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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Dmitry Kolesnik
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus, as, Fear and Loathing Grip Europe.
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Burkinis: the Politics of Beachwear
Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail