Thursday, May 18, 2006

Teflon premises & misrepresentations

  • Published May 18, 2006

    Fans of “The DaVinci Code” like the intrigue in the book because it’s so far fetched, it’s ridiculous. They’ll call me hysterical because I was so offended by it. As a practicing Catholic, I found the historical references poorly researched and the premises slippery and preposterous. It was hard not to take offence. Yes, I know it was purportedly a work of fiction, but the author’s book afforded him a pulpit for his protagonist to lecture the reader for approximately 80 pages, spewing out spurious deceits about real people, places and events. He really dislikes Catholics, hasn’t a clue about Leonardo’s Last Supper, Saint Mary Magdalene or Emperor Constantine and the Council at Niceae. I think if you buy his “facts”, you’re forgetting that it’s truly pulp fiction.

    His writing was ineffectual. I found it read more like a screenplay than a novel. I love reading mysteries and thrillers. This book read like a personal attack from its preface to its soft core ending. I suspect Dan Brown is a “New Age” author, not a “Christian”.

If Dan Brown had authentic belief in the tenants of Christianity, he wouldn’t take the God he worships and relegate him to a mere mortal with lots of secrets that a “ flamboyant homosexual” artisan, referred to as “DaVinci” was forced to hide in his art because of evil secret societies and the big bad Catholic Church.

What an insult to Master Leonardo. There was hardly a proper address of his name in the book. You would never call an artisan by the town he lived in (Vinci). Even my kids’ art history books are properly written. Brown fails here as well. That’s like saying El Dorado Hills has a biweekly column in the Mt. Democrat newspaper. Where was his editor?

Even the “art history” was poorly researched. He places the “Last Supper” painting in a church, when in fact; it’s not in a church at all. He calls it a fresco and it’s not, technically. It’s tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic. It is painted on the concrete wall of an old refectory of the convent on the grounds of the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie (Our Lady of Grace) in Milan, Italy. The Apostle John, positively identified by Leonardo and subsequent historians, was never the subject of dispute as to his position in the wall mural. The fact that Brown suggests Leonardo’s intent was to place Mary Magdalene at the Last Supper should be an affront for believers. There is no clear line of fact versus fiction and he crosses it so many times, it seems quite intentional, if not sloppy.

What if Dan Brown had written a conspiracy thriller attacking basic core Muslim beliefs? Do you think for one minute Muslims would settle for it and have to suck it up to “it’s just fiction”? There is no way they could accept that. Neither should right thinking Christians.

Is Dan Brown a Gnostic? Even if he doesn’t acknowledge it, his belief system as presented on his website certainly suggests that he is. His fascination with the Gnostics and presenting them in such a positive light would suggest that both he and his wife are fallen away Christians, not reformed Christians.

If he had not qualified his book as based upon fact, those of us who took offence at his Teflon premises and misrepresentations would not have hollered so loudly. Yet, he weaves enough of his “facts” to cause doubt and confusion for those who believe what he has written as empirical historical evidence, which even secular historians have already disproved.

The most egregious historical claims of the book, based on dubious sources in Chapter 55 are outlined as thus: Try not to laugh.

  • Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had kids
  • Jesus was considered just a mortal prophet by his followers
  • Emperor Constantine in effect created Christian orthodoxy for political reasons in AD325
  • The REAL truth about Jesus was fortunately preserved in the documents of Qumran and Nag Hammadi.
  • The Church has sought to suppress this true portrait throughout history by means of persecution and slander.

Huh? If that doesn’t rock your boat, then I don’t know what does.

Saint Mary Magdalene was elevated to sainthood by the Church. She has a Feast Day in the liturgical calendar on July 22. She is one of my favorite saints. She was a woman of prayer, service and devotion. The historical facts of her life are so marred by this book; it would have caused her great offense as a Christian to be depicted in a higher light than the man she called “Teacher” and “Lord”. She was from the town of Magdala, thus, her name. If she was married to Jesus, she would have been known as Mary, wife of Jesus.

The Church’s devotion to Christ’s own Mother would exclude it from being criticized as being insensitive to women or “The Sacred Feminine” as Brown writes ad nauseum throughout the book. Christ is King to Christians, and making St. Mary Magdalene a Goddess over him, is at best, a pagan hypothesis and should be rejected, even if it is, in fact, a work of fiction, yet readers are swallowing this up as monumental and historical. It’s a rerun of Holy Blood Holy Grail. It’s a wonder the lawsuit of plagiarism against Dan Brown wasn’t sufficient; it seemed to be a re-write.

