorker.)
That the former pope and current one had ties to Opus Dei goes unmentioned. Could secret fanatic organizations be influencing church practice and world politics, as has happened in the past and could be true again today? From Texas to Tehran, humans are being subjected to fanatical zealotry, each side fervently insisting we obey their version of God’s Law. The more preposterous their claims, the more adamant their imposition. The greater their abhorrence of pleasure, the easier their resorting to pain on self and others. The cross and the jihad are raised and praised, as if godly. Women and sex are reviled, as if devilish. Fanatics seek to rile and rule again, just as they have hideously done in the past.
The movie introduces hints of these possibilities to the general public. Hopefully, Christians won’t resort to reactionary backlash, but will engage in this ages-old consideration. I disagree with Paul – if he didn’t rise our faith isn’t in vain, but it is opened to the possibilities inherent in us as whole humans sometimes beset with pains but often alive with pleasures. Creation gives us life and death and allows our freedom and potentials. Have faith in that, not supernatural speculations imposed and protected for centuries.
Reverend Brad Carrier