Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Da Vinci Code: Stop dissing the Beatles

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.


  1. Actually, I'll take a reasoned debate about the Da Vinci Code to people who pull out the elementary-school "Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it?" zinger (or similar) and then sit back with a smug expression to indicate that they think they just brought down one of the oldest surviving religions in history.
    Then you're tempted to respond, but the old adage "Never argue with a fool...people might not know the difference," comes to mind and you're forced to simply look at them with a pitying expression and walk away, which means they think they won (which they would have thought anyway no matter what you had said).
    Thus they get to go on thinking that they're the smartest person in the world and your faith in the future of humanity erodes a little more.
    Good times.

  2. Longtime listener, first time caller...

    I don't think that the da vinci code is a credible story—of course it's not, it was written to sell bajillions of books and make dan brown rich. however, i DO think there's a valid argument it capitalizes upon:

    the gospels were written to the culture that was around them at the time. that culture didn't mention women hardly at all.

    take as a great example the feeding of the 5,000... most pastors I've ever heard preach on that passage admit that the writers only counted the number of MEN in attendance, meaning that the actual number of people fed was far, far more impressive if you figure in all the women and children those men would have traveled with.

    in that culture, it would probably have been MORE of an oddity if someone as important, as scrutinized, as Jesus did NOT have a wife. it would have stuck out like a sore thumb, and been mentioned.

    we don't know what color of underwear Jesus wore either—doesn't mean he didn't wear them (OK, bad example, but you get my drift)

    this argument that He has to have been celibate has led to an infuriating tradition of celibate priests who have to be such in order to touch the body of Christ in communion, lest they dirty it. it implies that marital sex is less pure than single celibacy. HA, HA. I *remember* not being married. marital sex is one of the holiest things there are in this life, and i don't see why it would have been shameful for Jesus to have enjoyed it. i'm also not saying i am SURE that He was married, i'm just saying the gospels don't account for every second of His life and you don't know what the gospel writers deemed not "necessary that you might be led to salvation."

  3. Point taken, for sure. After receiving some comments debating Jesus' supposed celibate nature, I realize I jumped to conclusions a little bit. I still think the theory that Jesus was married is rather far-fetched, but it is not completely unfounded, since we really don't have any evidence that he was or wasn't. If he was married, I don't think that would have necessarily changed anything about the nature of his ministry, and it is certainly not relevant to the Gospels.

    I guess since sexual temptation is one of my greatest struggles as a single man, it is more comforting for me to think of Jesus as celibate -- someone who did not let such temptation distract from his mission, in spite of the many women who followed him. I personally think it makes more sense for him to be celibate just considering the asceticism of many of his disciples, mainly Paul. Then again, Jesus may have also remained strong in the face of possible sexual temptation because he was married.

    Regardless, I think the theory that Jesus had a child with whoever he may or may not have been married to is ridiculous. Not only do we have no legitimate evidence for this theory, but it also negates the entire eschatological element of Christian faith, which I think is absolutely essential.

  4. Dan Brown is a hack... He stole his "ideas" that made him ridiculously rich from three guys named Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh. They wrote the book "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" in 1983 that explained in depth the theories of Jesus and Mary having a child together.