FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Redeeming the Magdalene

by JOE ALLEN

Despite the best efforts of the Catholic Church and the panning of the film by most movie critics, large crowds packed last weekend’s opening of The Da Vinci Code.

According to media reports, it’s had the second-largest opening ever internationally. The film, directed by Hollywood stalwart Ron Howard, will likely mirror the success of the international bestselling novel–the more it’s attacked by churches and the right wing, the larger the crowds that go see it.

The Da Vinci Code stars Tom Hanks as American professor Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou as Paris detective Sophie Neveu and Ian McKellen as a British aristocrat obsessed with the suppressed history of Christianity.

The film revolves around the unraveling of “the greatest cover-up in history’–that the Catholic Church suppressed its knowledge that Jesus Christ was a mortal man married to Mary Magdalene (slandered as a prostitute by the Church) and fathered children with her. Jesus wanted Mary, not Peter, to carry on his work and that the descendents of Mary and Jesus live among us to this very day, protected by a secret society known as the Priory of Scion.

These descendents are hunted by Opus Dei, a secretive order of the Catholic Church that is also trying to destroy the last remnants of the Church’s suppressed history. These remnants were hidden by the great inventor, artist and Priory member Leonardo Da Vinci and are known to only a few chosen successors. One successor is Sophie’s grandfather, the curator of the Louvre, whose murder begins the book and movie.

This well-made thriller closely follows the book in presenting a story that is a mixture of historical facts, Medieval myths and real debates about Christianity’s history. It’s essentially a treasure hunt for adults with secret codes, hidden meanings, murder and political intrigue. It’s a good read and fun to watch on the big screen.

The film and the book are also very liberal in their social attitudes, particularly the treatment of women in Church history. But, in the end, the book and the film are really pot-boiler thrillers, so why have they so engendered the wrath of the Christian churches, particularly, the Catholic Church?

Most of the mainline churches have denounced the book and the film. Some have even organized picketing of the movie, like here in Chicago. Responding to the attacks on his film, Howard declared, “This is entertainment, not theology.’

It may be, but it touches upon issues that the Catholic Church would rather remain closed to public discussion. The Da Vinci Code reveals to many Christians things that are not taught in Sunday School: that Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire because of the political needs of the pagan emperor Constantine; that there were many Gospels that were not included in the Bible because they didn’t serve the needs of the Church; that many of the early followers of Jesus considered him a prophet but not divine.

The book and movie make you think about religion, and that’s not something that Christianity encourages. As one Catholic leader put it, “We are not in the democracy business.’

The Catholic Church, after all, is a highly discredited institution these days. It’s still involved in an ongoing scandal concerning the cover-up of child sexual abuse by priests. Its half century of decline in North America and Europe for a variety of easons–its collaboration with fascism during the Second World War to being on the wrong side of every social question–has made it a symbol of evil, corruption and political reaction in the eyes of many people.

Now comes along a bestselling book and popular movie implying that the whole foundations of Christianity are a fraud–and Church leaders went wild. Pope Benedict even toyed with organizing a boycott of the film.

This isn’t surprising. He was previously the head of the Vatican office of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith–formerly known as the Inquisition, responsible for the torture and death of heretics in the Middle Ages.

But it’s the fanatics of the Opus Dei that have taken the lead in defending the Church and their order–a member of which is depicted as a killer in the movie–from The Da Vinci Code. Opus Dei has gone on something of a charm offensive trying to portray themselves as just everyday people.

Given that the order was founded by a Spanish priest loyal to fascist dictator Francisco Franco and home to some of the world’s most unsavory political and military figures, this a bit of a stretch.

In a country where any critical discussion of religion is attacked without mercy, anything that opens up a critical discussion should be welcome. The Da Vinci Code book has done that, and hopefully the film will widen it.

When asked whether the film should have a disclaimer saying that it’s fiction, McKellen responded, “I’ve often thought that the Bible should have a disclaimer at the front saying, this is fiction.’

It’s been many years since I’ve heard anything like that on morning TV, if ever.

JOE ALLEN is a member of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago. He can be reached at joeallen705@hotmail.com.

 

 

JOE ALLEN is the author of Vietnam: The (Last) War the U.S. Lost.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
 Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
Jeffrey St. Clair
Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Renee Parsons
Blame It on the Russians
Herbert Dyer, Jr.
Is it the Cops or the Cameras? Putting Police Brutality in Historical Context
Russell Mokhiber
Dems Dropping the N Word: When in Trouble, Blame Ralph
Howard Lisnoff
The Elephant in the Living Room
Pepe Escobar
The Real Secret of the South China Sea
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail