Sunday, June 04, 2006

On The Da Vinci Code. Finally

Despite Christians constituting barely 1.5 percent of the country's population and frequently being targets of radicals, Pakistan has banned the controversial movie "The Da Vinci Code". This is strap of the story on MSN India today, a follow-up of another story that appeared on the same website a few days back.

After what the so-called Christian countries did with the cartoons of the Prophet this is quite amusing, especially when Bahawalpurs also happen in same Pakistan.

Our South-Asia is such a fascinating place to be in. Idiotic and illuminating. Like a love story.

Well this post began with a mention of The Da Vinci Code, and that's what I want to talk about. I have resisted writing anything about it since I came across the novel a year or so back. I read it from cover to cover, notwithstanding its limited literary merit. Initially I wished to enter the debate and try to defend the position which has come to be called Orthodox Christian Faith, but then, first, I was advised by some mature believers not to waste my time on this. It is just another pop phenomenon which will run out of steam as soon as it gathers some, and second, I realised that since the age of rational discourse is well past the attempt to begin one will not avail much. Thirdly, I knew if I would try to defend the canonical Gospels I would be dismissed as one from interested party.

Hence like rest of the people I waited for the secular writer/scholars to give their opinion. Of course Abraham Lincon's adage is true. You can't fool all the people all the time.

So when Meera Nanda, the scientist came to Panjab University and lambasted organised religion, she pointed out that west can be as irrational as east in matters of religion. One excited journo, who was evidently gripped by the DVC syndrome, jumped up, "Yeah! look how Da Vinci Code has to say." Nanda was crestfallen like a music teacher whose best student was singing off key. She said in no uncertain terms that the book is a hoax, a work of fiction. She was agitated with people messing up facts; scientific or religious.

The flip side of the coin. A previous vice-chairperson of the Knowledge Commission, Pushpa Bhargava, wrote early this year in The Tribune, something to the effect that Dan Brown is a real historian! (Sins of the Clergy Jan 2,2006. Sunday edition).

Another twist. Vir Sanghvi in Brunch, the HT Sunday magazine (sorry the story is not online) in his column summarizes the story of DVC and gives his view (hope I don't get into copyright problems to having quoted him so profusely!) :

If you have been on planet Mars for the last three years or so, here's what Brown claims: he argues that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, who fled to France after the crucufixion and that they had a daughter, Sarah. The Church decided,around the fifth century or so, that Jesus was not to be regarded as a mere mortal with earthly desires, a wife and a child but was to be treated as the Son of God. So it suppressed all evidence of the marriage and of the child.

However, a sect called the Knights Templer knew the truth and preserved Jesus' bloodline (Sarah went on to have children of her own). The Knight Templers were replaced by a shadowy society called the Priory of Sion ... The Church killed as many members of the Priory as it could find and that trend continues to this day ... The Grail was never a cup but was a reference to Mary Magdalene's womb.

All this is quite fascinating - but it is also rubbish. The Grail stories have no place in the Christian literature of that period and emerged only in medieval times as mythological tales. The story about the Priory has been traced to a 20th century hoax by a Frenchman who confessed all before he died.

I think I should stop here. There are couple of things that I still have to say but perhaps next time. But before I publish post, a disclaimer :-)

This is not about using the authority of secular writers/scholars to validate matters of faith. Though I respect these writers the testimony of the biblical scholars is certainly preferable.


Vishal said...

Hey Ashish, I enjoyed reading your piece. I especially liked the disclaimer you've put in the end.

I think we do need to get into the debate on the DVC, though I did not like the way rallies were held to demand a ban on the film.

Did you watch Nat Geo's Gospel of Judas programme?

When you write more about DVC, send the piece to me also.

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether you agree with me or not,but my response to such incidences is the same 'childish'chukle at those "useful" believers of faith who mindlessly become a part of the 'LOVESTORY'Indeed,its a mad world...we have become more and more hegemonised by the 'stories' with less 'of love'...

ashish said...

Dear Anonymous thanks for dropping by and leaving the comment. Hope to hear more from you!

ashish said...

Hey Vishal I did not see the Nat Geo programme. But I do remember the story about the Judas gospel by Renuka Narayan making it to the front page of HT the other day. At that time I was wondering if it was such a big story that a national paper would put up as the main lead. And the "religion" person of the paper would write on it in tounge-in-cheek manner!
In any case, I won't be surprised if more and more of such stories come up. In fact now there would be as many articles and documentaries as there are counterfeit gospels.

Soyra said...

I had hard time to read this post. Yes, finally Da Vinci Code...we can't help but take up this issue at least once. You read it from cover to cover? I read one book but didn't read another because it's rubbish.

I also read the news that Pakistan banned this movie. Why? this movie is merely another movie, another made story. This book is just a novel. I used to answer those who made questions to me that "this book is a novel. Written by one ordinary man! He is not God knows secret or something!" in indignation. Yeah..I was very angry with that writer, the masses who did't take even second that moment. People easily ignore what the Bible says, but they are shaken by just one book, written by just one man! I seem not so stable still on this issue, pup..haha.

Nevertheless, this book is interesting. I might expect how the movie encapsulates great sceneries. :-)

Ashwin said...

Hey Ashish,
Finally you decided to take up the most burning issue. What took you so long? I must say you were pretty sedate in your comments on DVC, not the outspoken hard hitting Ashish that I know of. Wish you will write more on this issue, and I look forward to it!

ashish said...

Hey Ashwin am I hard hitting? :-) I try not to be ... lol ... Well here I didn't want to rake up a dying fire (The issue is running out of steam)... My purpose was limited ... Obviously I can't do better than the amazing scholarship that the experts will bring.

I am more interested in exploring what are the implications of a crisis in western Christianity in a country like India. I say Western deliberately because Dan Brown makes such a big deal about "Holy Grail" which means nothing to an ordinary Indian Christian. I will post more about it later...