The Council of Nicaea was not called to ‘give’ Christ his ‘Divinity’; it was called in answer to the heresy of Arius, who was teaching at that time, against the Divinity of Christ. The early Church fathers in the first century had already wrote extensively about the Divinity of Christ, a belief all Christians espoused long before the Council. Councils are called to answer heresies and resolve disputes or define a Church teaching, already handed down by Christ. They are not called to create new doctrine. St. Peter called a Council at Jerusalem in 50 AD to resolve a dispute. Reading about the councils was obviously something that Dan Brown has never properly researched. He hangs out the Catholic lay order of Opus Dei as bad because they have a tall building in New York City. Opus Dei does not have monks, is not a monastic order, nor does it require its lay members to take vows, wear robes, sleep on straw mats, spend all their time in prayer and corporal mortification, or in any other way live like The Da Vinci Code’s depiction of its monk character.

Yeah, Ok, I hated this book. Enough already.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blood boiling point

Published May 4, 2006

When the world famous book “The Da Vinci Code” was published in 2003, I had signed up for one of those book of the month clubs, seeking some free books as a distract from an already hectic schedule. When the box arrived, I had half a dozen free hardbacks. This was fun. All these books for a couple pennies, plus I only needed to buy two more hardbacks at their regular discount price. Not too shabby. These were top selling titles. There were books by Grisham, Trigiani, Follet, and an author I had never heard of, Brown.

A friend of mine saw the book and murmured, “I heard that one was good”. I shelved it again. I let it sit for three months and forgot about it. Around the same time, Pop came to visit (my Dad) and was perusing my crammed book shelves and asked if I had anything good to read, because unlike me, he was retired and had lots of time to read. Most of the books I selected from the book club were books he had already read, except one. I tossed him the Da Vinci Code and said, “Someone said this was good”, maybe you’ll like it. He took a stack of books home with him. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I had a running commentary from him on the ones he liked and why.

The next time I saw Dad, we had a fairly nice visit, until the subject of reading came up. He had a very serious look on his face and said he had something of mine he wanted to return (and it wasn’t soon enough I guess), because when Pop is unhappy about something, the whole room knows about it. He threw the book down in front of me and affixed on it was a post-it note scribbled in his hand with these exact words “TJ, that was some kind of book! At what point does your blood boil?” It was signed, “Dad”.

“Huh?” I asked. What do you mean? He then asked me if I had read it and sheepishly I admitted I hadn’t. He told me that the book wasn’t written particularly well, but he hung in until the end to see if the author would somehow redeem himself. Apparently that didn’t happen. .Pop was pretty upset. About reading a book? I was a little ruffled. He’s read lots of books he didn’t like, but never with this kind of reaction, especially over a piece of fiction. I suddenly felt like a kid put in the corner. “Dad it’s supposed to be fiction, why are you so upset?” He told me to read it and get back to him. I decided to put it back on the shelf and I let it sit for a really long time.

Not too long after Dad’s review came down on my head like a sledgehammer, my Catholic neighbor whom I will call Dave, dropped by the house and asked if we had read the “evidence” in the Da Vinci Code and “what did we think of it?” I could hear myself repeating “Isn’t it a work of fiction Dave?” His lingering response of “I dunno….” was followed by a dissertation on a documentary he watched on television which seemed to support the contentions in the Dan Brown book. I was more than a little troubled by what followed next. Mary Magdalene married to Jesus? A Goddess? They had a child? The Catholic Church suppressed it all – Bam! I now knew that based on this conversation, I was going to have to read this book because even some of my Catholic friends were buying the fiction as fact. My blood was beginning to warm big time. I was really angry. This was really some kind of book.

I pointed to a book on my book shelf which is a biography of St. Mary Magdalene and asked him if he wanted to read it. He wasn’t interested. I asked him if he knew what Gnosticism was and it’s origins. He still wouldn’t budge. I asked him if he believed that Jesus is God and had a Divine nature. “I’m not sure what that means.” I asked if he believed that Jesus was the Second Person of the Trinity. A blank stare and still no response from Dave to this basic tenant of Faith question. He was disappointed that we didn’t share his enthusiasm. In his mind he saw the fiction as historical fact. I pulled the book off the shelf, read the introduction about Opus Dei and thought to myself “Blessed Jose Marie Escriva must be flipping over in his grave”. My blood was starting to really churn.

Why are people so attracted to a book which reportedly misrepresents and misunderstands people, places and events? I decided to read it for myself and put it up against known historical and biblical history. I’m using Dad’s post-it as a book mark. The next column I write will be May 19, the same day the Sony film is set for release. I’ll let you know what I think. However, I am doing one more thing that day, besides writing another column on this subject. I am purchasing tickets for my family to see the DreamWorks Hedgehog movie because I now know at what point my blood boils.

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and a bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her by email at