I recently had a productive, respectful religious debate with a person I will designate as Friend #1 for the sake of this blog post. (I love to engage in religious debates, by the way -- if you ever want to sometime, I'm totally down). Friend #1 amusingly said they were baffled that an intelligent, open-minded person like myself is religious. I laughed hysterically on the inside and explained that Christians do not have to be unquestioning robots, and in fact are usually better Christians if they aren't. I don't think God minds a few well-intentioned inquiries now and then.
After my explanation, Friend #1 proceeded to ask that inane question so many modern Christians dread: "What do you think about the possibility Mary Magdalene was Jesus' wife?" After an annoyed sigh and roll of the eyes, I calmly insisted that though "The Da Vinci Code" is loosely based on an apocryphal Gospel and the legend of the Holy Grail, the STONE COLD FACT is that book is a work of fiction and frankly not even worth discussing in the context of a theological discussion.
A week or so later, I met with a person I will call Friend #2 at a bar (yes, I drink socially, breathe out conservatives) in Phoenix. We sat at a table beneath a painting of Jesus and Mary Magdalene with their fictional baby, which inspired me to tell Friend #2 about my conversation with Friend #1. When I told Friend #2 how absurd I thought Friend #1's question was, Friend #2 merely shrugged and basically said, "How do you know? You weren't there."
I will give Friend #2 the very, very reluctant benefit of the doubt on that one. I do understand the quest for the historical Jesus involves a huge amount of speculation, and some questions are simply never going to be answered; we could conceivably have a million authentic Gospels about the Son of Man but still never have a complete picture of a guy none of us personally saw when he was physically on this Earth. But that's OK -- faith is obviously essential to being a Christian, and if we did have all the answers then what's the point of following God? Not even Jesus had all the answers during his ministry (especially when it came to predicting the apocalypse), but he kept his faith in spite of pretty much everything, and upon his death he was given new life and a throne in the Kingdom of God.
That being said, I will gladly listen to opposing theories about the life and times of Jesus, but the idea that Jesus was married to and had a child with Mary Magdalene is utterly preposterous -- not least of all because THAT IDEA IS DERIVED FROM A MYSTERY-DETECTIVE FICTION NOVEL!!!! I am not bashing "The Da Vinci Code" as a high-quality book. It is an interesting, decently written story and I enjoyed reading it and seeing its subsequent film. But why are so many people flocking to this made-up non-theory like it's the Dead Sea Scrolls? Why are people are taking a clearly fictional narrative that has little to no scholarly research behind it and using it to debunk the entire celibate nature of Jesus? Has this really become the big theological quandary of the 21st century? Come on, people of all beliefs! Where are your heads at?
I liken those who try to use "The Da Vinci Code" against the canonical Gospels' account of Jesus to those ceaselessly annoying people who try to badmouth the Beatles. It may be somewhat blasphemous to say, but the Beatles are the closest thing pop music has to Jesus. (Though they were certainly never bigger than Jesus -- sorry, John.) To this day, they remain the most popular, innovative and influential pop music group of all time, and I highly doubt pop music will ever get any kind of "second coming" of their caliber.
And yet you tend to get that one doubter in numerous music nerd circles who cries "Jehovah" and calls the Beatles overrated. In my experience, it's usually some naive indie kid or metalhead who's only really heard "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Hey Jude" or "Yellow Submarine"; though those are all good songs, they provide only a very basic taste of the Beatles' vast, diverse catalog. It would be like only reading three passages in the Gospels and thinking you know all there is to know about Jesus.
But then you get some astute historian who points out that the Beatles never really invented any genres. They are actually right -- the Beatles didn't invent rock & roll, folk rock or psychedelia, though they appropriated all of those respective genres on Please Please Me, Rubber Soul and St. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Still, I would much rather hear those three records than Chuck Berry's The Great Twenty-Eight, Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home or the Byrds' Fifth Dimension. All of those are great records (or at least I've read they are -- I honestly haven't heard all of them in their entirety), but the Beatles were great at taking the freshest sounds and ideas of the 1960s and making them better. To analyze it through a Biblical lens, they were not forging radical new directions so much as they were merely fulfilling previous prophecies.
But the most infuriating moment of all is when some pretentious post-punk and/or experimental rock fan turns up their nose and claims the Beatles were "merely" pop music. They see the Beatles as just another "trendy" band and they've got to go against the grain. They've found some newer or more obscure band that they think are even better than the Beatles could have ever dreamed of being. I am of the opinion that most "Da Vinci Code" diehards are like this -- frightened by the herd mentality of joining a Christian community, they've latched onto "The Da Vinci Code" as the first excuse available to defy authoritative, 2,000-year-old documents of Jesus' life.
In any case, whether or not you like the Beatles' music is irrelevant -- people have every right to their own opinions. But you can't ignore the Beatles. You can't deny they are the most influential band of all time whose influence looms over practically every pop genre that came after them. You can never call the Beatles overrated unless you want most people in the room to jump down your throat. And it really doesn't matter whether you're a music connoisseur or a casual listener -- the Beatles are enjoyable for either party. No one is too good for the Beatles. The Beatles are better than you. So is Jesus. And if Christ calls us to be musicians, not fans (read my last post if you haven't already), it would be in our best interest to learn a thing or two from the Beatles, if you know what I mean.
So to my aforementioned Friends (who I love dearly despite our disagreements), and anyone else who treats "The Da Vinci Code" like it's another book of the Bible: Stop dissing the Beatles. Don't knock it until you really know something legitimate about it. And know that you can harp all you want about what Jesus did or didn't do, but nothing's gonna change my world.