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Church and books must go together

But, of
course, clergy
who are
aware of the
lack of
education
among their
flock will
entertain
such fears.
Tuesday, August 2, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:46 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

Even though I enjoy historical fiction, I wasn’t particularly anxious to read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and would probably never have rushed out and bought a copy. I had heard the book discussed several times by Christians and non-Christians and had, quite frankly, gotten a little bored with the comments. I do not like listening to people speak who feel that they are privy to the mind of God. However, a friend shared her copy with me and I took the plunge. The book was clearly advertised as a “novel” and as such, I found it to be entertaining and a real page-turner. I found it to be cleverly written and the subject matter to be fascinating.

When I mentioned a few days later that I had completed the book, another friend provided me with a copy of “Breaking the Da Vinci Code” by Darrell L. Bock. Bock, a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, undertook the work of separating the facts from the fiction contained within the novel. Bock’s book addressed the historical errors one by one and provided a credible source for accurate information for readers interested in pursuing the subject.

It is certainly no surprise that the novel created such a stir. Claims that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and that the Roman Church conspired to hide this “fact” among others takes center stage in the controversy. But what I liked most about reading these two books is that they presented me with an opportunity to examine my own thoughts, ideas and feelings about “biblical truths” and the manner in which they have been presented.

In the first place, in view of my experience with Western culture, I don’t find it surprising that people would be curious about the sex life of Jesus. Because so many among us are, obviously, consumed with sexual desires, some feel that so must everyone else be. According to these folks, celibates must be created because no one is born that way. So, therefore I don’t find the concept that Jesus may have been married to Mary Magdalene at all disturbing, because I hear these kinds of ideas exchanged everyday, and consider them the brainchildren of “folks like you and me.”

In my Christian journey, I have always been troubled by the fact that the laity is not privileged with the same opportunities for education as the clergy. This is the reason why it is so easy for false teachings to find lodging within Christian congregations. I think the response to “The Da Vinci Code” is a perfect example of that. Obviously, no educated churchgoer will fall victim to information concerning their faith offered in a fictional novel. But, of course, clergy who are aware of the lack of education among their flock will entertain such fears. So, I would hope that the clergy would consider this book’s publication a “wake-up” call to see to the educational needs of their membership.

Unfortunately, we don’t have religious scholars available to address all the false teachings that are floating around in churches and on television. Whatever else one might say, people able to read “The Da Vinci Code” are probably not your typical eighth-grade dropouts. A large portion of our population, however, is made up of those who are functionally illiterate. These people can often be quite easily persuaded to accept false teachings, so these are folks that the church needs most to be concerned about.

As much as the learned clergy concerns itself with defending historical accuracy, perhaps it ignores the greater calling of defending the unlearned from false prophets who lay claims, not in publications which may be challenged, but by the spoken words from the pulpit that go unchallenged.

Maybe, because Dan Brown chose a controversial topic, other authors might feel that they can dare to challenge some of the current popular beliefs. For example, among the ideas that I take exception to is the general assumption that once we have been presented the historical facts, we will all agree with the interpretation given to those facts. I accept that Jesus chose 12 males to be his disciples. I have no idea what that means, and I prefer not to speculate.

One can’t help but wonder what the great Leonardo Da Vinci himself would make of all this. But I suspect that it would not come as a surprise to the artist, scientist and inventor that his genius for creativity would endure throughout the ages. Probably, he would be pleased to know that several centuries later his name and his masterpieces continue to create such a sensation.

We should all be so lucky.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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