Have you ever heard or read as much hoopla about the release of a movie as there has been about “The Da Vinci Code?” It was recently the cover story on both Time and Newsweek. There have also been specials about the content of the movie and the book upon which it’s based all over the Internet and on numerous commercial and satellite television channels for at least the last couple of months. Even network news programs have devoted specials to the book’s content, with experts in theology debating the accuracy of what’s in it! When the book first came out in 2003 several churches representing various faiths were all a-twitter about the possible implications suggested by the story line. Some religious leaders were even encouraging their members not to read it. Some people were so disturbed by what they had heard “might” be in the book that they were afraid to read it! Afraid to read a book? What could possibly be so horrible that people need to be warned not to read a book?

The point that’s being missed is “The Da Vinci Code” is a NOVEL! It’s fiction, made up, an imaginary story that’s not true! Admittedly, “The Da Vinci Code” is an historical novel, as opposed to a science fiction novel, or a fantasy novel, or any other genre of novel, but it’s still a novel and, therefore, by definition, not to be taken as a factual story about anything that really happened, except in the mind of the author, Dan Brown.

I hope that the foundations upon which our religious beliefs are built are not so shaky that an historical novel – a made-up story – somehow has the power to threaten our traditional Christian beliefs. “The Da Vinci Code” isn’t supposed to be taken as literal truth, but a lot of literary and media critics seem to think that the rest of us aren’t smart enough to understand the difference between fact and fiction.

Newsweek has devoted a feature to comparing various segments of the book to reality. Take Dan Brown’s analysis of Da Vinci’s famous painting of “The Last Supper” for example. Newsweek goes into a fair amount of detail comparing the “meaning” of the painting as Brown presents it, to the traditional meaning attributed to it by art historians and scholars. That’s like comparing “Star Trek” to “Cosmos” by the late Carl Sagan. The first is science fiction, the second is hard science based on fact.

I’ve read four of Dan Brown’s recent books and, to varying degrees; they’re exciting, fast-paced, easy reading and entertaining. But that’s it!

Even if Dan Brown were trying to claim that “The Da Vinci Code” was true, it would still be nothing more than his opinion. He makes it clear, however, that his novel is just that, a novel. All the fear and trepidation the book, and now the movie, have seemed to create are nonsense! Most of us are familiar with the 1981 movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” a fictional movie starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, an adventurer in search of the Ark of the Covenant which contained, supposedly, pieces of the original Ten Commandments. Part of that movie is based on fact, but none of us really believes that the story line is supposed to be true. This is but another example of historical fiction with a fictional character and a fictional storyline – just like “The Da Vinci Code.”

If anything substantive has come out of the publication of this book, and now the release of the movie, aside from entertainment value, it is the increase of dialogue about religion and religious beliefs – and it seems to me that that’s a good, not a dangerous thing. I doubt that we would be having this national dialogue if we were Iraqi citizens. On the other hand, if the strength of our religious beliefs is so tenuous that a novel can make us doubt what we believe then, perhaps, we should start banning books like the Nazis did in Germany in the 1930s! I hope we all agree that this would be an absurd idea.

“The Da Vinci Code” is certainly nothing of which to be afraid!

That’s —30— for this week.

Watch for Paul Barada Mondays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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