#8216;Da Vinci#039; fictional jaunt, not fact

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 25, 2006

In the days of the Spanish Inquisition, novelist Dan Brown would have been dragged in chains to the nearest castle and been tortured unmercifully before being slow roasted over a pile of burning logs.

Such is the outrage over his novel - and now bank busting motion picture - The Da Vinci Code. The book itself, recently released in paperback to coincide with the movie's launch, is on the fast track to equaling McDonald's in worldwide sales. But a Big Mac never caused Christians such emotional indigestion.

The book's conspiracy theory, by now, is probably well known: Jesus married Mary Magdalene before dying a permanent death on the cross; Magdalene, with child, then fled Israel, finding safe haven in the southern portion of what is now France where she lived out the rest of her days; a secret society protected her secret - that Christ had sired a bloodline - a secret that if revealed to the world would rock Christianity and the church to its foundation. The Florentine artist Leonardo Da Vinci was a member of this society, including subliminal clues in his paintings about the nature of Christ's relationship to Mary. Brown's novel features mad Albino monks, thrilling chases, and enough puzzles and historical references to keep you guessing.

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Most of it is complete hogwash. No evidence exists to support any of Brown's theories, although the legends and stories he basis the book on have been floating around for centuries. As fiction, it's a potboiler. As history, it's an outrage.

The key word, however, here being ‘fiction.'

While priests, Biblical scholars, and Christians have all attacked The Da Vinci Code for its alternative history, the work remains a writer's idea of telling a good story. Many have urged bans and boycotts of both the book and the movie. While the intent is usually benevolent, censorship is not the answer. In On Liberty, 19th century philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote: &#8220If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

Those who approach either The Da Vinci Code book or movie with that assumption will find it about as harmless as any other thriller meant to deliver to an audience two hours of escapist fantasy.

The Da Vinci Code is a fictional jaunt. A story. A good read on a Sunday afternoon during a thunderstorm.

The book will only cause you to question your faith if you allow it to.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: editor@greenville.advocate.com.