Frankly, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is a lousy book, with ridiculous characters (really -- an albino monk into self-abuse?), page after page of tedious exposition, and dialogue so clunky and unbelievable that it makes Jonathan Livingston Seagull seem like the height of realism. Yet the tome's provocative premise (the Holy Grail isn't a cup, but Mary Magdalene) has been enough to power this supposed thriller to huge sales. And the forthcoming movie seems likely to do big business as well, in part because churches all over the country are doing de facto PR for the flick. On May 14, for instance, those who attended Light of the World, a Catholic church in Littleton, received "The facts behind the fiction of THE DA VINCI CODE," a double-sided hand-out that announces, "Just because it's in print doesn't make it true!"
Excerpts? Try these on for size:
"Jesus: Married or Celibate? Human or Divine? There is nothing written in any ancient texts substantiating that Jesus was married. While remaining unmarried was uncommon, it was not unknown. Church teaching has held to Jesus' single state from earliest times. As for his humanity/divinity, his dual nature is referred to often in the earliest writings of the Scriptures from the first century, and was not a concept retrofitted later by Constantine or any other Church officials."
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"Opus Dei Founded in 1928 by Fr. Josemaria Escriva, recently canonized as a Saint, this movement encourages lay people to deepen their faith. Members, who undergo a rigorous formation stressing church doctrine and contemplation, are encouraged to keep their affiliation to themselves but bring their spirituality into the working world. The alleged secrecy makes the organization a convenient target for rumors of clandestine activities."
"Leonardo da Vinci and his painting of The Last Supper Poor Leonardo! No serious art historian would substantiate the claims of Dan Brown! The figure to Jesus' right is the beloved disciple, John, painted with attributes commonly used in that era for depicting a young man."
If that's not convincing enough, the sheet recommends books such as The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in the Da Vinci Code, by Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel, an article by the obviously busy Sandra Miesel called "Dismantling The Da Vinci Code," and websites including JesusDecoded.com and ToTheSource.org, which features a May 3 piece cunningly tagged "Da Duh Vinci Code." As a bonus, Light of the World is presenting "The Da Vinci Code: The Facts and the Fiction," a seminar on the controversy, at 7 p.m. on May 17; visit the church's website for more information.
Dan Brown couldn't buy publicity this good. That's one way to sell a lousy book. -- Michael Roberts