28 May 2006

I don't think this is what Leonardo had in mind

The Da Vinci Code gratuitously insults Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church," said Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Birmingham, England. "It deliberately presents fiction as fact." Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

No word of a lie. This is what people fear from that over-hyped book and movie (not that either of them were terrible, per se).

In a point I just made to Andrew: Lord of the Rings presents fiction as fact. The Chornicles of Narina presents fiction as fact. That's sort of the point of fiction. To create a world in which the characters live factually. I think it would suck an awful lot to go to a movie and not be able to believe for a single second that the things the characters are saying and doing are facutal to those characters. It would be like someone whispering, "Hey! I don't mean this. It's all fiction," at the end of every sentence and action.

I'm not saying that people (i.e., Christians) don't have a right to be upset with what they consider a blasphemous interpretation of Jesus. I just think they should stop acting like wounded animals.

Some said they saw parallels with Muslims' reaction to the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in European newspapers. But in that case, the anger led to weeks of violent demonstrations that left scores of people dead; reaction to the worldwide opening of The Da Vinci Code, which stars Tom Hanks, has consisted largely of calls for boycotts and denunciations by church leaders and commentators. Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

I find this particular paragraph insulting, but blame the journalist. I feel he's drawing conclusions about the reactions of these two religious groups that is unfair, unjust and inflammatory. Draw your own conclusions. I don't like the tone.

"My question to Dan Brown is this: Would he dare to write such a book about Islam?" said Peter Jennings, a spokesman for Nichols. "No, they wouldn't dare. But they view the Catholic Church as a soft touch."

That is a lie. A bald-faced lie.

Well, not entirely.

Fine. Maybe Dan Brown wouldn't write a book about Islam and how Muhammad didn't actually prophecy, rather he was writing the worlds first fiction novel. But it's not like no one's ever written a book that didn't piss off Muslims before.

Remember Salman Rushdie? His novel, The Satanic Verses, created more than a few demonstrations (peacueful or otherwise). No, this was no minor uproar. They issued a fatwa -- a religious legal order. Sometimes fat?wa (plural) are issued to settle land disputes or who owns what livestock... you know, trivial stuff. In this case however, it was a bit more incendiary:

"In the name of God Almighty. There is only one God, to whom we shall all return. I would like to inform all intrepid Muslims in the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, as well as those publishers who were aware of its contents, have been sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare insult the Islamic sanctities. Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr, God willing. In addition, anyone who has access to the author of the book, but does not possess the power to execute him, should refer him to the people so that he may be punished for his actions. May God’s blessing be on you all." Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini. The Satanic Verses controversy, Wikipedia

Khomeini offered a $3 million US bounty. The Japanese translator was killed; the Italian translator was stabbed; the Norwegian publisher survived an assassination attempt; Rushdie had to live under the protection of British Security forces for a while; earlier this year, the Iranian state news agency reported that the fatwa has no expiry date. All in all, this seems far more serious than some picketing and talking points on 24-hour cable news networks.

Now, I'm not trying to do the same thing as the jounalist who drew allusions between Christian and Muslim reactions. I'm pointing out that, in the past, an author has indeed published a novel that mixed both the text and dogma of a religion with a controversial plotline that was focused on Islam. So, just because Dan Brown didn't do it, doesn't mean that Christianity is an easy target.

Look, I don't begrudge people being upset with these subjectively bad portrayals of their religion.

"Representatives from different religions have for the first time united to fight against expressions of modern culture that they find unacceptable," the newspaper Kommersant said in an editorial, expressing "solidarity" with both Christians and Muslims. Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm even glad that people are standing up for their religious beliefs.

But I think differences are important. I think dialogue is important. Even subversion plays an important role in society. I think people definitely need to be respectful when portraying others' religious beliefs, but I don't think it should be off-limits altogether.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I lost track.

Maybe I'm ignorant because I don't hold Christian beliefs in the same way that these upset people do. But I both read the book and saw the movie, and while the arguments contained therein were compelling and entertaining (yes, even the "tedious" movie), it was entertaiment. Just like The Little Mermaid doesn't mean Disney (or Hans Christian Andersen) are trying to tell us that Mermaids really exist and that we should watch out for evil sea witches who will turn us into sea foam. Okay, I was being flippant. I apologize. But my point remains the same (I remember now).

These are works of fiction. They are not meant to represent reality. Some may use realistic situations, or build on current stories, but that does not mean that the authors or publishers are trying to pass their works off as fact.

Some people make a living preaching the facts, others make a living playing with them. I think when something shows up on the Fiction shelf at the book store. We should all take a deep breath and remember that it's there for a reason.


n.b., If any regulars or lurkers want to (respectfully) shed some light for this ignorant blogger and explain some of the reasons why works like The da Vinci Code or The Satanic Verses cause quite as much kafuffle as they do, I'd love to read some other people's interpretations. Also, if you can't elaborate, comments are always welcome. Just remember the rules (posted at right).

5 comments:

Tricky said...

i have no problem with fictious depictions of anything. I really do think that the outrage thing is interesting, and baffling for the same reasons you posted.

What has offended me is morons. Morons telling me that the reason why they aren't catholic, or christian is due this book/movie.

FICTION!

I kinda get the response though - to have Christ & co. denigrated to being merely a fictional representation could be destablizing to some, confusing to others, etc. But there are so many books out there, so many movies treating christ as exactly that i find it taxing that this not-so-great book got the fuss. The following is a low shot - but maybe the folks who got their gitch in a bunch simply don't read enough to know about the others.

But i have to say this. Living in an evangelical house, being around folk who are various shades of christian and non, this book has started a lot, it bears repeating, a lot, of good and healthy dialogue. No arguments, no people losing their faith, just good ol' fashion'd 'hey...you know this...?'

Jac said...

First, I have to (shamefully) admit I know very little about Rushdie's work, and I haven't actually read or seen The Da Vinci Code (yet).
But I think the big difference for so many people between the DVC and the Lord of the Rings (for example) is this: even though the work is fiction, it's a story involving characters who are not, at least for us believers, fictitious. For some people, this is an issue, because their ability to separate fact and fiction is a little out of whack. Neither the book nor the movie bother me as a Christian. I'm with Tricky on this one - it's the morons who can't tell the difference between fiction and non-fiction who irritate me.

Agate said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I really enjoyed the book. I thought the ideas behind it were intriguing and fun to think about, but then I like thinking about strange ideas. I don't know if there's a lick of truth in the theory that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, but it wouldn't hurt mu faith if there was. What Jesus preached would still be true. Some people have to be told what to think. They have trouble with questions abut their faith. Maybe they are better off not reading such things as the DaVinci Code, but I don't think they need to condem those that do. I agree that the dialogue it has stirred up is good, for most people. Like Tricky and Jac, I'm annoyed with those who can't tell fact from fiction. Some morons are feeling attacked, and other morons are discounting Christianity based on the book. I think Dan Brown was just writing a cool book, not attacking Christians and Christianity.

Agate said...

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I really enjoyed the book. I thought the ideas behind it were intriguing and fun to think about, but then I like thinking about strange ideas. I don't know if there's a lick of truth in the theory that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, but it wouldn't hurt mu faith if there was. What Jesus preached would still be true. Some people have to be told what to think. They have trouble with questions abut their faith. Maybe they are better off not reading such things as the DaVinci Code, but I don't think they need to condem those that do. I agree that the dialogue it has stirred up is good, for most people. Like Tricky and Jac, I'm annoyed with those who can't tell fact from fiction. Some morons are feeling attacked, and other morons are discounting Christianity based on the book. I think Dan Brown was just writing a cool book, not attacking Christians and Christianity.

tarma said...

what i'd like to know is 'why now?'. why all the hype with this particular fictional version of the jesus/mary magdalene saga. it's not like it's a new story/theory. it's been kicking around for decades (if not longer). i've read various novels that incorporate it. but none of them have gained the popularity and frenzy of this one (and its not that dan brown is a much better author...at least not that i remember, but then i rarely remember authors...bad me, i know).

frankly i though 'angels and demons' was dan brown's better book, but it wasn't as popular. so there must be something about the jesus/mary magdalene saga that is particularly intriguing at this point in western history.