Thursday, May 11, 2006

McLaren on the Da Vinci Code

One of my favorite contrarian's is Brian McLaren. Someone passed along an interview that he did in Sojourner's Magazine. I'd like to share a bit of it over the next few days...

SJ: 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, notjust 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?

SJ: 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.

see full article here (you have to sign up for the Sojourners email to view it.)

The Contrarian's Approach to the Da Vinci Code

I'm a contrarian by nature. Whenever I see a rush of people headed in one direction, I tend to question "group think" and assume there is good reason to consider going the opposite direction. It's not always the case. But it's a good exercise to keep me intellectually honest.

Currently I see a rush to judgment in the Christian community regarding the Da Vinci Code. Spin the dial (do radio's still have dials?) on any given day and you'll find radio shows offering convincing evidence that Dan Brown has distorted the facts of both the Bible and Christian history. It's a hands down, in your face, slam dunk affair. Any moderately educated believer can refute Brown's "facts".

But when I see that, it makes me cautious. When things are that easy, I wonder if maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe "refuting the errors" of the Da Vinci Code isn't the way to go. Maybe that's the wrong tack to take. The contrarian in me says that it might be wise to affirm the "truth" imbedded in his errors. What do I mean?

The Da Vinci Code is a page turner, not just because it's a thriller. It's a page turner because Brown captures the essence of many concerns about God and faith. We have seen so much hypocrisy, so much hype, so much spiritual abuse in the church that many of us now stay away from God, faith and church all together. Brown captures that sentiment. So, my sense is that the true "trap of the devil" in all this might be for the church to run around with their fact books pointing out error. In some very real sense, that's the very thing that Brown is exposing in the church. It's that critical, power hungry approach to "unbelievers" that most people find so offensive.

So, what's good about the Da Vinci Code? If we listen, what's good is that it clues us in to the disillusionment and discontent among the masses about God, etc. We can point out how wrong Brown is and think we've "won" or we can pull a chair up along side our friends and say, "Tell me more. I really want to hear why you struggle so much with the church".

At least, that's the contrarian way...